HBS students to endure a grueling four-day hike at high elevation on an Indiana Jones-like journey to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. The students also visited churches, catacombs, and discos in the modern capital city of Lima, shopped the markets in the former Inca capital city of Cuzco, and explored the wonders of the Amazonian rainforest. Anywhere that requires five weeks of malaria pills, a handful of altitude sickness pills, and $200 worth of medical shots must be a fairly exciting place, right?
Guillermo Villanueva (OB), our HBS Peruvian local, presented us with a fabulous vacation and adventure package. The more serious hikers in the group were initially dismayed that an entourage of porters were hired to carry our tents, food, and some personal items, and to hike ahead of us to set up camp and prepare the meals. By the end of the hike, however, everyone was grateful for the amenities provided by the porters. In fact, by camping standards, the meals were quite luxurious, usually consisting of an appetizer (e.g., broccoli soup), entr‚e (e.g., mashed potatoes, corn) and dessert (e.g., flan, pudding) with coca leaf tea. Negotiations are currently underway to hire the cook for Spangler Dining!
We walked 82 km of the still intact Inca Trail, which totals 30,000 km of stone walkways stretching across the Peruvian Andes. Our guide, Rafael, shared the history of the Inca civilization and their religious doctrines during our visits of the ruins. The group marveled at the Incan architectural ingenuity which designed waterways and buildings that have withstood the rumblings of frequent earthquakes and that honor the sacred days of solstice. By the fourth day, the eleven survivors of the hike toured the 600 year-old walls of the deserted city of the Incas, and the sense of accomplishment made the effort even more rewarding. Standing at the Sun Gate above the city at sunrise, a few of us anticipated a possible UFO landing, Elvis sighting, or Shirley McClaine appearance. In fact, Rob Halsey (OG) was so inspired that he became engaged as soon as he returned home.
Our four days on the Inca Trail were blessed with some drama. Another OB, Ruth Lieu, badly twisted her ankle while racing down the mountain. Though Ruth was definitely able to hold her own on the trip, on one occasion, our guide carried her 2 km down a treacherous mountain pass. Ruth enjoyed her stay in Peru so much that she returned at the end of the summer as well. Dany Beauchemin (OG) a.k.a., Maximus, was only ten minutes shy of the non-Peruvian hiker record of two hours and ten minutes to climb the steep Llulluchapampa Mountain. The rest of the group followed a couple of hours later. In fact, Guillermo usually remained well in the back to ensure that none of the group was ever left behind.
The second major part of the trip was the Amazon Basin. We traveled by a motorboat for several hours to a secluded lodge in the rainforest. We slept in mosquito nets under an open roof, and awoke as early as 4am ever morning to catch glimpses of blue-headed parrots, toucans, and kingfishers, and to see the sunrise over the rainforest canopy. The night air was filled with the mysterious chirps and squawks of the forest as well as the occasional shrieks of the lodgers jumping into a cold shower, and possibly discovering the company of a bathing salamander or giant scarab.
Besides the sometimes awkward intimacy of a showering companion, the trip rewarded itself with lasting friendships forged from night hikes down strenuous trails, Inca ruins with magical magnetic properties, and drinks in swinging Lima discos. The HBS group enjoyed the beautiful and friendly country of Peru. Thank you, Guillermo!