Four score in Machu Picchu

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 15, 2018

Walter Born memorialized his 80th birthday trip to Machu Picchu in album of his photos. Temple of the Sun is at right centre. Inset map: final ascent by tour bus snakes up 13 hairpin switchbacks. Photo by Warren Harbeck

If some men suggested to their wife, “Let’s really go far out to celebrate my 80th birthday,” their wife might be tempted to say, “Go take a hike!” But that’s pretty much how Jeanette Born responded to her husband Walter’s suggestion. And you know what? That’s exactly what he did – and she joined him! Thus began the Cochrane couple’s mid-winter trek to the heights of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, of course, is the famous 15th-century Inca citadel located above the Sacred Valley in Peru, some 80 km northwest of Cuzco. The World Heritage Site sits on a mountain ridge at an elevation of 2,400 m (7,874 ft), just slightly higher than the top of our Mt. Yamnuska (2,240 m, 7,349 ft), west of Morley.

Actually, Walter and Jeanette travelled much more than just by foot. On Jan. 26 they flew to Lima, then on to Cuzco, driving to the Sacred Valley, catching the train past fabled peaks to the station below Machu Picchu, then taking a bus to the historic site itself for a walking tour.

Oh, that unforgettable bus trip up the mountain side to the citadel? They followed a tortuous route with 13 breathtaking hairpin switchbacks, but that made much better use of their limited time than the several hours of sole-blistering hiking up the trail! (Yeah, I know, Walter’s a member of the Cochrane Hiking Club, but there are limits!)

After descending to us valley folks here in Cochrane, Walter met with me at Coffee Traders and showed me the album of photos from his trip. He pointed to the polished stone walls of the Temple of the Sun as an example of classic Inca architecture.

Among all the memories treasured up in Walter’s album, however, one stood out above the others. It was a poem written by his son Alan and presented to him for his birthday:

A book-loving octogenarian
Liked his books like a vulture its carrion;
With a Kobo so loaded
It nearly exploded.
That eclectic electric librarian.

…So then I tried to come up with something more weighty.
(After all, you’re turning 80.)

But how do you write something serious and sage
For someone who refuses to act their age?

Who, instead of slowing down, hikes and volunteers;
Visiting, rather than acting like, his peers?

And despite being over the hill (times two)
Goes hiking for days (once he’s back from Peru)?

So here’s to staying young at heart,
And consistently failing to act the part
Of a grumpy old man, or a dinosaur,
Or like you’re expected to when you are four-score.

I’m proud to call you “dad,” Dad. Happy birthday!

And yes, we’re proud to call you “friend,” Walter. Happy Trails for four score and more!


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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