It started with a beautiful ceremony with our llama handlers and guides. The object was to give an offering to Apu Ausangate (Father Ausangate). It is believed that this will keep us safe on our journey. The guides placed all sorts of little trinkets and food in a paper wrapping. We each placed 3 coca leaves in the package after asking Apu and his children for safe passage. We also gave wine I think it was to Pacha Mama and the mountain. To complete the ceremony, we burned our package of offerings so the smoke could go up to the mountains. It was quite beautiful and emotional for many of us. My description of it doesn't make it justice... it is in my memory for ever.
After our ceremony, we headed off the mountain to complete our first and highest mountain pass: 5200m. Mattias was the front guide today. He's great at making sure the pace is perfect. I was able to follow him all day. Anyway... back to the story.
It was quite the hike! we climbed 300m -I would guess about 1km - which took us about 2 hours. 2
When we reached the top, an overwhelming feeling of I don't know what came upon us. I can't explain it in pictures or words. It's just something you have to experience for yourself to understand. It's a feeling that just takes over, tears stream down your f
ace -not tears of sadness - I'm not sure what kind of tears they are! Pure accomplishment? Pure joy because you finally arrive? The beauty you see is just too much to take in? A bit of all that? I don't know how everyone else felt, but many of us had tears of some kind.
After spending about 10/15 minutes enjoying the beauty, taking photos... we started our descent. That was not any easier than going up! Physically it was ok - very slippery as it was ice and snow covered. It was also quite steep! I sure was glad I had walking poles. They saved me a couple times!
The first group got to the bottom pretty quickly so we decided to make snow angels and leave our prints in the mountains. That sure was fun!
The views today were most spectacular. We saw colourful mountains, rocky mountains, blue skies, clouds, we felt wind and that was all part of the adventure. We arrived at the bottom of the mountain
and were greeted by this cute little boy. We gave him a soccer ball, food, and chocolate. He was just so cute! He sat down beside Remi and Remi shared all sorts of treats with him. He sure got spoiled today!
Nearby was a hill where we could see 2 other boys waiting in the background- were they shy? too old to come and get things? I'm not sure. Sophie was going to give our little boy more treats but I suggested she go give it to the two other boys and so off she went to hand them a granola bar. They seemed grateful and happy.
We started walking again. To get to our lunch spot we still had about 1.5 hours of walking to do - uphill for some of the way of course! Again, just as beautiful as ever! We arrived at our lunch site. It was now cold and windy. Today's soup sure was welcome!
We had lunch, another pee break (probably the 100th so far today!) and off we went... about 1km to go - that's 1.5 to 2 hours of walking. Sounds crazy doesn't it? That long to walk 1km... I still can't believe it... and if someone told me it took them that long I would think they were crazy! Let me tell you - it's very difficult in extreme altitude!
This last bit was extremely slippery as the very narrow trail was covered in this red mud. It was quite tricky not slipping down the side of the mountain. Are you ready for another emotional moment? Here it comes! We got to this little pass- it was a very long way down a cliff...I couldn't go through - luckily, Jodi and Mattias were able to help me get through it (At this point, Remi had gone back to meet with the back group to take pictures I think, or to give Sophie a pole?). Thank God I had these two or I think I would still be there bawling! With help, you can do anything...