Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2005 | People

Hawkeye Hiker: Maureen Lienau

By Shelbi Thomas

Condors can sometimes be seen soaring high in the mountains of Peru—but, Hawkeyes? Maureen Lienau encountered a few in her travels to Machu Picchu this past summer.

Maureen Lienau

Decked out in an Iowa shirt and Tigerhawk baseball cap, Lienau brought her Hawkeye pride along with her on the trek to the ancient city. So did Mark Stephany, 02BA, of West Des Moines, and Jay Odice of Trout Valley, Illinois, a UI grad’s father. Easily identified by their school spirit, these Iowa fans met on an adventure tour that drew hikers from across the United States and France.

Though Stephany and Odice had previously hiked in Nepal, home of eight of the world’s largest mountains, Machu Picchu presented its own unique set of challenges. The travelers slipped and stumbled on the uneven path, teetering along mountain ridges up to 14,000 feet high. Rock erosion had formed deep crevices, and grass sprouted between stone steps that Incans had laid hundreds of years ago.

Over three-and-a-half days and 31 miles, the hikers followed in the footsteps of the ancients. “I felt like a part of history,” Lienau says.

Travelers also adopted ancient remedies—including candy and tea made from the coca plant—to ease headaches and nausea brought on by the high altitude. Lienau, who lives in Westminster, Colorado, adapted more easily to the change than the Midwesterners, though all took prescription medications for altitude sickness, diarrhea, and malaria.

The native cooks and porters had no such trouble on the trail, running ahead to set up the dinner and sleeping tents. Although burdened by packs weighing 50 pounds or more, the men could complete the hike in under four hours. “They literally fly by you,” says Lienau, an assessment coordinator at a nonprofit educational firm, who is also a member of the UIAA board of directors.

Lienau hasn’t yet decided where her next trip will be—perhaps the Galapagos Islands—but her fellow UI travelers have already recommended Nepal. She still keeps in contact with Stephany and Odice, fondly remembering her encounters with Hawkeyes in an otherwise unfamiliar land.

One of her favorite memories occurred when the travelers reached Machu Picchu. “As we arrived on the site, Jay said jokingly, ‘Let’s make the clouds move out,’ and they did,” Lienau says. Right on cue, the clouds parted. As the Hawkeyes looked up, they marveled at the sight of some other rare birds—a pair of condors that soared and wheeled in the blue sky.