Merry Christmas, from Putucusi

Trip Start Dec 22, 2012
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Trip End Aug 01, 2013


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What I did
Mount Putucusi

Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

After perusing the ruins of Machu Picchu I asked the adventure advisor at the hotel if I could climb Huayna Picchu the next day. He told me that it was booked up well past my stay but there were other mountains in the area I could climb. I agreed and he recommended Mount Putucusi, the peak of which had a slightly above eye level view of Machu Picchu from across the valley. It sounded like a climb worth doing and Joseph, the adventure advisor, told me it was an easy walk to the top but there were a few ladders. Ladders? I asked. He showed me a picture of a wooden ladder made from tree branches about twenty feet tall. It looked like no big deal so I asked him how to get there and set my mind on doing it the next day. 
The next day my parents and I walked into town with the directions Joseph gave us. They were not very good so we asked a police officer how to get to the top. He told us, as any safety first minded officer of the law would, to walk along the train tracks for about 10 minutes until we see the trail up. Granted, this was the only way to get there. After a quick but close brush with a train coming around a bend and some tense moments in two rather narrow tunnels we got to the entrance which was slightly obstructed. It was no matter and we stepped over the toppled trees and took to the path. The story of the climb is told in the slideshow below so follow along in the pictures. I'll tell the post-climb story in the next paragraph so go through the slideshow first.

After getting back to the hotel I showered and started to hydrate and then passed out on a couch in the lobby. Except I couldn't fall asleep despite my exhaustion. I was still having some trouble breathing and moving was no easy task. I figured it would go away once I had some water and some sleep. Our train back to Cusco was leaving in the next little bit so we packed up our stuff and made our way down the train station. I plodded along, resting at every opportunity. Once I got on the train I tried to go to sleep, again without success. Then I started getting hot and cold and breathing took some serious effort. I called over my mom and told her I was feeling awful. She told the train staff. The train staff arrived with a tank of oxygen, a cup of coca tea, and a bag of coca leafs. Coca is the natural product used in cocaine which is popular in Peru in teas and for chewing. It is widely believed that it helps with altitude sickness, gives you energy, and sharpens your senses. So after sucking in some glorious oxygen and drinking a cup of coca tea and chewing a fat wad of coca leaves I still felt like I was going to die. After a while I started to feel a bit better and was able to eat my first meal since climbing the mountain. It would be my last meal for the next 48 hours, I could not stomach food at all - even liquids were problematic. Sleep wasn't any easier especially the first night when I was wired from cocaine ingredients. I was on a steady diet of oxygen tanks, water, and gatorade for the next few days feeling awful the whole way through. I can only really describe how I felt one way. First you need to picture the fatest friend you have. Then think back to the worst hangover you've ever had - I'm talking waking up drunk and puking, unable to move eat or think kind of hungover. And then picture the moment you wake up from that hangover except instead of waking up in bed you have your fat friend sitting on your chest so you can't breathe either. That was how I felt for the next two days. One of these days I spent lying in the back of our bus while the family toured ancient sites and ruins on roads that were bumpy as hell with the hot sun reflecting through the windows. Needless to say I was not the happiest during those two days. 
 Later when I told some peruvians about the climb they would look at me with alarm and ask in a very surprised tone, "YOU climbed Putucusi?! Even we don't climb Putucusi." Another told me he was too scared to climb it. I guess I have Joseph to thank for that one. But all in all it was an amazing experience and I would do it again, although next time with more water, some food, a rain coat, and after a few more days to get used to the high altitude of the Andes. And if you ever meet an adventure advisor named Joseph - expect an adventure, just don't expect what he tells you.
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