The highest altitude we reached during our trip was the town of Chinchero, where we stayed for a couple of nights. The town is situated at a lofty 14,000 feet, quite a bit higher than Nashville. On our second day there we did a lot of walking, and I definitely felt the effects of the altitude. First thing in the morning, we got up and helped harvest potatoes out in a field down the road. When it was time to leave, we decided to hike the scenic route back, past a lake and through some other local farm fields. This would not have been too difficult of a hike for me down at sea level, but I was struggling a bit. However, that hike was just a warm up.
After we got back and had lunch, we decided to hike out to visit some waterfalls nearby. We didn’t really know what to expect, as we had gotten mixed information about how long the hike would take. Regardless, ready for an adventure, we set off. The way there wasn’t too bad. It was almost entirely downhill, with only a few treacherous parts, and the views of the nearby mountains and valley were absolutely stunning, some of the best from the whole trip. After about an hour of hiking, we reached the falls. I was expecting the falls to be pretty cool, but they turned out to be incredible, way bigger than I had anticipated. They were at least 100 feet high and gave off a nice, refreshing mist. We rested there for a while and took in the sights, while Adam decided to be adventurous and take a dip in the water.
The hike back was when things started to get tough. This time, the path was uphill. The “steps” didn’t help very much since they were still at a pretty steep incline and didn’t give your legs a chance to rest. Even at sea level, this would have been a difficult hike. However, being at 14,000 feet made things even tougher. It seemed like I had to stop every couple hundred feet or so to try and catch my breath. I would rest and feel ready to go, but not make it very far at all again upon restarting. Profe had it the worst out of all of us, as his body was not handling the altitude well at all. The trip back took over twice as long as the trip there, and we had to complete the second half of it in the dark since the sun set on us. This entire struggle was completely worth it though. The views from the trail were amazing, the waterfalls were incredible, the darkness of the backcountry gave us undisturbed views of the stars and planets above us, and it was great exercise. When I got back to the hotel, on a whim I pulled out my iPhone and checked the health app that tracks my daily activity. What I saw shocked me. I had climbed 106 floors. To put that in perspective, One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the US, has only 104 floors. So, I can say that on that day I climbed the equivalent of a skyscraper, and got better views. It is and experience that I will never forget.