DAY 5: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN We wake fresh after our first night’s sleep in a comfortable bed and access to a shower, even if the water wasn’t hot. I am so excited I feel sick. I have dreamt of this day for as long as […]
SALKANTAY TREK – DAY 3: INTO THE JUNGLE On the third day, our five pack became four. The six-hour decline on yesterday’s hike had hacked at Carly’s knees and she decided to rest and not risk further injury before Machu Picchu. With her knees bandaged […]
We woke before the sunrise. Just the few of us and the shadows that began to dance on the mountains like children playing shadow puppets on a wall.
Our guide Caesar knocks on our glass door and hands us cocoa tea. The warmth of the burning liquid is welcome and although too hot to drink, I cup the tea in my hands and allow the heat to flow through my freezing body.
We wake Ivy, fold our sleeping bags and head to the hut for breakfast. When the sun finally joins us, we are ready.
They warned us the second day would be the hardest. The hike through the Salkantay Pass would take nine hours with heights of up to 4,630 metres. We begin to hike and almost instantly I cannot breathe. Again the rising altitude strips my lungs of air.
I tell myself to count to five, the same tactic I used when Ivy was born. I only have to take five steps. And then another five.
The morning air bites at our faces and wraps itself around us in a bitter embrace, creeping into any inch of skin left exposed.
Ivy started on a mule but became upset and I worry she is too cold. We wrap her another jacket and I begin to carry her up the mountain.
Her weight today is agony. I keep counting to five. I watch only my feet. The incline is too daunting and the top is too distant. Jono continuously offers to carry her but I refuse. I want to do this. I want to carry her up the mountain even if every step feels like I won’t make another. Even if I cannot breathe.
We continue up the incline and over frozen streams. When Ivy starts to stir again, the sound of her cry makes each step harder, her weight seem heavier. We decide it’s best to hug her until she’s calm and to do so we decide I will ride a mule the rest of the way and cradle her.
I have a serious irrational phobia of horses, donkeys, mules and anything alike. My upset child is possibly the only reason you would ever find me on such an animal. I climb on the mule and wrap Ivy in my arms. I am terrified. We begin the uphill climb this time with four legs. We climb higher and the trail grows narrow, so narrow that I can no longer look over the edge. One slip and we would fall off the side of the mountain.
My grip on Ivy is so tight my body aches but she sleeps peacefully. My legs are clutching the saddle so hard pain shoots down my thighs but I refuse to move. I am imagining a slip that would either throw us down the cliff or result in us being trapped under the mule. Suddenly we reach the snow.
The man leading our mule turns and looks at me. He signals for me to hold on as tight as I can, as if I was casually just enjoying a garden ride before this part.
I want to get off. I want to tell them I will hike the rest of the way and carry Ivy in my arms, even if it takes me a week. I don’t want to ride a mule anywhere, especially not up a narrow, snow-covered path that connects to a 4,000m drop.
I don’t speak though. Instead my eyes well up and I shut them tightly. I feel the mule begin to climb.
“It’s OK, you’re OK.”
I hear my voice hit the mountain air but I don’t know if I am talking to myself or the mule. Rocks slide underneath us and tumble away. The sounds hit my chest as if the rocks itself had been thrown at me. I open my eyes and watch the mule in front of us slip and catch it’s balance before stumbling over the path. I am sure we are going to die but somehow we reach the top.
The guide sits on a nearby rock to rest but I do not move. Partly because of fear and partly because I do not want to wake Ivy while climbing down. It only takes a few minutes for Jono appear. Knowing my fear he ran up the mountain behind us. He ran up a three hour hike.
I pass Ivy to him, climb down and sob tears of relief (I told you it was a completely irrational fear).
Being the first to the resting place, we realize we have the view to ourselves and start to explore. We are in heaven. Mountains cradle us on either side, the snow the brightest white and the sky, a perfect clear blue untouched by a single cloud.
There’s a blue sign to our left telling us we have reached 4,630 meters. Ivy wakes and we sit down and create a little picnic while we wait for the others.
Once everyone has arrived, we start the climb down. With my fear now gone and Ivy back to her usual happy self, I really notice my surroundings. It’s perfect, as if just freshly painted and waiting to be framed. We hike through snow as we wind between mountains. Jono carries Ivy and I can hear her singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?”
