NOTE: This is a continuation of the previous post! For your reading enjoyment, please read Pt. 1 HERE before reading on!
The five-day trek to Machu Picchu was one of the most grueling experiences in my life to date. I’ve never pushed my body and mind so far for such an extensive period. And yet, less than a week removed from the trek, it’s already drifting to the depths of my memory.
Here’s what I’ll remember forever…
I’ll remember the briefing the night before our trek where we met our guides (and lifelines) Yuri and Osfer. I’ll remember their cautioning faces and encouraging words as they deemed us their “Muchachos.”
I’ll remember being introduced to the warm faces of my trek companions: the wide stretching smiles of my crew from L.A., Tony, Sunny and Erlina; the cool collectedness of Rodrigo and Tammy from San Diego; the enthusiastic glow of Don and Kelsey, the father/daughter team from Atlanta, the shy confidence of solo-traveler Marguerite from Paris, and the unwavering poise of recent graduate Spencer from Seattle.
I’ll remember thinking instantly that I liked these people; a whole clan of adventurers just like me. I’ll remember reassuring myself that we would all be together on this journey, to the very end… no matter what.
I’ll remember the frosty 4:00AM wake up calls we endured each day of the trek as the sun would slowly inch up over the horizon as we strapped on our hiking boots, layered up and began our ascent.
I’ll remember the changing landscapes as our elevation shifted; from the snow-capped mountains of Salkantay Pass, to the lush forests of the high jungle and the rolling valleys in between.
I’ll remember descending down to the campsite alone on day one as dusk humbly settled around me; watching as the reflection of the setting sun glowed tenderly on the distant mountain landscape.
I’ll remember the brilliant beauty that surrounded me every step of my way as the ancient Andes Mountains consumed my body and my mind, altitude sickness sinking in.
I’ll remember trying to disconnect the experience of my surroundings from the throbbing pain that filled my head; reaching a state somewhere between sickness and hallucination where my mind floated to a higher level.
I’ll remember the feverish first night when my head pounded and I tossed in my sleeping bag only catching brief moments of unconsciousness wondering when the pain would end.
I’ll remember morning came with a bleeding nose and an abandoned appetite as we were prepared to summit the highest point of the whole trip. I’ll remember fellow trekkers offering me help and solace as I sulked at the breakfast table, unable to speak or eat.
I’ll remember the light-headedness I felt each step up Salkantay Mountain as the landscape lifted from grassy hills to patches of snow. I’ll remember the grit and stupidity I had on that day to press forward despite all the signs that were telling me to stop.
I’ll remember all the coveted conversations I had with my fellow trekkers that helped me ignore my sickness as we hiked higher; the life advice from Tony, the stories of past Peruvian trips from Don, and the contagious laughter of Sunny and Erlina that rolled through the mountains.
I’ll remember the local Quechuan people who greeted us with smiles as we passed them on our way; the women that sold us fruit, the children that made us laugh, and the pet donkey that tried to nab our snacks. I’ll remember the gracious chefs that made us quinoa drinks, trout skewers, and fresh plantains.
I’ll remember swimming in the majestic hot springs tucked neatly into the surrounding mountains as the day faded on us and a new pain arose for me.
I’ll remember the feeling of uncommon heart palpatations at the springs, a pain I could not ignore and the flurry of support I received from my family of trekkers: the tips from Kesley, the water from Rodrigo, and the native medicine from Osfer.
I’ll remember being shuttled quickly to the nearest mountain town to find a doctor, a man in an Umbro jacket working in the back room of a pharmacy who showed kindness despite my unfamiliar tongue. I’ll remember my trek guide Yuri sitting by my side and translating that I had dangerously high blood pressure and that I would not be able to trek the next day.
I’ll remember receiving nothing but understanding from my trekking family as we explained the situation back at camp. I’ll remember finding out I was not the only one fighting the conditions, as four others decided to forgo the difficult climb the next morning. I’ll remember thinking there was no shame in this.
To Be Continued… Pt. 3 Coming Tomorrow (Spoiler alert: I lived to blog about it)
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