Since Catcca was our last project in this program, we celebrated the end of our three weeks trip by going on a 3 days adventure in the Andes! We were in the middle of June, which means it was almost winter in Peru. I had to prepare myself for a cold weather! I packed all the clothes I needed and was excited to go hiking for the first time in my life, even though I was a little nervous because I have phobia of heights! Our fist stop was at the hot springs. Surprisingly, the weather there was warm and humid; nothing like what I expected! It felt like as if I were in a tropical rainforest.
After relaxing at the hot springs, it was time to leave for our second stop, to the Andes. We arrived there around noon and everything was prepared! the chef and his helpers were preparing lunch with a perfect view of the mountains! Anyhow, after lunch, we were all set up and ready for the actual exercise but our first day was kind of a short walk. By the end of the afternoon, we reached our second stop, so we decided to camp close by the lake because it started to get dark. Also, It was dangerous to camp in a very high altitude areas due to the lower temperatures at night. I was very tired to eat dinner. The only thing I needed by the end of that day was a long deep sleep! However, my first night hiking wasn’t easy. It was the first time I regretted traveling to Peru!
Have you ever felt holding tears for so long and then in a moment you collapse? It was that moment for me. I felt tears falling and I wasn’t able to control it ! I was freezing despite wearing three layers of clothes. The freezing weather outside was terrifying, really! The cold air outside was also blowing aggressively that night. I felt my heart was beating fast and I didn’t know at the time I had very low Iron level. I thought my heart was going to stop. It was a mixture of homesickness, regret and physical pain. Yet, I was lucky enough to have a kind roommate, Sophia! She helped me get through this difficult night by comforting me. I’ll never forget her kindness.
I woke up at 5 am, the next morning. Although the night was rough, waking up close by the lake and in the middle of the mountains, was magical! It was foggy. I was having moments of appreciation and gratitude that morning. I was grateful for having the opportunity to be here and witness all of this beauty. It was a piece of paradise! That amazing morning erased all the negative feelings I had the day before.
In Addition, I had a heavy breakfast for energy. Some drink coca tea so they won’t get sick during high altitude. Then, we went on our second day right after breakfast. Speaking of this, it was funny how my body was capable of going for a hike right after a meal, when I usually don’t prefer to go for a walk after eating! If there was one thing I learned from this experience it would be that my body is capable of performing whatever my brain orders it to do, regardless. On my normal days, I don’t workout unless on an empty stomach. But, this experience had tested my limits and abilities; and I was glad it did. I never felt so proud of myself this much Masha’Allah!
These photos were taken by other group members when we were close to the lake. I was terrified and wasn’t brave enough to take out my camera and capture anything!
As I went higher in distance from the ground, the weather got colder. You could see snow gradually in the photos! Until I reached the top of the mountains, it felt that nothing below was harder! Up in the top of the Andes, altitude was 12,000 feet above sea level and unfortunately we weren’t able to reach the other side before the storm hit. the group leader, Abel, was rushing us but it was impossible to get to the other side anytime earlier. Thus, we were up there when the storm passed. The winds were blowing hard and the clouds were coving the area. Everything around me was white! It was difficult to see anything further than few feet away. The sunlight was very bright too; therefore, it was essential to wear sunglasses and stay calm until the storm passed.
Even if I explain the situation, I won’t do it justice. It was scary, beautiful, exciting, feeling of empty white, all together! Despite all, I have to admit though, as terrified as I was, everything around me felt unreal! I felt very connected to nature. My phone was out of service. I was disconnected from the outside world. My body was freezing. I wasn’t able to breath nor walk normally, Yet, it was one in a life time experience. Looking back to it, I don’t regret it at all. It was risky, yes, but so as everything in life!
After I reached the top point, I was already one hour away from the rest of the group. So, my companions were the chef, his helpers, and the other group leader. None of them were English speakers, except for the group leader who knew few English words, and I wasn’t speaking Spanish. Thus, I relied on sign language to communicate with them most of the time! However, God bless that man! (second group leader) I almost died three times thanks to him. Going down from top was harder than climbing the mountains! I had to hold on to my trekking poles several times because I almost fell off the cliffsides.
Finally, after 8 hours, I reached the ground; AND OH MY GOD, was I the happiest! I couldn’t believe It was over.. well, almost, since it was just the second day! When I reached the ground, I continued my walk to our third stop (our camp) with Abel. We had a very interesting chat while walking. I learned he was the same as my age. To be honest, when we first met Abel, I thought he was at least five years older than me; never imaged he was my age! Second, I was the first Arab women he met in his life! I was shocked to hear that because thousands, if not millions, of tourists visit Peru every year! And, most importantly, we talked about food =P Food always brings cultures together, don’t you agree!)
Anyway, It was already 5 Pm and I just arrived at the camp. I was extremely exhausted! I barely had the energy to change my outfit and went to sleep immidiatly. It was a day full of adventures!
Here are photos of the second village I reached which was on the other side of the mountains. As I mentioned earlier, these photos were taken by other group members but were shared with me.