It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves..” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary

Hi guys,

Pff.. time is going so fast now! Its already February so that means I’m past the 5 months traveling. Everything gets easier, in the kitchens of hostels I’m now the one who is the experienced traveler sometimes and people want to hear my stories. Its nice to see how easy I get into the flow now. I feel good, people from home say to me that I look very happy on my pictures and this is true. I’m very happy and sometimes my life back home in the NL feels so far away.. My last post even feels so far away. Things are changing so quickly when you’re traveling.. High ups and sometimes difficult lows, but its all part of the journey πŸ˜‰

Before I go further and tell you about my adventures of the past weeks, I just want to warn you that this post is one of the longest I’ve ever written!! Haha. As you know, I like to write and I’m a detailed writer.. One of my experiences which had a great impact on me from the last weeks was a 3 day hike I did in the mountains. I loved to share all the details with you so that’s what I did in this post, hence the case its a pretty long one πŸ˜πŸ˜… Β So, I advice you.. Get yourself comfortable and enjoy this chapter of my journey πŸ˜‰

The most time I spent of my adventures was in the mountains. I stayed for 2.5 wks in a really nice, cheap, energetic bit also relaxing city which is called Huaraz. It’s surrounded by beautiful nature, snow peaks and the city has lots to offer. I loved just walking around and observing the people living there πŸ™‚ I saw lots and lots of indigeous people there, walking in their particulary clothes representing the area they come from and seeing how they live their lives in the city by selling clothes, food, fruit, or whatsoever on the market. ItΒ΄s such a different world and it amazed me how strong those people are. The women were all wearing a skirt, some heels, a jumper, a hat and they always carried on their back a blanket which they use to carry their baby, food, plants, or you name it. Everything! ItΒ΄s impressive.. Even the older women do the same.

Huaraz and its surrounding natural park Huascaran is known as one of the most beautiful places of the Andes mountains here in Peru. Lots of hiking you can do here, mountain climbing, rock climbing and so on. As soon as I arrived I heard of a day hike with a big group organized from the hostel to a Glacier lake, called Laguna 69 on 4600m. The city of Huaraz is around 3100m by the way. The pictures looked amazing and the prospect of the weather looked really good, so I decided to go with the tour. At 5.00 AM in the morning we were picked up, I didnΒ΄t sleep that well as the hostel was pretty full, noisy and my bed was horrible. Luckily I had 3 hrs in the bus before the hike so I could sleep a bit more ☺ The sun was shining beautifully and because of that the natural park, the views and the whole nature we were hiking through was stunning! I felt so at peace and happy there.. πŸ˜πŸ˜„ It was a great hike not that hard with regards to the route, but the changes of altitude was tough because the air was becoming thinner and thinner the more you go up. It reminded me of the hikes I did in Ecuador, at the volcanos. The group I was with was really nice and mostly I hiked up with two guys. Once we finally arrived at the lake, one of them even took a quick swim in the glacier lake!! Rediculous… haha. But he wasnΒ΄t the only one, more people did. Well, not me! πŸ™ˆ I just tested the water how cold it was with my hand and my hand was already freezing!! Brrr…. After a long break at the lake we started our way down again, but then I started to get some headache. This is very common when youΒ΄re at such an altitude and normally with drinking some extra water it goes away, but this time it was different unfortunately. The pain in my head got worse and worse as soon as we got more down.. When back at the city I felt a bit better luckily so that evening I ended up with a girl from the group eating pizza and talk about life. We found out we had so many things in common, just bizar!! πŸ˜ƒ

Eventhough I really wanted to leave the noisy hostel, I stayed an extra night as I didn`t have the energy anymore to pack my stuff and find another place after the hike we did. I changed beds, but still the beds were hurting me more than that it was relaxing. The next day I was hanging out a bit more with the girl I met, before our paths were seperating again and I found a new place to stay. This time I had my private room (including a painting of Dutch windmills and tulips), a private bathroom with hot water for only 1 euro extra than the hostel! The hostel also had Β a big kitchen and a nice roof terrace. So much better!!! πŸ˜‡ As soon as I was relaxing on my new comfy bed I started to feel a bit nauseous…. Not far later I had to run to the toilet. What was going on with me I thought? When I looked up the symptoms online, it was pretty obvious, I was having altitude sickness…. Going from sea level in one day to 3100m and then the next day doing a hike to 4600m + returning back was a bit too much for my body πŸ˜… Mennnn, I felt horrible! No energy, not wanting to eat or drink, headaches, blegh. The best thing to do then is to go to a lower altitude, but that meant that I had to pack my stuff and get on a bus back to the coast. As walking from my bed to the toilet everytime was already exhausting me, I couldn`t imagine myself getting on a bus 😧 Luckily I remembered that one of my friends I met in Colombia gave me some altitude sickness pills she had left. The first one came out immediately, but later I was able to keep the pill inside and this made me feel better in a short time. Thank god!!! πŸ˜‡

