Ok so we make friends with the Urbinas, a new family at our church and whose children go to St. James School, where I went and also where my mom taught. They were cute and fun and Peruvian. My mom got to be really close with Akiko, the mother. Fast forward several years. The Urbina's oldest son Luis goes to high school and befriends Claire, my friend from they day of her birth, and of course her parents who are my parents' close friends. Ok so now we are all friends. Akiko always tells us that she is going to take us to Peru. Well, it took until 2014 but we finally got around to it. Maybe sometime last summer I hear we are going to Peru--the boys are doing the trek to Machu Picchu and the girls are going to shop in the town and then ride the train to meet them. Awesome...I'm in. Then in about November maybe we have a meeting where they drop the bomb on me---we ALL have to hike. Claire and I instantly recoiled but they told us we had to or else the whole group couldn't go together. Great...guilt. Lucy, who is now my new bff but at the time we had never met, said we would love it and regret it if we didn't do it. Fine fine fine, if we have to, we have to. Thus began the long winter of purchasing hiking gear, athletic clothes, appropriately colored shoes and socks, etc. One day Forrest asked why I was buying so much and I replied that the shopping was the only way I was getting excited about camping. That was the truth. I'm a girly girl--slightly high maintenance, a creature of comfort. I mean I can roll with the best of them but this was WAY out of my comfort zone. But I also have a "when in Rome" kind of mentality so if in Peru you hike, then I'm going to hike; and darn it, I'm going to look good in the process. I feel like if I can look the part, I can trick myself into being a hiker. (I can't lie, this actually worked). Before I know it, I've flown to Peru (and watched 3 movies in the process--thanks Delta--now I can claim I've seen Frozen), toured the city of Cuzco, packed a duffle bag with essentials and a back pack with even more essentials, and taken what can only be described as a death ride to the Lares hot springs, where I am to camp for the night and then wake up the next day to hike and camp for 3 days. That's no bathrooms, not showers, no cell service, no NOTHING for 3 days. What in the world have I gotten myself into???
Our guide, Super Mario, was HAMMERING it in us that we had to have a good attitude. He said since it was the end of the rainy season we had to be positive or else it might rain---the earth gods respond to positivity, or something. He kept saying that we couldn't have "spoiled" people on the trip and I swear he looked right at me when he said it. (YES perhaps I was wearing bangles on the trail but I mean there was no way I was going to look like a hobo out there). Anyway, our fear of rain kept our entire group positive the whole time, despite the fact we were walking through llama poop, sleeping on a hard mattress in the cold (near the pooping llamas) drinking boiled water out of streams (again, with llamas--oh and I will add here that Forrest lied to me and said they brought water for us so I didn't know about the llama water--I have to hand it to him, it was a lie of necessity), climbing to 15,180 feet, and literally walking through waterfalls and over cliffs. Without such a positive group, and without Forrest constantly encouraging me and telling me how awesome I was doing, I don't know if I could have handled the trip.
I think Jay said it best--literally it feels like you are stripped down and thrown into the wild. We had no modern conveniences--no phone, no tv, no hospitals, no doctors. If we got hurt we were on our own. Even though it didn't feel like it at the time, we could have gotten really hurt or sick out there. It could have gotten "real". That feeling of being totally dependent on each other, on our guides, on the earth, for 3 days is kind of intoxicating. It was just us out there, surviving (with food and water and cooks--it wasn't like we were hunting for food or anything) with each other. We knew that we had to continue taking step after step, right foot, left foot, because that was the only way out. When one person got tired or winded, we cheered that person on--encouraged them, carried their pack to lighten their load. We made friends for life out there, not just because they have seen us looking terrifically rough in the morning, but because we survived with them, lived with them, endured with them, through the trail.
It's hard to describe exactly what I feel about the trail. I am immensely grateful that I was talked into doing it, for it was an experience that I think I needed and one I will never forget. Will I ever do that again? No--not in a million years. Why, I can't exactly say. The physical aspect was intense, but nothing I couldn't handle. The 2nd day was really the only tough day and the others were very pleasant. I was no fan of sleeping outside in the cold in my tent on a hard rubber mattress, and I probably won't do that again either. However, the trail was quite the liberating and empowering experience and I will always be glad that I did it. I'm proud of myself for not only conquering the Andes, but conquering high maintenance self in the process. I hope that if you are considering doing a trek in Peru that you will go for it! You will be SO glad that you did! It may take you until after a good night's sleep and a shower, but you will be glad, I promise!
I will do daily recaps with pics throughout the next month as well as packing tips in case you are considering doing the trail in the future! The photos are beautiful, so stay tuned!!
Forrest and I with some alpacas on day 1 of the hike.