Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sure, I know about indigenous tribes and cultures that get offended if you take their picture without permission.  But llamas?

Well that seemed to be exactly how it played out for me while hiking on the Inca Trail just outside of Machu Picchu, Peru.  

One minute I'm enjoying a nice brisk hike and shooting a picture of a llama that happened to be right on the trail and the next minute he's chasing me down the trail at high speed!

Now I don't know if I can take on a llama or not but it wasn't the time to find out.  I'd pretty much watched enough wildlife shows in my life to realize that most animals can kick our asses if need be and the vast majority can even outrun us.  Which was what seemed to be the reality with the llama.

I can run like the wind if need be.  Okay, maybe a light breeze.  But I'm no slouch down a trail.  The problem with the trails around Machu Picchu is that they are incredibly rocky.  They aren't pokey rocks.  They are big flattish type that people would abscond and put around their landscaping.  Still, that doesn't make it easy to go full out down a trail of them.

If you've never been to Machu Picchu...shame on you!  It's spectacular.  And you call yourself a traveler! Okay, never mind, I haven't even seen they Great Wall of China...

This portion of my trip had started out so a-typical of your average travel blog.  I was on my first stop after swapping out my business class ticket from Santiago, Chile to Portland, OR USA for economy seats with a variety of stops along the way.  See, I had just been to Brazil, Argentina and Chile for work and the $5,000 ticket back could pay for a lot of free adventure if I just switched to economy and then took a bunch of vacation days on the way home.  So I did.  First up was Peru.  After that it would be Ecuador and then Costa Rica.  Of course, in true Ed-esque style, not one of the stops would be ordinary.

I don't think you can leave without proving you've taken the A-typical tourist shot...
Since I'd saved so much money from the tickets, I could afford to splurge and spend the night right next to Machu Picchu.  There is a single small resort next to the site and only about a dozen or so rooms.  Everyone else has to bus back down to the valley floor at 4pm but those staying in that resort basically have the whole site to themselves for the evening.  Sure, at the time the rooms were $800 per night but I wanted that luxury of a non-touristy experience at the site.  And I got it.  And it was wonderful.  I waved bye-bye to the hoards of tourists departing for the day as I began to explore the pieces of the site that were just too riddled with TWCs (Tourists with Cameras) or screaming unruly kids in tow to be able to enjoy earlier.  Sure, I went with the tourists so I could get the guided history but then I went back to enjoy it on my own.

Yes, the hoards of tourists have to descend this hellish road at 4pm each day
The next day I spent time exploring the area around from the site.  I decided to do a bit of speed hiking up the Inca Trail.  Now, many people do the multi-day trail to arrive at Machu Picchu and I hear it is spectacular too.  I didn't have the time so I wanted to get a small sampling of it.  I wanted to feel what it was like hiking in Peru.

The Inca Trail as it climbs away from Machu Picchu.  The llama is hiding...waiting
As everyone that has ever been to this area of the world, you best not be afraid of heights because the original inhabitants were certainly not.  They were farming in places we would probably set up rappel ropes on.  I ran across a trail cut through a sheer cliff that looked downright amazing.  The trail was closed off and had long been unused but you could see the line from the distance and yeah, no way would I have attempted that unsecured by something. And I've done high-end technical rock climbing for dozens of years!

The trip up the trail was uneventful but pleasant.  I turned around after the trail leveled off and I'd run into some sort of structure from ages passed that didn't have any markers letting me know what it was.  On the way back is when I encountered that damn llama.  It was right on the trail.  I proceeded with caution because I've had encounters with animals before.  There was the time in Alaska when I nearly walked into a bear.  There was the time in a California suburb that a falcon was attacking me during a run.  There was the time on the Oregon Coast when I ran into a deer running in complete darkness.  Suffice it to say the list goes on.  I'll get around around to posting those adventures eventually.  They were all truly surreal.

My turnaround point...happy in my pre-animal attack state...
I slipped by the llama as he was stepping up the trail to sniff at something and then my big mistake was stopping on the other side to shoot a picture.  I should have just been happy with the one I shot before I got around him.  But nooooo....I just had to have one more.  But before I could shoot it, for some reason that pissed him off and he dropped down on the trail and started to charge me.

Sure enough, I did like any stupid person would do.  I ran for my life down the trail.  I'm not sure what damage an angry llama can do.  Tie me up in wool?  I don't know...but I didn't want to find out.

Not exactly easy to run fast on...
It had to be a good quarter mile before he got bored and stopped chasing me.  By then I had nearly wiped out off the trail several times as my ankles twisted this way and that trying to navigate the uneven rocky terrain.  Luckily my super power is rubber ankles.  Probably attained from years of ice and inline skating.  I can literally walk on them and be just fine.  And I needed to with this trail.

Needless to say, I eventually slowed down and recovered enough to walk back.  I was drenched with sweat and I'd already checked out and had my bags waiting to get picked up as I was to head back to the train and eventually the airport.  I'm sure nobody that sat next to me on the train was pleased to do so.  Just another crazy day in the Ed-travelogue...

Another fun little discover in the ruins not obscured by tourists


  1. I got dizzy just reading this! I'm living vicariously through you.

  2. reforminggeek - I'm there to suffer so you don't have to. No, don't thank me...