Meanwhile, another friend I met at the hostel during my first days in Huaraz got back from a hike by himself for a couple of days. His name is Rop, a Dutch guy from Laren. He is 46 yrs old and has traveled almost all his life. He is a real lover of the mountains and did so many hikes by himself so he was full of incredible stories. It clicked immediately between us and it was so nice to talk with a Dutchie again! πŸ˜‰ Our conversations became very personal pretty quickly so thatΒ΄s how our trust was building rapidly. He also changed hostels and was staying at the same place where I was. When I felt good enough again to go outside we went for some lunch and started talking about doing a hike together. First we talked about a day hike, but as he is very experienced and knew the places around here already because he was here many years ago, he proposed to do a longer hike together. He mentioned the mini-Huayhuash, 3-4 days. This area of the Andes is known as one of the most beautiful ones to hike. I would then rent my own equipment as what he got with him was only for 1 person. Renting turned out to be pretty cheap so I was able to get a tent, sleeping bag, little matress, gloves and walking sticks for not even 10 euro a day. Perfect!!! πŸ‘ I was getting so extremely excited as this kind of experience, I’ve been thinking about a lot when being in the mountains or hearing the stories from other travelers who were going Into the Wild. It totally connected with the book I was reading at that time, the true story of Chris McCandless, Into the Wild. Not that I was going to do such extreme things, but the philosophy around it inspired me. The girl I talked about earlier, she also did quite some hiking by herself for a couple of days into nature back in the US. She was 1 yr younger than me..

Rop and I agreed to leave in 2 days so the next day I was able to have a bit of a cultural day again as I heard that there was a really nice ruine in the neighborhood, one of the 100 most impressive ones in the world. As I liked the stories around KuelΓ‘p a lot when I was in Chachapoyas, I was looking forward to hear more about this ruine as it was completely different and from a different tribe during the pre-inca times. First the plan was to go with another traveler I met before at the coast and was in Huaraz as well, but he left me hanging and didnΒ΄t respond to any of my text anymore. However, I got in contact with a guy who was working at the hostel and worked for a tour agency as well. He promised me that everything would work out and I would get on a bus even for a cheaper price than when I would go with the other people. Perfect! So, there I went again in a group of local Peruvian people, being the only gringa! Our tourguide was a great guy and told so many nice stories ☺ The ruine was impressive and we were even able to go inside, seeing the structure of how it was build. I really donΒ΄t understand how they did this… The stones are massive and incredibly heavy. How did they build this 1200 yrs b.C?? Here they believe the people were in a kind of trance that weight wasnΒ΄t there anymore. They believed in the power of the sun, moon and mother nature. I really canΒ΄t get enough of those kind of stories. I love it!! 😍

When coming back from the trip I felt that my body wasnΒ΄t strong enough yet to go for the big hike the next day, so I asked Rop to go one day later. This was totally fine for him and gave me exactly what I needed to prepare myself and to get back to my strenght. He kept on warning me for the big chance of rain we would get while hiking as itΒ΄s rain season there. As good as I could I prepared myself, got food for the 3-4 days and received lots of tips from Rop. Oh men, how excited I was!! πŸ˜€ Luckily I was able to sleep a bit and we agreed to take the bus the next day at 5.00AM. When waking up, making myself ready and getting downstairs to wait for Rop, I didn’t hear anything from him neither saw his light on in his room. I assumed he was ready already and just smoking a sigarette waiting for me. But time past by and still no Rop.. I texted him and turned out he overslept! I went running to the bus to ask what time the next one was going, 2.00PM.. so immediately I checked if the bus of 5.00AM was still there. It was, so I asked if he could wait for 5 minutes! Luckily our hostel was close by so I rushed back to get Rop and my bag. He was not ready yet! Big chance we would miss the bus, but as you know me if I want something I do everything I can for it, so I said to Rop that he had 2 min to get himself ready. Run, run, run!! With our backpacks we run to the busstation and the bus just left.. Shit! However, I saw the opportunity to grab a cab and ask the driver to follow the bus and catch up on it. He did! So at the end we got into the bus and sat down.. What a start of the day and our adventure!! πŸ˜‚ I needed to laugh and luckily Rop did as well. I could be irritated by the fact that he overslept, but this could have happened to me as well, so why being negative about it and start our trip like that. He felt very sorry and was amazed by my level of action so early in the morning! Haha πŸ˜… The bus brought us to a little village and after we had some breakfast there we continued our journey to the village where our hike was starting. Meanwhile we met some other hikers with their private guide. They would have donkeys which would carry everything for them and even a horse for emergencies! They were going to do the same trek as us, so this gave me a secure feeling that if something happens, help wouldn’t be far away Β πŸ™‚

