It's a creekmore world

Peru Day 5 – Zipping down the mountain and unzipping my bag

I think Lily is just annoyed that we made her do pictures.  She would rather climb.

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Well if anything, Machu Picchu, made me forget that I’m still wearing the same clothes for the 5th day, and my beloved camera has no battery or data cord.  But once again, in the early morning, I call for my bag.

This time I talk with someone about next steps if they don’t find it.  She admits that it goes to a different division on the 6th day, who will supposedly continue to help me find it, but are also the people with whom I would settle a claim.  Well that’s discouraging.  I have given up all but a small hope that my bag will be found.

Senior Parales to the rescue!

The Urubamba river, Sacred Valley, Peru
But she makes a final contact to the Lima office and asks about my bag status.  I wait.  She checks in with me – ‘you still there?  I’m still talking to them.’  ‘Of course I wait, always nervous that Skype will drop the connection and make me start over again with another respresentative as it’s done a few times.

“Sir, I’ve found your bag.  It’s with Senior Parales in Cusco.  You should call him on his cellphone now.”

This is new.  I’ve never been given a local person to contact!  I thank the woman and immediately dial Mr. Parales, who puts me on with his wife.  She speaks more English than I do Spanish.  (Will someone tell me again why I paid tens of thousands of dollars to study Russian?)

Lily and her partner, Koki
I give her the name of the hotel in Ollantaytambo.  She asks for the address, but there isn’t any. The owner says to say ‘Between the square and the ruins’ but she doens’t understand that. ‘Is it near the square?’ she asks.  ‘Yes’ I answer, hoping that’s good enough.  It’s a small town. “In two hours, Mr. Creekmore” and she hangs up.

Wow.  Mr. Parales is bringing me my bag 8,000 feet in the Andes.

The Via Feratta.

The adventure travel circuit in the Sacred Valley is growing rapidly.  Trekking, Mountain biking and rafting dominate, although teh Urubamba river is getting so crowded and polluted that some outfits have stopped running the rapids.  One of the newer entrants is Naturavive.com who do a Via Feratta, Zip line and rapelling down the side of one of the more vertical canyon sides.

See that truck down there?  Trish is damn high right now.
Allen is a Peruvian technical climber, with brilliant english, from down south at the base of Huascarán Sur in the Cordillera Blanca range.  It’s the tallest mountain in Peru rising to 6,746 meters.  His main gig is mine rescue training and he’s regularly pulled from the beautiful Sacred Valley to all parts of the Western Hemisphere to train rescue squads.  From the proceeds of his training, he’s built naturavive, which is growing mostly by word of mouth.

A via feratta is latin for ‘iron way’ which refers to the system of iron bars drilled and glued into the rockface, providing a climbable path to the top without any technical experience.  A system of carabiners and metal cords protects the climbers in the event of a fall.

It's not a stright climb.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a ladder.  Although parts require only a shuffle from side to side, and others are an easy ascent, most of it demands arm and leg strength, balance and  some visual acuity to spot the right way to climb.  There are spots with no bars, a 30 foot wire bridge to traverse and several spot where the mountain is vertical or even slightly overhanging.  A fall wouldn’t kill you, but you’d get pretty banged up if you went off the wrong spot.

Up the side of the cliff

It takes a while to get everyone in the gear.  Lily, Emma and I play around at the base, tying each other together with the clips.  The weather is perfect, dry and 65 degrees in the shade where we climb.

Emma, supremely confident, 1500 feet in the air.
The girls have individual guides, but they still have to do it all themselves.  Emma starts off first and bullets up to the first ledge where she waits for us.  Trish starts off roughly, a little panicked.  But she fights through it, putting one hand in front of the other, rather than stopping.

The 1500 foot climb is glorious and it takes about 2 hours.  The view of the Sacred Valley is breathtaking.  Wildflowers of all kinds are everywhere, and birds chirp.  The other day the group saw a condor family fly very close, but we aren’t so lucky.

Trish and I led the second half of the climb.
At the top, we grab a snack and rest.  The girls are having a blast and Trish is over her fright even though we are a quarter-mile higher altitude now than when we started.  There is another couple with us, and the husband is visiably upset, his hands shaking.  But he fights through it too.  Alen later tells us that three-quarters of his clients are women and of the men who go, half of them cry.

Zippity Doo Dah

As if climbing on the rockface, and seeing all the flora and fauna weren’t enough, they have a series of 5 ziplines that take you all the way back down to the bottom.  And aside from the second one, they are eye-poppingly fast.

Trish and two other guests don't get enough speed and need to be pulled the last few feet.
Actually the second one is the longest and if wind moves against you as it is right now, you really have to get momentum to make it the last few feet.  Trish and the other couple don’t quite make it and need to be ‘rescued’ by Marco, who earns his pay pulling them all hand over hand to the platform.

The last few are really fast and fun.  Trish actually gets up enough speed that she crashes into poor Marco.  The gear needed adjusting, and he looked really sorry. But it was pretty funny and no one was hurt.

The last zip line is really a short repel, and then a controlled drop back to the basecamp. We are absolutely envigorated aftweward, tired, but thrilled to have done that event.  And we really liked our guides, Koki, Allen and Marcos.

Do I get my bag?

The Western view.  This was to our backs.
With high hopes I get to the hotel and discover that there is still no bag.  I should have known.  Reluctantly, I call Senior Parales and his wife.  Improbably, she tells me that they were at Ollanaytambo earlier in the day but the hotel was ‘closed.’

Of course it wasn’t closed, but whatever.  She says they will send it again, and in fact, Senior Parales’s ‘Aunt’ is on the way with the bag right now and will be there in 30 minutes.

Could I really be only thirty minutes away from fresh underwear and a camera to film this awesome vacation?  (At this point, I’m undecided about which is more important.)  Trish goes to Hearts cafe, a local non-profit restaurant that donates profits to several local charities, and gets me a coffee and a deliciously spicy samosa.

go lily!
An hour goes by, and I call back Senior Parales.  No one answers this time.  I neave a message.  90 minutes pass.  Two hours pass.  A guy walks in through the hotel door rolling a backpack,  Trish says to him “That’s not the right bag!”  Well, he isn’t Senior Parales, either.  The startled tourist goes to the desk looks at Trish strangely and presumably hopes that there aren’t many more weird people like Trish at this hotel.  She explains, funmblingly, that she is on edge about our lost luggage and fortunately he laughs.

And then on the street, now dark except for the headlights of taxi’s and busses driving people back from the trains station to Cusco, I see a young man with a grey dufflebag like mine.  And through the door comes my stuff.  The young kid, obviously not Senior Parales nor his aunt, explains in broken english that there is another place called KBtours that is different than KBTambo hotel.  (Later we find out that they stole the name from this hotel and it is in fact, true that there are two places named ‘KB’ .)

Emma and Marco carefully follow the wire bridge.  It was a lot harder than it looked.
He smiles and seems almost as glad to be rid of this dammed bag as I am to get it.  He is back out the door almost instantly.  My hero.

I immediately shower, change and throw away the cheap Chinese pants I bought three days ago.  My clothes go in a special container to keep any contamination from spreading throughout my bag.  And best of all, I recharge that goddamn camera and get ready to post to this blog from all the notes and scraps I’ve been keeping.

Dinner and sleep have never been quite as sweet.  I got my bag back!

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