It's A Fucking Rock Pile

I spent a year living in Bolivia as an exchange student in high school. Years later, I returned for a two month adventure with my college roommate Jeff. We spent months planning the trip, trying to squeeze in as much as we could, including three days for hiking an Incan trail perched high in the Andes. We'd read that it was possible to add an extra day to the beginning of the trail to pass through some amazing rock formations. You only live once, right? So, we decided to do that too.

Everything seemed so easy when it was written on index cards, taped to a giant calendar lined with dot-matrix printer paper edges that we'd made on the back of a door.

The hike took seven days. Anything that could have gone wrong DID. We were off the trail by day four or five, but it took us a few days to get back to civilization in any form because we kept getting stranded. On what was to be our last night before finding a way to hitch our way back to the capital (La Paz), we slept on the floor of a one room schoolhouse in a remote village who's name I didn't even know.

Earlier that evening, we'd found a little 'restaurant' and sat down for what would be our first real meal in a week. There are no menus in this sort of place. You simply order what they're making. In this case, it was chicken, rice, and the freakish monster-corn they called choclo. We were thrilled to be eating real food again, but exhausted beyond belief.

At first, we sat in silence, as if we lacked the energy required to form words. Finally, I looked at Jeff and said "That was amazing."

"What was...?" he asked.
"The HIKE! The trail... that was amazing!"
"Are you kidding me Rob? It was a fucking rock pile."

He was right.

The trail had been paved in stone by Incas a few hundred years ago, and the stones had been worn down to the point where they were smooth. Rain made them mossy and slippery as the trail progressed through thick vegetation. We'd slipped and fallen more times than we could count. At one point we couldn't even walk on the trail because it was so slippery. Instead, we marched through the mush beside it. Another time, we gave up on hiking for the day by two in the afternoon because we were so disgusted from slipping and falling.

And yet... the first word that came to mind when I thought about it all was "Amazing." To be honest, I have to struggle to remember the bad things during that hike because so many wondrous and beautiful things happened.

I learned the positive is so much more compelling than the negative. Yes, it was a fucking rock pile, but I'd hike it again if I could - except that I probably wouldn't because there are so many other amazing things to see in the Andes, not to mention the rest of the world.

Still, that's what I do - I focus on the positive. Maybe that's why I haven't been posting as often here. It's so much easier to write about the negative than the positive - and things are going rather well in my rock pile life lately.

::::: | Friday, Nov 19 2004 at 12:21 PM
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