Day 1 hiking would be easy, just a unpaved road between the mountains we had to follow. It was around 11km what we had to walk that day. Not lots of climbing, just slowly moving from 3500m to 4100m where we would sleep the 1st night. It was a perfect start for me to getting used to my backpack, how it feels, what works best for me. It was the first time for me that I was walking for 11km with a 15kg backpack on my bag 😯 Rop gave me again lots of tips while walking and sometimes we took some shortcut roads to be quicker which include a bit of climbing. This was as well a good way to practice for me. I felt good and the weather was quite good. Later when we came closer to the point of where we would sleep, we saw that rain was coming. Because of this we decided to climb the hill we had to pass to find our camping spot instead of going around it. Another good practice for me! Just step by step, no hurry, I would get there and we did. We found a nice place to spend the night so set up our tents and just 2 min before my tent was set up it started to rain! Quick, quick getting inside to stay dry. Unfortunately, after a short period of heavy rain I discovered that my tent wasn’t waterproof!! It started leaking inside… Damnit! But instead of cursing and feeling annoyed I found a creative way to catch the drops with a plastic AH shopping bag Rop gave me πŸ˜… It was hilarious what kind of things I tried out to get that bag hanging. Nice way to kill the time while Rop was making a nice chicken bouillon for us to warm up πŸ˜‰ To not get wet while sleeping I used my big poncho over my sleeping bag. Yes, it was quite a hassle in my tent, but these are things you have to deal with when you’re into the wild.. Even getting out in the rain to pee was an experience, ghehe!

Day 2 would be the thougest one of all, a pass at 4750m and then going all the way down again to 4100 at a beautiful lake to sleep there. When we got up it was dry so that was a big plus. I stayed dry in my tent as well because of my poncho, jippie! We made ourselves some breakfast, but because of the high alitude it takes a long while before the water is cooking.. So we lost some time because of that. The other group already passed us by. Rop already had his routine of getting himself ready, packing his tent again and all his other stuff. Me, I was not thinkingΒ by what I was doing so it took some extra time before I was ready. We finally left after 9.00 AM. It took us quite a while to find the right track so because of that we lost even more time! What helped me knowing we were going the right way was following the tracks of the donkeys and horse from the other group. My muscles were a bit stiff so I really had to get into the rythm again. Rop was walking in front, mostly with a distance of 5 mins between us. He kept on smoking there, whatever the hight we were! So everytime he was waiting for me to have a little break he had a sigaret in his mouth πŸ˜… Weirdo! The view was beautiful! While we were walking we even heard and saw little snow avalanches falling from the snowtops around us. Very spectaculair! The great feeling with hiking is the moments you look back along your shoulder, seeing the distance what you already covered and then looking up, see that top you have to go to.. What a feeling! I was encouraging myself the whole time, “come on dien, you can do this! Step by step you will get there” I used self compassion to stay postive and embraced the feelings which were going on inside me. It was like a meditation there in the mountains. My thoughts were coming and going. The voice in my head who was encouriging me and praising me for what I was doing was mostly my dad. He felt so close with me! Bringing back memories of when I was a little girl, hiking with my dad in the mountains of France 😍

