October 5, 2005
I didn't sleep very well our first night of camping. I was warm enough, but the tent was set up on uneven ground, and I had the sensation that I was falling the entire night. I was glad when the sun started coming up and I could get out of the tent. We ate a simple breakfast similar to porridge, gathered up our gear, and took off at about 8:00 AM.
The trek was difficult from the beginning. Yesterday we walked mostly either downhill or on flat ground, but the first four hours of today's trek were uphill. We kept passing other trekkers who were going in the opposite direction. We never seemed to be able to get a good idea of how long it would take to get to Punta Union, the highest point of the trek. Our guide kept saying "two more hours," but it was obvious he didn't know what he was talking about because he said that for two hours straight.
As we walked higher and higher, it got colder and colder. After awhile we got to the point where there was snow on the ground. I never thought I would see snow so close to the equator.
Eventually, it got to the point where our group was stopping every five minutes. When we could see Punta Union, we started splitting up. All I cared about at that point was making it to the top. I imagine that it wouldn't have been very difficult doing the same trek at home, but this was my first time at a high altitude, so I got fatigued very quickly. In the first four hours of the hike, we went from an altitude of 3870 meters (12,697 feet) at our camp to 4750 meters (15,584 feet) at Punta Union. Nevertheless, one by one, we all made it to the top.
When I reached the highest point and was finally able to see the other side of the mountain, I gasped. The lagoons and mountains looked like they were taken out of a postcard. After looking in awe at the natural beauty that surrounded me, I took some pictures and ate lunch.
After staying at the top for about thirty minutes, our group began our descent. Our guide pushed on at a very quick pace. I got a headache and started to feel really week. The altitude was getting to me because I didn't drink enough water. I eventually had to take a break and down a liter of water to get some energy back. Almost everyone in our group felt the same way. Nothing really bad happened, but I can only imagine how bad it would've been had we been even higher. Maybe we were just a bunch of spoiled brats, but it was still tough.
After walking downhill for two hours, we reached our camp at an altitude of 4250 meters (13,944) feet. I immediately went to my tent and passed out. After waking up an hour later, I felt good. After drinking some mate de coca, I felt even better. Our group ate supper and talked for awhile. Some interesting conversations about money and politics developed because we were all from different countries.
Later that night, a few people started talking about cutting the trip a day short. Our third day would involve four hours of hiking, followed by two more on day four. Some people had a limited amount of time to travel, so they figured it would be worthwhile to save a day by walking the entire six hours on day three. Our guide was worried that he´d get into trouble if some of his group left, but eventually he accepted that cutting out the fourth day was possible.
I went to bed at 10:00, later than any other night of the trip.
The complete photo album for this entry is here.