iguazu falls
10th August
written by Ilana

We have not been able to update for a while because 1. we have been crazy busy and 2. the wireless on the tiny thai computer is broken, but we finally fixed it today when we bought a USB wireless card in La Paz, where we are now.

Since I last wrote, we went to Cuzco early to make sure I would have time to get over any potential altitude sickness. We spent tisha b’av there, and sadly Bloom was sick for a few days, so we spent a lot of time sitting around and drinking tea.

When Bloom was feeling better we went on a one day white water rafting trip. There were 35 people on the trip and we all had to split ourselves into boats of 6. Some Israelis spotted us and, thinking we were Israeli, asked us to join their boat. It ended up being Bloom and me, an Israeli guy around our age and his father, and a lone Israeli woman, also around our age, who was a bit of a lost sad sack. The woman was terrified of the boat, and throughout the day asked Bloom questions about kashrut. I was scared that being with Israelis would mean crazy recklessness, but they were really chilled out about everything. It was actually the Germans who we had to look out for (I should’ve known). The Germans, who by the way were rowing in perfect unison of course, repeatedly came up behind our boat just to splash us. “First the Holocaust, now this!” I said. The Israelis made a face, but then one of them said, “obviously if we splashed them back it would be reported that Israelis are violent.” “Obviously.” I agreed. Overall a good day.

Our trekking group at the start of the trail


And now onto the Inca Trail. After the disastrous canyon trek I was pretty sure that I would not make it out of the Inca Trail alive, or that possibly I would need to be airlifted out by a helicopter after realizing that my legs could no longer function. Luckily, this did not happen. I was very proud that I trekked for 4 days and made it to Machu Picchu at the end. Since this was already a few weeks ago, and because I love writing lists, I will make a list of the highlights of the Inca Trail:

  1. We only had five people in our hiking group, and since my mom joined us for this part of our trip, the whole group was my mom, Bloom, me and two others. The two others were twins from northwest Canada who were celebrating their 26th birthday on the trek. They were the perfect travel companions. They didn’t try to race through the trek and the male twin told us many different stories about working on oil rigs and killing his own animals and going to rodeos. At one point I felt like maybe I should be killing my own animals. “I’m becoming a shochet,” I announced at dinner on the first day of the trek, “I want to kill my own meat! If I’m going to eat an animal, I should be able to kill it!” I was really into this idea. I’m very easily swayed. “You would never do that,” my mom insisted. She’s probably right. So, all in all I really liked our trekking group and was inspired to become a shochet.


  2. I only cried once. This might not sound like a highlight, but come on, four days straight of trekking, mostly straight uphill and straight downhill and over crazy “stairs” that were more like giant boulders that I needed to climb up and down than stairs, and I only freaked out once. I thought I would freak out on the notoriously impossible day 2 of the trek, but actually I dominated day 2. Day 2 is hours and hours of uphill until you reach the top of a very high mountain.  You then spend the next few hours climbing down said high mountain. I rocked that, but sadly my mom had altitude sickness (so that’s where I get it). Day 3 was what killed me.
    No one talks about day 3 being difficult. I had no expectation of it destroying me, but it did. It turns out that my body is better at going uphill than downhill, and my knees are not in the best shape. The third day had a few hours of uphill, but many hours of downhill, climbing down these massive rocks. Luckily, I had hiking poles, which helped me out, since after a few hours of downhill I could no longer move my legs, and relied completely on my arm strength and used the poles to drag my body down the trail. After a few hours of using the poles, I started freaking out. My whole body hurt, I was moving so slowly, and worst of all, I know I looked like a complete moron dragging my body by poles, but hey, I was getting an awesome full body workout. My mom and Bloom were trying to cheer me on, and I put on a positive face for the Canadians. They were super tough about things, and had never met Jews before, so I felt obligated not to whine too much in front of them. But as soon as they had passed me and I realized I could turn off my or l’goyim, the whining began. “Everyone is passing me! This is too hard! I just want some popcorn!” The thing is, the Inca Trail had God-awful vegetarian food, but when we got to the camp after the full day of hiking there would always be popcorn for us, and I love popcorn, so I was disappointed that I was moving so slowly toward snack time. The tears started when an approximately 70 year old German man passed me. “Why is he trying to show off? Why does he need to be in my face? He’s trying to brag!” For some reason the German threw me over the edge. I made many comments about the Germans always needing to show the world how awesome they are, and haven’t we seen enough?? Etc. I really try to feel normal toward Germans, but it’s very difficult. I was raised by a man who told my Holocaust bedtime stories, I have survivor grandparents, and I was always obsessed with Holocaust literature. All of this makes it hard for me to not think of the Holocaust whenever I hear a German accent. At one point in the trek a woman behind me said “shnell!” and I froze. “Isn’t shnell a Holocaust word?” I asked my mom. She told me that it’s just a word, and Bloom mentioned that these people weren’t even Germans they were Dutch. Still. “Shnell?!” Come on.

    I made it to the top of the highest pass!


    Climbing some inca stairs

    Climbing down the inca stairs

  3. We saw a giant condor flying above us when we reached the highest point. I don’t really think I need to elaborate on that.
  4. Condor!

  5. The scenery was ridiculous. I never saw anything like it. We went from these snow covered Andean peaks into a cloud forest/jungle.
  6. Our Campsite on the 2nd Night

  7. I used the most disgusting bathrooms I have ever seen, and I survived. I wouldn’t call a crap covered hole in ground a “bathroom” per se, but I used it, and I figured it was good prep for India.
  8. On the last day of the trek we were one of the first groups allowed onto the trail. We had around an hour to reach the Sun Gate and see the sunrise over Machu Piccu, and there were many groups of fast paced Brits behind us. We decided we didn’t want to be passed by all the Brits, and instead we would have a power hour. We would walk as quickly as possible in the dark (it was 5:30 AM), and we would reach the sun gate for sunrise. It was insane. I was practically jogging to keep up with all the giants in my group, and jumping over the ginormous rocks. When we had been jogging for a half hour or so we turned a corner and saw a wall of stairs. ARE YOU SERIOUS? My mom put her poles down and used her arms and legs to literally climb the wall.
    After I made it over the wall and then to the sun gate, I could barely breathe. I felt like I had run a marathon, but I had made it, and I was happy.

    Sunrise from the Sun Gate

  9. Mission Accomplished!

    On Our way to Machu Picchu


  1. Miriam

    Great job Ilana (and Bloom)! I knew you could do it!!!

  2. Ilana Dvora

    Thanks for all of your amazing posts — I love your blog. And by the way, I love popcorn and am obsessed with the Holocaust too. Just add it to the list.

  3. dona mullen

    I enjoyed your blog. I have been to mach pucha twice but never did any thing likke your trek. I admire you.

    I noted that you said you enjoyed popcorn. Did you have any of the giant kernels popped? I tried it both times in cusco but could not find a source of it when I got home.


  4. 20/10/2013

    Hey! Love ur blog! My husband and I are traveling similar to what you did. We just did colca canyon and I had the exact same experiences you. Sick and couldn’t walk and had to take a mule. We are in cusco now. My legs are still so sore and I can’t walk. I didn’t even carry a backpack on the colca canyon my husband did! We are scheduled to do the inca trail in 3 days. I don’t think I can do it after the horrific colca canyon experience. Should I cancel or should I do it? Is Inca trail easier then colca canyon? Im in trouble. Thanks! Kathleen

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