We leave our footprints in soft white snow until we reach the lake. I stare down at the water, so blue it looks like paint.
We sit on rocks and admire the view while Caesar hands out cocoa leaves. With three leaves each he tells us to choose a rock. We place the leaves under our rocks, each person building the stack higher and making a silent wish before being given a handmade woven bracelet.
After lunch we begin the six-hour decline. Snow turns to a dusty, rocky trail that winds around the mountain. Ivy walks for a while until the pace leaves us too far behind and we carry her to catch up. The continuous decline nags at your knees and you find yourself in a constant battle to slow down your forward momentum.
Slowly we make it to the night’s accommodation. We gather for dinner in a wooden hut before again collapsing into our tents, happy and exhausted. The cold night air dances outside around our blue tents and we drift into sleep, too tired to notice we have no pillows.
Last week I lost my wallet. I put it on top of my vehicle after realizing the keys were locked inside and my daughter was growing heavy on my hip.
Apparently, once inside the vehicle I drove away with the wallet and my daughter’s new shoes still outside. Really, no one but me actually cares about this but anyone who has ever lost their wallet knows what a pain in the ass it is to replace your bank cards, driver’s license and whatever else you had stashed away in there.
Anyone who has done this while traveling knows what a double pain it is.
A few days after donating my wallet to the highway, I am at the bank requesting a new bankcard. I am on the road and I need cash. The teller informs me she will post one out to me. I tell her this won’t be possible because I don’t have an address.
“Well, where do you reside?”
“Right now? In your parking lot.”
She looks at me for a minute and I know she is trying to work out if I’m drunk.
“Where do you live?”
She speaks slower and emphasizes the word reside. She thinks the problem is with my vocabulary.
“I live in a school bus. It’s outside.”
Now she’s focused on my baby playing happily in her stroller. I think she wants to call for help and I’m watching her hands to see if they reach for the secret security button. I know it’s there because I see it in movies.
I finally give up and withdraw some cash over the counter using my passport as my only remaining form of identification.
The next day, I have the same conversation with my new chiropractor. He tells me I need to come back tomorrow, but I tell him I’ll be out of town.
“Where do you live?”
Here we go again.
“In a school bus.”
“A yellow one?”
“Yes.” I don’t see how this is relevant.
“Was that your baby I saw earlier?”
“Yes. She also lives in the school bus.”
I have always had trouble being an adult. I didn’t want to grow up because I was having too much fun. Adulthood to me looked like doing a job I didn’t like, to pay bills for things I didn’t need, so I wouldn’t be able to do the things I liked, because I didn’t have the time to do them.
Adulthood sounded like saying no over and over and I wanted to say yes.
I didn’t get it. So I quit. I don’t adult.
I bought a school bus, transformed it into a nursery on wheels for my daughter and started driving around Canada. Right now we are lucky enough to be visiting old friends in Whistler. In a few days, we’ll start driving again. Where? Who knows? We’ll do what we like.
Legally, I have been an adult for almost half my life now. Mentally, I’m not quite sure where I’m at but I really like it here in Neverland. I don’t want to grow up.
If anyone finds my wallet, I’d love it back (even empty) as it was a gift from Mum on a trip to New York.
You can keep the “real world” though, because I really don’t want it.
This morning we decided to ditch our hotel, buy a $27 tent from Walmart and hike out into the wilderness.
“I’m going to write a blog about how to camp with a baby,” said me.
“That’s nice,” said Jono.
And off we went.
But as it turns out, I am not going to tell you how to camp with a baby, I am going to tell you how NOT to camp with a baby.
Of all the times we’ve done it, and nailed it, today was not one of them. Today was an epic fail.
But I am going to lay it out bare for you, because I’m not going to pretend traveling with a baby is always easy.
So here you go. Welcome to the shit show.
I love hiking and I love camping. But camping – not glamping.
I never really understood glamping. If you want all the comforts of a hotel, stay in a hotel. Why spend hours dragging all the contents from inside outside only to then spend hours dragging the items from outside back inside?
You’re not really camping. You are staying in a hotel with no walls. But hey, each to their own.
