4,600m above sea level
Why do we want more, when we have it ALL already?
This has been a question that I have been contemplating since late May (and probably even before that), however what happened in the week before the end of May helped crystallise my thoughts.
The 27th of May was the day Jacki and I landed back home after our twelve-day trip to Peru. We had booked our ‘bucket list’ trip way back on the 16th August 2015 through one of our clients, Keith Crockford, who runs The Bucket List Company.
Keith is owner of Rock and Rapid Adventures. His business is predominantly focused on organising and hosting global school expeditions.
The Bucket List Company was an idea formed at the Entrepreneurs Circle National Convention at the ICC in 2014, Keith had one of those lightbulb moments during a presentation by Debra Searle MBE.
Debra was a novice rower who rowed solo across the Atlantic after her then-husband, a 6ft5? top-level club oarsman, was rescued from their boat after developing an uncontrollable fear of the ocean. She continued alone and rowed 3000 miles across the Atlantic with no safety boat and with enormous risks. It should have taken them 6 weeks, but to achieve her goal, Debra ended up spending 3 ½ months at sea alone, battling against 30? waves and sharks in a 23? plywood boat.
Keith’s idea was simple; provide a similar experience to adults that his company does for school children – The Bucket List.
So that’s how we came to be in Peru trekking the Andes mountains 4600m above sea level. In the clouds. To be honest, it was a bit of a struggle for me, contributed in no small part by the following:
- Lack of Oxygen
- Freezing weather one minute then boiling hot the next. Oh, then constant heavy rain for 5 hours!
- Dehydration (I know, my fault Keith, I must listen to the experts)
- 25lb rucksack
- New walking boots
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of food
- Not being as fit as I thought I was…
Then add to this that it was last day of the football season and I had no phone signal in the Andes (how rude) and I am a Liverpool fan. Anyway…
Having one of these factors to deal with would be tough BUT ALL of them nearly pushed me over the edge. As Keith said, I was well and truly out of my comfort zone.
BUT this is the genius of putting yourself out of your comfort zone; the mental and physical challenge must be overcome, and by doing so you see the world VERY differently.
On our first day, we ascended to 4,600m in about 5 hours.
Try to picture this. Our small group is trekking the very remote Lares Trek in the Andes. This trek is famed for being extremely remote, so remote that you may not see another soul for days. The terrain is vast, windy, loose and ascends up until reaching the highest point Ipsaycocha Pass. Along this route, the only people we encounter are the local Quechuans and it was with them my question started…
After our first three hours, we see a young girl walking from the opposite direction. Remember, we are in the middle of NOWHERE, you can see for miles and miles and miles…
As she approaches, our Peruvian guide Alex explains she is probably going to the village we have just trekked from, and that this will also be where her school is. Putting this into context: it had taken us 3 HOURS to get here. And, we are fully equipped with food, water, walking poles, rucksacks, boots, hats, sunglasses and still stopping every 30 minutes for a rest. She is wearing a red dress, flip flops and a BIG smile!!
We move on and encounter a few other local Quechuans. Then, suddenly up in front of us is our temporary campsite all set up for lunch. At this point in our trek, we have no idea how the food aspect is going to work. We’re in the middle of nowhere (the scenery is reminiscent of Game of Thrones), with no water and no shops for days. We are expecting the most basic of rations. But no, there is a dining tent with our places elegantly set. Then a chef appears in his chef whites with the first of three courses; an amazing dish called Ceviche; chunks of raw fish, marinated in freshly squeezed key lime, with sliced onions, chilli peppers, salt and pepper. The main course is a chicken rice and potato ensemble with cheese and biscuits for afters. Oh, and I didn’t mention that one of our group members was a vegan – and you start to wonder – HOW is this happening – the food is as good (if not better) than we had in a top restaurant in Lima the previous days leading up to the trek.
The quality and variety continued throughout our trek – a banana flambéed in Pisco, a beautifully decorated chocolate cake, popcorn, full fried breakfasts and so on. All of this carried out on a windy mountain with a two-ring gas stove!!
With our young school girl, the local Quechuans, and our miracle chef, my mind was starting to whir.
When you are walking in the mountains, not feeling great, with miles to go, and even your underwear is soaked through, it does give you plenty of time to think. The thoughts that kept running through my mind were how much these people achieve with little or no resources. How genuinely happy they are to see us and then bestow time and gifts on us by welcoming us into their communities.
It was on this last part of the trek that I had this real soul-searching moment. We had a few hours to go to our stop, it had been constantly raining, and some of our crew were not faring well, including me. Eventually, we settle into our camp for the night and it is by these natural Thermal Springs. I have no idea how I managed to spend the next three hours in there, but it was heaven. The evening followed with our usual Michelin star meal and an early night.
The next morning upon emerging from my tent I saw this:
They were filling up the baths. No complex irrigation system, just one pipe held together with a bit of masking tape. Then propped up by some bricks, aimed at one of the baths. We debated how to construct something better. But that is my point, what they had constructed worked. They made the best out of what they already had.
Upon landing back at Heathrow, one of our team expressed their desire to become an Alpaca herder and live on a mountain, but for me, it was quite the opposite. I now wanted to get back to my environment and all the resources I already had access to and make the best of them and stop wishing for more. We waste SO much of the resources we have, the Quechuans don’t, they maximise theirs.
What a trip; Jacki and I have already booked up with Keith for Everest for 2018 to challenge us and remind us of some basic lessons.
So, when you are looking for more this month, just take a moment and think of our chef, Thermal Spa and school girl and ask yourself: are YOU fully using what you already know and have?