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 and I have struggled each and every time. Each time I think to myself, “I never have to do this again,” and I do it again. But this time will be different, I am hiking with a seventy year old man. How hard can it possibly be?
After a gracious overnight stay with his family who lives high up in the Andes Mountains where we experienced having only the true necessities in life (you can read more about it here), we head out to Lares and our final destination – the hot springs.
I find the first few hours of hiking are such a struggle. I have difficulty acclimating to the altitude of over 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, my thoughts remind me that the mountain people are born with at least 10% more lung capacity than the average person. And 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 see him sitting up at the top of this peak taking a break. I think, “oh good, we will take a rest.” As I reach the peak, he stands up and begins to hike again. Nope, no break.
I decide to observe him and I notice how steady and strong he is. He also doesn’t seem to be stuck in his mind – wishing he was anywhere else, wondering how far it is or if and how he will make it. I see how these thoughts are energy leaks and they are robbing me of the energy I need to climb this mountain.
So how do I clear my head and use this energy to get me up this mountain and maybe even enjoy the journey?
I focus on my heart. I take my attention off these thoughts and I put my attention to my chest, my heart. I breathe into my heart and 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.
Wow, just a simple shift in thought and focus changes my whole world in an instant.
Going down isn’t always easier. The trail is very narrow and steep in some places. There are a few spots where we just have to allow our feet to slide down the steep parts being on the verge of out of control.
Wow, this man is amazing! He doesn’t miss a beat.
Again, I am 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?
I observe the older man and he’s just as steady as can be, no worries, no wasted thought/energy, just enjoying the scenery and nature and all the energy he is reserving by not thinking the same thoughts as I!
A few hours later, we arrive at the town of Lares. We decide we had hiked enough and the blisters on my feet started to reveal themselves.
We see a young man on a motorbike and flag him down to give us a ride up the dirt road to the hot springs. He appears to be very unsteady on his motorbike so needless to say, I am hesitant to get on.
I think back to a moment on the mountain when I was feeling so desperate I said to myself, “even if a car goes by with a reckless driver, I’d still accept the ride and get in.” And wouldn’t you know it, I am being offered just that. Only, it’s not a car, it’s even more dangerous, it’s a motorbike!
We get on the bike, all three of us (another common thing to see here in Peru is 3 or 4 people on one motorbike!). The driver does well enough and gets us to our destination safely.
It’s time to soak these sore muscles in the hot springs!