How my lungs hate me...
06/25/2010 - 06/27/2010 65 °F
Saturday June 26th, 2010
Today is one of the hardest days of my entire life. I have never, ever, challenged my lungs, heart, and entire body so much- and it all hates me now. Our hike today began at 8am after our fully-winter-clothing-wearing, too-early-for-the-sun or any-sign-of-warmth, breakfast.
We start off straight up, which makes me regret thinking hiking, was ever a good idea in the first place. But the scenery around is amazing, and the height at which we get to view this beautiful landscape is literally, breathtaking.
About 45 minutes into our climb up, we come across a narrow part of the valley between the mountain cliff we are on and the one straight across from us. Here we spot a tiny little farmhouse on the edge of the other cliff, with a huge boulder as a backyard. On that boulder stands a little figure, leaning back, and hollering with all her might waaaaaay across the valley to another tiny little farmhouse on our side of the mountain. A little figure in the field of this closer farmhouse, leans back, and with all her might, hollers a response as loud as she possibly can. We all laugh, and joke that “that better be some damn good gossip”.
When we finally approach the farmhouse on our side of the mountain, three young boys eagerly come out to greet us. We give them some candy and toys, and our guide speaks to them in Quechua. We make our way across their farm land, walking right through their “front yard” where their clothes are hung out to dry, and run into the mother, working away beside the small house, and one of her daughters. Our guide speaks to them both about the trail we are on, and then leads the way through their land, and uphill behind their home. The 10-year-old girl follows us, quickly then joined by her two younger sisters, 8 and 6.
These girls are shy but excited for us visitors. They are intrigued by everything we are doing, have, what we say… But at the same time are quiet and hesitant. They speak both Spanish and Quechua, but Spanish being their second language they don’t prefer it much. They come close to us, run away, sit beside as we rest for a break, and then whisper to each other in hushed tones (as if we would know what they were saying anyway).
They speak to our guide, and tell her more about this new trail that runs right through their family property. They also tell her it’s their job, on this warm Saturday, to care for their livestock: about 300 sheep, 10 pigs and 2 dogs (their “assistants”).
The girls (Maribel, Rosia, and the third, too shy to tell us her name…), walk with us up hill with ALL their livestock for more than an hour. The hike is hard for us, we struggle to breathe and walk at the same time—taking breaks every few minutes. The girls seem to have absolutely no idea that this is hard- they run, play, laugh, jump, chase their animals and spin back around to do it all again. They stay with us the entire time, fascinated by everything—especially my camera.
Once I show the girls how I take a photo (of them) and then show them the digital imagine on the screen, they are completely captivated and want nothing less than for me to take ANOTHER picture of them and to quickly show them again the image. They laugh and smile, and motion for me to do it all over again. They are adorable… and hard workers.
We help them carry their baby sheep (2 days old!) up the hill with us… they lead the way until it is time to depart from one another. They tell our guide “next time you come, tell your friends we would like some dolls.”
It has been almost two and a half hours, and the remaining part of the hike is the hardest yet. Mom gets to ride the horse… while I trail far, far, far behind with Alveda. We break for lunch overlooking the gorgeous valley and mountains, soak in the warm sun. And then we are up, up, up an hour and half from the lunch spot to the highest pass of all…. Almost 19,000 feet above sea level. This is the most difficult thing I have ever done. My muscles don’t feel it, but my lungs, heart, and every other organ working to help me breath feels tortured and beat. I take as many steps as possible (about 10-15) before having to spot to catch me breath. So much for that damn Stairmaster…
At the top, we have a gorgeous, spectacular, amazing, unbelievable view on each single side. The clouds, the mountains, the valleys, the glacier “Veronica” across the way… it is all just the most incredible thing I have ever seen. We rest here, and enjoy every second of it, until we head down, down, down into another valley to find out porters and our campground.
It takes roughly an hour and half to find out campground, in the middle of another sheep farm, surrounded by towering mountainsides. This sheep farm has over 500 sheep, and a handful of roosters; owned all by our chef’s cousins (or something). There is one tiny stone house in the middle of this land, and we set up our camp near by.
This night is the coldest, dipping down to at least 20 degrees. After dinner, I put on some many clothes that I can’t even move my arms and can barely squish myself into my sleeping bag. By the time I am in there, I can do nothing but listen to the sheep bhahing at each other, and talk to Mom about the day before falling asleep in the cold night.
A note about camping on farms: I have never seen or stepped in so much poop in my entire life. Sheep, dogs, goats, cows, pigs, bulls, donkeys, horses, you name it… its here. Yuck.
Llamas, everywhere in Peru. Just assume they are always in a 10 foot radius of us at all times.