Monday, June 20, 2011

Into Thin Air

The Misti Volcano
This weekend I learned a very important lesson: I HATE mountaineering. I love backpacking, I love rock climbing, and I love glacier travel, so I should love mountaineering. Right? WRONG. I should have know how hard it would be when they told me the Volcan El Misti (Misti Volcano) was 5,825 meters. But I'm an American and I don't speak in meters. It was only after I was about halfway up that hellish mountain that I learned that it was 19,111 feet high! At around 15,000 feet, I became a little light-headed. At around 18,000 feet I stopped being able to breathe for lack of oxygen.

The only highlight of the trip was the really cool black sand.
This is the same mountain where the Incans used to sacrifice children to their gods. I kept thinking that if I was one of those little Incan kids I'd feel ready to die by the time I reached the top. There were no switch-backs, we simply hiked straight up the side of the volcano. There are no creeks on the volcano, just barren rock, so we each carried about 6 liters of water, which is extremely heavy. Apparently they don't do ultra-light backpacking in Peru so all of my rented gear weighed a ton. This of course included mountaineering equipment such as tents, crampons, ice axes and ropes. It was below freezing and incredibly windy and my altitude sickness got so bad that I had to return to base camp and never made it to the top of that evil mountain :( I'm crossing Mount Everest off my list of life goals. On a high note, when I returned to the city I had my first hot shower in Peru! Apparently the trick is to shower mid-day because the water is heated by solar power.

I think this is a match-making service...
Apparently this is the week of mal suerte (bad luck) because I learned this morning that the road from Arequipa to Cusco is closed. There is only one bus company that is apparently brave enough to make the trek, so I booked a ticket for tomorrow! Wish me alot of luck. I've been in Arequipa now for almost two weeks and I'm ready to leave. While on Volcan Misti I kept saying that I wanted to go home, but by home I meant the Casa de Avila in Arequipa. You know that you've been in one place too long if you start to refer to it as home. However, I'm grateful for the time I've spent here. I've become acclimated to the Peruvian culture, I've learned to speak spanish, and I've made a ton of friends whom I'm going to miss. The next time you hear from me I'll be on my way to Machu Picchu!

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