Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 12: Being Fully Alive

The Overnight Hike: The Sweet Ache

By Vicky Zhang and Naomi Primero

Camping is generally a relaxing, family-oriented activity, looked forward to by many summer-awaiting individuals. Now take camping to the next level: 12,000 feet above sea level in the Andes in a field congested with alpaca poop.
The two-day overnight hike was an event that we were both apprehensive of and anticipating. Hiking? A bit tough, but no big deal. Camping? Sure, most of us have done it before. Little did we know that we were in for a challenge.
Our journey began with the actual “hiking up the mountain” part. Several of us charged up the mountain (aka Adolpho, our sturdy guide), while others simply did not (aka yours truly). To be sure, breaks were appreciated greatly. However, for all of us, it was a push into the “stretch” zone. Though we arrived at the camping site overjoyed and exhausted, we soon realized that hiking was only the first of the challenges this trip offered.
Camping itself was a limit-pusher. The already frigid area combined with a strong wind made for an experience in the extreme cold. Whether in the dining tent, around the much-needed fire, or in our own tents, we huddled together against the conditions. During the night, many of us wore four layers or more. In addition to impending upon our personal comfort, the cold also made another activity difficult: going to the bathroom. We can say pretty confidently that we’ve had the most variety of bathrooms during this one trip, including in the bushes, among rocks, and even in a makeshift port-a-potty tent among the alpacas.
However, among all of the hardships, we still had fun playing cards, drinking tea, talking and laughing. With the help and advice of our guides, teachers, and local helpers, we had a smooth and incredible trip without passing into the “danger” zone. When we finally touched down on ground level, we looked up at the mountain, feeling accomplished and satisfied.
…And then we woke the next morning, literally feeling “the sweet ache of being so FULLY alive”.


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