Lead into the dry desert, white sand dunes as far as the eye could see. Hot, slow and hazy, time floats by lazily.
And then, Haucachina, a small village, surrounding an oasis, not an apparition, instead nourishing, promising and inviting; palm trees glistening among the blue-green lagoon.
Laying by the pool with the sand dunes in sight, I thought to myself, in the heart of what seems harsh and fierce, there is promise and life. Like an artichoke, peeling away the layers to find this heart, once there it becomes self-sustaining.
Sand-boarding and boogying down the dunes, I felt like I was flying, the sunset in this landscape was breathtaking…
I traveled by bus from Haucachina to Arequipa. The old Baroque architecture set against the snow-capped Andes was beyond gorgeous.
Passing on the guided 2d/1n tour, I decided to undertake this specific hike alone, having heard it was easily do-able.
Heading deep into the Andes, I departed the bus at Cobanaconde at 3:30 pm, with a determined mindset.
Enthusiastically, I told myself
“I have to get my nature fix going and want to try it alone. I am going trekking down this mountain…to the oasis that lies at the bottom.”
I stopped inside a store to get my aqua and placed it in my 30 pound backpack. I was informed by the lovely lady at the store that it took 2 hours to get down.
“Solo?” The senorita asked, with a confused look
“Si” I answered back, innocently
I was left in the dark on any more info about it.
Excitedly venturing into the unknown, I told myself
“I know I can do this”
As I was heading down, others were coming up looking at me rather, um, curiously.
I was keeping a vigil on the sun as it was dipping lower, trekking down the rocky, dry desert mountain. I could see the oasis down at the bottom, a speck of blue…
Far, Far, Far from where I was.
“Ok, it’s alright, keep going, there is nowhere but down from here” I told myself. “My intuition directed this and I listened. I take full responsibility for what I create.”
Zigzagging down the steepest hike I have ever done, I kept thinking to “This is a test, of what I am unsure, but I will pass.”
I was half way down when the sun started setting behind the mountains.
I told myself,
“I know I have been steered correctly.
Please, please, please let there be enough light to make my way down.”
I kept going.
It was getting darker, the oasis far, far away was no longer in my sight.
Twilight was fading, I was alone on the mountain.
I thought to myself “Should I just sleep here for the night.”
“No keep going” I felt in my heart.
I brought out my headlamp that was flickering and with a sense of fear-laced knowing, I kept going. I started stumbling in my footing.
“Holy shit, what am I doing, why am I doing this?
Am I an idiot?
Am I going to die here on this mountain?”
I sat down and started crying, second guessing every decision I have made, if I can’t rely on my guidance what can I rely upon?
I saw eyes of an animal looking at me as I turned my head. Coyotes howling, I cried out,
“OH MY GOD, help me!”
And from there I don’t remember a thing. As if some force came over me.
All of a sudden I was walking through the lushly planted trees.
Miraculously, I was at the oasis, so far from where I had been.
I heard voices and saw people eating. Tears came again to my eyes, this time in gratitude and disbelief.
I can’t believe I just did that, this was a test.
A test of perseverance and dedication.
I learned that even in the darkest of dark, there will be a light, always guiding.
As for the Oasis, it was electricity free with darkness obscuring the view, I awoke in the morning to see stunning beauty. Everyone else staying left at 5 in the morning, lucky me I had the place all to my adventuring. I enjoyed the day by basking in the beauty of where I was. I swam lazily in the mountain water pool that was emptied and filled daily.
Down in Colca Canyon, Sangalle Oasis was a dream. The mountains, massive beyond belief, were living and breathing with a flowing river in between.
Afterwards, I was duly informed that Colca Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world. It is twice the size of the Grand Canyon, two people died doing what I did recently.
The hike back up was just as trying, there were 3 others with me, one Scot and 2 Brits.
We became one another’s saving grace. Russ I had already met on the bus and the four of us made our way up. It was more difficult than anything I have physically undertaken, the desert sun was hot, the 30 pound bag I was carrying started to feel heavier and heavier.
This was no joke.
We were all hurting. It took 3 hours of stopping for water, trying to make it before it got dark. Half way up I couldn’t see the end, looking up at the looming mountain, it seemed impossibly daunting.
And I again reinforced within…
Keep going, keep going, take responsibility for what you create.
My faith in myself and my ability was tested enormously.
Sometimes, the road may feel like one can’t go any further, in a perilous place, and perhaps foolish, this is when an epiphany occurs.
The understanding was that I was always taken care of as long as I ask. There is always an oasis to surrender into, if I don’t go for it, I won’t ever find it.
Legendary and by far the most physical exertion I have ever undertaken. One that became an internal test, strengthening me in my ability, restructuring a belief system that used to be based on insufficiency..
I now know I can undertake