A Few Excerpts From The Book "Journey To The Lost City"

I worry about all kinds of things when I fly. They are usually concerns about the mechanical stability of the aircraft or the operational abilities of the pilot so a handcuffed man escorted by armed guards is a whole new anxiety for me. If I’m not worried about something, something’s wrong. Despite my fabrications and fantasies the flight was uneventful and the prisoner was duly handed over to the Atlanta police upon our arrival.

We knew we were going to be picked up by a local tour company so were scanning the crowd as we walked outside. The friendly, smiling face of Carlos was there to greet us holding a sign with our name prominently misspelled. We gave him a quick wave which he acknowledged and began walking toward us. As I took my first step on the hallowed terra firma of Cusco my bootlaces got hooked in a metal grate in the ground. Just as Carlos extended his hand to greet me I put my hand out to shake his and fell flat on my face. Welcome to Cusco you buffoon!

The Inca Trail

It was as if we had entered another world as there, looming in front of us was a rocky path, which of course went up long and steeply. The fact that the altitude was lower than in Cusco was good for us because the initial exertion of walking up this seemingly endless rocky, mountain trail was quite noticeable.

This promised to be a day referred to as “Challenging” so I had a feeling the weather was going to be the least of our worries. Yesterday was billed as “Easy” and it damn near killed us so I don’t exactly know what to expect with “Challenging.” Carlos cleared that up as he explained that it started with an abrupt and steep ascent stretching over several kilometres.

Machu Picchu

In a very short period of time I noticed the pace picked up and people were almost jogging along the trail; it had gone beyond a walk, beyond a fast walk, the quest was now a contest and the joggers wanted to get there first. Me, I didn’t care, I had walked for three days, I was now on my fourth day and I knew I was going to get there. Short of being hit by lightning (which wasn’t likely because it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day) or barring any unforeseen catastrophe I was going to get there and I felt good about it

.It was an unusual sensation and yet I think everybody felt the same way; we were all totally in awe of not so much what we saw but the realization that we were overlooking Machu Picchu, we were there and had walked there the way the Incas had.

The Amazon

Wondering what was going on it appeared the cook wanted us to accompany him into the kitchen, he had something there he wanted to show us. Maybe it was just my cynical nature but to me this was not a good sign…The cook pointed up to the rafters and there wrapped around a supporting post was a small boa constrictor snake eating a bat…Cleanliness and health laws are very strict in restaurants in North America and I’m not sure exactly where a snake eating a bat falls within that range of guidelines. I’m pretty sure this would shut down any establishment where I come from but it was truly fascinating to see and just about made our trip here…We returned to our seats in the dining room for dessert and as we sat down Karen felt a light thud on her shoulder. She was startled and slowly turned her head to look, fearing the worst having just seen the snake. There on her shoulder was a tree frog that had either fallen or jumped from the rafters above. Wow, the rafters here are the gift that just keeps on giving!

Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

The cab driver knew the “bank” we were looking for. It was a laundry, not a Laundromat but a place where people take their clothing to be cleaned. They didn’t understand enough English and I didn’t understand enough Spanish to ask all the stupid questions that were going through my mind right now. It gave the term “money laundering” a whole new meaning.

We stopped at the bustling café in the pass at 16,000 feet for a coca tea. This was one of the few places to stop between Arequipa and Colca Canyon so it was fairly busy. As we sat enjoying our coca tea once again I was brought to the realization that things are very different here...I looked across the table and there with its head in Karen’s lap was a small, fluffy, incredibly cute alpaca. He had wandered in from outside and was now standing beside Karen hoping that something nice might come his way.

We finally were allowed to board and things just seemed to get weirder by the minute. Aerocondor seemed to be a little more lenient of morons than LAN. First of all there was a camera crew onboard filming a television commercial for the airline. These people were very rude and pushy, butting in front of everyone and generally being a pain in the ass. Secondly, a couple of women tried to get off the plane to go and look for someone. Then an old woman who came onboard in a wheelchair stood up and walked up the aisle for Christ knows what. Finally the dozen musicians ran across the tarmac and boarded the plane. I felt like I was on a rush hour bus. It’s nice to be accommodating but security was non-existent

Read the interview with Eric Whitehead in the Bradford Times

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