machu picchu peru hike salkantay pass

Hiking Day 2: Disaster

As you may remember from my Day 1 post, I finished off our first day of hiking by trying alpaca for the first time. Bad idea.

At night, I had some crazy nightmares and couldn’t sleep well. I’m thinking that was due to my adventurous dining, not because I was freezing and sliding downhill in my sleeping bag inside the tent. By early morning, I definitely did not feel good. Here’s one good thing about mid-night trips to the bathroom tent: you’re standing alone in the dark in a silent valley surrounded by mountains and glaciers, with nothing but the bright moon and millions of stars above you. I took care of business a few times before breakfast even kicked off, and at the table, the smell of food was making me nautious. It was officially time to start popping Immodium.

Although my tummy really hurt and I felt like crap, it was time to start hiking. So, off I go. Before we started the hike, I had several points to reassure myself it wouldn’t be that bad. These included:

  • People live in the mountains and walk there every day
  • This includes old people and children
  • It would only be a few hours every day
  • I always walk around all day when on vacation anyways
  • I wasn’t in that bad of shape
  • Other people in worse shape than me have (allegedly) done it
  • There were backup options

None of these proved to be a consolation as we started day 2.

I seriously felt horrible, and the first leg of hike that day was an excruciatingly uphill trek along rocky switchbacks. It was truly horrible. I tried to just take my time and power through it. But I reached my breaking point pretty quickly. There were almost tears. Ok, maybe a few did come out. My stomach was seriously hurting and I was in need of a bathroom break, again, and there was literally nowhere to go. I sat down on a rock and attempted to compose myself. Thankfully, Jorge came to pick me up on the horse after he dropped Daniela off at the top. He saved my life. Poor Jorge & that horse had to run up and down that mountain several times to help us out.

Jorge and horse

I got dropped off at the almost-top of the mountain (which by the way, was the highest point of our whole hike), where our first campsite was supposed to have been the night before. Thankfully, there was a big boulder behind which I could finally take care of business. I’ll spare the details.

I was still in major pain, but attempted to climb the rest of the mountain with our guide, Alex, who had waited for me. Again, a couple tears. But I tried to keep going. After making it up a little incline, I had to stop and rest and drink some water. I drank a couple sips and next thing I know, I’m telling Alex I have to puke and am puking my brains out by another big boulder. It was not pretty. But I felt a little better, so I told Alex I would keep going. But Jorge was already on his way back with the horse again. In my defense, I think puking was ample reason to deserve a second ride on the horse.

Up at Salkantay Pass

So I finally reached the top of the mountain, at Salkantay Pass. It was freezing and raining/snowing/sleeting a little so I felt like I didn’t really get to appreciate the scene as much as I should have. My tummy still hurt, and when the pain came it was double hard to breathe. But the rest of the day was downhill and not too bad, all things considered. So I walked with Ben, Adrian and Alex and managed to hold my own.

We walked through this grassy, somewhat rocky area that was surrounded by boulders. It was still kind of raining, and when not raining, very misty and foggy. A very mysterious atmosphere, quiet and beautiful. Earlier, on the treacherous switchbacks, we had been surrounded by a few other groups of hikers, but now it was just the three of us with not another soul in sight.

We even saw a dead, half-decayed horse. From afar, I couldn’t tell the horse had been dead for a few months already, and just prayed it wasn’t the horse I had just ridden and that I had killed it! But no, the carcass had been lying there for awhile already, among the misty boulders.

Walking down the misty trail among boulders

As we continued to climb down, we could start to see the valley and the mountain next to us. It was gorgeous. At least for 30 seconds, before the fog rolled in and covered everything again.

The morning seemed never-ending. We seemed to get closer to the lunch site but it started to rain again and I started to get more miserable again. My stomach was in pain, and Adrian couldn’t find my poncho in my backpack (which I refused to take off my back) and I was soaked. By the time we got to the lunch tent, I wanted to give up. I just wanted to lay down, but of course there was nowhere to lay down since we were crammed into a tiny tent and it was pouring outside. I was cold, sick and tired, and the smell of food was making me want to puke again. I tried to eat some of the soup and drink a little chica morada (a purple corn-based drink that kind of tastes like Gatorade) but didn’t really want to risk putting anything into my tummy. I didn’t feel like I could take another step, but the day was only halfway over.

After lunch, I put my cold, wet sweater back on, finally found my poncho, and we continued on. The only good thing about our lunch site was that it was by a little hut that had chickens, ducks, other animals and even a cat. Yes, even at my lowest low, I still stopped to take photos of the animals.

Duck at our lunch site. And no, he was not lunch.

As we started on the path again, my and Daniela didn’t get far before we had to take a bathroom break. So we climbed behind some bushed and just pretty much took care of business side by side, our ponchos at least somewhat keeping us decent.

At some point as we walked on, the weather started to clear, it stopped raining and the sun even came out. Before we knew it, it was getting hot and our surroundings were becoming tropical. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that this all happened in one day. Not only because we walked a total of about 10 hours, but also because we started in a freezing mountain next to two glaciers, and ended in a warm rainforest.

Walking through the tropical forest
Who is that fine-looking conquistadora?

As we continued the downhill trek, Jorge joined us and then he got the horse as well, so the two could follow us to our campsite for the night. We decided to be ambitious and make it all the way to our initial planned site instead of a closer one we had as a backup plan due to our slow start that day. At first, it was nice to go downhill for a change, but walking downhill for six hours straight is exhausting. Not only did my toes hurt (I did not follow the double-sock rule), but my knees and ankles were ready to give out and my calves were frozen in place – they would not stretch or work at all.

By the time we reached the campsite – just in time, as the sun was setting – I could barely move, let alone walk. I literally just lay out on the ground.

But the second part of the day had definitely been some beautiful scenery. The landscape was lush with greenery and we even saw a few tiny, colorful hummingbirds. And luckily, we passed a lady selling Gatorade along the way. It cost 9 soles. But at that point I would have paid 100 if I had to.

A hummingbird, which is actually q’ente in Quechua

I can’t believe how much the horses and mules can do. They go up and down these steep, rocky mountains, along narrow paths and carrying all this crap.

Our team of horses

I also can’t believe how much I walked in one day, considering I started out puking with diarhea and I really didn’t eat anything all day. I’m a trooper, if I do say so myself.

That night, I could barely even crawl into my tent or move at all, so I wasn’t up for much of anything other than picking at some dinner and knocking out. Although sleeping through the night was no easy feat since we had a rooster – no, a whole gang of roosters – going at it all night, pretty much every half hour. Get it straight guys, you’re supposed to crow at sunrise!


3 thoughts on “Hiking Day 2: Disaster”

  1. MP is definitely amazing, and the hike was my favorite part of the trip! I’m just saying day 2 of the hike was rough. Don’t the landscapes sound beautiful though? I think many people find the hiking part really hard, but worth it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s