Close to the pass at 4750m Rop lost track again.. This time we were already walking in the snow and just climbing a mountain straight up would be risky as it was slippery. My back was hurting me and this time I was really not enjoyed by the fact of him loosing track again. My energy was dropping mostly because of the altitude. My heart was pumping like crazy in my chest. We saw the path above us and it was quite a hike to get there. Rop was already moving and firstly I followed him step by step very slowly.. However, my body was screeming “no!” I thought, whatever, I need a break! So I sat on a stone, got myself some energy by eating carbs, sugars and thought to myself, how am I getting up to that pass?? What do I need? I can’t get the motivation out of myself anymore, my body is too tired… I need more encouragement! Rop wasn’t that much of a person who was complementing me out of himself so the only thing I could do was asking him, saying what I needed. So once I got myself back together I walked up to where he was waiting for me and said that I needed some more motivation from him to get through the last bit. Immediately he took it into action and encouraged me. He even said “On top of the mountain is Sinterklaas!!” which made me laugh as that was the way I told him before how my dad got me up the Pyreneens mountains when I was a little girl πŸ˜‚;) So there we went, up to the top! Rop was waiting there for me with a big hug and telling me how proud he was πŸ˜„ Damn, I was pretty proud of myself too.. The sun was even coming out a bit to welcome us on the other side of the moutain. From there you had a great view to the lake we had to go down too. Beautiful! Thats partly where you do it for 😍 We wanted to find a place to have a little break, but in just 2 mins the weather completely changed and hail was falling out the sky including a pretty strong, cold wind! We had to move forward quickly.. The beginning of the hike down was very steap and sometimes a bit scary. Thank god I had some sticks with me which gave me more grip while walking down. At one point the hail/rain was stopping for a moment and we found a nice place to finally enjoy our break. We sat there for quite a while, talking about our lives, family, experiences. I really loved these talks we had together, just friends who are sharing a nice journey in the mountains together πŸ™‚

When ready to get down, again heavy rain was starting to fall. I was soaking wet and cold.. The last 100 meters were so tough! My legs were tired, my back was killing me and the thought of having to set up our tents in the rain didn’t help either. I prayed to the universe to stop raining, to help us.. And then there was a guardian angel running from the mountains in his rubber boots and a poncho. The local guy, asked us where we were going and guided us to follow him. We did and he was so quick! I couldn’t keep up with him, but Rop did luckily. The lower we came towards the lake, the easier it was to see what was in front of us. Suddenly I saw these little stone houses with tachted roofs and I saw smoke coming out of the little chimneys… The tears were in my eyes, fire, warmth!! A place to get dry again. I felt so grateful and happy that it made me cry a bit. The local guy invited us in their little house. I was really happy I could speak Spanish a bit and was able to understand him. Inside the little house was a family cooking around the fire, 2 little kids were hiding behind their mommy, but as soon as I made some contact with them, they started to trust me and talk back. Those little faces, their laughs, that family… I felt so much love ❀ It didn’t matter to me anymore that I was wet and cold! They warmed me up inside πŸ™‚ They started to make us some tea and later the trout they catched that day in the lake was frying in the pan. We eat together and they did everything they could to make us feel comfortable. It was such a wonderful and loving experience! After dinner the 2 guys set up my tent in the rain, right next to their house. Rop set up his tent next to me and both we got ourselves warm and dry again by crawling up in our sleeping bags. That night we watched a movie on Rop’s phone, a true story of 2 guys mountain climbing one of the snowpeaks of Peru. It didn’t all go well and it was sometimes a pretty scary movie/documentary, but in the end it ended well. Not the best movie to watch when you’re in the mountains, but it got us away from focusing on the cold and wetness. It stopped raining and when I opened my tent after the movie I saw a clear sky full of stars…. Wow! I could even see the Milkey Way. That was a long time ago for me. I kept watching the stars hoping I would see a shooting star and there it was, a little one but just perfect πŸ˜€ I didn’t need to make a wish because everything I had at that moment was what I wanted ❀

