So today was the day that would see us finally move into the mountains. And as enjoyable an adventure as the last four days had been, we were all I think ready for it. The last couple of days had however seen a bit of altitude and a good bit of walking, but we were here for the mountains after all.
We breakfasted at the EcoLodge in Copacabana for the second and last time at 7.30, and after a bit of a delay for the bus to get to us due to traffic (today was Independence Day in Bolivia) we were on our way not long after 9.
The bus took us back about two thirds of the way to La Paz, and back over the little ferry crossing over the inlet of Titicaca. Then after a fascinating stop at a boat builder’s cottage who had been involved in the Kontiki expeditions, we turned off towards the Andes and our destination of Condiriri where Base Camp was situated.
The road to Condoriri was just a dirt track, very bumpy and with virtually no passing places, so it was just as well in the hour or so that we were on it that we only met one other vehicle. The coach driver actually drove quicker on this road than he had on the main highway, making the ups and downs literally lift you off your chair at times.
We stopped in the end in more or less the middle of nowhere, although there was one farm building nearby which seemed to be occupied. We were at 4,417m already, and we were to stop here (not at Base Camp as I’d thought before) for the rest of the day and night. We first ate lunch and then helped pitch tents next to a herd of llamas and alpacas (I’m still at times struggling to tell the difference between the two creatures, although I know that Llamas have longer necks, and that alpacas have more rounded backs).
After this we were free to take it easy if we wished, but everyone wanted to go and walk. Each side of the camp were ridges about 250m high, and so we all strolled up in various combinations, very much ‘pole pole’ style, as this took us to 4,650m (15,300 feet), much higher than we’d been so far.
When we got back down I had a bit of a mild headache so chose to just have a lie down in the tent, which was quite nice to just relax. By the time dinnertime came at 7pm it was completely pitch black, a reminder of the fact that despite the elevation, we were in the tropics after all, and so 12 hours of daylight and darkness are the year round constant. It was also now bitterly cold, and so two jackets, one down, hats etc were necessary to stay warm.
By the end of a three course dinner, when we got to meet our new guides, and had a briefing on what to expect over the next few days by Olan, it was time for an early night at about 8.30. Getting into a sleeping bag for the first time on the trip as in a way nice. It was the first time I’d been back in my bag since Camp Cholera in Argentina in January and my unsuccessful attempt to summit Aconcagua. I just hoped that this trip was going to give me some success, but of course I also just wanted it to be a good trip, be enjoyable, and to return home safely. Anything else is always a bonus.
Tomorrow we would need to have the tents down and our bags packed by 8am to trek to Base Camp at 4,700m, and our first summit attempt would be the day after that. It was all of a sudden getting very serious.