A week or so ago my friend Ariel had a new release of a book that was inspired by something she did that I admire so completely.
She hiked The Inca trail. Now I think doing such a thing probably would have killed me. I'm just not in that kind of shape.
The incredible experience that must have been, I can't even imagine. The pictures she brought back are stunning. It must have been amazing to see the sights in person.
I can only imagine the scope of the love story inspired by such vistas. I can't wait to read it myself. In the meantime, here is the blurb and an excerpt, and I can promise you that the little snippets I was privy to along the way were beautiful. These two guys really deserve a happy ending.
All his life Benicio Quispe has dreamed of being a guide on the Inca Trail. He gets his chance when the top travel agency in Cusco, Peru hires him. Alberto Salazar, his assigned mentor, fits Benicio's idea of a perfect guide, but he's also everything Benicio never dared to dream of in a boyfriend. Alberto learned a long time ago to be discreet about his sexuality. It's a necessary sacrifice to keep the respect of the guides and porters whose help is critical in a successful hike. So he pushes aside his attraction to his new junior guide and goes on as usual. But when a group of old friends arrives to hike the trail again, they convince him a relationship with Benicio is worth pursuing. His newfound resolve is enough to get them on a first date, but no amount of courage can change the attitudes of their family and friends. The risks on the trail are easy compared to finding a path through the challenges keeping them apart.
BENICIO QUISPE took a deep breath as he stood at the base of the Monkey Steps and stared up at the last section of the climb before Machu Picchu. They had been hiking for more than an hour already, with the sky slowly lightening over their heads, but the sun had yet to make an appearance over the highest peaks. Sheltered between the mountains as they were, they would not see the sun for another hour or more. Atop the Sun Gate, though, the view would be entirely different.
Gripping his walking sticks more firmly and ignoring the pain in his knees from overuse, he set his foot on the first step and began to climb. His thighs burned by the time he reached the final step. He was glad there were only fifty steps in this flight, because they were too narrow and too steep to climb with the typical zigzag walk that had made the first three days of the hike bearable. He paused for a moment to appreciate the clean lines of the Sun Gate. He had studied it, along with all the other Inca remains along the trail, as part of his preparation for becoming a guide, but this was the first time he had ever seen it in person.
The sun peeked over the mountain behind him, reminding him of the time and driving him forward so he would not miss the highlight of the trip and the whole reason for the three-thirty wake-up call that morning. He stepped beneath the arch and froze, heedless of anyone on the trail behind him. Machu Picchu lay spread out in the valley before him, cloaked in shadow still, though the sun’s rays had begun their descent into the valley. All his life he had seen pictures of it, even before he started studying to be a guide. He had learned about it in school, seen pictures his friends and fellow guides had taken, but standing there and seeing it with his own eyes after three days of hiking stole his breath. His eyes prickled with tears as he forced his legs to work while, around him, other hikers snapped photos.
His guide began to give information about the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu and the final leg of the hike. Benicio knew he should pay attention to what the other man was saying. In a few weeks, he would be the one standing there with tourists looking to him for information, but the voice was a wordless drone in his ears. He had attention only for the holy city and the inexorable march of the sun’s rays down the mountainside. The sunlight reached stone and turned it golden, and Benicio could only imagine what it must have looked like during the reign of the Inca, when the city would have been filled with real gold. Even now, a ruin instead of the vibrant center of worship it had once been, the city captivated him.
One group after another moved forward to have photos taken as he stood there, but he ignored them. He could not tear his eyes away long enough to see if one of the groups was his. They did not matter in the face of the splendor and wonder that was Machu Picchu. Finally his group’s guide came up to him and put a hand on his arm, startling him out of his contemplation.
“It’s time to go.”
Benicio nodded and gathered his gear, but his gaze returned to the city as he walked. When the path curved enough that the city was lost to view and Benicio could tear his thoughts away for a moment, he made a promise.
When he was a guide, he would wait for his guests to bask in the full glory of the city before dragging them away to continue the hike. They would get up earlier or linger less in storing their gear before the guided visit, but he would not spoil their communion with his words.