For months, my friends, Annelies and Sandra, and I have been looking forward to this trip in Peru. And, of course, even more special, meeting up in Cuzco. How many of your friends actually come to visit you while you are living abroad?
Sandra had carefully planned our trek to Machu Picchu. It started with some leisure time to visit Cuzco and to share stories, then the four-day trek concluded by a visit to Machu Picchu and, of course, a final dinner in the Irish pub in Cuzco.
On the first evening, we meet our guide for a short explanation of our trek. He sounds serious, hopes we are in good condition and advises us to take enough warm clothes. Later, in the Irish pub, we laugh away our doubts while quoting our guide: 30% depends on your body, 70% on the mind. So what could possibly go wrong? We order another drink and plan for our last shopping.
The next day, we wander around Cuzco full of energy and good spirits, enjoying the festivities, parades, amazing buildings, the sight of the variety of people and each other’s company. We further explore our common interest for the meaninglessness of life, our incomprehension of humankind’s horrors, and how confused we are about what to do to improve this situation. We realise how great it is to meet up here and how special these moments together are.
The night before the trek, Annelies suffers, all alone, from a mosquito bite. Full of fever, she tries to fight the cold and is not able to sleep. The next day, we all, including the guide, are worried. Climbing more than 700 meters, beginning at 3800 meters is demanding for any healthy person, let alone someone recovering from a high fever. We briefly discuss our options and decide to continue with the original plan. Headstrong as she is, Annelies decides her mind will conquer the situation.
We arrive at 3800 meters, and Sandra indicates she has a fierce headache, has difficulty walking and feels exhausted: the first signs of altitude sickness. To her relief, the guide proposes she continues by horse. Willingly, she accepts. A trip by horse was one of the few things that was still missing on this trip.
Unfortunately, when Annelies and I arrive at our camp, we quickly realise that Sandra’s condition has deteriorated. Even pills and oxygen do not seem to work. After a terrible night, in which we all, including the guide, the cook and the horsemen, in our own way, try to care for Sandra, we all, except for Sandra of course, decide that there is no other solution than to go back down.
Luckily, we are the only members of the group so we don’t have to discuss this with other tourists, only with our guide, cook and horsemen, who are all very supportive. And there seems to be plenty of good alternatives for the days to come.
Going down, on a horse of course, with the support of the guide and one of the horsemen, Sandra quickly feels better and enjoys the prospect of going to a campsite with hot springs: one of the other things on her wish list that had not yet figured on the programme. Also, Annelies and I are looking forward for some easy days, brightened by Sandra’s wit. Even though, only a few hours before, all we wanted to do was prove to the world that we were fit and strong enough to complete a demanding trek, all we care for now is Sandra’s health.
With amazement, we witness together how quickly the human body can adapt and recover if it is mentally and physically healthy. And how changes and setbacks can become opportunities and make the overall experience even more fun.
A few days later, while toasting our memorable holiday, we all realise that it is not about what we have seen, done or achieved. Instead, we cherish the importance of the small things we can do for each other, and ourselves in life, enjoy each moment and good company, and all the opportunities life has to offer to us, even if it turns out different to how we expected. And we agree that, instead of being dispirited about the little impact we can make, we can better live according Sandra’s motto: care for those around us and hope that if everyone would do the same for those in their environment, everyone in the world would be cared for.