It was one of those mornings when I woke up at 3:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay in my tent, listening to the wind outside, and the last thing I could imagine was making the long hike up Mt. Bonnete today. After all, most instances of being sick with a sinus infection find me bundled up with my duvet, a cup of tea and a book in bed – for several days. Yet here I am, sleeping in a tent in freezing temperatures and enduring tremendous physical exertion trekking in the Andes. I finally read in my book for a bit and that calmed me down enough to return to sleep around 5:00.
Breakfast at 8:00 was a very cold affair, as the sun doesn’t hit Plaza de Mulas until around 9:30. But as our trek was supposed to commence at 9:00, I simply donned every bit of down clothing I have and focused my morning meal on one cup of hot tea after another.
As we got underway, it took me 15 minutes to settle into my mountaineering gait (it was the first day in my Spantik boots since arrival) and then I found that I was actually pleased to be on the move again. After the agony of the trek into base camp, it was a relief to have a bit of energy back, to feel like: yes, this is something I’ve been training to do. It seems I am moving back towards better health!
The comic highlight of the day was at our second rest stop. As we began to pack up to head off again, I announced that I would just quickly take a pee and then catch up. Now, the landscape on Mt. Bonete is one of tumbling rocks and stones and massive amounts of scree. So there’s nothing to hide behind. It’s also cold when the wind blows. So to avoid dropping my pants for all to see and also having my naked bottom hit by an icy blast of wind, I whipped out my favorite new tool, unzipped and put it in place. All ready for the virgin outdoor trial of the wonderful Freshette and standing with my back to the wind (and the path), I suddenly hear footsteps behind me. Someone walking and stumbling around on the loose stones…RIGHT behind me. My bladder did what anyone’s would and refused to release. The longer I stood there, the more uncomfortable and silly I felt with the situation, yet still the stumbling persisted. I finally glanced over my shoulder to see my much appreciated teammate standing not one meter away from me, taking photos of god knows what (not me – the camera was pointed off to the side and up). “FABIO!!! GO AWAY!” I yelled, only to get a confused look and the comment “Im-a taking-a photos” in return. “Well I’m trying to pee and it doesn’t work with an audience so GO AWAY!” Utter lack of comprehension. Bernie stood back on the trail, shaking his head and bright red with embarrassment, not sure if he should scream or laugh or if maybe he could just disappear.
It was a long hike (6.5 hours), with about one third over rock, half of it up a steep mountain of loose dirt and then the last 40 minutes were over some very steep lose rocks, requiring quite some scrambling. Not easy to maintain balance when feeling a bit woozy from the altitude, but all went well. The part up the loose dirt was great technique and mental training, since any lack of attention to where and how you placed your foot for the next step resulted in sliding back and gaining no ground despite the effort. That can be a bit de-motivating. Exactly that part of the ascent was, however, a fantastic descent. Skiing down through the dirt, speeding my way back to somewhat thicker air! Glad to be back in camp but also pleased to have finished such a strenuous hike, which puts me one step closer to being ready.