The highs, lows, and the bliss of the unknown - WHOA Peruvian Adventure 2016
It was the end of a long day of hiking in the Andes and our group was physically exhausted, yet surprisingly energetic after our first day on the trails. Eleven hours of overcoming the altitude and engaging with strangers may seem tiring, but it was the never-ending support from a group of twelve incredible women and the desire to conquer the unknown that kept us moving forward, one foot in front of the other, until we reached our destination.
We huddled around our candle-lit table, sipping Coca tea, listening intently and laughing about the highs and lows, or “roses, buds, and thorns,” we called it, of our expedition that day. A rose for every happy moment, a thorn for the tough ones, and a bud for those we look forward to.
Navit, an experienced hiker who had made the trip to Machu Picchu once before, was the most nervous not for the climb itself, but for being vulnerable with a group of new women. On her last adventure in Peru almost fifteen years prior, she had embarked on a nine month journey through South America with some friends from home, but ended up on a solo-journey of her own, meeting new travelers along the way.
"Opening up and sharing about myself with the group was intimidating for me at first, but I learned to let myself loosen up because I felt that no one was judging me.”
After long hours on the trail, countless laughs shared, and even a few tears shed, the connections she made turned out to be the best “rose” of them all.
“I took something from every lady at the trip as well as our wonderful guides and the beautiful mountains. What surprised me was my ability to connect with women I wouldn't normally connect with in my day to day life.”
Sometimes putting ourselves in the situations that are the most difficult for us are what enables us to grow the most, and it can be hard, but it’s always worth it!
Melissa, a city-girl at heart who claims she is “not the most active person in the world” found her greatest challenge on the second day of the trek. Melissa had never left the US before Peru, had only hiked a few times, and was not afraid to pack her bag with all the travel essentials and more - including tic-tacs, five portable chargers, and endless amounts of dry shampoo!
“It was definitely physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done and often did not know if I would be able to finish. But after we hiked for over 7 hours, well, at that point I just became so slap-happy because of how tough the situation was.”
Melissa, with the help of an amazing #WHOAPeruCrew2016 powered it through and made it to Machu Picchu, pushing herself to the front of the group by the last day of the hike!
“This trip really helped me to be out of my comfort zone. As uncomfortable and scary as that is, it’s really exciting and crazy how much you can learn about yourself while doing something like that. Even traveling to a different country alone, it was exhilarating to know that I was making this trip happen and that nothing could stop me from doing it if I really wanted it. It taught me so much about myself and all of the things I’m capable of doing on my own.”
So how can we keep those mountain “highs” alive after returning home? We like to keep a “rose to bud” in our pockets after a trip is over, something to look forward to, or something we can work towards.
Navit admits that it’s definitely a challenge coming home, “It was hard, I won't lie. My life is good but it's not where I want it to be, so I try to go back sometimes to that feeling of concentrating on the moment you are at, like this next step that will get me closer to the peak, or the food on my plate, or my tent buddy snoring! I try to do this to slow my heart down and bring it back to place where I want to be.”
Melissa has made it her goal to keep the trip alive by climbing more mountains, which she admits, “is a little bit hard for someone living in the midwest where there are no mountains!” However, she is committed to staying active and continuing to physically challenge herself, “In my daily life now, I like to reflect on how far I’ve come as a woman on this trip and also where I want to go from here. By the end of the Peru trip, I really felt on top of the world, and I loved it!”
What is most interesting about the Salcantay trek is that we reached our summit on the second day, with a peak of 15,090 ft. There was no single linear path to the top; the trail is made up of a series and ups and downs, which is what makes it so unique and beautiful, kind of like the roses and thorns that enabled us to grow so much on this adventure!