I am climbing the winded pathways of the Andes toward base camp. I am freezing, excited, and anxious. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions in my bones, one thought plays out in my mind: Hiking the Lares Trek in Peru is underway.
This will be three and a half-day trek to Aguas Calientes and then onward to Machu Pichu. I did not train for this activity or this environment. I never even thought to. But as I wheeze with difficulty in the thinning air as I approach the bus, I realize perhaps I should have…
The Bus Ride to the Start of the Hiking Experience
Patches of green moss lie at the base of the cliffside the engine zooms past. This bus too often comes wickedly close to the cliff’s edges. Gasps and giggles come from inside the body of the vehicle as it climbs. The higher we get, the more moist it becomes.
The rain, the altitude, and the clouds gang up against the skinny paved roads making them slick and difficult to navigate. There are more mud and grey rocks here brightened only by the addition of yellow moss against the various shades of green. The fog is making it impossible to see what’s in front of us, let alone past the edges of these cliffs.
My imagination is free to run wild with thoughts of what might be down there. An ancient cliff beast that feeds on curious wanderers? Maybe an oasis with a hot spring and free-flowing champagne? Neither are waiting there.
A local village celebrating some unknown thing is blocking the main road and forcing the small group of seven to begin our hike to the start of the trail to the pathway of the Lares Trek early. This adds an hour and a half more hiking than planned for the day.
Rainfall On Route to The Lares Trek
Rain starts to fall, but the parade continues, as do we. Every inclined step toward the start of the Lares Trek gets my heart rate higher, no exaggeration, this mountain is tough! Too easily I become winded and dizzy, the altitude doing what it does best to a human body.
Bringing up the rear with one of the guides, undoubtedly behind as a direct result of my positioning in the bunch. I know that these guides are granted some leeway, though. They call it a percentage of life (or something similar) that protects them from losing their job or being in any severe legal trouble should members of the tour expire. I say that to say that technically, I could disappear along the way and it wouldn’t affect the guides, not really. So his choice to hang back with me was a welcomed kindness.
I am laughing at my exhausted outbursts. I come equipped with an interesting vernacular having traveled to six of seven continents. I often dip in and out of random accents or dialects of the English language and curse in one of the four languages I speak. I frequently bring myself to tears from my wit, which when delirious as this, happens every other sentence or two.
My First of Many Encounters with Imposter Syndrome on the Trail
He begins to teach me about the various invasive vines growing on everything from the rocks to the trees to the wild llama. My anxiety begins to get the best of me and that imposter I know too well comes alive in my head. “Why in the FUCK did you think you could do this? The Lares Trek…really? In the Andes? REALLY!”
He senses my energy shift and attempts to break my mind free of whatever has taken hold. He, better than I ever could, would, will, understands what lies ahead of us on the actual path of the Lares Trek. That we have yet to reach the start of.
He begins singing a local hym out loud. The melody does its work. Like a curious child approaching a shiny object in the distance, I begin to listen to him. Slowly, I began making positive self-talk and aligning it with his song. When completes his ditty, he looks back at me and smiles, then asks, “Better?” I nod slowly, meeting his eye for a moment in acknowledgment of the energy exchange. One foot in front of the other, I tell myself. That’s how we get through this, one foot foot and then the other.
The lunch hut comes into view like an oasis in the Sahara except I’m more than parched. I’m freezing, I am breathless no matter what I do to try and calm my breathing, and I am starving. We discovered shortly after arriving that we were less than five minutes behind the group in actuality. I suspect they may have taken a break or two along the way hoping to minimize that gap. Again, I note the unspoken thoughtfulness.
I exhaled audibly at the news fearing that they were waiting a long time for us to catch up to eat. I wouldn’t have minded if they didn’t wait to start eating, but it’s a lovely tone to set for the comradery among the group that they had.
Sundown on the Way to the Lares Trek
The night is daunting; the camp is quaint, but cold and wet from the rainfall. The porters didn’t properly wrap our duffle bags or the sleeping bags. So after a day of grueling hiking, our comfortable, warm sleeping gear is wet, and as cold as our bones. The group does their best to make the best of the sticky situation, but it’s clear that everyone is upset in addition to exhausted.
The chef whips up some soup, and pasta with chicken and we shovel it down; grateful for anything hot. Exhausted and freezing, we attempt to sleep under the rain-filled clouds blocking the view of the Milky Way.
Struggling to find comfort I doze in and out. The trail dogs accompanying the porters sense another stray in the distance and begin howling, stirring any of us who managed to fall asleep. The 5a wake-up call comes all too quickly and I am groggy at best. We all gather our wet and cold clothes and get changed in our tents. We drink our cocoa tea and do some light stretching to prepare for the 10-hour hike before us with tired eyes, sore bodies, and adventurous spirits.
What Happens Next on the Lares Trek?
Read the next chapter of the adventure: Hiking The Lares Trek Vol.2
And if you need a travel consultation about this experience in preparation for your own, don’t hesitate to reserve a FREE 15-minute 1-on-1 with me, your favorite Bag Lady.