Peru Trip – Oct 22-Nov 11 2010
The Planning – Omens and Other Useful Advice
Reader’s warning – in order to maintain marital bliss and unbiased reporting, Sharon proofreads Jacques’ work, and then adds her touch of reality in RED. Her reality may not be his – but anyone in a long term relationship knows that sometimes you just have to accept the inevitable. [Comments in square brackets are posted after Sharon has proofread in an attempt to maintain balance]
Sharon has always wanted to go to Machu Picchu in Peru for as long as I have known her. Much earlier this year, Sharon yelled from her office, our favourite form of communication. (The only reason I yell is that Jacques cannot hear me above the carnage).
“Want to go the Amazon in Peru?”
“Absolutely, it has always been a dream of mine to go”, I replied, breaking my concentration on killing things on the computer.
“We can also go to Machu Picchu at the same time”, she replied.
I’m fairly sure the only reason she agreed to the Amazon was to get me to go to Machu Picchu and was using it as an incentive. (Heh, heh). Several weeks went by and nothing really happened. (Plenty was happening of course. I was busily researching and preparing my strategy for husband compliance).
One day, Sharon came down from her office and said, “Ok, I have found a great lodge in the Amazon that is really cheap. We can stay there for a few days, then go camping, then join up with Adventure Canada and do their Machu Picchu”.
“Camping in the Amazon, are you out of your mind? You barely survived Algonquin Park and now you want to go into a place that has snakes, insects and jaguars all waiting for you to show up on their dinner tables. Are you sure about this?” I responded, perhaps a little forcefully. (Jacques has a really funny way of pronouncing jaguar – and that alone made me want to go). Click here! [Nothing wrong with the way that I say jaguar]
I don’t mind camping, I did lots in Africa and a certain English friend of mine has managed to get me out to Algonquin Park for forced marches carrying 40kg packs while carrying a canoe uphill twice. (Apparently someone has trouble learning the first time). [To be clear, I did learn the first time. My darling wife accepted for the both of us the next time before even consulting me.] Never, in my wildest dreams had I ever considered camping in the Amazon but if Sharon wanted to try it, I would give it a go. How bad could it be?
“Cedar and Mike did it. They thought it was amazing and well worth it”, Sharon said trying to allay some of the fear that was clearly leaking out of my expression.
Cedar and Mike are friends of ours. Cedar’s family owns Adventure Canada, a really cool travel company that does all kinds of high end adventure travel. Mike will think nothing of driving for 14h non-stop, hiking 20km through the northern wilderness, then going fish all day and well into the night without sleep. I didn’t consider this to be a ringing endorsement as I considered Mike a little on the lunatic fringe side of life. (Interestingly, Mike is also a bird watcher, a weather nut, and loves fishing – sound like anyone we know)?
I had occasion to visit Mike several weeks later. When Mike isn’t engaged in lunatic fringe fishing, he is the best massage therapist we have ever used. While Mike was expertly finding knots in my back and applying what felt like several hundred kilos of pressure to allegedly make them go away, I asked how the Amazon trip went.
“Amazing, it was incredible. We saw all kinds of cool things and the guides were also cool. They weren’t like normal guides, they wanted to catch everything and show you close up”, he replied
“What about bugs?”, I asked a little pained as my eyes were watering with the pressure that Mike was applying to a muscle that was a tight as a bow string. It seemed that he was trying to play it like a musical instrument with me supplying the notes comprised of grunts and groans.
“I stopped counting on Cedar when I got to 200”
“That was at the end of the trip right?” hoping beyond hope that it couldn’t be that bad.
“Nope, that was on the first night”, he responded and knuckled down a bit harder into my muscle.
I decided not to mention that part to Sharon, not wanting her to have months of dread. (Mike is also my massage therapist, in my research I was well aware of what I was getting into – I just did not want Jacques to talk me out of it so I did not mention it to him either).
“The guides are crazy. We went out in a boat at night with a flash light and were shinning it around looking for eye reflections. They could tell what type of animal based on the colour of the reflection and they were looking for caimans. They would then slowly position the boat and then jump onto the caiman and wrestle it.”
“They did this why?”, I asked having visions of an Amazon version of the Crocodile Hunter, may he rest in peace.
“It was fun I guess. Wilder, (pronounced WILLder, though I think the other way suits him more) one of the guides, jumped onto this caiman then started screaming for help that it was too big. Juan Carlos, the other guide, jumped into the water and tried to grab on. After a vicious struggle, Juan Carlos started yelling for me to go out of the boat and help. He kept yelling for me to hurry. They did seem to be in a bit of trouble so I jumped out of the boat and tried to grab the middle of the caiman. We eventually subdued it and found it we had jumped on a 2m caiman.”
“Are you f****** nuts? Where was Cedar when all of this was going on?” I asked thinking that he might be stretching the truth just a bit.
“She came along with a flashlight a little while later, trying to figure out what had happened to us”, he said.
“She was ok with you jumping on caimens?”
“She didn’t really see that part, it was all over when she arrived”, Mike said.
“Good to know, if we go I’ll be sure to tell them they I am not jumping out of a perfectly good boat because they decide to go on a night time caiman wrestling trip”, I responded.
“We are also going to join the Adventure Canada trip to Machu Picchu, anything I should know about that?”, I asked.
“Don’t take the climb of 10,000 steps at Machu Picchu. I freaked out due to height and had to be helped down. I have a bit of problem with heights”, he admitted.
I filed that away in the back of my head. Mike is super fit and up until now had never admitted to being afraid of anything.
