I have grown up by the ocean, where the raindrops never stop falling and where the air is always moist. The Sacred Valley during the dry season is the complete opposite to my hometown. The lack of rain turns everything into dust – the ground you walk on, the air you breathe, your cracked skin. It was here that I learnt the importance of a really good moisturizer. I learnt that no amount of sunscreen can save you from a burnt scalp. How the days can be scorching hot while the nights will leave you shivering under four pairs of wool blankets.
The mountains surrounding the valley never failed to impress me. They stood tall in their towering glory, but they were also ruthless to anyone who dared visit. They showed me just how fierce altitude sickness can be, attacking temples and lungs with a thousand needles whenever you ascend too high.
I learnt that in the Andes, nothing is constant. As we walked, I marveled over how fast the burning sun could hide behind clouds and thick mist. I would go from sweating in a T-shirt to wishing for gloves to warm up my frozen fingertips in a matter of hours.
Photo by Sally A.
I learnt that the beauty of nature is a fleeting thing. I could barely comprehend the fact that the astounding glaciers next to our camp will melt away in ten years time. As I brushed my teeth that night, I looked up at the glacier, the moon making the sheets of ice shine, and I thought that I’ve never brushed my teeth to a more beautiful view. The knowledge that humans were the cause for its destruction made my heart ache.
The Andes taught me how to climb 4000-meter high mountains in rain, snow and hail. I learnt that when ascending, the only thing that will keep you going is to sing musical songs and take it one step at a time. In the end, the view from the mountaintops will be worth it.
Most importantly, I learnt to love the mountains. Maybe it’s the vast beauty of the Andes, or maybe it’s just the altitude, but this place always manages to take my breath away.