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El Diablo and the Group That Could

It´s called El Diablo for a reason. Our group huffed and puffed as we climbed the daunting staircase on the third day of our trek through the breathtaking Bolivian Andes Mountains. Though the herds of mules, llamas, and sheep were some of the brightest moments, this tricky and seemingly endless climb was the highlight of my trek for different reasons.

I thought that it must have been at least 90 degrees, as I adjusted my bulky pack and charged upwards. Covered in sweat, I was perplexed as to how I was going to finish this part of our trek. I, for one, was exhausted beyond words; my hips ached, my rolled ankles screamed careful attention on each step, and a fierce pain pierced through my head. The Ibruprofen pills Mrs. St. George, or Lucia, fed me before El Diablo, along with the paltry amount of water in my Nalgene, were my only hope. I continued to climb. Step by step, stair by stair, water break by water break, we defied the expectations of our porters (wonderful Bolivians who helped us carry our meals and group gear throughout the trek). Negative thoughts ran through my head. However, the clouds dancing around the humble hills below us gave me a different mindset: El Diablo was no match for the raw beauty and wonder surrounding me. I embraced the rigor, climbing faster, thinking of how beautiful the view will be at our lunch site, how beautiful the ham and cheese sandwich that I will eat will be, how beautiful the last sip of water that I will take before I tackle the home straightaway will be. Lucia thought it best to inspire us with some music. So, as Jimmy Buffett´s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” blared on her phone, our group closed in on the site, and we defeated the villainous El Diablo. And yes, that ham and cheese sandwich was beautiful.

Now, off to Cochabamba!

-Vincent