Sunday, February 28, 2010

Peru Day 19: Everything hurts and Lucilla to the rescue

OK, today was no joke. We awoke to cold misty rain and warm water to wash. Breakfast was delicious -- porridge, pancakes with (yay!) Manjar, coffee and Milo. And then we set out.

After the first hour downhill to the bridge over a raging river, the rest of the day WAS ENTIRELY UPHILL. And I'm not talking about the highest grade on the treadmill. I'm talking about twice that steep at least half the time. Ugh. My body is not cut out for that.

After the first two hours of this (in the rain), we encountered a man (in sandals) bringing his horse down from our lunch spot -- a climb I was anticipating would take me at least another 3 hours. We hired him and his horse for 30 soles (about $10) and I rode on the back of Lucilla, my savior, for the next 1.5 hours, to our lunch.

And amazingly, Mike and our guides kept up (for the most part) with the horse. I can't believe how slow I am. The horse even beat the porters.

I completely underestimated how affected I was by being wet. When we started the climb earlier in the day, I removed everything on top except for my sports tank. It was soaked through by the time we met Lucilla and I got very cold very quickly when I wasn't expelling any energy.

When we arrived at our lunch spot, another small cluster of homes where the locals welcome us, our porters and cook went to work cooking for us. Mike and I huddled by a small fire in one of the homes and I fell asleep with head on his lap. I awoke to a lot of squeeking and looked around to see at least 10 guinea pigs scurrying around the house. I have two things to say about that: These cute little squeekers were not pets and I'm glad they weren't on our lunch menu.

I still had on my wet clothes and woke up shivering. While we were sitting at the lunch table with our guides I finally realized what the problem was so I peeled off everything wet, put on some dry clothes and finally started to warm up.

Lunch was amazing again. Middle eastern rice, beef, potatoes, cream of asparagus soup. Before the meal I shared the pictures I took of Peru before the trek with Raul and Diego, (who share every meal with us) and then we dove into the food. Siesta was not really an option today since the weather was colder and wetter, but we chilled for a bit before heading out for the final push.

The last two hours of the day were a combination of up and downhill. Still incredibly steep, still exhausting. I am clearly NOT a trekker.

I haven't really spent any time talking about the scenery. That's because it's beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life. We are thousands of feet high -- in the clouds most of the time -- and on these tiny paths that hug the Andes. I am in the Andes. It's unbelievable and pictures and words don't do any of this justice (but I'll still post some when I get home).

Our camp for the night was extremely picturesque. We were essentially on an overhang in the clouds -- extremely high up but still snuggled between a cluster of mountains. Choquequirao was another 50 meters above us and we would visit the site in the morning. Happy hour was popcorn and wonton-wrapped cheese (hard to explain but delicious). Dinner was chicken, beet salad and other good stuff (chocolate pudding for dessert!)

We crashed soon after -- another good night's sleep in our cozy tent.

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