I woke up the next morning still feeling ill but slightly better. I was nervous about the day ahead and worried that my body would give out on me. Altitude sickness is a tricky thing because you never know how it’s going to affect you. Some people don’t experience it at all (the lucky ones) and some get hit hard. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, your age, stature etc. It just hits some people much harder than others.
I was determined to keep going. After speaking with the guide we decided that I would take a horse for a couple hours that morning up the extremely steep terrain and then hike the rest of the day. The morning of day 2 is known as one of the hardest parts of the trek as you’re going through the Salkantay pass. I was upset that I couldn’t hike it but knew after throwing up the night before I needed to take it easy. Mind you, being on a horse, on the edge of a cliff, on ice ridden paths wasn’t exactly super calming. However, I was grateful that the option was there so that I could give my body a chance to breathe. Plus, our guide gave me an electrolyte mixture for my water which resulted in me basically drinking salt water all day (but it helped!).
Once we arrived on the top, the view was jaw-dropping. The snow capped Salkantay mountain right there in front of our eyes. It was a pretty great moment making it to the top. Everyone was eager to have a bite to eat, rest and drink some water. I was still not feeling great but doing my best to hang in there and prepare for the hike down. As we sat on the top of the mountain our guide spoke to us about the philosophy of the Incan people and how much simpler life is in the mountains. He had us all go around and list some things that we are thankful for. It was a special moment and a humbling one. Among my boyfriend and I’s list included our families, friends, our health, and our ability to visit new places and explore new cultures. We’re grateful to have been born into a world of opportunity and grateful to be Canadian. I also threw in a special shout out to pad thai and tequila (because they’re important food groups).
We hiked on a downward incline for the rest of the day. I found going down almost harder then going up simply because it was painful on the joints. By the end of day 2 I think we all had some knee pain kicking in. We arrived at basecamp which consisted of small raised tents. Everyone was super excited for the use of a shower that night. I was able to eat dinner that night which was my first meal in over a day. I started to feel better that evening and that was the biggest relief.
The group of 10 hikers that made up our group originated from Canada, England and the United States. We were all between 22-34. After hiking 2 full days we started to become quite close. You see when you’re a sweaty, sore, mess in the middle of the Andes you have no choice but to become friends. We had an awesome group of people with unique backgrounds all determined to complete this trek together. I’m grateful for the new friends we made along the way and that our group became so close on the trek.