camino inca: el segundo día

Wakeup time, 5:30am.
I could not boast effortless sleep but upon being greeted by the mind blowing view just beyond my tent, I felt the new lease on life and new energies that were promised to me.
Erick would predictably greet me with a good morning "hola chica" as I unzipped my tent; a hot towel and a warm beverage offered before I had my boots on.
Quiet but excited breakfast...
We'd all made it through the night, we were all healthy enough to continue.
...and we began our ascent again.
The collective chill left over from the night before quickly gave over to sweaty heat. We climbed and we climbed and we climbed. Erick all the while gratuitously congratulating us and reminding us to drink water. When we finally arrived to the infamous and aptly named Dead Woman's Pass, we toasted what would be our highest summit with capfuls of rum: one for us, one for Pachamama. We sat around for a short while, sharing candy and snacks and taking stupid photos. The most minimal amount of alcohol going to our heads; delirious from the accomplishment, high altitude, and new friendships.
We headed down, down, down until lunch. The rain would come and then go and then come back around again. But the fog would always seem to lift at the perfect moments; the views still taking our breath away. A brief stop at an archeological site, allegedly a tambo, or hotel of sorts. We all sat on the ground in dark ponchos as the rain poured.
Up we went again, and then down further over slippery Incan steps, through caves and forest and rock face and jungle.
Our goal was ultimately the third pass. Up, down, fog, rain. Sometimes a few steps ahead and alone, more often accompanied by conversation.
It was cold, it was wet, it was difficult, it was dangerous. But we were happy.
 Another site, another spirited presentation by Erick. The rain was pouring but my mood was higher than ever. Some people made their way to camp early, a few of us stayed behind. Surrounded by clouds, pure white all around. Until another view opened up to us just before we made it back to camp. We said it again and again: how lucky we felt. To be where we were, right then, together.
Arrival to our camp, just a few other groups at nearby sites. Darren would convince me to take the equivalent of a shower in a nearby outdoor sink. We'd finally meet all the porters, gather for guacamole and more popcorn and finish off the morning's rum before dinner; happy hour under a tent as the rain continued to pour.
Another delicious meal, more scary stories to keep me terrified in the night.
These were some of the very best days of my life and I already knew it.