Sunday, February 28, 2010

Peru Day 20: Choquequirao and a blown-out knee

We awoke to an amazing view from our tent (they're all pretty amazing) and a filling breakfast of eggs, fried bananas and hot chocolate and then set out to visit Choquequirao. The climb up to the site was (like all trekking here) a bit steep and for some reason I had difficulty breathing. This hasn't been a problem yet, but it was just the beginning of what was going to be an arduous day.

Choquequirao is amazing. We practically had the place to ourselves (there were a couple of other small groups but no one bothered anyone else). Diego guided us through the site, telling us about the significance of this building or that open plaza. We headed up to the sacrificial area and I spent a good 40 minutes just walking the area and soaking in the experience. It was a great place to meditate.

Mike journeyed down to another part of the site with Diego and Raul and I stayed behind to be alone for as much time as I could get. It was amazing. We were in the clouds and as the wind picked up the clouds just rolled past. It gave a mystical feel to the place and I just didn't want to leave.

Sadly, we had to start making our way down, so after lunch (quinoa, fried chicken and lomo saltado -- a favorite Peruvian dish of mine), we began our descent. I wish I could say it was easy, but about an hour into the trip the (lateral collateral) ligament in my right knee gave out. I've never felt this kind of pain before and really didn't know how I was going to get down. There are no roads -- just a simple (slightly treacherous) trail and me, Mike, Raul and Diego. And, if you can believe it, Raul and Diego took turns carrying me down the mountain!

The camp was right next to the sam raging river we crossed the day before, only much farther downstream. I love the sound of rushing water but watching it tumble and roar past you is a little unnerving.
The bridge crossing was shaky -- it's a kind of suspension bridge -- and my balance was already off from the knee injury.

It took 2 hours longer than it should have but we got to camp just before nightfall -- a good thing as the trail would've been virtually impossible in the dark. I hobbled into camp and almost burst into tears. The pain was excruciating and the shock of what happened was still in my system.

Dinner was short and bittersweet (pasta with 2 kinds of sauces) and I limped off to bed soon after. The fear of one more 1/2 day of trekking with a bum knee was not going to let me sleep well tonight.

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