Growing up in Missouri I have never really been to the mountains, much less hiked up one. So, when most of the students in my group said that they were organizing a day trip to Laguna Humantay, a bright blue and green lake at the bottom of a snow capped mountain, I was immediately interested. Only costing $30 for transportation, two meals, and a tour guide, it was a great deal.
We had to meet at the school at 4:30 am where the bus picked us up and we began our two-hour journey to the spot where we would eat breakfast. The drive there was so scenic, as we went through valleys, up mountains, through forests, and into small towns, I was too interested to sleep like most others. At one point, we drove through a flock of bright green parrots, and passed many wild guinea pigs on the side of the road. Eventually we got to the town where we ate breakfast, and started driving for another hour. This drive, while still very scenic, was completely on the side of mountains. This meant that for most of the drive, we were about as wide as the dirt road that a drop off to thousands of feet below. On top of that, we met up with a car at one point, one the road just wide enough for one of us, meaning our bus had to drive in reverse until there was a curve that allowed for more space to pass. I was very impressed as to how well the driver could drive in these conditions, and we eventually got to the bottom of the mountain that we would be hiking up.
It didn’t look like it would be too hard of a hike, it was only 6km and did not seem very steep. Our tour guide immediately told us that she had oxygen and coca leaves available to combat the effects of the altitude, however, since the hike started out at around 12,800 feet and ended at almost 13,800 feet. Within just a few hundred feet, you could already feel the effects of the lack of oxygen. We were already breathing way heavier than we normally would have, and we soon found that frequent breaks were necessary. However, despite what felt like the longest hike of my life, we finally made it to the lake in just under an hour and a half, which is the average time.
As soon as we crossed the last little hill and saw Laguna Humantay in the distance, all of the complaining and oxygen deprived headaches were worth it. The sparkling, bright blue water contrasted with the dark mountains covered in snow was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. We all sat at the shore of the lake and ate snacks for about thirty minutes before our tour guide said she wanted to perform an Incan ceremony with us. She has us sit in a circle, and began to tell us how sacred this area was to the Incas and taught us some of the rituals they used to do with Coca leaves to worship the land. Singing songs in Quechua, the language of the Incas, surrounded by this beautiful landscape was one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced. Every day that I spend here I fall more and more in love with Peru and all of its amazing landscapes and cultures.
Mikayla Seabaugh is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Biology and Spanish. Mikayla is spending the semester abroad with the ISA Language, Literature, and Culture program in Cusco, Peru.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.