A year in the planning, I finally committed to hiking the highest peak in Africa. It turned out to be far and away the most difficult challenge I’ve ever set myself. After a week of awesome, if exhausting, hiking, the sixteen hour night-into-day to the summit was overwhelming: I saw people with altitude sickness being led down on stretchers, bleeding, hikers turning back due to a crazy windstorm at the final brutal staging post plus, endured a hail storm, a busted iPhone, fire ants, a glorious full moon and many more times that I would care to admit questioning the limits of my physical and mental endurance. And yet sixteen hours after we first set out, I was back in my tent. Wet, cold, annihilated and utterly elated.
If you’re curious about the poster I’m holding up, Frank is/was a friend of mine. You can discover a bit more about his integral part in my journey HERE.
Is it me or are we a culture obsessed with our own personal evolution? My local bookstore is bursting with floor-to-ceiling shelves devoted to inner growth and spiritual fulfillment; a whole cadre of television shows barrages me daily with the tantalizing promise of ˜breaking through” and attaining the next, stronger, higher level of my potential. And don’t even get me started on the Internet and the flurry of suspect emails that continually flood my inbox.
I blame Charles Darwin.
When I hiked the 100-plus mile Brecon Beacons trail across the hills of Wales a few years ago, I considered it a major achievement. However, it didn’t prepare me one whit for the Peruvian Andes. Distances covered at or close to sea level are almost insignificant when compared to hiking at high altitude. And the Inca Trail is nothing but high-in-the-sky altitude. The elevation begins at 8,500 feet and climbs to just shy of 14,000 feet. That’s 8.5 oxygen-deprived miles up. Despite having spent three days acclimatizing in a rather posh Cusco hotel, I quickly discovered that you don’t so much hike the Inca Trail as survive it. Come along for the ride – it will leave you equally breathless.
If last December’s prevailing wisdom had held true you wouldn’t be reading this. The storied Mayan calendar was famously closing in on the winter solstice and the end of its 144,000-day cycle. Interpreters of the calendar and a host of New Age conspiracy theorists predicted the date would coincide with a global cataclysm. Good thing nobody held their breath, because the Maya believed in the cyclical nature of things. The end of the calendar didn’t presage the end of the world; it marked a new beginning. Call it a transition or period of renewal, but the Maya believed in the necessity of an epochal timeout before moving forward. Spanish conquistadors might have brought about that break sooner than expected – subjugating the people by the end of the 17th century – yet descendants of the Maya continue to form sizable populations throughout Mexico’s Yucutan peninsula. Plus, many of their cities and ceremonial sites still remain. The wisdom of these ancient Americans hasn’t been lost. It’s laying patiently in wait for a Mayan journey of rediscovery. READ MORE.
Finally. Technology became my friend again today. At least for the time being. I’ll be slow-rolling multiples posts over the next week or so to get caught up on the backlog. Hopefully you’ll agree a little binge viewing beats them coming at you in one fell swoop. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll get them via email as they’re published; if you’re not, just remember to scroll down and go back in time. And thanks for hanging in there, everyone – I can’t wait to get you up to date with my hike along the Inka Trail. But first … it’s back to Mexico.
I’ve been having technical difficulties. And then I got sick. And then I had to travel. And then I got sick again. Meanwhile, my coding issues started to pile up and up and up. Needless to say, it’s been a difficult month. Please stand by – and thanks for your patience. I’ll be back in business by the weekend, fingers crossed!
Beyond art and tchotchkes, Senora Olmedo had a diverse interest in living animals, too, such as geese, ducks, and peacocks, which she collected and kept in the gardens of her museum. And who doesn’t love a pretty peacock? However, what I found most fascinating was the handful of endangered Xoloitzcuintles, a 3,000-year old native breed of hairless dog considered sacred by the Aztecs. (They believed the dogs were needed by their masters’ souls to help them safely through the underworld.) Initially I thought I was looking at a group of sleek and sinuous statues – until they moved.
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