Desert Vibes

Desert Vibes
Photo: Ben Clark

Friday, August 19, 2011

Run Along the Urubamba River to Llactapata

Upon arrival at kilometer 82 Piscacucho, I promptly exited the bus, screamed “land!”, fell to the ground, and gave it a big kiss. I was happy to get off that goddamned death trap. I can run along cliffs and mountainsides all day long and not worry at all, but being in a charter bus and driving on one lane roads with drop-offs scares the shit out of me. 

Piscacucho was the start of our 6.5 mile run along the Urubamba River to kilometer 88, Qoriwayrachina, and on to the archaeological site of Llactapata where we would camp for the night.

Kilometer 82, Piscacucho

Nice snow-capped peak in the distance

Our run began on some smooth singletrack trail with some great mountain views and the Urubamba River alongside the trail. After a mile or so we made our way down to the railroad tracks that lead to the town of Aguas Calientes and tip-toed on the railroad ties for maybe a half mile before getting back on the singletrack. Overall, the run was quite easy with little elevation gain, very few hills, and smooth singletrack throughout. 
Urubamba River

Urubambaba River with trail
 
Eventually we came to a crossing of the Urubamba River. The crossing was on a wood plank bridge that looked like it dated back to the original Incan times. As I crossed the thought of falling through the bridge and into the white-water rapids below kept creeping into my head. So, naturally I decided to stop in the middle of the bridge and take a few photos. 
Sketchy old bridge to cross the river
Stopping in the middle of the bridge for a photo
 
After crossing the river there was about one more mile to go before reaching our campsite. The terrain was slightly more difficult than the previous few miles since it included several decent climbs. However, it was still very runnable. I ended up getting lost at a fork in the trail and had to back track a little. When I got back to the right trail one of our porters was there to meet me. He and I ran together to our campsite across from Llactapata. 
Me after the run. Llactapata in the background.
Llactapata without me in front of it

Home for the night :)

This was by far the most amazing place I had ever camped in my lifetime and I seriously doubt I will ever find anything that tops it. I spent the next 30 minutes or so speaking horrible Spanish with our porters while we waited on the rest of the group to arrive. Once the group arrived they all headed directly for the tents and took a nap. Not me. There were trails around the area begging to be explored. The fact that I just ran 6.5 miles and was going to run 27.5 miles the next day wasn’t going to stop me from exploring either. 

The trails around our campsite offered some pretty amazing views. I probably spent two hours or so wandering around the area (with the occasional burst of running), taking photos, and just taking in the sights, smells, and sounds. Being there just had a way of making me forget about all of the bullshit back in Texas, of making things seem good and right in the world. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but for those who have felt it you will never forget that feeling.
Chasing ass up the trail

Another view of our campsite

Looking up at Llactapata

Another awesome view of Llactapata

It was about 4 PM now and back at the campsite the porters had prepared tea/coffee and snacks for us. The sun was settling in behind the mountains and the temperature was beginning to drop. So the nice, warm cup of coffee certainly did hit the spot. 

Not too long after coffee one of the porters brought a bucket of drinks from a nearby shop. I couldn’t help but notice there were three Cuzquenas in there. This certainly brought a smile to my face since my typical routine the night before a race or a long run includes having two or three beers. I asked around to see if anyone else wanted a beer. No one else wanted one! Jackpot! I popped the cap off my first beer and sat down to enjoy the scenery of Llactapata with the river roaring in the background. Life was good. 

As I popped the cap off my second Cuzquena two girls had just arrived on their way home from school. They had a soccer ball and seemed interested in kicking it around so I kindly obliged. I haven’t played soccer since Kindergarten so my skills are pretty much non-existent. Geoff, the family-man from New Zealand, joined in with us. We played until the sun went down and then continued to keep playing. At the time, there was nowhere else in the world I would rather have been. Even now I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s an amazing feeling anytime I can bring a smile or laughter to a child. 

It was now time for dinner and sadly that meant time to say “adios” to my soccer friends. Again I was surprised at how great the food was. The porters really were amazing cooks. After I had second and probably third helpings; our guide, Abelardo, brought out a bottle of Chilean wine to celebrate the journey we would begin bright and early the next morning. Abelardo said a traditional toast, we poured out a little wine on the ground for Mother Earth, and imbibed. 

Everyone turned in to bed relatively early as our 27.5 mile run on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was to begin at 5 AM the next day with a 3:45 AM wake up call.


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