Tales of Peru (Part 6)
Our second, and hardest, day of hiking. We awoke at dawn to hot coca tea being handed through out tent flap. This was camping I could get used to. The day was fresh and bright and revitalized by the overnight rain. We ate a quick breakfast of pancakes, bread, jam, fruit salad, and tea and were on our way.
The day was eight miles. Eight miles of climbing uneven rock stairs 4000ft up and then 2000ft right back down. It was intense. But honestly, one of the most rewarding days of the entire hike. The views were breathtaking, the altitude was dizzying, and the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming.
As we climbed, the forest biodome fell away and we were left in the peaceful, tranquil high grasslands. Wild alpaca and llama roamed the hillsides. One briefly chased us when I took its picture (camera shy, I get it). And when we turned around, we could see how far we'd come. We stopped for a midday snack, and I aired out my sleeping bag.
From our lunch spot, we could just make out the top in the distance. So close, and yet still hours of stair-mastering to go. It was a slog, but we eventually all made it.
At the top, our guide taught us how the Incas praised the mountains. How they would carry a small stone from the valley floor and leave it on the top of each mountain. Over time, creating small cairns for other travelers to find and add to.
Filled with awe, triumph, and humility, we started down towards our campsite. For me, this was actually way harder than trek up. My feet hurt, my legs were shaking, and it was chilly. But eventually, after 8 hours on the trail, we all made it camp. That night, we drank some rum, cemented some friendships, and took a walk out under the stars.