Today started with a 6am wake up call on a clear, sunny morning. After breakfast, we went outside for the ceremonial duffel bag weighing. Everyone held their breath as their bag was put on the scale, anxiously waiting to see if it was under the 7kg weight limit. Our bags passed the pre-sleeping bag weighing. After we put our hay bails into our duffels, they were slightly over 7kg, but what can you do?
We all piled into a bus and were shuttled to km82 --the trail head. Waiting there to greet us was a small army of vendors selling water and cheap walking sticks. They say that walking sticks are supposed to help you out by as much as 30%, so many of us picked one up.
Then we were off!!!!!
La la la la la la, la la la la la..... [to the tune of the smurfs]
The first 4km was flat, and we covered the distance at a steady pace. The area was very arid and there were many flowering cacti. These cacti were pretty large, too! Once we rounded the corner, we started a long stretch uphill. The trail varied from loose dirt to uneven rock steps that varied in height. We would gain 1000m by mid-morning, and lose all of that elevation by lunch. The lunch stop could not have come too soon! We were famished!!
We had a 3 course lunch (these guys really went all out) and had 45mins to relax. Many of us found a shady spot to spread out on. Lammie promptly fell asleep!!!! (food coma)
Then, all too soon, our guide, Dimas, said,"Vamanos! (let's go!)". Our last leg of the hike today was all uphill towards our base camp. Soon, the arid climate gave way to tall trees that formed a bit of a canopy over the trail. The monotony of stair climbing (or rather stair master on crack) reminded us of the Grouse Grind. Not much really to see at the point, and all you could hear was the sound of your heart and lungs. Our group started to spread out a bit more at this point. We had a few more rest stops and made it up to camp by about 5pm.
There was plenty of light left and we were rewarded by a spectacular view of the mountains around us and of the valley below. It was a great sense of achievement to see how far and how high we had climbed today in the 10hrs of hiking.
It was an early night for us.