travel

Sink or Swim? The trek that nearly broke me.

Before I left Australia I did a very miniscule amount of research for South America. The night before I flew out I stayed up until midnight (3 hours well past my old lady bed time) and did a crash google search of top things to do in South America (I haven’t looked at my research once since being here for 7 weeks except for a trek around a random mountain in Peru). For some bizarre reason this trek stuck with me, to the point that I would go to great lengths to do it even though I had only discovered it just weeks prior.

The Ausangate Trek is a 4 day trek that leaves out of Cusco, Peru and involves some passes as high as 5500m (I compared this in my previous post to Everest base camp which sits at a cosy 5300m). I am not by any means comparing the difficulty of my trek to Everest base camp but as far as treks go I found this pretty difficult (mind you I have no comparison at all with my only other trek being a day trip up Cradle Mountain in Tasmania). So I bet you’re wondering why the heck I would embark on one of the hardest treks out of Peru as my first ever overnight trekking experience? Well to be perfectly honest, I was being a combination of cocky and naïve.

The adventure really began when I attempted to find a tour agency that would book me onto the trek. I went to about 4 with all of them saying no they don’t book it because the trek wasn’t popular enough. I finally found one but couldn’t get on a trek until a week later due to needing to create a group. While I loved the town of Cusco, the thought of staying there for whole week and faffing about just didn’t seem like a good use of my time.

I tried my luck again at an agency on the main square (I generally hate doing this with the thought of being insanely ripped off). I was presented with an option that I hadn’t even considered, do it privately with a guide and a horse to carry our things. The cost wasn’t too much different from a group tour and it meant I could leave in just two days. I thought this was a no brainer. I was told my guide would speak some English but mainly Spanish. I was told my very basic Spanish would be very fine for a 4 day hike alone with just a guide (no worries, not being able to fully speak in the past or future in Spanish will be totally ok).

Alright first hurdle done, now to buy everything in two days that I could possibly need for a hike where it snows (mind you my 15kg backpack that I came over with consists of summer clothing and Crossfit gear, I dare say my mini dresses and booty shorts just wont cut it).

With my hiking boots and alpaca jumper in hand I set off on a local bus to the town of Teinke to meet my guide… Or so I thought. I got off the three hour bus journey to be met by Juan where he made me lunch before heading up to his village where the trek would start. Unbeknownst to me I would be spending the night in the town before heading out the next morning. Juan’s brother, Enrique made me dinner before I headed to bed at a very late 7.30pm (this was probably one of the best nights sleep I had after leaving a party hostel in Cusco).

The next morning I was joined by now a third brother Flav and their father. At this point I was so confused about who was my actual guide but felt pretty safe after meeting the entire family and then some. The horse was tightly packed by good old dad and the brothers and I started walking. Juan and Dad wished me luck… By process of elimination it would seem my guide was Flav.

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My Spanish had failed me this first day, I could of sworn Juan had told me they would ease me into the trek and we would be heading off on a easy 3 hour trek to camp. Nope, turns out Flav decided to opt to go hard the first day and 8 hours later we arrived at camp. The first day was hard but was nothing compared to the second day. The second day I doubted myself alot, voices kicked in saying I couldn’t do it, my body was failing me with puffed breath and heavy legs. I was barely halfway and had no idea how I would ever finish this. I considered my options.. Could I turn back at this point? Was there another route? How was I going to do another two days of this? This went on for a good few hours until we got to camp. Like the workouts in crossfit I just told myself that I didn’t have a choice. I just had to get through it because the only option was to finish it.

I managed to find a little reprise in my evening ritual after dinner. I had formed a very dependent relationship with Oreo’s. I didn’t discriminate either and would take any Oreo’s that I could get my hands on. So each night, like clockwork, I would take my hot cup of tea in all of my warmest gear, tucked inside my double sleeping bag and I would tear open a packet of Oreo’s. I would then put the remainder of my boiling water into my aluminium bottle and place it in the bottom of my sleeping bag (this was probably the best trick I had been given before leaving Cusco). This went on for 4 nights and still managed to come out with left over Oreo’s!

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The scenery I must admit was out of this world. I saw lagoon after river after mountain and had it all to myself! The first people I saw were actually on my final night and I can’t tell you how happy I was that I had contact with English speakers! I am the first person to declare that I enjoy my own company, I have said it on several occasions however by the end of the trek I was all too glad to get out of my head for a bit and for some human contact (even to the point that a stranger in the hostel approached my and said I looked like I needed a hug… indeed I did). What I experienced for me was next level. I earned every breathtaking view I climbed to see, every lake I trudged through snow to get to and every night I slept restlessly in close to 0 degree temperatures to wake up to beautiful snow capped mountains each morning.

The Ausangate Trek was a great way to start my solo journey through South America. I have always loved throwing myself completely in the deep end, how else would I find it if I would sink or swim?

 

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