Dear Friends and Families,
As many of you know, we have been in Peru for the last few weeks, celebrating life, making many ceremonies and filling up our souls with the amazing magic of the Andes. It was a most spectacular journey and we are feeling so blessed that we can return home to this beautiful land we call Central Oregon. Truly, we’ve come from one paradise back to another!
We have so many stories to share and we actually spent most of the journey home recapitulating our time in Peru, officially making it our longest ever ‘story of the day.’ One stood out, however, as perhaps the most pertinent for our Wildheart work. This was because we were placed in a situation that forced us to practice what we teach: Emergency Survival.
It all began with our sincere desire to visit one of the strangest places in Peru. It is a destination that many attempt to reach, but many also miss due to random happen stance or seemingly bizarre interference from the universe. With all of the allure and intrigue surrounding this place, we had hoped, if not expected, at least some adversity to meet us. And meet us it did.
The initial travel by taxi and bus to get to a small town near the site was nothing outside of ordinary travel for Peru: everybody tells you a different bus schedule, anyone is willing to take you themselves for the right price, and somehow you end up where you want to be. We slept in the small town for the night, and woke up early in the morning to meet our porters (two donkeys) to take us up the mountain. As a bit of background, we traveled from sea level to over 11,000 feet in less than 6 hours, and still had to climb another several thousand by foot to get to the top of the mountain. Put another way, it felt like we were missing a lung and a half, the air was so thin.
This is when things started to get weird. Despite arranging it the previous night, we were informed in the morning that there were no donkeys to take our stuff. This was terribly unfortunate, as we had not packed light, knowing this was the only few days of our trip that we’d be camping. After a bit of hustle by the towns folk, a lady who must have been in her 80s came down the road with one donkey. We packed what we could on the four legged friend and carried the rest on our backs, which totaled about 60lbs for me and two heavy day packs for Amara. Despite her age, the woman was some kind of freak of nature and was seemingly unaware of the reality of inclines and slopes. She maintained a grueling pace up the mountain and refused to rest or wait for the lagging gringos (white people) behind her, save one time to talk to a passing acquaintance and another to go to the bathroom. Occasionally she would glance behind at us and mutter something in quechua, then turn without emotion and keep walking. Hours and hours later, I felt my body cursing me and threatening to vomit my lungs out my mouth if I didn’t stop (this was not a thought, but a feeling. Conscious thought had long been abandoned, as it required far too much energy to maintain). By some miracle, we reached our destination at the top and collapsed in relief. Our painfully fit grandma unloaded the donkey and said she’d be back in four days to get us, at 7 in the morning, no less. She disappeared in a matter of seconds and we were alone on the top a mountain in Nowhere, Peru.
With no food in our systems (we didn’t have time to eat that morning) I quickly began preparing some rice and canned fish, ignoring the onslaught of bodily pain that was tightening its grip on my awareness. And this is when it all came apart. As Amara was setting up camp and I was helping make the area look nice, she noticed our stove was melting. I rushed over to investigate and tried to turn it off which ended it the gas can exploding gas everywhere (thankfully, I had the sense to snuff the flame out first). Amara and I ran for it and managed to escape the flying can of gas without harming ourselves. Our largest gas can was totally done. On the plus side, we had a second smaller can and another stove. Lucky us! Unluckily, however, that one malfunctioned immediately and we replayed the exploding scene over again. Super bummer, as I like to say.
Now we were way up on a mountain, all alone for four days, with only a little fruit, a couple cans of fish, raw green beans, two plantains, and tons of uncooked rice. Effectively, we had enough food to make it through two or three meals without fire to cook, and then we are looking at eating raw rice and raw plantain. Yuck.
So, we went through our options. It was just like during class when we do our survival days. We played out every scenario we could think of: hiking down the next day and calling it a wash (hopefully taking the right turns in the trail on the way down and not getting lost), rationing our food and fasting for much of the time but still enjoying the heck out of our location, eating raw rice and seeing how it went, etc. I then spent several hours trying to make a makeshift rocket stove out of some cans I found laying around and some extra foil we had. It was very hopeful and lifted our spirits, but in the end, the rain, fog, wet sticks and wind dampened any attempts at the stove functioning correctly. We finally munched on some fruit and fish and hit the sack. I might mention here that the sunset this night was perhaps the most incredible I have ever seen.
We finally settled on a plan of rationing our food and staying the course, as we both knew we wouldn’t starve in the four days, and fire was still a possibility with predictable sunshine in the early mornings. We slept in late the next morning, more out of necessity for life after the previous day, rather than laziness. Fire didn’t happen that morning as the rain and fog moved in early. We did collect sticks and placed them in our shelter, to at least give them a chance to shed a little moisture during the day. I also took to splitting the larger pieces with our kitchen knife, as it was the only sharp thing we had to split wood and larger pieces didn’t stand a chance of burning in this foggy, wet climate. On the third day, I got up very early and put every prayer and hope I had into getting a healthy fire going. After several failed attempts, I gave it one last shot. The flame took, and kept going with plenty of encouragement. After half an hour, I had some decent coals and was able to cook rice, green beans, and plantains before the fog rolled in. It was one of the best meals I can remember in a long time! We ate this for the rest of our meals, which were only a few, but it was a blessing that we did not take for granted.
Our porter did indeed arrive at 7 in the morning on the fourth day and she mercilessly herded us down the mountain and into town with only one break to go pee. At this point, all we could do was laugh, and cry a little because our faces and hands had third degree sunburns. In all of our blissed out survival doings we didn’t realize that sun penetrates fog with a fiery vengeance that is exponentially aggravated by elevation. So we burned. Badly. So badly, in fact, that Amara’s lips swelled to super model status and she couldn’t smile. My lips were bleeding so we covered our faces in a healthy layer of zinc-oxide and together we laugh-cried our way down the mountain, looking like sad, swollen ghosts. Somehow, it was still one of the greatest memories we’ve ever created. That’s Peru, for ya! So the moral of the story is that unexpected things can happen in nature and it’s good to have some knowledge to make informed decisions when they do happen. Another moral of the story is that challenging situations in nature build character and make great stories.
We are feeling refreshed and very excited for everything coming up this spring. We hope to see you at one of our next events. Thank you for reading about our epic adventure and there will be more stories to come, we promise.
Dreamer and Amara