But first, we handed the Mission over to President and Sister Silva. They seemed a lot calmer than I remember feeling three years ago.
I'll admit it, it was an odd-feeling moment when we removed the name tags. We put on civilian clothes and slipped out of town on the bus to Lima. And thus ended the mission.
Our mourning period ended about 10 minutes later when we fell asleep on the bus.
Arriving in Lima at 4:30 AM, we took a great nap, attended the Lima temple, grinned a lot, and I felt more free than I had in, oh, about 35 years. We were honored to be invited to Chili's with a bunch of our returned missionaries from Lima that evening.
We then traveled to Cusco with friends and family, checking out the sights there for a couple of days. This is Paula among some other ruins.
And then the Big One! With 16 of our friends and family, we backpacked the Inca Trail for four days. It was quite the experience, tough, but with unbelievable scenery. My hiking partner and I got along great, consistent with the previous 39 years.
The guides and the food were top notch, and there was lots and lots of laughter.
Paula rated the climb up to Dead Woman's Pass at 13,800 feet as "easier than Huaytapallana!" And there were actually no dead women. Tired women, but no real-live dead women.
Much of the trail was original equipment, dating about 500-600 years back.
It rained pretty hard the day we hiked in to Machu Picchu, but most agreed it was kind of anticlimactic anyway, after everything we'd seen and done before that point.
As usual, Paula defined 'high fashion.'
Figuring this would be our last trip to Machu Picchu, we had tickets to climb Huayna Picchu, the pointy mountain at the end of the complex. Which we did, in the pouring rain.
Several in the group, who had been my Boy Scouts in earlier years, reminded me of the 95% significant-precipitation rates on the campouts during my tenure. Occasionally the clouds would part for a moment, giving a glimpse of the main complex.
So what's the best part of a long campout? You guessed it! The hot shower and soft bed at the end! And from all you moms, what's the WORST thing after a long campout? Bingo! The smell of the wet and nasty stuff that comes out of the packs! We're not sure anyone will want that hotel room in the future.
So now we're at our daughter's house in Jacksonville, North Carolina, taking a break with her family for a couple of days before facing our house in Raleigh after almost five years. Paula is getting back the title to her pickup truck right now.
In an example of sheer and terrible irony, tomorrow I have to get my NC driver's license, and I have to take all the tests - eyes, written and driving because of how long it's been. Considering the last time I had to take tests for a driver's license, I'm not sure I'll sleep well tonight.
We hope that you renew your driver's license on time, and that it doesn't rain on your campouts.
Dave & Paula
PS We had shrimp and grits last night for dinner. We're home!