For the Kids….(A Taste of Texas)

As I was reading about the Cusco Region of Peru, I decided it was quite likely that I would encounter some of the children of the Compesinos in the rural regions.  I am hopeful that I will get to spend some time with some of the local families to get a better look at their lifestyle and culture.  I figured the children might enjoy a small token from the great State of Texas, so I put together a few things for them.  For the little girls, I have a number of small Texas Coin purses that contain a necklace or bracelet, some hair bands and some bubble gum.

For the boys, their coin purses will have dinosaurs and bubble gum.

I also included some bandanas, extra bubble gum, and some Texas Key Chains in my stash.  I will probably give the Key Chains to members of my Camp Crew on the Inca Trail, but the rest of the stuff I hope to give away to children.

Some New Gear…..

Since my last Gear Blog, I have made several changes and/or additions, as follows:

Boots:   I thought the Vasque boots were going to be the ones I wore in Peru-  I was wrong.  During February, I continued to suffer discomfort.  The toeboxes on the boots were simply too tight.  Even on short walks, the two smallest toes on each foot hurt.  Although they never blistered, I finally decided I couldn’t stand another month of training in these boots and that they were too uncomfortable to wear on the Peru trip.  I went to Google, and ended up reading several articles about boots that are best for people with wide feet.  On such article recommended Keen.  Although I was dubious (they were inexpensive and didn’t seem to have much in the way of ankle support), I looked up stores in the area (there were 3) that stocked Keen.  None of the three stores had any significant stock, but the last store I visited (Gruene Outfitters) had a bunch of Salomon boots on sale for half price.  I tried on a pair of  “Quest 4D GTX” and they felt great.  I  had worn the Vasque boots to the store and could visually tell the Salomon had more room in the toebox.  I also liked the lacing structure, which is very effective at holding my foot in place against the heel/back portion of the boot, which should be beneficial on downhills.  I bought these boots on March 3, 2217 and have put many miles on them without any discomfort.  These are the boots I will wear in Peru!

Daypack:  I thought I was settled on the Ultimate Direction pack, but as I began to up my training in terms of miles, weight and time in the pack, I discovered I was beginning to experience some pain in my upper back.  I decided I needed a daypack that had a substantial hip belt system so I could transfer more of the weight to my hips.  After investigating several alternatives, I settled on an Osprey Talon 33.  It is much more comfortable and I am very happy with the way it performs.  Although I will have to take a rain cover and it does not have the storage on the upper straps that the Ultimate Direction did,  it is a much more comfortable pack and I think it will do fine for the Peru trip.

Knee Support:  As I began to add miles and elevation (ascents/descents) to my training regimen, my knees began to ache under the added weight and miles.  I had knee braces that I used when climbing Emory Peak and Guadalupe Peak, but they were bulky and not very comfortable.  After some research, I bought a pair of “Incrediwear” compression knee supports.  They work very well for my needs-  they are light, comfortable, and offer enough support so that my knees don’t ache anymore.

Clothing Treatment:  Week before last I went to Passport Health in San Antonio for a consultation about immunizations.  I ended up getting a Tetnus Booster and Hepatitus A and Typhoid (oral- 4 pills) vacinations.  I was very impressed with the RN who I consulted with and she made several recommendations in addition to the immunizations.  She recommended that I treat my clothing and gear with Sawyer Premium Permethrin Insect repellent.  Since my brother in law had told me that a friend of his had a terrible time with sand flies in Peru, I decided it would probably be a good idea.   It took a while, but I treated my clothes, my pack, and my sleeping bag liner.  The treatment is odorless, colorless and lasts for six months or six washings.  She also recommended a diarrhea treatment called “DiaResQ” that is very effective and was developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  I puchased some and it will be a part of my kit.

In six days I leave for Peru.  I feel good about my gear and my training.  I will let you know how it all works out!

Almost There! Training stats for February and March

February was a tough month for training.  Family obligations (sister = surgery; brother = heart procedure; mother-in-law = a fall, broken leg, and surgery), a week of personal illness, and some bad weather made it hard to find time to train.  March was much better-  I changed shoes and backpacks and stepped up my mileage, elevation, and weight.  If I am not ready for the Andes, it is not for lack of trying!  Here are my stats:

February, 2017

Miles on Treadmill:  29  Miles on Roads/Trails: 47.97  Total Miles:  76.97

Total Elevation:  6,189′

March, 2017

Miles on Treadmill:  30  Miles on Roads/Trails: 115.80  Total Miles: 145.80

Total Elevation:  15,159′

Below is a map of my hike on March 28, 2017.  I did a total of 13.15 miles that morning with over a 1,000′ of concentrated elevation at the 3.5 mile mark (10 reps of “the hill”):


Snakes and Sunrises….

