We took a nightbus to Huaraz with only one goal in mind: going on the 4 day Santa Cruz trek. Having read great stories about this hike in the Cordillera Blanca, we were really looking forward to being out in the mountains for four days. But no matter how well you prepare, sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
The weak immune system
Thomas has dealt with his fair share of eating mishaps and right after we booked and payed for our hike, he felt his stomach warning him. Since being in the mountains, and at significant altitude, requirers all your energy, we quickly tried to postpone the trek but our (very budget) agency saw no possibility for that. Safe to say, we were not amused.
Traveling together is loads of fun but the fact that you always have a partner with you, can also make you insecure about doing things alone. I noticed this a couple times and did not particularly like that feeling.
To end this, I decided that if Thomas was not in any pain, I would put on my big girl panties and go on the hike anyway. And so I did, feeling scared and brave at the same time.
Starting the hike
Luckily for this chicken, the group I would hike with was very nice and the road to the starting point was gorgeous. Even the rear axle of our bus breaking, couldn’t spoil the fun.
We loaded our stuff on the horses and donkey, ate our lunch and went on our way. The first part was easy and the weather seemed nice enough. I struggled a bit with the parts that were uphill but I blamed the burning sun and thought nothing of it.
Right before we reached our first camp, I was exhausted and rain started pouring down. In a race against the elements I put up my tent (why borrow one when you own a definitely wind-and waterproof specimen). I then joined the rest of the group in our leaky dinner tent for tea, chicken and rice. I figured that all I needed was a good night sleep to get me rejuvinated completely.
What the hell
It was very cold and very wet that night so getting ready to leave camp was not a picknick. I managed to eat a boiled egg and a sandwich, found a good bush to pee behind (because they “forgot” the toilet tent they promised us) and started walking.
Every step I took, I felt my breakfast coming back up and somehow my lungs forgot how to take in oxygen. We were at about 3900 meters above sea level and had to get to 4750 that day.
I struggled after the rest and at one point my group mate Mieke turned around. She stopped, looked at me worried and asked if I was okay. To answer her question, I started crying. Yes. Really.
The guide came to check on me and gave me two options. I could either walk back alone to the village we started at (about 6 hours) and take a bus to town or I could keep going up.
The thing with altitude sickness is that you should stay put or go down. Definitely not further up. But walking back alone was downright impossible. I could hardly walk, let alone navigate back on my own.
So with the support of Mieke, Amandine, coca leaves and altitude sickness medicine, I went up.
Dark skies, dark thoughts
I am a fairly optimistic person. Always looking for a positive thing to say and rarely really down. Not at that moment though, the altitude sickness put a cloud in my mind. I could only think things along the line of never making it and being a hassle for my group.
My only postitive words were socially acceptable answers to my group mates trying to cheer me up. I would have never ever made it without them.
4750 meter above sea level the struggle ended.
And with every step downhill my body seemed to recover. I was still tired but walking faster and thinking happy thoughts again. It felt like a whole new me just woke up and enjoyed every step of the hike.
The fun part
The next day was a long but fairly flat walk. There was the option to go up to a viewpoint but with the day before in mind, the guide and I decided it was better for me to skip that one.
We walked past lakes in a beautifull valley and camped next to a stunning waterfall. The sunset was amazing and the stars came out before we all went to bed. It was a good day.
You might think that I felt too miserable to miss Thomas. Nope. After almost four months of being together non-stop, four days apart felt like an eternity. Cheesy, I know. Luckily Thomas felt better when I came back and we were even able to go on a dayhike together.
The only question that remains is: “Would I do it again?”