Me: Are you back?!?
Me: Are you alive?
Troy: I think so. I need to pee.
Me: He’s back!
After drinking a full bottle of electrolyte salt water (instead of lunch), Troy sat straight up from his corpse pose and blinked around. That was my cause for the questioning about him feeling better. He had desalinized himself so badly this morning that the whole way down the trail from 12,000-something feet high he barely talked and didn’t pee once. He had also stopped sweating. That was troubling.
But the first half of the day is a different story altogether. This is what happened after lunch. Well, my lunch. Troy only consumed salt.
The rest of our particular tour group had already set off to hike to the second highest mountain and then to camp for the evening. Everyone else (the hundreds of other hikers not in our group) stayed at the lunch site to camp. Our guide, Jeremy, said that while everyone else wakes up sore the next day and has to hike the second peak, we go up after lunch because we’re still numb from the pain.
Having gained his speech back and having used the provided facilities, Troy and I head off on our own up the trail knowing we’ll probably be alone for the rest of the day. As “The Floridians,” we are pretty slow (but not the slowest, which was our goal). What do you expect when the highest in altitude we could practice in was Ravine Gardens at 100 feet above sea level?!?
Incredibly green and scenic, we climb and climb the trail. This part is quite narrow, so we hug the walls hoping to not slip on the damp rocks from the fog.
Except it isn’t fog. They are rain clouds. We are in rain clouds. And the rain clouds have rain clouds on top of them. Or we are under a waterfall, we can’t really tell. With our rain gear from Travel Country and the walking polls that were provided, we walk up and up through what could be called a torrential, frog-choking downpour that lasts for hours. HOURS.
Troy had the hiking habit of a greyhound. He would gather up strength and sprint ahead, leaving me for fifteen minutes in the dust, and then stop, catching his breath. I would tortoise up to him and pass him and then he’d do the same trick again. When properly salinized, he was drinking so much electrolyte water he was also peeing as constantly as a boy dog on a walk around a neighborhood.
The rain, the silence, the expansive views make it feel like Troy and I are the last ones on the planet. We walk in our pattern for about two hours, wondering if there was a fork in the trail and we had gone the wrong way. We start to hear the clangs and bangs of our porters racing up the mountain behind us. Numb from the rain and physical exertion, we stop on the side and flail our hands together in a clapping gesture. Their coca-white teeth smile back from their dark, native complexions and they cheer us on in broken English/Spanish saying they’ll see us at the campsite.
Alone again. Still wet. Beyond tired. We trek on.
An hour later, Jeremy met up with us. He said that he had waited for the last two to get to the lunch spot and left another guide there with them so he could meet up with us. How thoughtful, and crazy, that he knew he’d be able to catch up with us. Were we really that slow? Yeah, probably.
Jeremy (imagine him saying this in an Antonio Banderas-esque, heavy Peruvian accent): I’m going to ask you a question and you cannot say no.
My heart leaped into my throat. WTH was he going to ask? I had no idea, and not knowing made my anxiety soar.
Me: Ok, what is the question?
Jeremy: Can I carry your backpack?
Even though we had emptied our backpacks that morning into our porter packs, they still contained cameras, water, snacks and toilet paper. But I did not realize how any extra weight felt like carrying bricks. Of course, we were also walking higher than where trees grow, so the less oxygen probably made it feel extra heavy. I acquiesce.
He then catches up with the greyhound. I can’t hear the conversation, but I see Troy’s shoulders sag in the defeat of his manhood. He also gives Jeremy his pack. So now Jeremy has his own pack, my pack on his right shoulder, and Troy’s on his left.
A little bit later we make it to the second highest peak. Too deprived of food, oxygen, and a sofa, I can’t remember much of what Jeremy says about the view. There’s some sort of lady laying in the rock and I can see her silhouette. There’s some story of some gods who vied for her attention and put her there to admire her for all time.
Troy: I’m thirsty.
Me: Yeah, me, too.
Jeremy keeps the packs attached to his person. I’m on his right and Troy is on his left. We each grab our Camel Pack tubes and take a few swigs in front of him.
Jeremy: Aw, it’s like you’re my babies.
We both start to laugh-cry. There were tears from me at least.
Time to go down the mountain to camp and try not to fall off the cliff in the process.
Troy and I only had one pole each and Jeremy had two. I think that was my biggest regret of the trip, actually. Splurge on the extra $15 bucks and get a damned second pole.
Anyway, going down is usually easier than up, but in this instance, with it being wet, getting dark, and the fact that these steps were not ADA compliant, it was tricky. Jeremy decides that while also acting as my mother, he will be my second poll and I his, so we locked arms and journey together. Troy gets my second pole.
Once he had that second pole he was like a baby mountain goat. He was leaping off of rocks and bounding down the cliffs taking two levels at a time. It wasn’t until later that he told me he had a couple of freaky moments where he thought his momentum would keep him tumbling.
It is late and is starting to get dark enough that some of the porters come back to look for us. At least that means we don’t have that much farther to go!
Troy: I have to pee.
We were in a flat field (we thought) so while Jeremy is transferring our packs to the porters Troy starts to bound off the trail.
All of the porters in unison: Whoa whoa whoa! No no no!
Jeremy: Troy! Don’t go any farther! That is literally the end of the world!
So he stops, naturally, does his business and returns.
Troy: I saw it. I was going to pee over it.
We get to the camp. Everyone is finishing up dinner. I can’t even. My body is numb, I think I’m shaking from the cold. I have now done the most physically exhausting thing I had ever done in my life. I hiked the highest altitude and the farthest distance, all in one day. I flopped in the tent and refused to move. A porter brought us hot water to wash up, coca tea, and some mushy pea soup. It was warm and divine.
Only two more days until we arrive at our Ultimate Destination, Machu Picchu.