I opened my eyes and saw a tent above my head. It was day two of the overnight hike in the Andes. We hiked most of the day yesterday and then reached our campsite at about 3:30 in the afternoon with time to relax before dinner. It had been hot all day but there was a significant temperature drop when the sun disappeared behind the mountains, and after dinner, when it was dark, we all scurried back to our two-person tents to bundle up and go to bed, despite the fact that it was only 8:30 PM.
When I woke up my stomach was churning, but I ignored it—too cold to think about getting up to get medicine or anything. After breakfast at 7:30, those of us up for the challenge began our hike further up the mountain to the “saddle” between two other mountain peaks. The journey up probably took about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it was very strenuous and hard to breathe. This was probably one of the most physically demanding things I’ve done in my life. We were headed to Inti Punku (Puerto del Sol) or the “Door to the Sun.” When we spotted this door up at the saddle from a distance it seemed much closer than it was in reality. When we finally made it I felt incredible. We were actually standing on top of a mountain in the Andes. I kissed the doorway out of pride when I walked through it, and we stayed up in the little square of ruins for about 45 minutes, taking pictures, journaling a bit, talking, and congratulating ourselves. I tried to memorize how I felt at that moment, looking overtop of the surrounding mountains, so I could save it and feel it again later at exciting time, like maybe when I get into college or something. We were 4,000 meters high.
Going down was a lot easier cardio-wise, but there were many loose rocks and the trail was rather steep, so it was slightly startling when I slipped every once in a while, especially with the steep drop easily within reach.
In the end, we all safely made it down the mountain and, looking back, I think this was my favorite part of the trip.