Day 8 in Peru — Dead Man Walking

Today's Goal:  Summit Dead Woman's Pass, the highest point on the Inca Trail

Today’s Goal: Summit Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on the Inca Trail

Adventure rewards those that challenge the perception of what is possible and honours determination above strength and youth.  Continue to search for a deeper understanding of what adventure means to you. — Callum Snape, photographer and mountaineer, @calsnape on IG

I sit down on the nearest rock, gasping for air.  It’s been five steps since the last time I sat down to catch my breath.  I hold my stomach to control the runaway chainsaw that is dancing maniacally within it, and the fatigue envelopes me like a mother holding a new born son.  All my body wants to do is shut down and sleep, but my mind and my ambition have an agenda that has five more hours left before I slump in my tent.  The tour guides advised us that Day Two on the mountain is the hardest day.  I laughed at that notion yesterday.  Funny how Pachamama is now laughing at me.

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I wake up at 2 am on our first night on the mountain.  Why am I boiling hot?  I find that by shedding layers of sweaters and pants are doing little to cool me down.  Screw the sleeping bag then.  Back to sleep.  Can’t sleep.  I have to hit the banos (washroom in Spanish).  So I grab my headlamp and head out.  Here’s a tip for you Gringos who are planning on going to climb Mt. Machu Picchu — bring LOTS of toilet paper, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer.  TRUST ME.

I wake up again at 3:30 am.  Why can’t I sleep?  God my stomach hurts and I have to hit the banos again.  I hope this is the end of it.  I have to wake up in two in a half hours to start the hardest day of our trek and I’m feeling sick.  This is not good.  Maybe I’ll just shut my eyes and the sleep will take care of it . . .

Morning on Mt. Machu Picchu!

Morning on Mt. Machu Picchu!

Six o’clock rolls around and I am in no better condition.  With no appetite breakfast was a chore to chow down.  We pack up our stuff to get ready for our seven hour or so hike to Dead Woman’s Pass — Backpack with Camelbak and water.  CHECK.  Snacks for the trek.  CHECK.  Hiking boots.  CHECK.  The only thing I found difficult to hoist with me was any shred of optimism for getting better in the next hour.  I was banking on the idea that the exercise from hiking would increase my body temperature, kick in some adrenaline in my blood, and make my cardiovascular system would work harder to make breathing easier.  Maybe . . .

So off we go to begin our strenuous hike!  Although I wasn’t feeling 100%, my weakened condition did not stop me from snapping pics!

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A rickety old bridge.  The holes left from missing logs was big enough for my foot to fit in!

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Sun rays through the clouds.

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Love the lush greenery!

Being on this mountain was surreal.  The sights of the towering mountains, the smell of the eucalyptus trees, and the sounds of streams cascading through the jungle definitely made me appreciate the feeling of a challenging, uphill climb under my feet.  There are hundreds of species of plants, multi-colored birds, and more than a dozen ruins to explore!  The landscapes and views will make this hike a photographer’s dream!  Too bad I’m running into a nightmare . . .

Forty-five minutes into our hike and I have to stop to “see some bushes.”  My stomach gradually gets worse as the hike goes on.  My breathing is laboured, my stomach is empty, and my rest intervals are starting to increase.  However, I did my best to keep my game face on . . .

My best poker face . . .

My best poker face . . .

Sipping on water and eating snacks seems to have no effect in re-fueling me as everything that goes in is met with a prompt exit (I got to appreciate a LOT of bushes this day).  After about one and half hours since our start I’m trailing my team.  I know this isn’t a race but man it sucks to be last place!  Other tour groups begin passing me by.  I took particular notice of some hikers who were literally skipping while they past me.  However, when your body is completely hijacked by a virus I’ll be glad to have just finished this journey.  So no egos Chris.  JUST. GO.

Every step jostles my stomach and rips apart my insides.  I had to frequently lean on my hiking poles to settle down my body and regulate my breathing.  Have you ever felt your body want to just give up?  That’s how I felt on this mountain. Every time I sat down my eyes started to close shut.  I craved sleep in a bad way.  The thought of quitting did cross my mind.  However, I did not cross two continents to quit.  I would have been crushed if I never saw Machu Picchu.  Besides, if I did toss in the towel I would have had to walk all the way back.  So, escaping the physical challenge of the mountain was nearly impossible.

To help with my breathing, one of the guides rubbed some alcohol smelling potion on his hands and had me inhale his cupped hands like a bong (not that I know . . . ).  I’m not sure if it helped, but the support was appreciated.

After four hours I could see the summit of Dead Woman’s Pass.  I’m about a good hour from the rest of my team.  There were a few team members not far from me who cheered me on.  Shouts of “Go Chris!” and “You’re the man!” re-energized my soul.  Thank God for Kiwis, Canucks, and the Brits! 🙂

My body is SCREAMING to stop but I’m just too stubborn.  At about the five hour mark I made it!

I'm a literally a zombie but I'm celebrating the summit of Dead Woman's Pass!

I’m literally a zombie but I’m celebrating the summit of Dead Woman’s Pass!

The view . . . . Wow!

The view . . . . Wow!

I was so happy to have succeeded in pushing (make that dragging) myself to reach the highest point on the Inca Trail!  The feeling was overwhelming!  Too bad the rest of my team had come and gone but I’ll celebrate with them when I get to camp.  After some high-fives, a trip to the banos, and some drugs from my guides, I was ready to begin the descent.  And what a scenic descent it was:

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A waterfall in the distance.

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A babbling brook to congratulate me on the summit.

After a total of seven half or so hours I finally made it to camp!  I was welcomed with a warm applause by everyone in our group.  I smiled and looked for my tent as everyone congratulated each other on a hard day’s work.  I collapsed in my tent and covered up in my sleeping bag.  I was shivering.  The effects of dehydration.  I covered up the best I could but to no avail.  I can’t remember the last time I felt afraid.  Actually yes I could.  That was a few days ago in the Andes on my mountain bike!  Man we’ve done so much in the last week.  The excitement of the next nine days in Peru did well in calming my mind.  And eventually my body followed, next was sleep — an indulgence I craved since the late morning.

MOMENT OF ZEN:  We’ve all been through the soul-crushing uncertainties of life — breakdowns, break ups, break sideways, and everything in between.  It’s tough to press on when you are left with just yourself to pick up the pieces.  However being alone is just a perception.  Sometimes all you need is a handful of people to say (preferably in a New Zealand or UK accent): “You’re the man!”  “You got this!”  There are people to help you, cheer you on, and support you.  You just have to be fearless in welcoming new people, perceptions, and experiences into your life.  As in blogging as in life: there is an audience for you.  Trust me.  Having a few souls give you a round of applause definitely refuels the heart.  Especially when your heart is the only muscle that works. 🙂

Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking

Peace, love, and adventure!

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3 responses to “Day 8 in Peru — Dead Man Walking

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