Thursday, January 19, 2017

Conquering The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Article and Photos by Tony Mangia

Centuries ago the Incans built a network of advanced trails connecting their realm through a vast number of pathways stretching from sections of South America as vast and varied as the continent itself. Through the mountainous terrain of Peru, from Ecuador to Chile and east to Argentina, this nearly 25,000 mile web of stone stairs and walkways were centered around and directed towards the capital city of the great empire— Cusco, Peru.

It's no wonder why these scenic paths leading into the magical archaeological site at Machu Picchu or “The Lost City of the Incas” are some of the most requested mountain treks for modern hikers too.

This beautiful 43km (26.71 miles) section of mountain trail to Machu Picchu connects the important Incan archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Wiñay Wayna (Huinay Huayna). This four-day trek to Machu Picchu is a hiker’s delight and has become known worldwide as “The Inca Trail.”

This medium level hike is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 in the world. It manages to combine beautiful mountain landscapes, awe-inspiring cloud-forest, and subtropical vegetation and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones ruins and tunnels. But the mystery and majesty of Machu Picchu, the final destination of the trail, is the real topper.

Another hike is known as “The Lares Trek” which is only a three-day excursion, but does traverse some higher peaks than the Inca Trail.

The Inca Trail — often called “Km82” because it starts 82 kilometers from a railway station between Cusco and Machu Picchu — can be hiked year round although April till October are probably the best months since the weather is drier. June, July and August are in the high season when the Inca trail can become fully booked so be sure to make the Inca trail reservations at least four to six months in advance. The Inca Trail is closed each year during the month of February to allow conservation work to take place. The months of January through March are in the wet season so hiking the trail can be a little more wet and slippery.

Any group on this trek will arrive late morning at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu on the fourth day — just before the limited amount of bused in crowds arrive at the popular tourist spot. The trek itself is rated moderate and any reasonably fit person should be able to handle the climbs and descents. It is fairly challenging nevertheless, as it has the serious altitude changes (altitudes of 4200m (13779.53 ft) are reached), and the climate changes along the length of the trail. Most important, if arriving from sea level, is planning to spend at least 2 full days in Cusco prior to commencing the trek to assist acclimatizing yourself with the higher altitude. And spending time in Lima won’t help because that city is only about as high as Denver and won’t really help. During my trek I saw one women being rushed down a mountain path carried like a backpack after she reportedly had a heart attack and one of the men on a three-day trek passed out from altitude sickness but was game enough to spend his first day flung like a sack of potatoes over the back of donkey up the mountain path. So, although the distance of The Incan Trail is not that great, and even non-hikers can complete it, don’t underestimate acclimating yourself with the altitude even if you consider yourself an experienced hiker or exceptionally fit. Compare it to doing a marathon — only up and down crooked staircases with about half the oxygen to breathe.

Acclimating to the altitude in Cusco

My two days and nights in Cusco getting acclimated to the altitude were spent mostly walking around the crowded city taking pictures of the colorful locals and locale. The late-April weather was warm (80F) and the sun was bright. It’s good to avoid drinking alcohol (it’s easier to get looped in high altitudes) and decided to put off eating that Peruvian delicacy cuy — otherwise known as guinea pig until after the trek. Yup, those cute little pets of every first grade classroom. Ended up they were delicious with yucca and tomatoes but bony — like eating a giant chicken wing. Anyway, trekkers don’t want to take any chances with your stomach (nothing worse than food poisoning or diarrhea on a four-day mountain hike) so it is best to taste one of the little guys or any “street food” as a celebratory dinner when you get back.

Groups were introduced to each other after we unpacked at the Prisma Hotel in Cusco. A comfortable little place where we could take our last hot shower before the four day trek. There was the Lares Trek group and mine — the more desirable Inca Trail group. Ours included three women and a man from Chicago, a pair of young couples from Germany and Great Britain, two women from Britain, an older couple from Australia, a teen aged woman fro Norway and me. Our lead guide was Elias who was accompanied by his group aides: Edison, Eddie and Eddie 2 (no kidding).

The day before the trek began we got accustomed to the altitude — and climbing. We visited the Sacred Valley outside Cusco — a small village where local artisans weaved and dyed wool for clothing and blankets before heading off to see the Pisa Ruins which were teeming with tourists and more stairs than I’ve ever seen before. And if I thought making it to the top of these stairs (about 20 minutes of climbing) was tough, it was only a sampler of the miles of stairs I was about to see on the Inca Trail.

That afternoon we visited more ruins at Ollantaytambo — where we would be staying overnight —and were treated to a lively and colorful street festival in the town square where everyone wore costumes and masks while a statue was paraded through the narrow town streets. An amazing swirl of people, color and music permeated the whole scene and left an image of Peru one will never forget.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Siena coach walks through imaginary post-game handshake line after brawl against Rider

In a bizarre scene after the Rider vs. Siena matchup Tuesday night in Albany, Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos ended up walking down an empty post-game handshake line extending his arm and shaking the hands of imaginary players from the Rider squad. 

The two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rivals had just finished a game highlighted by fights, ejections and even Patsos going at it with Rider coach Kevin Baggett. 

After Siena's 78-68 win, Patsos followed protocol by walking the traditional line shaking the hands of the non existent Rider team grabbing air.
Things started to get out of hand with 2:03 to play when a fight broke out involving Siena's Marquis Wright and Rider's Anthony Durham. Patsos and  Baggett then got into it, with Baggett ultimately attempting to walk into the Saints' huddle and having to be forcibly restrained by his assistants.
The two players were ejected from the game and both coaches were each dealt technical fouls.

