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Blundering up a Mountain


We flew into Lima, Peru to embark on a trek across South America (it
would turn into an 11 week trek, as all treks should be extended). The
trek would take us across the beautiful rugged mountains terrain of
Peru, down the powerful Amazon, to the paradise called Brazil. I lost
my heart and soul on the Amazon and in Brazil, but I found my “self”
on top of a mountain in the Andes of Peru. Oh yeah I smoke a pack a
day.

Jonathan and I have been friends for 10 years. Our friendship started
in undergrad at The Ohio State University. We had done countless road
trip across the United States, Canada and Mexico. He had convinced me
to go on this trip two weeks before he left. He was moving to start a
new life with his girlfriend in Sao Paulo. While I was just working
the 9 to 5 Austin, TX. I think the months of him calling me and bring
over maps plotting his trip. Made me realize that I didn’t have much
of a choice about whether or not I was going to join him for one hell
of a send off to Brazil. Hell it’s not like I was doing much in Texas.
After a short stay in Lima we hoped on a bus and headed south. We had
no plans. Well I guess I didn’t have any plans. As I wrote in my
journal of the day spent in Lima on the bus to Arequipa:
I’m currently on a bus to……..Ha…I don’t even know the name of
the place. I guess I’m just along for the ride like much of my life.

Today I awoke to an amazing view of the Pacific. Collected my thoughts
over a cup of coffee. Jonathan and I took to the streets around 10:30
am. Lima was bustling with activity. The exhaust from the traffic was
strong and pungent. Jonathan inhaled deeply and said, “I love the
smell of South America”. I looked at him a little crazy and thought of
the line from Apocalypse Now. We made our way across town to the bus
station. There Jonathan purchased two tickets, since he is the one
fluent in Spanish. So its only 12:30 p.m., we decide to head downtown
to the plaza. The plaza, simply put was beautiful. There wee got or
boots shined, so we could add new dust and dirt to there old tired
soles. During the shining of the boots we were offered about every
drug known to man. We declined after we decided that we were not to
interested in checking out the prisons of Peru. So instead, like good
tourist we decided to check out the Cathedrals. After a few tours it
was time to head back to get our backpacks. Neither one of us
remembered where we stayed the night before. We just walked right out
the door and took to the streets. I guess the excitement of a new
surrounding got the best of us. So we walked and walked and walked.
All in all it took 2 hours and was a lesson learned; either write down
the address or pay attention to your surroundings when leaving, if you
hope to return with ease.

Jonathan interprets my writing as the bus bounces down the windy road,
“Hey man do you want to climb an 19,000 foot volcano called Mt. Misty.
It will take about 16 hours to summit”. My response, “Sure. Why not”.
Just like that with no other thought we were going to climb this
volcano. Neither one of us is by any means a climber. We have never
attempted a climb of this magnitude. The last time we climbed
together, it was the continental divided. I guess because of the
countless other trips we have taken some with, some with out. We knew
this was how this trip was going to be. We would just tackle anything
as it came along. No matter how inexperienced we were with the
adventure.

So after a lovely (riiiiiight) 20 something hour bus ride. We arrive
in C.. Mt. Misty loomed in the background as a huge beautiful snow
capped mountain. She was beautiful. Though as intimating as the first
eye contact you make with a beautiful girl. We decided that we would
check out the town and figure out a game plan to get to her.

After two days of talking to the tour guides we decide that we didn’t
want to spend 100 bucks each to hire a guide. We would summit Mt.
Misty on our own. So we gathered our supplies; dried fruit, 3 litters
of water each, apples, granola, tasty peanuts mixed with bread and
cheese. We awoke the next day and loaded our supplies into our
backpacks. Hit the streets to find a ride up to the mountain. We
caught the most ghetto ride up to the base of the mountain. It was an
old, red, 70s something Chevy. It stalled ever time we stopped. At one
point there were 6 males, two women and a child in the car. I had a 70
year old man on my lap (yeah great way to get up and close with the
locals), while Jonathan was squeezed against the door holding on for
dear life. I looked at him and just started laughing. He started to
laugh and said, “I hope this door doesn’t open”. I told him, “If the
door opens I’ll make sure to push you so you don’t hit every rock on
the way down”. We both just laughed. After a very uncomfortable 2 hour
car ride we reach the small village of Chiguata.

