06/25/2010 - 07/25/2010 50 °F
Friday June 25th
Today was “the big day”- our first day of hiking and camping. I am exhausted, cold, and thoroughly questioning why I am doing this. While writing in my journal, I am completely bundled up in everything I brought with me-, which is an exorbitant amount of Under Armour and other snowboard apparel, with a flash light on my head. It is freezing cold at night in the middle of NO WHERE. I am sitting in a tent, on a sheep farm, in a valley, in Peru… in their dead of winter… making the temperature outside no more than 30 degrees. Did I mention I am in a tent? On a farm?
There is a stream/river running through our campsite, which divides “our side” from the “public side” where a community center rests in the middle of a field. A community center for a community, which during the day, didn’t seem to exist. We saw maybe 5 farms/houses on our 5 hour, incredibly hard and exhausting hike up the mountainside to the campsite (a little lower down from the peak we crossed, in a valley area). Luckily for us, the community center is still celebrating the winter solstice and plays loud and awful Peruvian dance music until 10pm at night.
Our campground is host to about 50 sheep, 15 goats, some llamas, a few random pigs, and a bull. Yes. A bull is outside my tent. Our team consists of us, our guide Alveda, two porters, a cook, four horses, a donkey, and two dogs (Tarzan and Frido).
The hike this morning began around 10am after we visited Ollantaytambo to buy more cocoa candy, walking sticks and rain ponchos. (*Side note about all this cocoa which is suppose to cure altitude sickness, although it might help some people… Mom and I went way more Western and started taking Diamox ASAP. Which works like MAGIC). To get to the beginning of our trail, we drove an hour on a cliff’s edge following a river. This road had been mostly destroyed by the mudslides this past rainy season and was most dangerous on all accounts. We even had to climb out of the van at one point to all help move rocks out of the way, so the van could drive over where a landslide piled both small and large stones into an impromptu road barricade.
Then it was up, up, up. About 2 and half hours into this breathless climb (and I thought I was in such good shape! The thin air robs every breath out of your lungs, making 10 steps the equivalent of a half mile sprint), Mom starts to feel really dizzy and woozy. It is a struggle for her to reach the highest pass we have to get to, but she does it! I am so proud of her. This really was such a challenge for us both. At the highest pass, we rest among ancient Inca ruins of a look out tower completely made of large stones. A much needed break.
After our rest We start heading down a ways, but an hour later Mom still isn’t feeling very good, and the trail wavers between being easy and mostly flat coasting along the mountain side, to sickeningly tough, going back up again… So, she rides the spare horse we happen to have as part of our team! I was extremely jealous at this point for the excitement of riding a horse… and for the relief she was receiving from not having to hike the remaining hour to the campsite from where we were.
(See more photos in my gallery)
By the time Alveda and I reached the campsite, Mom (and the porters) was well rested and awaiting my arrival. I was breathless, sweaty and tired. But we had to quickly get out tent organized before the sun went down just after 4:30 between the mountaintops. And then it was cold cold cold!
We eat dinner in our winter gear in a little “dining” tent the porters and chef set-up for us four, before brushing out teeth with bottled water, and heading into our tents to find warm and sleep. Did I mention the bathroom here is a hole in the ground dug by our porters, and then a tent placed over it? Did I also mention the bull in the field? Bathroom trips in the middle of the night were not an option.