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Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 7/25/2002

A birthday present to remember

Don't try to call me for my birthday today. I'm out of town, out of the country, and almost out of this world at Machu Picchu for the celebration. I could add that I was almost out of my mind getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.

Venturing into the land of the Incas high in the clouds of Peru in South America is guaranteed to be an adventure plus. NBC's Matt Lauer and his Today crew went there on one of his TV adventures, which certainly gives it a top rating?

Did I plan it to fall on July 25? Heavens no, it just happens that according to the trip itinerary this is one of the two days that our hardy group of eight Americans are scheduled to spend at Machu Picchu, after traveling by train into the Urubamba Gorge.

Can you imagine, Machu Picchu? I can't either. It is the hidden city of the Incas that wasn't even discovered until 1911. I truly don't know what to expect. I missed the Today show the day Matt was there, but if the fabled Lost City is half as beautiful as the video and books borrowed from the Holland Library show it to be, it will be a dream come true, with frosting and lighted candles.

Considering my fascination in fifth grade world history class with the Inca civilization and their way of terracing the mountains to grow crops, we could say you've come a long way, baby. But, let's not. Instead let's be thankful for the good health that permits such a vigorous trip that stresses fitness for the rugged terrain, that I have been dutifully working toward at the gym to strengthen legs, back, and arms.

The advance material warns, “Our trip is designed for any traveler who is reasonably active. To get the most out of the trip you need a baseline level of fitness and mobility.

“The signature activities are walking and hiking, along paths that are sometimes rough and uneven, up and down, and at high altitude.” The tour company further informs that Inca sites, unlike ancient squares in Europe, are spread out over a hillside, and at many ruins, including Machu Picchu, there are no handrails.

But, like Mary Ellen Say of Toledo, who is in our group, says, if we can't do something that's too strenuous we just won't. So Mary Ellen and I may be sitting out a few hikes and hillsides.

It all happened like this. Mary Ellen, a DeVeaux Junior High School teacher; her brother the Rev. James Say, pastor of St. Joseph's in Tiffin, and I were discussing traveling to Costa Rica, a destination I thought might be nice, and cheaper than Hawaii, for wintering. Dates offered by our travel agency didn't coincide with our schedules so Father Say said, “Hey, how about Peru? They have a trip there in July.” That was it. A more seasoned traveler than I am, Father Say had just traveled on one of the company's tours to Africa. We signed up and Dick Youngpeter, their cousin from Delphos, joined.

When a five-day add on excursion to the Amazon River was offered, did we decline? You're right. So it's cold in Peru and hot in the Amazon and only one suitcase is allowed. Both twin beds in the guest room have been stacked with clothes for weeks. Take away some, add others. Put them all in the suitcase to see if they fit. Take them all out of the suitcase and buy a new suitcase.

The new one looked too large so a call to the tour company was in order. The rule is 62 inches total dimension. Mine? If I didn't adjust the arithmetic to fit my wardrobe, it is 54 inches. Whew!

At least I don't have to leave room for the souvenirs. I have finally learned to not buy any.



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