I don't know if it was a blessing or a curse, but the 5am morning call finally arrived. I had emptied everything that was eaten the previous day, but my stomach was not at all ready for food or liquid for that matter. I had about 4 hours of broken sleep in total.
At breakfast, Hugo revisited the offer to rent a horse to take me up to the Salkantay Pass, so I can at least take in the scenery of the trail. I mentioned the night before that I would consider the option in the morning based on my condition. My stomach was getting better and I didn't need to use the washroom frequently since 2am. Although I was quite weak, things were on the upswing. I didn't come this far just to ride a horse. I came to hike and proof to myself that I could handle the altitude, the distance and the multi-day itinerary. At the end, I decline the horse and defiantly affirm on my decision to hike.
I could only managed a few crackers at breakfast, so I asked Anjelino to prepare a bag of crackers for me to take on the hike. The crackers would help to dry up my stomach and provide a little energy for the day.
I was smiling but it was a cover up. I felt like crap.
It was quickly evident that my legs had no power in them. During any climbing sections, I required frequent, short rests. Every 30min or so, I would take a longer break and chew on a couple of crackers. The crackers, as meager as they were, provide just enough energy physically (and perhaps hope mentally) to keep me going. I didn't have much time, or was in the right mood, to photograph scenery as I was simply trying to stay on pace with the rest of the trekkers toward the Salkantay Pass.
Finally, the groups took a longer 30min break before a long switchback climb.
There were actually two routes. The one in the picture was less steep but longer. The one I decided to take was steeper but shorter. I was really just dreading the amount of steps to take, rather than the inclination of those steps. At the top of the climb, I took a longer rest and looked back at the way we came.
It took 1.5 hours to reach this point. This was the longest climb on the morning, but there were still another 2 shorter climbs to come. Luckily, they were separated by flat sections to provide plenty of rests.
Another 1.5 hours later, after the final climb that I physically struggled but mentally persevered, we finally reached the Salkantay Pass. It was cause to celebrate!
Those who have fished with me in the past may know my ability to fish all day without eating or drinking at all. I seem to have a habit and ability to survive all day without any input. Perhaps it was this tolerance that trained my body to manage this hike on a sicken and zero energy state. I was happy to have made it as it was the most physically and mentally challenging hike I've ever taken.
Salkantay Pass (0-180 degrees)
Salkantay Pass (180-360 degrees)
However, we were not done yet. There's another 2 hours of hiking down to our lunch location at Huayraqmanchay.
I had to focus on the downhill hike and it wasn't until we were almost at lunch camp where I took another photograph again to look back at the way we came.
Many people often say downhill is tougher on knees and ankles than going up, thus it could be tougher. Personally, I had little issue hiking downhill and all the downhill sections were much welcomed on this day.
At lunch, I tried to have some soup, rice and a bit of cooked vegetables. Every thing seemed to go down and stay down well so it was a great sign. After lunch, we hiked another 3 hours through the cloud forest to our camp at ccolpapampa. As the name implies, the cloud forest was hazy and foggy most of the time. It wasn't great to photograph in the afternoon light.
At dinner, I was hungry. My appetite was finally back. Anjelino knew, since lunch, that I could eat again, and prepared a grand meal to celebrate my wellness. Hugo told me Anjelino has prepared a surprise for me. Rubin (our horseman) to my left and Anjelino (our cook) to my right to present me a fried guinea pig. I had mentioned to Hugo the day before that I would love to try guinea pig when we arrive in Agua Calientes at the end of our hike, and somehow Anjelino obtained a guinea pig. I don't think this was the regular menu on this trek. I truly believe they went above and beyond to celebrate with me. Just look at this meal and the decorations!