There was a plaza which was surrounded by a church, police station,
two restaurant, and a small wood looking vending trailer that I would
find to have a water, a snicker, a coke, and fresh bread.. Since this
was obviously not a hotbed for tourism. We headed up to the church to
find a place to stay. That’s one good thing about a church you can
usually find a nice person (amen). The first man that we approached
opened his door to his house and agreed to let us stay for the night.
The people of Peru may not have much, but what they do have they
share. I will never forget the generosity that they showed toward us.
The man or as we called him Senior was on his way to a funeral. That
week a friends son was ran off the same road we took to Chguata by a
bus. He told us to meet him back in the plaza in a few hours. From
there he would take us to his house. So we headed out to explore the
village. There was nothing to explore of the town. Only the plaza. .
We sat and watched the people as they watched us. Every now and again
a local herder would come up the street with animals to provide some
entertainment. We both just sat and stared at Mt. Misty. Every now and
over there we would say, “man that is high, look how far away it is,
do you really think you can get up there in 16 hours, damn I hope we
can do this, or yep, it’s pretty daunting”. Misty was overwhelming to
us.

After about an hour we headed back to the Señor’s house. The house was
small and dirty. They had guinea pigs, rosters, chickens, a cat and a
mean goose. The goose would try to attack you every time you got close
to him. It made it really interesting when you had to go to the
bathroom, which was situated right next him. The Señor’s took great
pride in showing us his prized guinea pigs. Yummmmm guinea pig. It’s a
delicacy in Peru.

After we dropped our stuff in our sleeping corridor. A cement floor in
a shack. We headed into a separate little shack. Flies circled the
meat hanging from the ceiling in the darkness. This was the dinning
area. The Seniors wife of 45 years was preparing food. She told us to
sit. Soon after there twenty something old son arrives. Jonathan and
him had a conversation for about 15 minutes then he left. The son
wanted Jonathan’s phone number. He wanted to buy some cow sperm from the states. I guess the states have very good cow sperm (who knew?). The best was that Jonathan gave him his mothers number. His mother is a physiologist. Oh man would of I loved to be there when she received that call! “Excuse me?! You want what? My son told you to call me?”
Ha-ha.

The Señor’s wife served us a nice helping of guinea pig and potato’s
for dinner. Jonathan is a vegetarian, lucky bastard! So he politely
explained why he couldn’t eat the meat (another reason to learn a
Langue). I was hitting his leg saying, “dude tell them that I’m a
vegetarian also, come on man”. Of course he didn’t.

After dinner the Señor took us to hire a guide for the first six hours
of the climb. He was nervous about our summit up the mountain. He just
could not comprehend how our thin sleeping bags would keep us warm. He
just keep telling us, “you will freeze, you will freeze.” We ended up
hiring a 29 year old male named *****. It was the only way to get the
Señor to shut up and let us go to bed.

We made it to base camp after an exhausting 12 hour hike. Thoughts at
the base camp….

Jonathan and I are currently at about 17,00 feet looking at the peak
of the mtn misty. It is very cold outside. I’m having some very sad
and lonely thoughts. I miss my family, more then I can put into words.
I’m also feeling very alone in the world right now. I have no
significant other. I really have nothing. I could pick up and move any
where or do anything that I want to in life. Yes this is a wonderful
feeling of freedom. It’s just that I feel so alone. I’m questioning
things from my past that I haven’t thought about in years. I guess
sitting on top of this mountain exposed to the world has made me
realize that it would be nice to have a women to share my journey
threw life. It’s been over a year and 1/2 since I’ve truly tried to
share my heart. I just asked JP “man you think a climb like this
changes you?” He replied “I hope.”

