So it turns out I didn’t have signal at the first camp site, meaning I couldn’t upload yesterday’s blog. I mean, I’m in the middle of nowhere surrounded by ruins and mountains…I wasn’t expecting to have 3G till Jorge mentioned it! But ah well, the point is you’re reading this which means WAHEY I SURVIVED! I’m writing this from the top of Ben Nevis…metaphorically of course, having reached our second camp site 35 minutes earlier than expected and only 25 minutes behind Iain and Lindsey who were the leaders of our group.
Today I learned I’m very bad at setting my own pace, preferring to attack a bit of climbing then catch my breath before attacking a bit more. This is not a good plan. So after a morning of trying to keep up with Speedy Gonzales and Legs I was knackered. This afternoon however I stuck with Christine who has a very good pace, meaning I reached 3 cheerful looking yellow tents with energy to spare – which was then promptly spent chasing llamas with some locals. Turns out they were trying to herd them, Iain and I were just taking photos!
Today was hard, but fun. When people heard what I was planning to do they all made a face and said something like ‘oo thats not going to be easy’, so I was prepared for much worse but honestly it’s not THAT bad. The hike is split into manageable chunks which means that mentally you only have to do 2 or 3 hours till you can stop and rest (not to mention the many many stops to catch your breath along the way). When we set off this morning I was so nervous, but the stunning scenery and amazing group kept me going.
From Llactapata we had 10 or so minutes till the top of the valley, followed by a further 2 hours or so of undulating land (bit of up, bit of down but mainly pretty flat) walking away from Veronica (the mountain) till we reached our first pit stop. We’d been told to wait by the bridge, which we dutifully did and some of the girls took the opportunity to utilise a nearby bush. Jorge, Lynne and Kath arrived a few moments later and directed us to a house with shade and toilets – lol!!
We had 5 minutes here during which time Iain made a furry friend till it was time to go onwards and upwards to out second stop and the last chance to buy chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks. Jorge gave us 25 minutes here to relax away from the baking heat while we munched on cereal bars and bought liquid energy (ie Inca Cola – it’s a bit like Mountain Dew) from the tiny shop. There was all sorts on offer there, considering how remote we are and I’ll never forget Lindsey’s miming skills – if we ever play charades I want her on my team!!
‘Right guys, for the next bit no choices, no complaints…just up!’
At this point I was still on the zoom…breathe…zoom…breathe so my pace was somewhere between the front runners and the 3 at the back. The view was incredible when you remembered to stop looking at your feet! After about an hour and a half of ‘up’ till a cry of ‘you alright Sticky?’ (That’s me by the way) announced that I had reached the lunch site – 30 minutes quicker than expected – woop! The porters always welcome you into camp with a round of applause which makes me feel a bit self conscious on the 1 hand but is nice on the other.
The fact that these guys have done this climb quicker than us, carrying over 4x the weight and still have the energy to set up camp and cook the most amazing food is just beyond amazing. Lunch today was the most delicious soup followed by chicken, mash potato and rice (very common to have the 2 together) and of course tea. We’re eating so well, too well if anything; after lunch everyone went for a half an hour siesta (it was at least 25 degrees and yet snowing – random!) before continuing on for the next 2 hours of up, up, up. This time I stuck with Christine who set a good pace so we were soon chatting away, it was definitely getting tougher though as the terrain changed from a slope to stairs of varying heights and the air thinned making it harder to recover when we stopped. There was a bubbling stream next to us as we walked and every time we turned around the view made all the effort worth it. Having been told 2 hours Christine and I were checking the time and at 2.45 heard voices – I was so certain it was Iain and Lindsey that I was super disappointed to come around the corner and see a campsite that wasn’t ours. Chris and I pressed on though and were rewarded moments later by 3 yellow tents and the happy faces of Lindsey and Iain who had beaten the porters to the top!
What a feeling of elation to see those tents, having had it really not be as hard as I was expecting! Being here at the end of day 2 with the hardest part behind us – yay!!
Now we’re all sat together in the dinner tent drinking tea and eating cheese and banana wontons (2 separate types, not together) and putting the world to rights. Hopefully in a bit we’ll play a few games. I could get used to this kind of life!