First, more pictures from day one:
Here's a view of some more ruins that we passed. (There were so many that the guide didn't even bother to name them to us.
Here's a river that we crossed. The Urubamba, I believe. We crossed several, or maybe just one several times. Either way, they were all frothy and fast moving like this one, but since it was the first day, this one got its picture taken. After that, they sort of lost their appeal. It may have been due to extreme exhaustion.
Here's Rindee bravely crossing the scary river on the slippery bridge with no guardrails. (Little did I know that this would become one of the LEAST of my worries.)
Another pretty view courtesy of Rindee:
And just look at how happy I looked. So happy and well rested and definitely not in any physical discomfort. Welcome to day one!
Here's our first campsite. I don't know about you, but I LOVE sleeping in tents!!
Oh yes, and once I figured out that there would be no mirrors on this trek, I took quite a few of these types of photos. You know, just to make sure I didn't have any large foreign objects stuck to my face. I would post more of them, but - you know - this is a family friendly site, and I don't want to scare the children.
To backtrack a little, when we first met with our guide for the trek, he went through what we were going to be facing. The first day was "Easy" the second day was "Challenging" the third day was "Unforgettable."
On the first day, we hit a pretty steep incline that our guide called "the first test." I finished last (of course) but it's not like I was hours behind the rest of the group. I felt confident going into day two.
Before I begin the description of day two, keep in mind that while it was a very very (very) difficult day, the experience was awesome for the grandeur we saw, and the accomplishment that we achieved. I just sort of tended to forget all of that in the difficulty of the climb...
Yeah...I don't have so many pictures from day two. Apparently there was a bit of a language barrier, and what meant "challenging"
to those running this tour was actually "soul crushingly impossible." To begin, it started off completely differently as we hiked through this sort of jungle theme. The grand vistas weren't entirely gone, but they were definitely fewer and far between. We hiked through that jungle-type vegetation for the first two to three hours. Rindee seemed to have more energy than I in the mornings (I always KNEW I wasn't a morning person) so she was pretty consistently ahead of me. It wasn't cold, in fact, with the exertion, it was actually pretty warm. I think the vegetation had quite a bit to do with it. To explain the incline, I think that Rindee was only about 20 steps ahead of me when she took this picture. It was in this jungle madness that I took a tip from Tyra Banks. This past season on ANTM, Tyra advised a girl who was struggling with tears to just "get it out and get over it." She said that if you didn't just let the tears out, you would struggle with them for much longer than necessary. With that in mind, I had a minor breakdown. It wasn't so much that I didn't think I could make it, it was just that it was SO HARD, and I was SO TIRED. Keep in mind that the worst hadn't even come yet. So I cried, and Rindee encouraged me, and we kept on going. After our rest stop (and I won't post pictures because we all looked exhausted and terrible) Rindee and I took pictures of our eventual goal for the day. Unfortunately, it's obscured by the clouds, so use your imagination. At this point, the incline got serious. Rindee and I began counting out one hundred steps (and anything that involved one foot even slightly in front of the other counted as a step) and then stopping to breathe. To say that I had difficulty catching my breath is a gross understatement. However, thanks to a Gatorade that I purchased at our rest stop, I got my second wind, and this was my time to be encouraging Rindee. This is also the time when she looked up, saw how much further we had to go, and had her mini breakdown. Luckily, she was able to get it out and get over it as much as I had, and we continued. Not so fortunately, she began to get altitude sickness as we kept climbing. She felt sick to her stomach, she had a headache, got ghostly pale and overall just did not look well. It was at this point that we both agreed that this was most definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
We made it to the peak, but I think that at that point, with the clouds obscuring any type of view we may have had, we both just wanted to get to our tent and sleep for about a thousand years. Once we reached this pass (called "Dead Woman's Pass") I told the guide, "I never believe that I can't do something. But this - this I don't know if I did it because I could, or because I had no other choice." But after the mini-breakdown, I was pretty calm the entire hike (when I wasn't trying to catch my elusive breath.) Each time I would get frustrated or upset, I just had to stop and look around. I was in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Some people might never see this place in their entire lives! How on earth could I be upset? That calm stayed with me after the pass when we still had about 90 minutes of descent to face. When I saw the trail heading down, I was exhilarated!
We had cleared the pass! How hard could a little descent be. Um...pretty hard, actually. Rindee had surrendered her pack to the guide at this point, and was looking pretty peaked. After she stumbled once, we made her sit and eat a granola bar. I don't think anyone was as happy to arrive at the campsite as Rindee, or as relieved as I was. After a three hour nap, we recovered enough to enjoy the view that evening. It was spectacular to be up that high...
Before we went down for our "pre dinner nap," Rindee had adamantly declared that the following day she would be hiring a porter for her pack. I agreed that would probably be the best decision for her. She urged me to do the same, but I stubbornly said that I could do it on my own. Upon awaking the next morning and hiking to the bathroom which was about 100 yards away and about one level above us, and groaning with every step, I succumbed to Rindee's advise, and we hiked day three sans pack. A completely different experience that I will share next.