Got up early this morning for a hike- wanted to get to my hill and set up the Nikon on a tripod for some camera practice using manual settings.  I left the house a little before 6:00 a.m., using my headlamp.  Shortly after getting onto shortcut road, I encountered a large rattlesnake.  In the dark I couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead, so I played it safe and took a picture from a distance.  When I passed by on the way home, saw that he was indeed dead, probably a male (worn rattlers) and almost four feet long.  This is the biggest one I have seen this Spring.

I continued on my hike and got to the hill in plenty of time to set up the camera and tripod.  The sunrise did not cooperate, but here is one of the pictures I took from the top of the hill.

Own the walk back home I was listening to my MP-3 player and had earbuds in, so I didn’t hear the train coming until it was very close.  One of the things I like about my new Samsung Galaxy S7 is to quickly open the camera by tapping the home key twice.  This allows me to take pictures that I would normally miss.  After snapping a picture of the train, I also took one of the sunrise on my phone.

I am really impressed with the camera on this phone and look forward to using it a lot while I am one the trail in Peru.  At the end of the walk, my GPS showed 8.15 miles and 794′ total ascent– a nice Sunday morning walk!

Bacon and Bluebonnets…..

“Cheer Up!” I told myself as I got up this morning.  The Black Dog has been nipping at my heels these last few weeks, and on some days I felt like he had succeeded in taking a chunk out of my soul.  This morning’s solution?  Take a long walk….so I loaded my pack and set out.  Dorothy and Bitsy accompanied me until we got to the Ski Lodge where they turned around and headed for home while I headed for IH 10.

I knew that it was 4 miles out and back to IH 10 from the Post Office at McQueeney (on FM725) and that the two large hills would provide a little elevation work.  I wanted to spend “time in the saddle” today, focusing on a leisurely pace and spending time in my loaded pack versus looking for speed.  I stopped at the Post Office and found that my travel company had sent me some items (a hat, a t-shirt, luggage tags and a water bottle), but no travel documents or vouchers, which I have been waiting to receive.  I headed toward IH-10 and when I got there stopped at Arby’s and got four slices of bacon as a snack.  That significantly brightened my spirits- EVERYTHING is better with bacon!

On a grassy slope near the intersection of IH-10 and FM 725,  I saw my first Bluebonnets of the Spring.  There weren’t very many, but they were vibrant and beautiful!

The walk, the bacon, and the bluebonnets brightened my mood considerably.  Upon return home, my GPS indicated I had walked 10.15 miles and ascended 685 feet.

Hill Work…..

Saturday late morning/early afternoon (February 25, 2017) I spent a couple of hours at Fischer Park concentrating on hill work.  I covered 6.15 miles the majority of which was in segments of  approximately 1/4 mile during which I went from the highest point in the park down to the lowest, and back up again.  This portion of the elevation graph for the hike illustrates the hill repetitions:

My GPS unit recorded a total ascent of 1,276 feet during the hike.  While I wish the elevation of each unit was greater, I felt good about this training effort, and I plan to do this several times a week.  It is close to home and convenient.  I hope to hike natural trails a couple of times per week so that my miles are not all the same.

Back on Track……

February has been a disappointing month for training.  Two major family illnesses (my sister and my wife’s mother), a personal illness (stomach flu that lasted a number of days) and a busy schedule (helping put on a women’s college golf tournament, etc) have put a severe dent in my training.  But, this morning I got back on track with a nice long hike along local roads.  I took along my new phone (Galaxy S7) to try out the camera, which was supposed to be a substantial upgrade from my old phone, especially in low light.  Here is a picture I took while it was still quite foggy.

And another, as the fog began to lift….

I walked Shortcut road to the intersection at Hwy 78, continued onto Wosnig Road, took a left on Pioneer Road, left on Stagecoach Road, which intersected with FM725 near the base of the big hill.  My GPS ran out of batteries at the top of the hill (8.12 miles when I last looked at it) so I estimate that I walked of minimum of 9.5 miles this morning.  I wore a lighter pair of Wright Socks, and that seemed to help with the discomfort I have been experiencing with toes on both feet.  I have not developed any blisters (Wright Socks guarantees you won’t get any, and I never have while wearing their socks!) but have been experiencing some discomfort with this pair of boots.  It seemed to be better.  I had never walked this route, but enjoyed the animals…..

and got to say hi to my old friend, “Fierce Determination….

All in all, it was a nice walk.  I did encounter a few country dogs that appeared to be somewhat aggressive.  I took note that Peter Frost, in his book “Exploring Cusco” (5th Edition), warns about aggressive dogs in the rural areas of Cusco, so I am going to look into purchasing an effective pepper spray (which might also be a deterrent to the muggers that Frost also warns about!).



