PASEO Program Adventure—Day 45: Huaraz, Peru

Today (Monday) marks our last full week here in Peru. So of course, the best way to make the most of our time here is to spend hours trekking nearly 9 miles, thousands of feet above sea level.

We were outside our hostel at 5:00 in the morning waiting for the tour bus to pick us up. Mind you, when you’re roughly 9,400 feet above sea level in the mountains during wintertime, it’s pretty cold in the morning. The bus arrived at 6:04am (not that I was staring at my watch for over an hour…), but we did stop for breakfast along the way, which definitely helped. After breakfast, we continued driving further into the Cordillera Blancas in El Parque Nacional Huascarán, where the bus would drop us off to begin our trek. As cameras and phones started snapping pictures on the bus during the drive, we stopped at Lake Chinancocha first for some pictures—every tourist’s dream.

Before beginning our journey (at around 9:15), our tour guide informed us that most people are able to make it to Laguna 69 in three hours, and some people even make it in two. The tour guide mentioned that he would walk behind the group, so as to help us keep a steady pace. He then informed us that if we were not at the Laguna by 1:00pm, we would need to turn around and return to the bus, because the bus would be leaving at 3:30pm with or without us. Considering the fact that there is nothing around the Laguna or throughout the trek, someone left behind would essentially have to wait to catch a ride back with another tour group (likely the following day). And since you’re thousands of feet above sea level in mountainous areas close to glaciers in winter-time, the weather is just as cold as you might expect.

So you know, Laguna 69 (located at the base of a glacier called Pisco Peak) is nearly 15,000 feet above sea level, which is higher than anywhere else in the continental United States. This elevation is merely 2,000 feet below Base Camp on Mount Everest (practicalwonderlust.com). Huaraz is known for its incredible hiking and trekking, and Laguna 69 doesn’t disappoint the countless amount of backpackers and tourists who stop by to give it a shot.

We began the trek through a valley (bottom right photo), which was fairly easy (aside from not being able to breathe). After making it through the valley, we came across steeper zigzags of mountainous terrain that was somewhat difficult to navigate. In realtime, I would absolutely say that it was extremely difficult to navigate. However, since it only got increasingly difficult, I have to save the use of any word synonymous with difficult, hard, impossible, scary, out of breath, can’t breathe, please save me, and/or send help.

After making it through the first half of the trek (mind you, I’m tying fast. This is now two hours later), we came across a small glacier lake (second photo on top) that was pretty stunning too. By this point, it truly was difficult to breathe (even though this kicked in minutes after beginning our trek) since the altitude was only getting higher as we progressed.

After trekking through zigzags and mountainous terrain for what seemed like forever, we finally arrived to an area of flat terrain. When you can’t breathe and everything hurts, it’s the little things in life like flat terrain that would really put a smile on your face. But again, when you can’t breathe and everything hurts, you smile internally. We walked through the flat terrain and came across another mountain that had to be climbed.

I read in a blog post that the last part of the trek involved walking over rocks that make you feel as though you’re about to twist your ankle, and constant thoughts that you’re better off quitting and not continuing. As we began walking up the pathway of rocks, I thought this was it. The thoughts of quitting were popping up (even though they were there for more than two hours now), and I had the number of a local podiatrist ready to call at any given moment. People around me were saying that this must be the last mountain before making it to the Laguna.

Excitement and anticipation were building, as was my tolerance for pain. We were so close. As we made it to the top of the mountain, I was so excited to see the beautiful Laguna that everyone had been talking about. But of course, nothing in life is that simple. As we crossed over the top of the mountain, we saw another mountain across from us, waiting to be climbed.

We made our way downhill, ready to do it all over again. The rocky path was even harder to navigate on the second mountain, and the feeling of wanting to give up was definitely real. We had to stop every few minutes due to the altitude, which had become quite the obstacle (that’s me sugarcoating it). As we continued to hike up the path, we saw people walking down telling us “Casi están allí. You’re almost there.” Those walking around us were also out of breath taking numerous breaks along the way. But we finally made it. And when we did, the view of Laguna 69 in the distance almost made me want to run towards it. Keyword: Almost.

While I wish I could say it more gracefully, the truth is, I schlepped over to the Laguna and laid down alongside the most beautiful view I had ever seen. The tranquil turquoise-blue water below the most narrow waterfall, carrying clear glacier water into the Laguna was absolutely breathtaking. It was truly a shame that the trek took my breath away first.

Seeing so many people accomplish the goal of trekking 7 kilometers (roughly 4.5 miles) towards Laguna 69, 15,000 feet above sea level was truly incredible, and it felt rewarding to be able to reap the benefit of seeing such a spectacular site. We arrived at 12:52pm, so fortunately, we got to stay a while and enjoy the Laguna, without having to turn around and return to the bus beforehand. Some people jumped into the glacial water and swam, but I was perfectly content putting my hand in and leaving it at that.