Day 3 started beautifully with a clear sky and a nice sunrise. I slepped quite well, every 3 hrs mostly I had to turn around and that woke me up, but I fell a sleep again immediately. During the sunrise I did some stretching exercises to get my muscles up and running again. Once the sun was out, it fueled Rop and me with energy again 🌞 She was pretty strong but exactly what we needed. Our wet clothes were able to dry again and we took it very slow that morning to get ourselves ready for day 3. The evening before we decided that it was better to go back to the village as if we would continue for a 4th day we would have to do another pass of 4700m. Something I wasn’t able anymore to do. Rop assured me that the hike back to the village would be long, but 80% flat. The only tough part would be at the end, hiking down from 4100m to 3500m where the village was. As it was a beautiful day I felt again the power to fulfill this hiking job as well. The view of the lake, the green mountains and the snow peaks was just beautiful, breathtaking and for me extrodinary. I haven’t seen something like that before. However, Rop doesn’t get that kind of kick out of it anymore. He has been so many times in the mountains! He gets his kicks now out of photography, also a really nice hobby πŸ˜‰ What he told me about the route was true, mostly flat and not much climbing. Mostly the climbing was over little waterfalls, pretty impressive too I can tell you! The path was continuing along a mountainside, a long long path, sometimes very small and you could see the ravine next to you. This way of walking was really like ‘don’t think, just do it!’ Some flashbacks from the movie the night before came back to me, but immediately I washed them away in my head. Just continue Nadine, don’t worry, everything will be fine. Rop and I talked a lot around that path and found out that propably our grandfathers have been working together at KLM! What a coincedence πŸ˜‰ At every break he told me how far we still had to go before we would come to the last descent. It was still dry and already quite late in the afternoon. Dark clouds were coming towards us so we knew that the descent would be in the rain again.. I think it was around 5 PM when we finally started to go down. We just had to follow the path and that would straightly getting us into the village of Llamac. The path was rough, rocks, mud everywhere, loose stones so you really had to be careful as you could break or twist your ankle in just a split second.. Rop was again going way faster then I was and suddenly because of the clouds I couldn’t find him anymore! I was a bit in panic as it was a really tough path and I couldn’t see a thing of the rain and the clouds! The mud underneath me became a stream of water which made it even more slippery. My body was done, my legs were tired and my back couldn’t take the 15kg anymore 😒 I crossed a local guy who was heading up and asked him how far it still was to the village.. Another 30 mins he said! This just broke me. How could I continue like this for another 30 mins?? Through the clouds I saw the village a bit and it looked so far away. I really hit the wall at that point inside me. I sat down again, soaking wet and just cried. I needed to get it out of my system, stay kind to myself, encourage myself to push further. The last 30 mins! I knew that Rop was waiting for me with a beer and a sigaret in his mouth 😁 To pump some energy in my body I put some rock music in my ears and sing out loud with Muse & Kings of Leon pumping out of my headphones… YOUR SEX IS ON FIRE!!!! πŸ”₯ My powersong! It got me down within 30 mins and there it was, the sign of ‘Welcome to Llamac’ Locals of the village already knew who I was as Rop told about me and was waiting as I thought he would, with a beer in his hand and a siggy! πŸ˜… I did it! I completed this journey! I felt unstoppable but oh so tired πŸ˜€ A woman took us into her house, got us a room with 2 beds and made dinner for us 😍 The local people there were so friendly!! I felt priviledged that during this trip I was welcomed with so much love by them, in the mountains and in the villages..

The next day was a full day of busrides back to Huaraz. Once we arrived I went to a cafe and got myself a nice brownie + wifi to tell my family I was safe again πŸ™‚ I still felt unstoppable and the smile on my face was not going away anymore πŸ˜€ Damn, I felt proud! That night after Rop and I celebrated our victory with a big pizza and beer/wine, I was in bed and felt my first ever very short earthquake.. For 3-5 seconds I was shaking in my bed as it felt like somebody bounced down the stairs. Super weird! Luckily there were no other earthquakes coming so I fell asleep peacefully..

In the days after my hiking adventure I did basically nothing.. I spend most of my time in my room, in bed, watching movies and just chill. I needed this! Something else I did was pampering myself with a massage, manicure + pedicure and haircut πŸ˜„ Feeling like a woman again… πŸ’‡ This paid off by the way as after Rop left and I had no plan yet of where to go next, I met a really nice American guy from Portland I spend every day with of the last week πŸ˜‰ He also did a big hike for a couple of days by himself and we got along very well. After a couple of days being together in Huaraz we made the decision of going to Lima, the capital of Peru, rent a apartment there and explored the city..

So that’s where I am now.. in Lima. We spend 4 days together, living the luxury life in our own apartment, in a very fancy neighborhood of the city, going out eating every day, we had some delicious food here and spending quite a bit of money. Well he did mostly! πŸ™ˆ We had fun and exploring the city with him was way better than alone. Unfortunately he didn’t liked the heat here, 30 degrees sometimes, so today he left to go back to the mountains again. I stayed and got myself a hostel. Back to the basic traveling life again… πŸ˜” Oh what was it nice to not feel like a traveler for a couple of days and just live in a way like I was living back home 😊

Where I head next I don’t know yet. The southern coast has lots to offer, but I feel I need some time on myself to detox from all the experiences I had the last couple of weeks. It was quite a roller coaster! So we’ll see where I end up. Still lots to discover here in South America 😍

Talk soon again wonderful people! Hope you are well. Leave a note, would be great to hear from you πŸ˜ƒ

Lots of love xx ❀😘

Nadine

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