On a trip like this, flexibility is key - something is bound to go wrong, and the key to an enjoyable time is just rolling with it.
At 8:00 am Sunday morning (Bob's birthday) I set out out to climb El Misti (19,100 feet), an active volcano that towers over Arequipa. This endeavour would take 1 night, putting me back around 1:00 pm today. After a 3 hour bone crushing truck ride, we were at the trailhead which was approximately 12,500 feet.
El Misti is covered in volcanic ash (it's last major eruption was in 1985), so we hiked over the sand fields for three hours until we reached base camp at 16,000 feet. From here we could see the remainder of the trek - a little over 3,000 feet of hiking in 4 hours. From what I was told and what I could see with my own eyes, this is probably the easiest hike to 19,000 feet in the world.
I lay down for an afternoon nap, and when I woke up I felt awful - my stomach was doing cartwheels and was continuously cramping up. My appetite was gone.
I caught a bug somewhere in Ecuador and had been fighting it with some success over the past week - my appetite was erratic, and I had to keep drinking fluids as I was getting dehydrated. Bob caught the same bug a couple of days later, and while it was an inconvenience, it hadn't changed any of our plans. Until now.
For the next 10 hours I was hunkered in my tent trying to keep to the Golden Rule of mountaineering - never spill a drop of bodily fluid on the inside of the tent! I was successful in that endeavour, but I could not so much as sit up in the tent for fear of breaking the Golden Rule.
Morning came, and I had to tell my guide I didn't fancy risking my entire trip trying to climb one sand-encrusted volcano. El Misti 1 - David Banman 0.
The one good thing that came from this is that after another 2 hour spleen destroying 4x4 trip back to the hotel, we decided to leave Arequipa and head to Chile.
We hit the border at 5:15, checked out of Peru, checked into Chile, and by 8:20 (there is a 2 hour time change in Chile) were driving into the port town of Arica.
The difference couldn't be greater - we are now in a 1st world country, with infrastructure (and prices) to match.
Tomorrow we head to the driest place on earth, the Atacama desert, where we will continue our adventure!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain