Monday, April 25, 2016

Trekking Through Peru - Part 2 (the hike)

I've struggled with writing this post because our trek itself was incredibly bittersweet.

The trek was intended to be 3 days, 2 nights.
Day 2 happened to be my 29th birthday!

The forecast called for rain, rain, and more rain.  But the hubs and I were both prepared with our best hiking rain gear, and with our best attitudes.

We would hike to 15,862 feet elevation.  For those who aren't familiar with what that means, that means THIN air resulting in difficulty breathing.

I was a nervous wreck leading up to the Trek - I didn't want to be THAT person who fell behind and caused the group to take more breaks than needed.  I didn't want to be THAT person who struggled while everyone else had an easy time walking up the mountain.

Day 1

Day 1 started later than I would have anticipated.  I'm an early hiker.  I prefer to leave early and take my time, rather than leave later and feel rushed.

We got started at some hot springs.  While our amazing cooks prepared a trout lunch for us, some of our group swam in the springs.  While I LOVE springs, I was saving my hot-springing for Aguas Calientes which concluded our trek.  I've seen gorgeous pictures and couldn't WAIT to play in the hot springs at the end of the hike.

Day 1 was rainy.   Miserably rainy.  By the time we made it to our camp we were all cold, damp, and exhausted.  But nothing feels more amazing than arriving to camp to see tents already set up.  All we had to do was change our clothes and head to dinner that was being prepared for us - WIN!!

I learned really quickly that night that I under-packed.  Don't get me wrong - I prepared for rain up the wazoo.  But I did NOT prepare for the cold.

I should have red-flagged when Aaron crawled into bed and said, "I feel like crap.  And I'm cold."  Aaron doesn't get cold.  If you've ever driven in a car with him in the middle of freezing winter in Reno - you'll notice he has the windows down.  I think he secretly enjoys seeing his own breath.

Neither of us slept well.  I couldn't get warm, and Aaron was coughing all night which kept us both up.  He woke up and said he had gunk in his lungs.  He's always hacking nasty stuff up so I didn't think anything of it.

Bad Ashley.
The team preparing our bags

Children along the hike

Day 2

We started the day with the group singing me Happy Birthday - I was on cloud 9!  We were in gorgeous country side.  Had breakfast prepared for us.  And we were starting the hardest day of the 3-day Trek.  My spirits were at an all time HIGH!

We got started and Aaron kept coughing.  And coughing.  And coughing.

He started dragging behind.  HE became that person that we stop and took breaks for (note:  Aaron is usually the leader of the pack.  This should have been my red flag #2 that something was up).  Our guides tried to check his oxygen level but Aaron's fingers were too fat and wouldn't provide a good measure.

We moved on.  We should have turned back.

Aaron's condition got progressively worse.  The guides finally secured a donkey for Aaron to finish the day.  We still had about 7 more miles to go that day, and hadn't even begun the ascent up to the summit.

While Aaron was feeling like crap - I was on an all-time high.  It was a miserable hike.  By far the hardest hike I've ever done at the highest elevation I've ever done.  But I was chugging along just  fine and was staying with the front of the group.

Most of the time I was by myself singing "the ants go marching 1 by 1 hoorah... hoorah..."

After a grueling day, I made it to the top with three others!!  This was the highest high I've ever been on.  I'd done it after thinking several times that this was impossible.  there was no WAY I'd be able to keep going.
When will I ever make it?  
Where IS the top?  
Is anyone else having a hard time breathing too?  
Are we close?  

We waited for the rest of the group to arrive.  Aaron's donkey brought him to the top and he slid off and laid down, continuing to cough up gunk.  The guides put him on oxygen (THANK GOD!) which helped a little.  They made the determination there that he needed to be medically evacuated off the mountain.

Medical evacuation = donkey.

I decided I needed to go with him.  Unfortunately there was no easy way off the mountain, no rescue service, other than to finish the entire hike during day 2.

There would be no day 3 - we combined day 3 with day 2.

I remembered crying as we past by our campsite.  That's where the rest of our group would be eating hot dinner and sleeping peacefully in a canyon of mountains.  We pushed on.
Aaron on donkey.
And me by foot.

I secretly thought when they asked if I wanted to go with, that I too would get a donkey!  I mean - who in their right mind would combine day 2 and day 3 on FOOT?!  Don't they realize how exhausted I am?

But alas - I continued on, running behind the donkey trying to keep up so that we could hopefully make it to the ambulance before dark.

If this day has any indication of what my 29th year would be like, then I want a re-do!  

But Aaron was barely coherent and very clearly needed medical attention ASAP!

17 miles later we reached the spot where the ambulance was supposed to pick us up.  But alas- no ambulance.

So we kept moving.

2 miles later we found our saving grace - the ambulance!!  I may have cried then too I was so happy.  My knees were in horrible pain.  My energy level tanked.  I hadn't eaten since lunch - and it was now 9pm.
Good morning bowls of hot water!

Mor children - notice their shoes

This, my friends, should have been our turnaround point.

Gorgeous country

Aaron's savior

I told him, "Smile - it's my birthday."  This was all he could muster.

I made him pose at the summit - he was less than thrilled


We made it!  Waiting for the rest of the group.
Aaaand that's a wrap