That one time I almost died in Peru.

Okay. When I say "died", what I really mean is: completely overestimated my athletic abilities and naively (or probably stubbornly) thought I could carry 20 pounds on my back while hiking 9+ hours a day through some of the tallest mountains on the planet. My justification for not getting into better shape before hand was that there was a price for children on the website of our tour company. "Shit, if a KID can do it" I told myself. Screw running. Seemed like a perfectly thought out plan to me at the time. Have I mentioned the altitude of Phoenix is a whooping 1,117ft? My lungs didn't know what was about to hit them. And oxygen wasn't it.

I will be the first to admit that I had a rough time the first half of our four day trek to Machu Picchu. I had a headache. I was tired. I was nauseated and didn't want to eat anything which, made me more tired. I'm sure I was an absolute freaking joy to be around. I think it is safe to say that there isn't one drop of Inca blood running through this bod.

My smiling, happy, excited face at the start, quickly turned into this:

Oh yeah and that camera? It lasted a whole two seconds. The first two days I took THREE pictures. Three. I have said that photography is like breathing to me. I love it that much. Especially while traveling. Well, actually no, it turns out I like breathing more. Thankfully my friend Elizabeth also had her camera and our guide Ro would take mine from me, and so even though at the time I would have liked to erase day one and most of day two from my memory, I'm glad to have a few pictures to remember the death march by. ;) 

Like this one at Dead Woman's Pass on day two. The highest point on the trek at almost 14,000ft. Named because, while looking up to the peak from below, it looks like a woman laying on her back. Personally I think it's because, you want to die when you finally reach it.

Here I am just before reaching the top. Yes I was last. Yes everybody clapped for me. And yes I laid on the floor when I got there. haha.

Six hours into our ten hour day, we stopped for lunch. I actually had an appetite for the first time since starting the trek, and it made such a HUGE difference. I think up to this point all I had really had was a snickers bar and some coca tea (more on that later!), so eating real food gave me so much energy and literally flipped a switch in me. I was no longer one of those girls that I can't stand, who cry when they have to do anything remotely physical, (just to clarify, I never actually cried, but I came close. haha. In my defense, I've cried multiple times after not eating for extended periods of time. Ask my mother.) I was back to being the girl who was excited, and in awe of where she was and what she was doing.

Proof! I'm taking pictures again:

This was right after lunch. It had started to lightly rain which, cooled off the heat and even though I was climbing up shit like this:

I was feeling good. Ironically, right after I took that picture of myself, my lens somehow fell off my camera, and rolled a few feet down the mountain, never to focus correctly again. Machu Picchu looks more mysterious slightly out of focus anyway, I say!

Hiking around towards the end of day two:
Our camp that night was one of the things I remember the most about my entire trip to Peru. Our tents were set up in a clearing, with almost no mountain peaks around us. It was still light out when we got there, but after resting, changing, and spending an hour having dinner and chatting with our group, we stepped out of our cafeteria style tent into the pitch dark and the most beautiful starry sky I have ever seen. The only thing I could think to say was "woooooah." They don't make skies like that where I come from. Space fascinates me, and to see it like that, in the middle of nowhere in the Andes, not a light for miles, was amazing. 

This isn't my picture (I couldn't get a good one because of my focusing issue) but, it reminds me so much of what it looked like:
Day three was a short day, only had five hours to hike to our next camp, our last before finally making it to Machu Picchu.
Let's do this day three!

I spent most of this day hiking alone. The affects of my altitude sickness/out of shape cocktail had disappeared, but I still had a hard time breathing and was slower than everyone else. I didn't mind though, I popped my earphones in, (I remember listening to Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror a lot, haha) went at my own pace, and soaked it up.

Took this one with my um, ...Blackberry:

We had all made it to camp by the middle of the afternoon. Because this was the last camp before getting to Machu Picchu, all the groups set up in the same location. We had the best porters on the mountain, who raced to camp first, and got us the penthouse of all tent sites. Literally on the side of a cliff with a ridiculous view.

There were actually showers at this camp, which everyone took advantage of and paid for, ...except me (sorry guys). I figured, why waste a perfectly good opportunity to continue a no-shower streak? Why stop at three days, when I could make it a nice even four? Inca trail trekking hippies didn't shower! Please. (In reality, I would have loved to shower, but I had unexpectedly spent the last of my money paying a nice porter to lug all my shit up the mountain on the second and third day, because I couldn't do it.) I'll stick with my Oil of Olay body towelettes thank you.

The next morning we were up at 4am, packed up and ready to hike two hours and make it to the Sun Gate just as the sun was coming up. It was foggy and the clouds obstructed our view but, as they parted we finally caught sight of what we had walked miles and miles to see.

I've written about this picture before, which explains how I felt about being there:

We spent the rest of the day getting a tour of the grounds from our guide, taking pictures in our peru beanies, and looking at llamas:

The excited face that has to make an appearance at least once per trip.
Our guide, Ro, the Frenchies, Erin, and I.

Ultimate Peru beanie.

Our awesome group. No one fell off a cliff, sprained an ankle (erin), or actually died (me), so we were excited.

And just like that, it was over. We hopped on a bus, and then a train, and headed back to civilization.

Two afterthoughts. 1. I did not see one damn kid the entire trip. and 2. I would totally do it again. :)


capturethefeeling said...

And it's all cause you're awesome! ;)

But seriously, I envy you the wonderful views, and the adventure in general. Wish I was brave enough to take up a challenge like that :)

Danielle said...

I would love to do this, but I really do think I WOULD die because of my asthma. haha :)