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Ice Mummies
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skyline The Mummy's Journey
Part 2 (back to Part 1)

Toes are the first body parts to freeze because they are furthest from the heart. By 6:00 p.m. it's time to head down to camp—by this time of day the temperature drops about five degrees every ten minutes. Back at the cook tent, Zoilo continues his ice-melting vigil and we wait with him until there's sufficient boiling water to make soup for the 22 of us. Every night we have soup, (a Peruvian staple) and Francisco (the sheep) in every way, shape, or form. For lack of anything else to do, and in order to keep from freezing to death, we all go to bed before 8:00 and suffer through yet another night of thin air and slowly deflating Thermarests.

carrying the mummy Preparing the Mummy for Her Journey
Buried for days in snow, the mummy is frozen solid and ready for transport down off the mountain. On our final day at the summit, Jose Antonio, Arcadio, and Walter dig the mummy out of the snow pack, scrape off the excess ice until it is shaped like a four-foot beach ball, and wrap it in potato sacks and sleeping pads for insulation. The complete bundle looks like a badly wrapped piece of oddly-shaped furniture, but it is non-descript enough to deter attention. The goal is to get the mummy safely off Sara Sara without raising interest or inquiry from locals, police, or even looters. The textiles alone could fetch a lot of money on the black market.

carrying the mummy Arcadio straps the mummy on his back and moves slowly down from the summit. We figure his burden weighs about 120 pounds, mostly ice. This is just the first leg of a journey that this Inca child could never have imagined in her time. The day is the clearest and warmest we've had yet. We look expectantly toward the sky which has threatened us throughout the expedition, but no flake of snow falls, no lightning strikes.

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