Then, with 10 seconds remaining in the game, Baggett called a timeout where it seems as though he instructed his players to walk off the court at the end of the game without shaking hands. The Bronco players followed their orders and, after the horn sounded, walked off the court leaving the handshake line vacant.

Despite all the noise and confusion, Patsos formed a handshake line without his own players and went through the routine.

Was it good sportsmanship or rubbing it in? Who cares? It's funny.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Minnesota Wild apologize for skit after mascot beats rival with a baseball bat

The Minnesota Wild apologized to fans after the NHL team faced criticism over a skit where the team’s mascot beat a rival mascot with a bat during an intermission on the ice.

During a gathering of NHL mascots at Thursday night's game against the Canadiens, the Wild were throwing a “birthday party” for their mascot Nordy, when he apparently took a pie to the face from the Chicago Blackhawks mascot named Tommy Hawk. 

Then, when the blindfolded Nordy was supposed to hit a piñata held by Tommy Hawk, he instead took aim and swung the bat to beat his rival mascot like from some scene from The Sopranos — enthusiastically urged on by the arena announcer to "keep swinging."

After about 10 fake hits another mascot, the New Jersey Devil, stepped in and stopped the mayhem while other mascots worked to drag Tommy Hawk off the ice. Smile if you remember Office Space.


Some fans criticized the display of violence rarely seen at any hockey game (snicker) and thought the Wild was "promoting violence in front of thousands of people and kids."

One Twitter mom asked, "How exactly should I explain this to my kids?" 

So, of course the NHL contacted the Wild before the team issued a statement about the fake violence on ice:

"We apologize to anyone offended by the mascot skit Thursday night. It was certainly not our intention." 

Maybe they should have added We'll leave that to the players.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Odell Beckham Jr. punches hole in locker room wall after Giants loss

We all know that Odell Beckham Jr. looked like he had hands of stone during the Giants’ miserable 38-13 playoff loss to Green Bay Sunday night. And after three drops (at least) and a mere 28 receiving yards in a game where he basically had no impact, the emotional receiver proved it by reportedly punching a hole in a wall outside the team's formal interview room as he was exiting.

No one saw Beckham do it, but a Lambeau Field groundskeeper heard the wall being punched and immediately came out into the hallway, where only Beckham was standing in front of the hole in the sheetrock.

According to the worker, Greg Woulf, Beckham responded angrily to Woulf’s co-worker telling him to calm down and replied by saying “F—k off” before walking back into the Giants’ locker room.

ESPN reported that Beckham then banged his head against the locker-room door, although that could not be confirmed Sunday night.

Beckham has a history of using his body parts in outbursts after losses. He was spotted banging his head against a metal sliding door three times in frustration after a loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field late last month.

Hey Odell. I'm taking down a wall in my kitchen next week. You're free. So maybe you could come over and lend a hand...or two.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wisconsin student facing charges after high school dodgeball game turns violent 

An 18-year-old Wisconsin high school student is facing charges after he assaulted another student during a heated game of dodgeball.

Jacob Sigler was slapped with one count of substantial battery after he punched an unidentified 16-year-old opponent in the head at Ellsworth High School on Oct. 11 during a the schoolyard game.

The victim and his mother reported Sigler to the police, citing that he and three other students were targeting him specifically during the game, and when Sigler ran out of balls, he became freaky-naughty and threw a fist.

Lucky there were no wrenches around.


According to Fox 9, Sigler “closed his fist and punched [the victim] in the face,” knocking the teenager to the ground.

The victim’s mother said her son suffered a facial fracture after taking a CT scan.

Sigler and the victim reportedly did not have any previous altercations in the past but, during questioning, Sigler told police the victim had aimed at his face during the game.

"I'm not his best friend, but I know him, and I don’t have a problem with him, not until then,” he said. “Just at that moment, I had a problem with him."

Sigler also said the game was just a "friendly fight” and “competitive game of dodgeball.”

And for everyone's future reference, the game is called bombardment.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Kentucky high school changes ’Stallions’ name because it is sexist

A Kentucky high school bowed to political correctness pressure and so-called public outcry over the use of its mascot and its name “Stallions” and is planning to change them both because it was considered sexist.

Lexington's new Frederick Douglass High School changed its mind Tuesday — one day after announcing the Stallions name — and said students will now choose a new horse-themed mascot instead of the manly Stallion image.

Score another one for the PC Police and overly sensitive feelings.

The change of heart came after a Lexington woman created a petition on the website against naming athletic teams and the school mascot after gender-specific personas.

Diane Cahill said she created the petition, to be delivered to Fayette County school board members, after the mascot was announced Monday. The petition said in part, that “it is inappropriate and sexist” that the mascot and name for the female sports teams is the Stallions.

The petition called for the Stallion to be replaced:

"This is inappropriate and sexist when you consider the definition from “YourDictionary” …”The definition of a stallion is a male horse that has not been castrated, used for breeding or is slang for a powerful and virile man who has a lot of lovers” …

School officials say they’ve received other community input about the Stallion's message, negative and positive, but ultimately decided to let incoming students decide on the mascot, albeit keeping with a “horse theme.”

Photo by Tony Mangia
"How did they come up with this? The connotation of stallions pertaining to a girls’ softball team or basketball team just seemed really, really strange to me — a male breeding horse,” Cahill said.

Anita Courtney invoked Title IX, noting that the Stallion “leaves out 50 percent of the student population” and is “not in keeping with the spirit of […] gender equity in sports.”

“[T]here was absolutely no intent to offend or upset anyone,” Fayette County Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk said.

“I’m very grateful to Superintendent Caulk for listening to our concerns [and] for reassessing this choice by getting input from students [and] parents," said Cahill.

Can’t wait for the Geldings football team to show up on the playing field — or maybe the Nags.