Friday, September 10, 2010

We finally made it to the lunch spot with our dear friends. Our reunion was rushed, as we frantically had to divide our packs into 12 kilos per person. Since my pack currently weighed at least double that, there was a lot that had to be sent back to the hostel, which our kind drivers took care of for us.

We were introduced to our guide, Edwin, and another couple from Spain who were in our group. They had all rested and eaten lunch. We, again frantically, had to eat as Edwin reminded us, "You need your strength."

I was amazed by the food, all prepared by our resident cooks, Juan and Margarita. Creamy asparagus soup, chicken and vegetables, with all the garlic bread you could want.

The air was thin and freezing and though we had only been there for 30 minutes, I could feel the affects on my body. We started hiking straight up. Within minutes my heart was pounding faster than I can ever remember. We were moving at a very slow pace and each step was very deliberate for me. My body warmed up, but it was still a slow and steady process.

The Salkantay

We continued for 3 hours, back and forth up some very challenging switchbacks. The view of the nearby Salkantay was breathtaking. The altitude was also breathtaking, and my head and heart were struggling. But then, like my knight in dusty hiking boots, R carried my day pack until we reached our campsite for the night. A hiking stud, that's what he is.

Our campsite was set up by our rock star sherpa, Francisco. The cooks were busily preparing our dinner. We changed into our warmest clothes possible and tried to stay warm. Edwin announced it was "chocolate time." We didn't know what that meant, but we liked the sounds of it. So, we gathered in the food tent to find hot chocolate to warm our soul and stove popped popcorn.

Are you kidding me?? Popcorn at the top of the Andes. It was like my personal heaven. Not even my Whirley Pop could compare in deliciousness. I was on top of the world.


A blurry shot of "chocolate time." The outside air was freezing and the inside of the tent was warm. Hence, a foggy lens.

Our cooks...not sure how they cooked such amazing things in such conditions!

Hello gorgeous campsite!!

And then.....

This is the part where things get graphic, and can best be understood by anyone who has experienced altitude sickness. Your body starts shaking uncontrollably, though you don't feel cold. And the nausea won't quit. And one minute your fine, enjoying "chocolate time" with your friends, and the next minute your puking next to a pile of horse manure. Hey, I warned you it was graphic.

I wasn't the only one who got sick, but I was certainly the most wimpy. Thank goodness for good friends that stand by you in your worst possible moments! I'm talking champion friends for life, these people. And Edwin, he continuously filled my sleeping bag with hot water bottles to keep me toasty through the night.

S and Edwin

I didn't sleep much that first night, but I survived and that was enough.