In the clouds, back in time
When I was in law school, I went on an exchange program in Argentina. We stayed for one month in Buenos Aires, where we studied at the University of Palermo. We went to classes, met professors and judges, hung out with students, and practiced our Spanish. When I left Argentina, I missed the vibe and the atmosphere of South America. I always knew I wanted to get back, and next on my list was to go to Peru and visit Machu Picchu.
Now, with law school behind me, the LAPT Grand Final in Lima finally made sense in my schedule. I wanted to be able to use the week before to go on an adventure. My friends had gone on a trek a few summers back and raved about it. They walked along the Andes, over a mountain pass higher than 15,000 feet, and through the jungle, with the final destination of the ancient Incan city, Machu Picchu.
I flew into Lima and then hopped a small plane to Cusco, where the Salkantay Trek would begin. It was an amazing site flying in--our plane skimmed the tops of the snow-covered mountains. It was a small taste of what was to come. There I met my small group; there were ten of us in total: my friend Rob, who I'd known since college, a tour guide, plus seven random people from all over the world. We didn't know each other, but we were about to embark on one of the most spectacular journeys together.
The first night we stayed at a campsite that was 3800 meters high. You don't get altitudes like that in America. We stood around after dinner, all bundled up in fleece and puffy coats and hats, and we just stared at the clearest sky I had ever seen in my whole life. I swear you could see every single star. I couldn't even make out any constellations because the stars were indistinguishable from one another. It took my breath away.
Day two started on rocky and barren terrain--snow capped mountains and freezing cold. We then descended down into the Sacred Valley, which was green and lush and considerably warmer. By the end of day two, we came to be wary of our tour guide's "short cuts," which we quickly learned meant "Let's leave this wide, sturdy path and walk this narrow, rocky strip of land, which might cause your imminent death." Day two was, by far, my favorite part of the trek. Going over the mountain pass was extremely difficult. It was hard to breathe and I took it slow. It was one of the more physically difficult things I had done in a long time, and it felt really good to accomplish it. On the last day, we finally arrived at Machu Picchu. The intricate detail and architecture of a city built centuries ago was astonishing.
In total, we hiked 65km. We saw llamas, poisonous snakes, parrots, waterfalls, and avalanches. We ate guinea pig, personally selected at a guinea pig farm. We slept under the stars, had great conversations, and marveled at landscapes. We put away laptops, had no Internet or cellphones, and packed only what we could carry on our backs. After the trek, in Lima, I spent time with new friends and ate at amazing restaurants.
The poker part of the trip was unremarkable for me - I think played less than three total hours of poker at the LAPT main event. But that's ok. I enjoyed friends, experienced nature, and discovered a new place. That's what it was about. And it was incredible.