Coca Loca in Colca Canyon
Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
60Trip End Sep 29, 2012
The first day we go by bus with a group of 10 other people Americans, British, Norwegian and New Zealand to visit rock formations created by the volcanic eruptions and water erosion, saw Alpacas, Vicuanas - the South American Camel apparently and Llamas in the national reserve, the scene of a desert watering hole and them coming for a drink and a chat!
We had rapidly by lunchtime already got up to 4900 metres above sea level, most of us felt a twinge of headaches and a bit dizzy and when we arrived for our fabulous Peruvian buffet lunch of guess what more alpaca and other delights of river trout, we still felt a bit spaced out and dizzy
First I need to paint a picture of the path and the ascent. Our guide estimated it would take about 4 hours to go down, so yes a long ascent it was. It was all downhill to reach the bottom of the canyon
With many Peruvian men sitting down, maybe 5 or 6 and two tourists with large backpacks standing up
Whatever happened from when we set off at 8.30am to the time it reached now, I was very tired, I was feeling nervous, it was hot from the sun, I needed to go to the toilet because of my stomach problem. We were about 3 hours down the mountain by this point. I then felt a sudden shaking come over me. I shouted to my guide ahead of me and he gestured for me to sit down. I then was breathing very quickly, I was in a panic, both of my hands had pins and needles sensation, then they both went into a closed fist spasm, I could not open them. The guide poured water over my head. He then put what felt like alcohol, but a calm type liquid onto my face under my nose asked my to stiff it hard and inhale. It helped a little. Not sure how much time had passed but could not have been more than 30 minutes. He massaged one hand to try and open it, I tried to move as much as I could the other. He asked me if I could move my legs, I could a little they were ok. I desperately wanted the toilet but first I need to breathe slowly. I could not believe what was happening to me, I had seen all these symptoms before with the guy from the Inka Trail, I got more nervous as I was scared that this was happening to me
With the shock of seeing the man who had died on top of my heightened emotions, the nervousness and my bad stomach, altitude sickness had kicked in. They say altitude sickness is a lot in the head, and this is exactly what happened. He and I talked about our lives and shared experiences. He met a German girl and fell in love, she was traveling on a world trip like me and continued but after three weeks said no that's it, I need to return to be with him. It's true love, but tough love. I can only resonate with this story, I shared my personal story with him too and we talked a lot, it was a good distraction as I got back to my feet and we walked and talked the last 40 minutes down the valley. I kept myself awake until lunch and then slept from 1pm to 7pm in the tent. The nice British couple I met on this trip came and checked on me twice and told me about dinner, I ate with everyone and after this went back to sleep after a quick look up at the night sky full of stars, I saw the milky way and the southern cross very clearly with no light pollution here in the canyon
We got up at 4am the next morning for the climb back up to avoid the hot sun, my guide gave me two sticks and a bag of coca leaves and mentally I was happy to be going back in one piece and we made it up in a really good time. As we arrived to the village there was a large funeral procession for a local person, a little sad again and we watched and talked about the tradition of the funeral. All the men followed the coffin, with then the woman behind in the local traditional dress, carrying anything that would transport 'Chica' the corn based alcohol drink in jugs or even petrol containers. This was for the celebration, we followed as they stopped on the edge of the village for the speeches to the man who had died and then they proceeded to the cemetery. I thought about the man who had died on the mountain and hoped he would also have a good send off too. We finished our 3 day trek with one more visit to the Condors and got quite a treat, with 4 or so of them passing overhead immediately when we arrived and then a visit to a thermal hot springs pool, truly bliss after what had happened.
A quick lunch and my amusing transfer from Chivay to Puno by a tourist special shuttle service, that stopped at three places on the way to see flamingos and a lake and the best toilets with a view I ever saw so far
When I did I felt ill still, Puno is at 3800 metres above sea level located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, so I spoke briefly with the hostel lady who showed me to a quiet room because I said I needed quick and easy access to the toilet, I drank coca tea and ate some rubbish crackers I had in my bag, I was starving but was not going outside. After checking Internet and sending a couple of emails to the most important people in my life I slept really good, till I had to visit the toilet again when I woke up!
For now I am resting here in chilly Puno, Peru, I am ok, but really this experience scared the 's#@!' out of me. Lots of people say and agree, travel isn't easy! I guess I know that's true now.