Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 5: Camp III to Camp IV

I write this at Camp IV, within sight of the Pyramid. Seven hours of long, arduous trekking and we can finally see our goal! Today's terrain was markedly different from the dense jungle we had walked through the past three days. Now we are traveling through swampy marshland. There was more mud today than all the previous days combined. At one point I even sunk in to my thighs...it felt like quicksand and for a couple minutes I thought I wouldn't be able to extract myself.

We walked ahead of the guides today. For some reason they went at a very slow pace. When the clouds cleared above the ridge we were traversing, we saw a massive rocky ridge several miles distant. Until the guides arrived we mistakenly believed  it to be Carstensz. In reality, Carstensz is behind this ridge. Not the best news to hear after a long day of trekking.

I spent most of the day with the porters. We have 28 porters not including the two babies that are along with their parents (and are carried on their mothers' shoulders throughout). The porters are incredibly impressive. They manage to walk at the same pace as us while carrying 50 pounds in bags slung across their forehead. Moreover, almost all are barefoot and not clothed in adequate attire. On days like today, when it rained nearly nonstop, I don't know how they do it. I've noticed some of them wiping or swatting themselves with a certain leaf. Apparently this is a form of traditional medicine that keeps illness at bay. I'm keen to try it myself! I have been slightly horrified by some of the wounds that the porters have. There is one young girl who has massive, festering wounds on both legs. Since they do not have any access to medical care, it's a wonder that it hasn't seemed to impede her movement or abilities.

Dinner on the trek is a non-affair. It usually rains in the afternoon and evening so leaving the tent to eat is not something you look forward to. Furthermore, just getting to the kitchen tent involves crossing a sea of mud and majorly dirtying your feet. Then, the stools just sink into the mud leaving you squatting next to the camp table shoveling food into your mouth as quickly as you can. Then it's back to the tent to clean the feet (for the billionth time) and crash on your damp sleeping bag. Why does anyone do this?

Anyway I'm pretty exhausted from four long days of trekking. I'm hoping (perhaps unrealistically) that tomorrow will be shorter and dryer. A boy can dream...

Can you call it "rock climbing" if there are just tree roots and no rocks...?

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