Today started at the church of the village at 4 a.m.. From the very
beginning I had doubts that I would make it to the base camp. I could
barely breath right from the onset. We followed our guide for six
hours, then he pointed us to the top of the mountain. It was good to
see him go because he was really starting to piss me off. He was
cruising up the mountain. The mountain had no effect on him. He didn’t
even bring food or water! I have no clue how he did it. I was sucking
down the water. Though it was hard to stomach any food because of the
nausea that I felt from the altitude. All that I could do all day was
chew on the coco leafs to subside the dizziness and nausea. Right
before our guide left he pointed to a canyon and told us to stay to
the left of it on the way down. So there we were the two of us
standing in the Andes by ourselves. It was a strange feeling to be in
the middle of no where with out a guide. I guess our lives are in each
others hands right now. Wow that kind of just freaked me out. Ha-ha.
The last 4 hours or so I was moving very slow. All I could do was take
depth breaths, then move my left foot , then my right foot. Stop. Take
a couple deep breath. Then right, then left. Over and over this was
how I continued for the last fours hours of the climb. It has gotten
so hard to breath that I’ve had to change the way I take in the thin
air. It’s strange to have to think about every breath you take before
you take one small baby step. The truth be told I will be happy when
we summit and get off the mountain. There was one point today that I
was hurting so bad that I had tears in my eyes and I almost lost it. I
must of told myself a hundred times today that I couldn’t make it.
Well now I lay 4 hours from the top. All I think about is making it to
the top. I guess with anything in life. If you just put one foot in
front of the other. It will take you to amazing places.

We awoke at the base camp at 4 am to freezing winds. It was painful to
get up and move around in the early thin cold air of the mountain. We
decided that we would pack everything up and leave it at base camp to
lighten our loads. We were both very optimist that we would summit the
mountain in no time and be back into town by mid-day. We each took are
camel packs full of the last of the water and left the rest of our
gear behind. As we got to the top of the first ridge I turned around
to make one last visual inspection. I started to laugh. I scanned the
terrain. All the same.. As I laughed, “hey JP its just right over
there behind that rock. You got it.” “Dude we will have no problem
finding it”.

The lighter load didn’t lessen the load. It was more difficult. I
guess we need air. Though it was easy to push onwards because we knew
that we were close to the summit. The doubts had left my head.. I was
hurting, but I felt I would summit. After four hours of hiking it
appeared we were close to the top. Each time we thought we were near
the top. It extended. . I had second thoughts of summiting JP was
several meters ahead of me. I started to feel dizzy and nausea again.
The coco leafs were not as effective as earlier in the day. My rest
breaks were getting much longer the higher I climbed. Then things
turned for the worst. We lost the trail that was cut threw the
volcanic rock. Oh the damn volcanic rock. Every step your soul slipped
one step backwards. . Making each step more difficult then the last.
JP yelled down to me, “hey can you see where the trail goes from
here?” I screamed, “NOOOO!”. “What do you think we should do?””I don’t
know?” Neither one of us could hear each other. Straight it was.

Mistake. The mountain was to steep to climb straight up with the black
rock. We continued for another hour or so making little forward
progress up the mountain. The summit looked so close. Until we would
push on and realize that it wasn’t getting any closer. JP was so far
ahead of me at this point that I couldn’t see him anymore. I couldn’t
hear him over the winds. I thought he had made it to the top. I was
jealous.

I’d come so far. Further then I imagined. I decided I was going for
the view . Left, right, left, right……. Until, “blaaaa uggggg”. The
altitude one = me zero. Soon after I got sick in my pants. I had to go
down. I yelled, “I’m done!” I sat and took one look around at the
beautiful view and felt so disappointed inside. I couldn’t believe
that I had gotten so close and now I had to turn around. I could hear
JP yelling, though I could not make out what he was saying. I yelled
one last time, “I’m done!” Right then I knew that I had to go down. I
admittedly stopped feeling sorry for myself and put all my energy into
making it off the mountain.

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