November 7, 2014:
Both of us sorry to leave so soon, Susanne and I are ready for a 6:30 a.m. departure by boat for our day-long ride to Cusco, from where we have a flight to Lima. Once in Lima, I will have a layover plenty long enough for us to have a farewell dinner at the very nice restaurant in the hotel across the street. The only thing we're really looking forward to today is the amazing food there.
This is the dawn view from the overlook right in front of our cabins, looking westward over a large bend in the Madre de Dios River, to a setting full moon.
Our trip takes us back upstream to Boca Colorado, but we're leaving 23 minutes late because they discovered that our boat had a leak and they have to move the motor, hundreds of pounds, to another boat. It's 3 hours and 15 minutes for what took us just over 2 hours going downstream a few days ago. From there we load into a taxi, drive for an hour to another river, get on a boat taxi to the opposite side, and then meet our car and driver from Cusco, who drove six hours overnight to get here this morning on time.
Six hours, no problem (and we've been told it takes that long as well) – we'll have nearly two hours to kill at the Cusco airport. We stop for a half-hour lunch in the town of Quince Mil (Five Thousand, but 5000 what, I wonder). Our only other stop is for a quick potty break and photos of some amazing scenery. I had no idea we'd be passing over a pass at 4750 meters (14,385 feet), or that we'd be going right past the Cordillera de Vilcanota and its peak Ausangate (6,384 meters, 20,945 feet).
But we did have to stop for multiple road construction projects, a turned over bus that was being pulled out of the way by a wrecking crew, and were slowed down by having a Toyota Hiace that traveled uphill like the Engine that Could. Then almost panicking as we drove into the knot of congestion that is Cusco at rush hour, our drivers got lost for about 5 minutes trying to navigate a huge construction zone. We finally pulled up to the airport less than 15 minutes before departure, too late to check our luggage at the counter. We had to race all of our luggage upstairs and through the security zone, which meant giving up our pocket knives (but somehow everything else we had carefully packed away in our checked luggage was ignored), check it in at the departure gate, and we were actually sitting quietly in our seats, heart rates slowly lowering to normal, for nearly ten minutes before the plane pulled away from the gate. There's some more I could go into about our physiological reactions to having been brought from near sea level to such an altitude in just a few hours, but I'll leave it with the sad note that we did not feel so much like enjoying that farewell dinner that we had been looking forward to since breakfast. We forced ourselves to eat something, downed a pisco sour (because we're in Peru), and started thinking about the next adventure.