Today we trek 9km uphill to Warmiwañusca, Dead Woman’s Pass, 4,215m.
The day begins with stretching (well, more like my pathetic attempts to stretch). I was exhausted. We all were. Whether it was the altitude, or the horses mating next to our tents all night long, something prevented us from sleeping.
Edwin, our chef, prepared a delicious porridge for us stacked with carbohydrates, providing extra energy for the hard day ahead. We had cereal bars, fruit, and flavored powder to pour into our water to cover up the taste of boiled bleach…we were good to go.
The trek started with us joining the long line of struggling backpackers all with the same mission, to reach Warmiwañusca. The path went uphill the entire way. Every 5 minutes I lost my breath. Every minute, I gained it back. I’ve got this.
We walked, we talked, we laughed, we lost our breath, we caught it back, and we drank lots of water. The sun started to come out and I mildly panicked. Last night we established that my pill happy doctor prescribed an overdose of diamox, which meant me and the sun couldn’t be friends. Luckily at this moment, the trail began its ascent into the moss-covered jungle. A stream flowed within the confines of the path. It was lush, green, serene, and completely enchanting.
It wasn’t too long before the steps became the size of my leg, the path grew steeper, and then it began to rain…the sacred 3. The rain came and went and the sun was hardly felt. All I could think of was how grateful I was that Pachamama totally had our backs.
The clouds trailed by our sides like angels carefully guiding us along our way. I had a hard time breathing, but some incredible energy within myself kept me moving and focused. It wasn’t until I ran into what would become our good friend Carlos, puking off the side of the mountain, it occurred to me that there was no question of not making it to the top… I was already there.
When I was completely out of breath, and greeted by cheers from the group, all I could think of was that the physically hardest challenge I have ever put myself through, was over. I was at the top, and I did it with a smile. As long as I set my mind to it, I can do anything, including the descent.
The steps were steep, and varied in size at any given interval. At some points you were skipping, then all of a sudden you were down on all fours. I’m tired, running off this incredible, unspoken energy in me. Now seems like an appropriate time to start tripping out (and feeling sick.)
Together with the altitude, the overdose of diamox, and the coca tea that I was practically living off of… it now makes sense the things I saw… I was seeing California, Wisconsin, Alabama, Texas! Faces of old men and women on the mountain ridge-tops, phallic stones! I had such a laugh, I almost peed my pants!
(Clearly deprived of oxygen at 14,000 meters, I was the only one who found this amusing.)
Hours later we finally hit camp at Pacaymayo, just at the valley bottom next to a waterfall. My tent, which was perched on a little hill, was the closest one to it. It also happens that my tent is right next to the two-bucket-toilet tent (you don’t want to know). I guess this was the machismo way of saying lets punish the single girl for venturing out into the world, having a good time (without a man), and put her next to the crapper. (Awesome)
That night the clouds replaced the sunset, and in its place, a mesmerizing display of nature. Under the blue dusk, white clouds slowly penetrated the valley, creating an unending blanket of white. When the light of day officially burned out, one by one all the stars of the milky way appeared as the clouds came in and out.
When I retired to my tent I felt at one as I gently fell asleep to bullfrogs croaking, and the gushing waterfall flowing above my head. I had the most incredible dreams. I felt my inner subconscious and mother nature rewarding me for overcoming their challenges. The words of Ovid whispered through my ears,“Until the Morning Star should wake the Dawn, let Dawn call forth the chariot of Day.”
Despite the fact that I woke up to the wind blowing directly into my tent (including smells from the two-bucket-toilet tent), I felt amazing.
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