When I camp, I camp basic. Just a tent, a sleeping bag and a pillow if I remember it. I’m not messing around with blow up mattresses, air beds or any of that crap. If I want a bed, I’ll stay home. I also usually only take ridiculous food like snacks or sausages that I can stab on a stick from the ground and hold over a fire. Because camping.
But babies don’t do basic. So I also purchased a gas stove to heat baby bottles while living off the land, and remembered appropriate bedding so she would be comfortable, and it was time to go.
I asked Jono if he wanted to check the stove before we left incase it didn’t work.
“Well then I’d just build a fire.” Ok, caveman. So we go.
We drive two hours along the amazing Hawaiian coast to the Pololu Valley. Upon arriving we discover the lid has come off the water bottle, it’s leaked all through the car and we are down to enough water for Ivy only.
This was sign number one but we missed it.
We hike 45 minutes down into the valley, tip toe across rocks being beaten by Hawaii sized waves, trample deep into the woods and pick a spot for our tent.
It looks like Mother Nature couldn’t decide exactly what she wanted to paint, so she painted it all.
A black sand beach being greeted by giant waves, mountains, a valley and a lush rainforest all tucked in gently and surrounded by silent woodlands. It looks like hobbits live here.
Once our home for the night is made, we hike a little further, play by the ocean for a while and then head back to the tent.
I squish a mosquito that lands on Ivy’s head and I cover her in more baby bug spray.
Jono suddenly informs me of a Dengue fever outbreak.
I feel like the waves just grew into a tsumani and knocked me flat.
“Didn’t you see the warning signs?”
And now I’m freaking out and staring at Ivy like she’s going to fall violently ill any second.
“You booked the health insurance right?”
“I thought you did.”
Ivy is hungry. We’ll feed her and then deal with this, except the stove doesn’t work.
I am scanning the air for bugs like a crazy person while Jono has returned to his caveman instincts and is trying to start a fire.
I lock Ivy in the tent and sit in front of her like a ninja who is going to karate chop any mosquito that tries to fly past me.
I think all Canadians have lumberjack blood. He reappears with a box full of wood – I don’t know where he found a box – and builds a fire and heats a bottle.
While the bottle is boiling, we are discussing if it is best to head home.
“Ok, so we don’t need this anymore.”
Jono goes to throw away my new pan set because it’s easier than packing it away and he’s mad he spilt most of our remaining water.
“Hey, keep that.”
We are going camping again tomorrow and we’ll need it.
“Laura, I’ll give you $7.”
“Would that be $7 USD or Canadian? Because there’s a differ…”
He picks up the pot and it’s burning hot. Weird because it has been boiling water on an open fire. He burns himself, lights his temper and throws the pan into the air.
I’m really not getting my $7 or my pan set.
We’re still deciding whether it’s a good idea to gamble with mosquitos and the fire. The sky looks heavy. If it rains we can’t heat a bottle and Ivy goes hungry.
Once night falls we can’t leave. Our $3 flashlights are not going to lead us back out.
So here we are, deep in the woods with infested mosquitos, no health insurance, a gamble it won’t rain so we can feed Ives because the stove is broken, and our confidence is slowly deflating.
We decide the parental thing to do would be leave and Jono begins adjusting the straps on the baby carrier. Suddenly he slips, his fist goes flying into the air and comes into direct contact with my face.
We have a burnt hand and a black eye. We need to get the fuck out of here.
So we hike back up and out of the valley.
About 45 minutes later, we’re back at the top. I’m struggling to take in air, everything is heavy. My chest burns and my legs ache. I can’t believe I missed a warning sign but I still can’t find it.
“Where’s the warning sign?”
“What?” Jono is preoccupied with Ives.
“The sign that warns about Dengue fever. I want to read it, where is it?”
“Oh it’s not here. It’s on the other side of Hawaii. Where we went on the first day.”
“On. The. Other. Side?”
Now I am back in the comfort of my hotel, a big fat hypocrite with an American sized wine and American sized McDonalds.
Because bigger really is better.
Come with us x
If I could capture these emotions right now I would bottle them. I’d sort them into one hundred tiny jars and keep them stored with labels so I could select the right one at any given time. “Excitement, happiness, fear, sadness, overwhelmed, grateful.” The categories […]