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Archive for January, 2013

Can I turn this adventure into a pilgrimage? Have I given myself enough time?

 I’m reading The Art of the Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau for some perspective on the question. Rather than paraphrase I’m quoting his perspective.

Imagine your departure as a metamorphosis. Through simple acts of intention and attention, you can transform even a sleepwalking trip into a soulful journey.  The first step is to slow down. The next one is to treat everything that comes your way as part of the sacred time that envelops your pilgrimage.”

http://www.philcousineau.net/the_art_of_pilgrimage__the_seeker_s_guide_to_making_travel_sacred_18018.htm

I continue to pack perspective for my adventure pilgrimage, though I’m running out of space and discipline. I will definitely pack the words, intention and attention.

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Last year all of my highlight adventures had me with various friends (and Franny for the first backpacking trip together in our entire 38 years of partnership) hiking through the California high Sierras.  These 2012 hikes will find their way into my story; but today they’re simply an introduction to shaping my Ecuador and Peru adventure.  Initially, my primary goal for the trip was to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Ecuador was high on Franny’s list because an old friend, an exchange student at her New Jersey high school, lives in Quito. Franny and her friend haven’t seen each other in forty-five years!

We decided to travel for 3+ months with no good reason other than we’re working through our first year retirement “playbook” and want to know if we can still travel for longer periods of time.  We traveled in Spain for nine months in the late seventies.  If this trip is successful (criteria to be determined later), then we could possibly expand the length of future trips.

So now we have a bunch of time to explore Ecuador and Peru with only 3 weeks planned with touring Quito, Cusco and Machu Picchu.  With books tossed about and a new one arriving every week, our trip is beginning to take some shape.

The top 10 list, still to be completed with eleven days to flight, include the following general themes of interest: village to village walk on Quilotoa Loop, climb Volcan Colopaxi, walk the Panama Hat Trail (Camino del Inca), bird-watching here and there, Cloud forest, Amazon (Rio Napo region) rainforests, take a short trip to Isla de la Plata near Puerto Lopez (known as the poor person’s Galapagos), coffee tracking and Cuenca.  Early up in the journey, will be a 2-3 week Spanish immersion with classes and host family to acknowledge the language and cultural shifts.

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We approached our trip planning exercise using a somewhat unintentional method.  We selected three key must-do items; hike Machu Picchu, visit Franny’s acquaintance from high school (45 years ago) and visit some indigenous weaving (including Panama hats) communities. These three must-do items are taking us to Ecuador and Peru.  Now that we’re going to be in these two countries we have the opportunity to expand the scoop of our visit to include cloud forests, rain forests, jungles and high country hiking through sections of the Andes. Hit the books.

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All the items that seem important, to be prepared for this adventure, began to add up.

Hard to deny the need for certain things like, one tour book for each country, iphone, keyboard (to use in typing blog entries), headlight for reading and maneuvering in the dark, camera, extra batteries, hiking sticks, cosmetics, first aid (including sunscreen and ‘deet-like’ insect repellant), pocket knife, binoculars, medications, health supplements and extra reading glasses.

Yeaks, the pack is filling up!  How many cosmetics are enough?  How long will it take to use a tube of our toothpaste (a type we likely wouldn’t find in Ecuador)?  How fussy can we be?  How vigilant should we be in taking vitamins and supplements?

An then there’s rain gear, like; poncho, plastic bags to keep clothes in backpack protected, windbreaker/rain jacket, rain pants . . . . rain pants . . . . am I going too far? Oh the angst factor!  What happens if . . . if my only pair of shoes gets soaking wet, and they don’t dry out overnight? Should I have an extra pair of trekking shoes?  Will a poncho really keep me and my backpack dry? Do I need an additional backpack waterproof cover?

More on pack growth as we near departure.

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i’m writing my first travel note with my new travel keyboard, called Zippy. I’m typing into Franny’s iPhone which will be our only communication device for this adventure. Let’s see how this works.

I’m adding a photo and will test my process of typing into an app called Simplenote, then copying into WordPress and attaching the photo.

I’m building a wine bottle retaining wall; seems so Sonoma wine country! I was inspired by glass houses in Death Valley and Knott’s Berry Farm.

20130126-105339.jpg

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We looked for travel/hiking shoe recommendations from friends. All of our friends took shorter trips and took one tour or another; but did not take rainforest, jungle, cloud forest, village-to-village hiking tour, and trek up Machu Picchu all in the same trip.  So our shoe requirements became unique to our own circumstances.

Shoes for daily walking and touring needed to combine with trekking pursuits. Our shoe selections also needed to provide some defense against the rain we were sure to find.  I selected a light-weight hikers shoe with mesh and waterproof membrane.  While this shoe doesn’t provide ankle support, it is light and durable (at least for a 3 month trip and carrying less than a 25- pound backpack).  Franny found a leather water resistant shoe for her daily touring and trekking shoe.

Jungle shoes, i.e. sandals, were essential for getting in and out of boats. Any other type of shoe, getting this kind of wet, would take some time to dry.  Sandals will also be a welcome alternative to the daily walking shoe while in Spanish classes or out for an evening. We both chose Chaco-style hiking sandals; durable with flexible usability.

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OVERPACKING AND REPACKING
Like many other like-minded adventurers, our packing mantra is ‘go light’. With our experiences packing for week long trips into the California high Sierras, we thought we’d start with our backpackers pack list; complete with light clothes that easily dry, layers of clothing for warmth, rain gear (because we’re traveling into rainy season areas such as the jungles) and minimal ‘other gear’.
The ‘other gear’ quickly became the problem along with our clothing and shoe selections. First, 3 ½ months is a longish time to spend on the road and second, the countries in which we’re traveling have very diverse topography (from muggy coasts to raining, muddy jungles to cold highlands).
We decided on two backpack sizes. Franny is carrying a 31 liter and I’m carrying a 65 liter. Both packs can sit on our laps for bus travel and will be light enough to ‘throw’ around. We also decided not to carry anything of ‘significant’ value in our packs; nothing we couldn’t do without.

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