We both booked the time off work. As it got closer to the trip, people started to ask me where I was going on my vacation. I told them about the trip and we were going to the Amazon and would be camping for a few days.
Not one, but three people asked if my will was up to date and asked if they could be included in the will. The consensus opinion was we were idiots to go to the Amazon, and just plain insane to go camping. On the flip side, most of the people were really interested to hear about Machu Picchu and expressed varying degrees of envy. (I was wondering if Jacques’ life insurance policy would cover “eaten by caiman”).
Only one person, a birding friend of mine, said she thought it was cool to be camping in the Amazon. This also didn’t really make me much happier because birders are more than happy to go stand at sewage lagoons in the hottest possible weather looking for birds. Insects and smell aren’t really a consideration. I like birding more than most and don’t mind sewage lagoons that much. (I have stood in a sewage lagoon in an attempt to be a loving and supportive partner – ONCE).
October drew closer and closer and finally it came time to pack everything into our backpacks that had travelled around the world with us.
Jacques forgets to mention the fun time we had at the travel doctor. We visit him before any major trip for both up to date jabs and Dukoral. I am willing to eat anything from anywhere. I actually do it not only out of food curiosity, but in the hopes I get one of those parasites that has me lose a ton of weight. No luck yet.
Of Cats and Packs
We have 2 cats, a black cat called Harley and a white and grey cat Keiko. Keiko is the runt of the litter, about 2.5kgs soaking wet. Harley is normal cat size. Keiko loves Sharon to death and spends her life lying or sleeping as close to or on top of Sharon. They have a very fancy cat box that automatically scoops up the cat shit and flushes it down the toilet. There were a few challenges in getting them to accept the cat box with various presents being left around the house. Those with cats will understand.
Sharon went downstairs and located the packs. I went downstairs shortly after her to find something that I needed for the trip. As soon as I got into the basement, I noticed an overpowering stench of cat pee that hadn’t been present earlier in the morning. I figured they had decided to boycott the cat box and piss somewhere else. I started hunting around to find the source of the bouquet.
I don’t have a great sense of smell and so had a fair bit of trouble locating the source of the odour. Turned out, it was Sharon’s pack. Just to confirm, I took a deep sniff. No question about it, watering eyes and clear sinuses are excellent indications that I had found the source of the piss.
“Sharon, have you smelled your pack lately?”, I asked, a tinge of concern in my voice as we had to be at the airport in 3h packed and ready to go and we were just getting started.
“Yes, it smells a bit funny but it will fine. It just needs to be aired out”, she replied, moving dirty laundry around. (It smelled like it needed airing out when I took it out of the basement).
“Come take another whiff, it smells like the cat has been pissing on your bag for a month.”
Sharon came over and took another sniff. Her colour lightened at least two tones.
“It is a bit ripe”, she admitted.
“Can you imagine that in the Amazon jungle with 35C and 100% humidity? Every male cat in the Amazon will either be trying to hump you or spray you. If you are taking that pack, I want my own room.” (Drama Queen).
“What are you going to do Mr. Smarty Pants?” Sharon asked.
The division of labour in our house has garbage, killing bugs, cat shit and piss and high places on my side of the ledger. (On my side are gathering, feeding, laundry and packing for trips – which is a nightmare with Jacques. He has so much technology and typically is over weighted. Having said that, my brother has a suitcase he calls the Buick and is known to pack 10 pairs of shoes on a trip). [Excuse me for a minute, I need to have a "chat" with Sharon. Please ignore any loud screams or other sound of pain]
“I will go out and buy new packs; there is a place in Oakville that should be open. Shouldn’t take too long”, I replied after a few minutes of consideration.
I headed out in the Hippo and after only a single wrong turn, arrived at Hikers Haven. I walked over to the area with all the packs and there were hundreds of them that were displayed over 2 walls. I walked through the packs looking for something similar to our old packs but wasn’t having a great deal of luck.
I went and found one of the sales people and asked his opinion. He walked over to some packs and pulled out a few packs.
My phone vibrated in my pocket so I pulled it out. It was a text from Sharon. (One of three – but he ignored the other ones).
“I want the Hip Camper Model XXYXX in pink, a small for woman of my size”. (It was not pink, that would not be practical – but it was a really pretty light blue colour).
I took a fast look around and, thankfully, noticed a dearth of pink packs. (You told me that you had already bought the packs and left the store – busted!)The salesman showed me another pack that seemed close enough and so I said I would take them. They only set us back about $650. (Our last packs lasted us for 15 years – I think this was a good investment).
I drove rapidly back to the house and finished packing including the all important electronics bag and all my camera equipment. I had purchased a Nikon 300mm f2.8 lens especially for this trip. Compared to my other big lenses, it was a baby but still weighed in at 4kg. After loading up what I thought was the required camera equipment, I tried to pick up the camera bag and received a shooting pain that started in my wrist, radiated up my arm into my shoulder and down my side. (This is why he needs Mike the massage dude).
Feeling like a true explorer, shrugged off the pain and finished packing. (To be clear – Jacques dumps all his crap on our bed. I then look at his mismatched clothes, overabundance of socks – 20 pair really – and try to stuff it all into the pack while strategically balancing the weight so we will not get dinged by the airlines for hernia inducing bags. I rule in the packing department).
I have to take several medications every day to keep me moderately healthy so I had packed a large plastic bottle with all the various meds that I needed. I added a few other bits and pieces and we were finally packed.
Our taxi arrived on time and off we went to the airport to start our adventure.