Me, I hired an extra porter and wore the thick jacket I had bought in the
Cusco market precisely for this
day. The extra porter was a 67 year old local man, but I justified it to myself
by thinking that it was not that I couldn’t do it, but rather that the porter
would be better adapted to the high altitude. Besides, he would only be
carrying my backpack, which was no more that 10 kg. Later I saw my backpack
strapped to the already ridiculously large load of another of the porters, and
the old man carrying a large combined load of tents and kitchen implements. What
they had done was simply use him to lighten a little everybody else’s load!
We started at an elevation of 3,000 m at Wayllabamba, so we had quite a slope toward Dead Woman’s Pass, only 5 km away but with a gain in altitude of 1,700 m. The canyon we followed was beautiful, and a fabulous example of the Andean cloud forest. We saw a giant hummingbird, endless orchids, and all sorts of interesting plants. Our guide,
was an endless fountain of biological information, although I felt he was
trying to hang out behind me to shoo me along. Finally I had to tell him to go
ahead, “porque no me gusta que me andes carrereando.”
The goal was to reach the pass by 11:30 am. Ha! It was the never ending story, with one false summit after the other, and it was not until 2 pm that we reached the top. It felt good to be on top of the world, and to see how far we had come, but I felt the pass could be renamed the
and that would not
be too far from the truth. Dead Mexican
Then came the killer descent. From our lofty perch we had to descend in less than 4 km to Pasamayo (3,650 m amsl), where we would have a very late lunch and camp for the night. It was miserable. Imagine descending a million steps of uneven height and you will have a pale idea of what that ordeal was all about. The first half we made still happy and cheerful, but the mood turned somber as hour after interminable hour we battered our knees against the cold stone. Actually, it was only two and a half hours later that we reached camp, at about 4:30 pm. Again the Aussies (arrival at 2:30 pm), and Margarita and Tom (arrival at 3:30 pm), accorded us a cheerful reception, and Annie and Tom dove into their respective tents to recover for a few minutes, the former from exhaustion and the latter from Wiracocha’s Revenge.
I don’t quite remember exactly what we had for lunch, followed 30 minutes by Happy Hour, in turn followed 30 minutes later by dinner, but whatever it was it tasted delicious, as only a repast in open air can taste. Needless to say we retired early, and despite the chill of the evening we slept the deep sleep of the exhausted.