This is Bitsy, our eleven year old miniature dachshund.  She is truly a member of our family, and has enriched our lives over these past few years.  When my mother died in  1999, we inherited her miniature dachshund/chihuahua mix…his name was BoBo (she spelled it BeauxBeaux).  Mom really loved BoBo-  he was her reason for getting up each morning during the last five years of her life.  He was a little, well actually a lot, stubborn and didn’t hesitate to let you know when he was not pleased.  He was also incredibly smart and learned a number of tricks while with our family.  He was the unofficial mascot of the Texas A & M Lacrosse team.  Dorothy had knitted him a little TAMU cape which he wore to the games-  during the rest time between periods he would fetch balls thrown out on the field.  Fetching was his favorite thing….he would do it until his unsuspecting “thrower” was worn out.  We actually had BoBo longer than mom did-  when his health declined, Leslie and Liz gifted us with a new puppy that we named Bitsy.  BoBo wouldn’t have much to do with Bitsy, but her presence in our home perked him up and he lived another year.  The weekend that he died, Leslie had some old Lacrosse friends up to the lake, and BoBo played fetch with them just like the good old days.  He died in Leslie’s lap, content and happy after a full weekend of fetching with his old buddies.

When BoBo passed, Bitsy became queen of the realm.  While she was never much for fetching, she loved to hunt.  To this day, she spends her time roaming our property, looking for squirrels, lizards, possums or anything else she can get ahold of.   I have lost count of how many squirrels she has killed over the years, but it is quite a few.  She is devoted to Dorothy and I and her companionship truly makes us feel loved!  (Here is a picture from 2008, when she was still pretty young….)

Plaza de Armas (Awkaypata) and Coricancha

Sites We Will Visit:

Day 1 (Wednesday 4.12.17):                          Plaza de Armas (Awkaypata)                                                                                                                                 Coricancha

Plaza de Armas

 At the center of ancient Cusco were two adjoining plazas, separated by the Saphy river.  Awkaypata (“Terrace of repose”) was a main location for open air ceremonies and measured approximately 207 yards by 180 yards.  Awkaypata occupied the space that is today covered by the Plaza de Armas.  Across the river was Kusipata (“Fortunate terrace”), which included the space that today is covered by the Plaza de Regocijo.  The Incas covered Awkaypata with a layer of Pacific coast sand (two and a half palms thick) and interred gold and silver figurines in the sand.  In ancient times, this plaza also contained a gilded stone next to a basin that was used during rituals (this basin was served by an underground canal system).  Awkaypata was the most important open space in the Inca realm and often hosted ceremonies and major festivals.  Mummies or icons of dead rulers were often placed in the plaza during ceremonies and were treated as if they were still alive.  In 1995, during excavations associated with refurbishment of the Colonial fountain, wall footings of the original plaza were uncovered as well as four camelid figures (one gold, two silver and one of spondylus shell), and portions of the underground canal system.  Today the Plaza de Armas  is fronted by two cathedrals that replaced the Inca buildings and compounds that once surrounded the Awkaypata plaza on three sides.  The most impressive of the ancient compounds that fronted the plaza was Hatankancha (“Great Enclosure”).



Coricancha (also called Qorikancha, “Golden Enclosure/Temple of the Sun”) was the most important temple complex in ancient Cuzco.  It was located near the core of Cuzco, a couple of blocks southeast of Awkaypata plaza.  The interior of the Coricancha contained four to eight rectangular rooms of dry ashlar cut stone surrounding a courtyard. Some of the interior walls were covered with gold plate (which the Spanish pried off the walls and took to Cajamarca).  The rooms of Corichanca housed a variety of effigies, the most important of which was a golden statue of a small boy called Punchao.  Punchao was the most revered Inca icon of the sun.  This image of the Sun was brought outside into a patio during the day then returned inside at night.  When an Inca king died, his internal organs were incinerated and the ashes were placed in the belly of  the Punchao.  According to the Spaniard Betanzos, Punchao was created by the Inca Pachakuti and was the size, height and proportions of a one year old boy cast in solid gold.  He also recorded that Punchao’s caretaker dressed him in a tunic of finely woven gold and gold shoes and that on his head he wore a gold disk.  The Coricancha was also thought to have housed a series of painted wooden boards; which depicted the origins and history of the Incas.

The western exterior of the Coricancha consisted of an elegant curve of dry ashlar masonry that is still visible today (the Spaniards erected the monastery of Santo Domingo over the temple).  In 1950, an earthquake destroyed the monastery built by the Spanish, while the very fine Inca dry ashlar stonework remained undamaged.