Thursday, October 18, 2007

Robbery in the Andes

Day 6: August 27, 2007

Middle of nowhere - high Andes

Woke up at 5:30AM to be ready by 6AM for the Lares trek. Turns out I didn’t need to meet my guide until 6:30. Oops. I was so intent on fighting off the altitude sickness that was beginning to take hold when Coco briefed me that I really didn’t remember much of anything. When he picked me up, we drove to a small authentic bakery first to buy bread for the Andean children we would encounter. Then we went to a market in Culca to get other trinkets for them and coca leaves as a gift for a local family. Then we went to Lares and explored that market too. We drove a bit further to the trail head and had lunch. I was already to walk but instead they made me a three course lunch. If I’d finished it I would have been done for. I ate sparingly. Also tried chewing coca leaves. It didn’t do anything for me but it’s less nasty than the tea.

We hiked through lots of pasture land with alpacas, sheep, pigs, horses, etc. Lots of cute children too. They would come walk with us for a bit and we would give them bread or small toys. Saw some local villages too. We walked slowly and it wasn’t too bad until we got above about 13,000 feet. Then I stopped walking in a straight line. I was pretty much meandering/stumbling up the hill. It was less pretty too. I began wishing I was just taking a day hike and gone back down. Our camp was farther than expected because the porters are probably nuts. It was also over 14,000 feet. When we reached it I collapsed on a rock. The last hill was by far the worst. Really feel the altitude. Coco forced me to go to my tent and put on warm clothes. He was right. The sun was going down and it got cold quickly. Currently must be below 0 degrees C. Oh, I forgot to mention - on the van ride to the trail head it snowed a bit. The road was very narrow but I’ve driven worse. I only started to get concerned when the driver crossed himself.

I took a 45 minute nap and was awoken for tea. Dinner will be soon. I’m not hungry. I just want to get in my sleeping bag.

Lovely. I got robbed during dinner. Shoulda stayed with plan A and not left my tent. The last I saw of my clothes, backpack, and camera, I was taking my pills after tea. After dinner my tent had been ransacked. Now what? Even though we camped (for some inexplicable reason) at 14,000 feet, the cold quickly became a bigger problem for me than the lack of oxygen. With no clothes but the ones on my back and no sleeping bag liner (it too was stolen) I was hard pressed to keep warm. I had my water bottles with me during dinner so I filled them with hot water boiled over the fire to warm my sleeping bag. It was a rough night. Cold, robbed, dogs howling, the altitude, and being too out of it to go outside and take a leak. Fairly miserable all around.

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