For our 6am wake-up call we were greeted with the question of what sort of tea we would like, which was then left at the door of the tent for us to sip at our leisure before breakfast at 6.30am. Breakfast involved toast, scrambled eggs, porridge-type-substance in a drinking cup, fruit platter, potatoes and more tea.
The ubiquitous trekking pole
We got going at around 7.20am, and were let loose to make our way up towards Dead Woman’s Pass out our own pace, stopping to regroup at Three Stones, and then a morning tea stop at Llulluchapampa. Here we all pick up a stone to carry to the pass, to add to the pile there. It is supposed to bring good luck. Being unable to stop myself from following such superstitions I’d been carrying my rock since breakfast, but I pick up another one just in case. We then straggle up to Dead Woman’s Pass, at 4220 metres.
Alex walking up through the jungle path towards Dead Woman’s Pass
Clouds hang around the mountains as we stand in the wind at the pass, but they occasionally pull aside to give us a clear view of exactly how far down we have to go to get to the campsite for the night – and we don’t get lunch until we get there. Despite the wind and the clouds, the views from the pass are amazing, so we hang around for a while, watching the view come and go.
The view down from Dead Woman’s Pass towards Paqaymayu
Finally we face the inevitable though, and start stepping down and down and down and down on the well-stoned trail. The vast variety of flowers growing by the trail are a good excuse for frequent stops. We pass a group who discuss the fact that this walk transcends physical boundaries. I consider transcending moral boundaries and throwing a few of them off the cliff, but think better of it and instead overtake them and maintain a safe distance between us.
We finally hit Paqaymayu (site of our camp for the night) just before 2pm, and sit around admiring the view, being thankful we’re not still going down, and waiting for the others to arrive so we can have lunch. It’s about this time that Alex starts feeling sick, and spends the rest of the afternoon/evening throwing up at regular intervals, and not eating anything (suspected to be a combination of an unhappy stomach and the altitude). Meanwhile I gorge myself at the 3pm lunch and 7pm dinner, and sit and watch the sunset and swirling clouds from the door of the tent.
Looking out from the second camp towards our path on Day Three