I swore I would not do it again, and here I am, doing it again. I have hiked many, many miles and days upon days in the Andes Mountains. I have struggled greatly each time. And each time I think to myself, “I never have to do this again,” and I do it again. But this time will be different because I will be hiking with a seventy year old man. How difficult can it possibly be?
After an overnight stay with his family living high up in the Andes Mountains where we enjoyed only the true necessities in life (you can read more about it by clicking here), we head out to Lares, and our final destination – the hot springs.
The first few hours of hiking are such a struggle for me as I attempt to acclimate to the altitude of 15,000’+. I quickly realize this seventy year old man is not really a seventy year old man, he is really a machine!
As I attempt to keep up I remember that the mountain people are born with at least 10% more lung capacity than the average person which means they can take in and utilize much more oxygen than the average person.
My ego wants to explain this but I am not able to talk at the moment and I do not want to waste more energy on making excuses. So I just keep putting one foot in front of the other in an attempt to not completely humiliate myself.
After a few hours of hiking, I look up to see him taking a break at the peak. I think, “oh good, we will take a rest.” As I reach the peak, he stands up and begins to hike again. Nope, no rest.
I begin to observe him and notice how he is steady and strong. He doesn’t seem to be stuck in his mind – wishing he was anywhere else, wondering how far it is or how he will make it to the end.
I see these kinds of thoughts as energy leaks and they seem to be robbing me of precious energy that I need to get up this mountain.
So how do I clear my head and get up this mountain? And how can I enjoy the journey?
I focus on my heart. I take my attention off these rambling thoughts and I put attention to my heart.
I notice things begin to change.
The scenery becomes brighter, the sound of nature becomes alive and I am sensing new energy stirring inside me that feels amazing.
Wow, just a simple shift in thought and where I focus can change my whole world in an instant.
Heading down a mountain isn’t so easy either. The trail is very narrow and steep with are a few places where we have to allow our feet to slide down the loose rocks just go with it.
Wow, this man is amazing! He doesn’t miss a step.
Again, I find myself stuck in my head – how long will this take? When can I eat again? I need to get my water from my bag. Where’s my hat?
He is just as steady as can be, no worries, no wasted thought/energy, just enjoying the scenery and nature and enjoying all the energy he is reserving by not thinking the same weak thoughts as I!
Several hours later we arrive to the town of Lares.
It was decided we had hiked enough and we started to look for some form of transportation to take us the rest of the way. I was quite thankful because the blisters on my feet were starting to reveal themselves.
We see a young man on a motorbike so we flag him down. We ask if he can give us a ride up the dirt road to the hot springs. He seems to be a bit unsteady on his motorbike leaving us second guessing if we should get on.
I think back to the moment on the mountain when I said to myself, “even if a car goes by with a reckless driver, I’d still accept the ride and get in.”
We get on the bike, yep, all three of us on one motorbike!
The driver does well enough and gets us to our destination safely.
Time to soak these sore muscles in the hot springs!