I'm sorry if this story is similar to several others I have posted. I struggled with this one too; because I had so many ways to twist the plot.
Jennifer Marie Stephens was excited, nervous and somewhat uneasy. Her husband was the curator for a big museum at the local college. Maybe she had been right about him all along. Now maybe her parents would see him in a better light. She had normally dated a bunch of "wild ones" in high school and college. She had been burned out with all of their maniacal egos; their endless flirtations with other women and sexual demands.
She began to take a whole new direction with her personal life after she started working. During a guided tour of the local college archeological museum, she had been approached by the tour guide, which unknown to her was the curator. She was twenty two at the time, and he was almost twenty years older. He was not a particularly athletic looking man. He was a studious man. She had gone out with him reluctantly on a casual basis. She was not that excited when he proposed to her. She had decided to marry him for a number of dubious reasons. One was that she needed to change the direction of her social life from being on the back of a Harley, to the passenger seat of a BMW. She tired of being on the verge of eviction with a boyfriend who felt the world was against him. She felt she could adjust to the five-acre lot in the suburbs that took most of the weekend on a riding mower to maintain.
Her parents weren't that wild about the prospects of a son-in-law that didn't know how to change the oil in his own car. He didn't know how to over-seed the lawn, or spray weeds. Jenny didn't care. She could do all that. For the first time in her life, she had some sort of stability in her life. Her disappointing romantic and sex life seemed to take a lower priority when their daughter Dakota came along. They had a common interest now, or at least, so she thought.
When the news came that her husband Joe was going to have a full semester sabbatical; and that they were going to Peru to search for Vilcabamba, her daughter threw a tantrum.
In 1911 Hiram Bingham had published his archeological findings for Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba. The world has since recognized the findings for Machu Picchu as one of the outstanding discoveries of architecture. However, nobody had been able to find Vilcabamba since then. Was this place a myth? Were the bearings he gave to this other city wrong? Brad had to find out.
He had spent several summers examining other documents and writings of others who had tried to find it. He had been on air searches where they had spent month's gridding off the mountainous area searching for the lost city. The cloud cover was too dense for aerial searches to be effective. Years of studies of maps from Google Earth had turned up nothing.
The news of this new trip gave Jenny some sense of vindication for her choice in husbands. She was being offered the opportunity to spend the summer before her freshman year climbing mountains in a savage country with no modern amenities. There would be no cell coverage, no satellite coverage, no bathrooms and no friends. She was just getting old enough that her parents would consider letting her date. She was just old enough at fourteen, to get a learners' permit.
Jenny knew that in time she would have memories to last a lifetime.
Joe had spent lots of time collecting maps of the area. He had GPS devices. He had satellite phones. He had a laptop and flash drives for information and photographs. He had not told his wife, but now his priorities were a little different.
The last few years, or so, he had been reading the book by Tahir Shah, called "Trail of Feathers;" Serpent of the Incas It was a dubious account of the 'Legendary Birdmen of Peru.' He had been to the archives in Cuzco and had been allowed to read the notes of a 16th century Spanish priest. Depending on the conflicting meanings of a few words, there seemed to be references to a band of "Birdmen of Peru." These men seemed to be able to soar from one mountain top to another; sometimes following the river along the Sacred Valley. There was speculation both that men could fly, or that maybe it was just hallucinogenic effects of the coca leaves.
Joe had become obsessed with this search; not only for Vilcabamba, but the "Serpent of the Incas; the Birdmen of Peru." Although he had started out with sabbaticals funded by the university, his lack of finished published papers was taking its toll. He had begun borrowing against his house. He had begun borrowing against the farm property that Jennifer's parents had left for her inheritance. The "Serpent of the Incas," portion of his investigation was not an approved part of his research, but was consuming a great part of his effort. This would be a discrete secondary exploration that he would not tell anybody about.
Joe and Jenn flew to Florida and caught a connecting flight Lima. Joe had spent a lot of time analyzing the route. He knew that his wife was fit from her years of jogging in college and years after.
From Lima, they took a four hour train to Cusco. They had to hire a porter. Joe had had good luck with his previous porter, so it was easy to use him again.
Joe, and his wife each had a horse to ride. The porter walked, leading a string of Llamas, which carried food, water and camping equipment. Raul was tall. In fact you could say he was huge. He did not look like other porters. Most of them could be traced back to the Indians of the forest; a lineage of Inca. Raul was a little different. He was at least 6'-6" tall; very lean and fit. Unlike the native Indians, he had a number of tattoos, indicating a substantial contact with the outside world. Neither Joe or Jenn had actually seen his tattoos. Once in a while, one of his long sleeves might snag on something enough to get a quick glimpse of part of his arm. Sometimes when he might lean over, one might see down the front of his work shirt, showing a hint of some kind of tattoos on his body; but nothing they could really understand.
He did not wear the traditional bright colors and skull caps of the Cusco Villagers. He dressed in faded military fatigues; jungle camouflage. His trousers were tucked into the top of his black, oiled lumberjack boots that stopped just below his knees. The sides of his head were shaved. The hair along the top of his head was kinky and braided into a Mohawk that trailed down the back of his neck. This did not seem like the typical Inca guide, but he had been recommended by the college and used by Joe before.
Walking along the world famous Inca Trail was an incredible experience. The four day hike took them past villages, forests, valleys, and mountains, and was an excellent way to taste the flavor of the local culture. The hiking from Cusco to the Sacred Valley gave them several days to acclimate themselves to the height of 11,000 feet above see level. This Sacred Valley tour combined the Inca trail with visits to other historic architectural ruins along the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu.
Although she should have known, Jenn was unexpectedly surprised at the vast array of orchids; thousands growing among the fern and within the crooks of large trees. She was now glad that her husband had packed away several computer chips for her camera. The camera memory would never have been able to store the pictures of vicuna, condor, alpaca and different animals she had seen along the trail. There were dozens of Inca ruins that had not been noted in the travel handbooks.
This was Jenny's first trip, and was soon feeling uncomfortable around the guide. Raul had a stare as cold at the Andes wind. He was blatant about it; never politely looking away when she caught him starring. Raul had not seen Joe's wife before. She preferred to feel it was innocent, but the local men were not used to the way many of the tourist women dressed.
On the four day trip from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu, Jenn would need to find a bathroom or even bathe. She made it clear when she wanted to be alone, but always felt somebody was watching when she would wade out into the cold stream to wash. She tried to do it in the evening as late as possible, so there was minimal light. However, when the sun went down, the stars shining off of the water made it feel almost like mid-day.
Jenn would take off her boots, socks, shirt and shorts; wade into the water and remove her swimsuit and lay it on a large rock beside her. She tried to keep crouched low, but it never seemed enough to ward of the unseeing eyes she felt were out there.
Once, she must have waded out too far. She was beyond reach of her swimsuit. When she turned, there was Raul; her swimsuit under one arm her clothes rolled and tucked under the other. The shoestrings of her boots were tied together and the pair slung over his shoulder. He was barefoot and standing ankle deep in the water; holding a large terrycloth towel out between his two outstretched hands.
She wasn't sure how to take it. Did he consider himself a lower paid servant offering innocent assistance to his employer? Was he a stalker; a lecher, leering at her nakedness? In any case, she didn't have much choice.
If she screamed; if she made an issue of this, Joe would have no choice but to fire the man. Without a guide, they would be lost? What would be their plight then? There were jaguars, panthers and according to rumors, some uncivilized savages still living anonymously in the jungle, hateful of the illegal lumbermen and miners who were laying siege to their country.
.... There is more of this story ...