. It does seem daunting.
Once again all the young people in our group (which would be everyone except Al and I), have set out at a vigorous pace. I did not take very many pictures yesterday as I was trying to keep up. Today I resolve to stop more often and take pictures, after all if I had wanted to get somewhere quickly I would have taken the train. Our guides have told us that everyone does this at their own pace and that today is the hardest part of the hike. The part about our own pace turns out to be only partially true. By the time we reach our rest stop everyone else has had a rest and their snack. Our rest stop turns into a washroom break and we carry on. By now I am really looking forward to lunch, it is too hard to try and eat and walk as you really need to use your poles on the uneven rocks or risk slipping or turning your ankle. After Day 1 there is no turning back. Some of the group are still experiencing bad headaches from the altitude. I feel fine but my bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol Sinus gets passed around the lunch table. After lunch and an all too short break we are back on the trail, it is still a long way up.
By the afternoon we are going through some beautiful cloud forest with breathtaking views and I do stop often to catch my breath and to take a few photos
. All too soon we are out of the forest and back onto the side of the mountain with the sun beating down on us. As everyone does this at their own pace there are long stretches were you are walking alone. Joachim is at the head of our little group, Jesus is at the back watching for stragglers. I just keep polling along, pulling my self up over the steeper parts. I have been told that the trail does become gentler towards the summit. By now I feel as though I have been walking on my own for a long way. I decide to put on my i-Pod shuffle which I carefully loaded with some good old rock n roll before I left home. Elton John and Crocodile Rock give me the energy I need and I really start moving along and start to pass a few of the group. I turn a corner and find more of our group resting and trying to catch their breath in the very thin air. I think they can hardly believe that I am going to pass them. I take my earpiece out and tell them that all that is required is a little rock and roll and I rock on past them. I crank up the tunes and keep moving as fast as I can, how far can the top be? I am now dancing up the stairs and looking back to make sure no one is catching up with me. No one is in sight and I dance on. Finally I see the top and it still seems far away. I rest and try to slow my breathing down, drink water and give myself a pep talk - I am almost there. With the end in sight I start to run up the stairs, I really want to beat those younger kids just once. With Shania Twain singing "Don't want you for the weekend" I run up the last few steps to the applause of my teammates and I am throwing up my arms and jumping up and down and I feel like I am living the stair scene from Rocky I am so excited
. I cannot believe I am the third one to the top and actually have time to rest and cheer on the others as they arrive at the summit. This was definitely the high point of the hike for me. One everyone has arrived we have a group pictures taken at the altitude marker, 4198m above sea level. By now the mist and fog is rolling back in the we have 5k left to do downhill Downhill should be easier right? Not so, it is very hard going down with some steep sections and my knees are really telling me that they are not enjoying this part. I think I am the last one down and I am very happy to see our camp sight.
Today we did 800 stairs, tomorrow Joachim tells us is the real deal 3500 Inca Stairs (very big, very deep stairs). This is suppose to be the easy part, hmm.
While I was dealing with all of the excitement of Dead Woman's Pass my Grandson Aedyn Paulson was being born. Be sure to check out his cute pictures.
Day two on the trail gives Al and I a lesson on how to pack duffel bags in the dark, definitely a trying exercise that does not contribute to marital harmony. We are the last ones to the breakfast tent, fortunately there is still food left. Al gets to eat my share of the porridge, but this course is followed by omelets. We pick up our snack for the day, refill our water supplies and weighed down with 3 litres of water each we are off to see what Dead Woman's Pass is all about. Well friends it is about altitude and lots of it. Today we will hike 11 km, all of it up except for the last 5 km. Going up (with all that water on your back is indeed hard). I try and drink as much as I can - it is already hot out, and I know the more I drink the lighter my load will become. As I walk I keep looking back, our starting point is becoming a distant speck far down the trail. In addition to Dead Women's Pass (our highest pass along the trail), we will do a total of three mountain passes during our hike