The food is delicious. We’re all in a warm, cozy dining hall made of wood. It’s incredible how Alex’s good mood never falls. In fact, they called me out for having separated from the group. My loss caused many things in the tour to become disorganized, but Alex, I don’t know how, has fixed things so that I can go back to Cusco the next day. The food, I repeat, is delicious and makes me forget any worry I have. It even makes me laugh a bit about what happened. They’ve served us delicious dishes: stuffed trout, scrambled eggs, vegetables and something that completely surprised me: flambéed bananas and mandarins that were served with fire. The Peruvian guys couldn’t film what they needed with the drone because the clouds never went away while we were hiking. However, in the afternoon, when we were already at Sky Camp, something wonderful happened. While the sun was going down, the clouds simply disappeared. The snow of the mountains Humantay and Salkantay were tinted red and orange. They were no longer gigantic pyramids of snow but appeared as giant pyramids of fire. In this moment, I thought of the Peruvian hikers and hoped with all my heart that they were able to take photos and videos. Surely, they would be spectacular.
In Sky Camp, you can fall asleep stargazing. There are several igloos with transparent roofs that have comfortable beds inside. I’ve rented a sleeping bag to handle the coldness of the night. I don’t know why, but I feel that good luck accompanies me now. The bed beside me is empty. They’ve put me in an igloo by myself because it’s low season, and there aren’t many trekkers. In this season, though, rain tends to hinder the hikes a bit. It’s about 8 at night, and the lights of the campsite have been turned off. The moon illuminates the clouds around the mountains that I can see from my bed. I feel the immensity of the night falling over me and, for a moment, it startles me. I feel so small. I open my eyes as big as I can to the nighttime. I also feel like I’m in a spaceship. In a capsule that’s slowly navigating outer space.
I think I’ve slept really profoundly. I’m woken up by a member of the agency’s team handing me a cup of
hot coca tea. He says breakfast will be ready soon, and I should get my things ready to go to Humantay Lake. Breakfast is really delicious: a bunch of bread, thick hot chocolate, an omelette and a banana. Alex appears with his usual smile and good humor. He sits down beside me and asks if I’ve slept well, and I, as if I know exactly what to do, say, “Yes, Alex, I slept really well. I think I dreamt of the mountains. Hey, is it difficult to get to Humantay Lake from here? Is it just one path?” Alex smiles and asks me, “You’ve become a rebel, Jhon. You want to have the whole lake to yourself, right? Hurry up, get you stuff ready.”
“See that kiosk? Go there, and then turn to the left. There’s just one trail; don’t worry. Get up there, and wait for us at the lake. Don’t get lost this time, eh, Jhon. You’ve already caused enough problems,” Alex says as he winks at me. I start the hike in solitude. I get further and further away from the campsites of Soraypampa, going toward the mountain range that splits in two because the trail. I feel like they’re two open arms receiving me. The birds’ songs accompany me; I don’t know if it’s because it’s early or because there aren’t any people. The hike is uphill, and the kiosk Alex showed me doesn’t seem so close. When I start to worry, two white horses appear in the distance, grazing peacefully. And their owners? I can’t tell if they have saddles or if they’re free. The vision of the two white horses excites me and, before continuing, I surprise myself when I say out loud, “Please, give me your permission to enter; I need to visit you,” to the mountain Humantay.
I’m not lying. I see an eagle go flying over me just before I get to Humantay Lake. I then go a few more steps and silently arrived. Humantay Lake is a true turquoise mirror clearly reflecting the snowy glaciers. I can’t believe how close the immense mountain is. I can only see the peak when I lift my gaze. It’s as if the mountain is right above me. There’s nobody here. Well actually, in the background, an animal appears. It’s so far away I can’t tell if it’s a horse or a big dog, but I gladly accept the company. A sort of peace invades me. I see several small rock towers that visitors have constructed and feel they’re sacred and really important. I find a rock to sit on, take off my shoes and do something I don’t think I’ve ever done before: pray. In reality, I start talking to the lake, this tranquil disc of tourmaline and the mountain Humantay. I can hear the thin thread of water coming off the snow and forming the lake. I remember last night’s sensation when the nighttime fell over me like a gigantic cloak, making me feel so small. It’s impossible not to feel small, too, in front of the snow-covered mountains. The wind blows and, at last, I find the words that’ve been resisting coming out of my heart for so long: I’m not happy. I understand that I’ve chosen a life that doesn’t satisfy me. I understand that all the money I’ve been accumulating doesn’t serve any purpose. I realize that I’ve never had this tie to nature that I now felt so clearly through my bare feet. In this moment, in less than one minute, fog covered everything. There’s only a slight turquoise gleam from the lake. Everything else is white. The fog is so thick that it even hides my hands. I fear that I may get lost or that the fog will end up making me vanish completely. However, although it sounds strange to say it, I continue speaking with the lake, and that makes me calm.
While everything is covered by the white fog, I hear the unmistakable sounds of human beings. Next, one shout and then another. A group of guys, it seems, celebrating their arrival to the lake and lamenting the panorama hidden by the fog. I can’t keep conversing with the lake anymore and remember what Alex told me yesterday when the mountains stayed hidden in spite of the Peruvian guys’ desire to take pictures: “They didn’t ask permission from the mountain.” I think that nobody in this group has asked permission from the mountain. I try to concentrate again, but their shouts make it really uncomfortable. When one of them throws a stone in the lake, I understand that the charm is broken. The fog isn’t going to leave.
We leave for Cusco in the afternoon. While we get further and further from the campsite at Soraypampa, I feel nostalgic and satisfied. I’m sure something has happened. In reality, something important has happened within me, although I don’t know with certainty what it’s about. From time to time, I look back to the immensity of Humantay and Salkantay. They say goodbye to me in all their splendor. I affectionately tell them goodbye, too. I don’t think there’s any better time to travel than as the afternoon draws on. We all feel proud of our physical efforts and are now interacting naturally. Several times, I see how Alex, our guide, looks at us through the rear-view mirror with a face of joy. Inside me, there’s silence and harmony. We talk a little more until, little by little, my travel partners start to fall asleep. I stay awake until, after 2 hours of travel, I see the shape of Salkantay again in the distance. Its impressive presence, be it far-off or close-by, continues moving my heart. Then I also sleep.
Enjoy the first part of this story here: http://www.salkantaytrekking.com/blog/travelblog-my-crazy-encounter-with-the-mountains-of-cusco-part-1/