After enjoying about 30-45 minutes by the Laguna, our tour guide mentioned that it was time to return. I had completely forgotten that we had to make our way back and walk another 4.5 miles without an oxygen tank. I’ll spare you the details of our hike back, but will say that the views were incredible, and that I laid in the middle of the parking lot upon our return, thankful for the experience, and thankful for the opportunity to not have to walk anywhere else for the rest of the day.

Throughout the trek, I was fortunate to walk alongside one of the students from our program who continuously pushed us to keep going. Just like anything in life, having a support system—whether it be friends, family, or even an internal support system—is truly important, because at our seemingly lowest moments when we want to give up, oftentimes we need a push to get back up and continue where we left off. Fortunately for me, I had that on this trek, and was able to enjoy incredibly beautiful sites along the way. Find and/or create your own support system, and don’t be afraid to utilize it. It will come in good use when you least expect it.

Advertisements

Running For A Cause: Part 4

As mentioned yesterday, this upcoming Sunday, January 24th, I’ll be running in the Miami Half Marathon to raise money and awareness for Misioneros Del Camino—a home for orphaned, abandoned, and malnourished children in Guatemala. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be writing about Misioneros Del Camino and sharing the incredible background story of one brave woman’s calling from above to make a difference, as well as various success stories of some of the many children who grew up at MDC.

One such story is that of Mariano, Rosario, and Geovany, who arrived at the Home two and-a-half years ago at the ages of 7, 4, and a little over 1 year old (respectively). The children’s parents were alcoholics who wandered the street alongside their children. Mariano, the oldest, was in charge of his two younger siblings and was the one who made sure that they had food to eat. Their diet consisted of coffee and bread. At one point, Mariano would carry his younger sister Rosario because she was not able to walk.

Upon arriving at the Home, Geovany could not walk, stand, swallow food, and never smiled. Since arriving at the home, all three children have adapted very well, and as you can tell, Geovany’s development has improved significantly, and he smiles all the time! Thanks to the incredible work being done at Misioneros Del Camino, children like Mariano, Rosario, and Geovany can grow up in a loving environment, while enjoying their childhood to the fullest.

In honor of the work Mami Leo has done, in continuing her legacy, and to help provide a bright future to the current generation of children at Misioneros Del Camino, I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help fulfill Mami Leo’s mission, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

https://www.gofundme.com/5y82yn78 
www.misionerosdelcamino.org 

Image

Snapshot Challenge Saturday

My brother and sister work in the floral industry, and as you can probably imagine, work has been somewhat hectic (to say the least) with the holiday season in full swing. However, as orders have been placed and shipped, they had a great deal of extra vases and flowers sitting around their warehouse. They decided to donate all of the remaining flowers to a local hospital, and they invited me to go with them to make the delivery.

They gave forty arrangements to the administrative nurse to hand out to the patients, and seeing how appreciative she was on behalf of the staff and patients was such a beautiful and fulfilling sight. It just goes to show that simple and thoughtful acts of kindness can make all the difference.

FullSizeRender.jpg

One Child’s Misconstrued Story

Over the summer, I attended a medical mission trip to Guatemala where our team of doctors and volunteers treated well over a thousand individuals in only a few short days. I worked in a triage station, and had the primary task of asking the people needing medical attention what was wrong, taking their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight, and temperature. From there, myself and the other triage team members would write down which doctor the person needed to see, and someone from the logistics team would walk him or her over to the required doctor.

A mother and her young son sat down at my table, and the mother explained that her son was very quiet and did not like talking to many people beside for her. She mentioned that the boy’s teacher believed him to have Autism Spectrum Disorder and recommended that he stop by the medical mission to inquire testing. I spent some time with the child and tried to engage in conversation with him. Although he was shy and  seemed afraid to talk at first, little by little, he began opening up.

While I still recommended he receive testing by a trained psychologist as his teacher had recommended, it turns out, the child was being bullied at school. For this reason, he had become increasingly quiet and preferred not to engage in conversations with individuals other than his mother. Because he was being bullied at school, he was carrying around a significant fear on his shoulders, and no one seemed to know about his bullying.

Bullying occurs across the globe, and for us to ignore such terrible actions committed against others is an injustice to those afraid to speak up and ask for help. No one should have to endure bullying, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure that no child, young adult, or even adult faces mistreatment by others. It is up to us to make a difference.

For a child who was believed to have had Autism and who was believed to avoid individuals and not smile at all costs, I would say that after explaining his story and having someone to talk to, his smile was pretty big if you ask me.

IMG_4818