BY BANA HATZEY
When our Global Routes Ecudaor trip began, I was most definitely nowhere near being a seasoned hiker. Nevertheless, I enjoy knowing I made it out of our three orientation hikes slightly more seasoned. The first hike was near our hostel, La Luna, and the second around Laguna Cuicocha. The last of our treks was up Mount Fuya Fuya, just outside of Otavalo. When we arrived, my eyes rolled up Fuya Fuya, only to find that the tip was lost in the saggy clouds. Gazing at this extinct volcano incurred in me a readiness to accept the challenge from the sleeping beast.
The previous two hikes were baby steps, preparing us for the four-hour uphill battle that waited for that day. The first hour we marched together. There were twenty-two of us in a single-file line. It was peaceful, with some chatter scattered through the line, but the dominant sound was the silence of self-reflection and early exhaustion. As the time passed, some group members went ahead and some took breaks. I was in the middle group, and the last few people straggled about twenty minutes behind us. Fuya Fuya became significantly steeper, and soon we were climbing on our hands and knees, grabbing onto the long grass for a boost. We lost sight of the group ahead of us, and decided to wait for the group behind us. The wind was slapping us mercilessly.
Once they caught up, we were all in a state of hilarious desperation. We thought we had made it to the top, but saw no one else from our group. We had no clue which way to go. After sitting, laughing, wailing, and taking a few pictures, we ventured on. Climbing around to the other side revealed a higher spot on the mountain, which we trotted up anxiously. There we found our friends, done with their hike, and eating their celebratory snacks. At the immediate sight of them, we crumpled to the floor, overwhelmed by victory and granola bars.
The way down Fuya Fuya was a refreshing reward. It was too steep to walk, so at first we cautiously ran down. Suddenly, someone slipped on the misty grass and started down on an accidental, yet controlled slide. It seemed like a much more fashionable way to make our way back; so, we sat and we slid, gracefully. As I cruised down the intense climb I was recently struggling with, it made me think. A considerable portion of valuable things in life that we work hard for— education, art, relationships, climbing mountains, etc.— are significantly easier to undo than to achieve. But once you put in the effort, the ride down, the fruits of your labor, should always be worth it.