That Time I Lost My Soul In The Mountains


What is life but stories, memories and forming relationships? For me, travel encompasses all those things that make our lives rich and it throws you into situations you wouldn’t have thought you would be in or people you wouldn’t have met if you stuck to one corner of the world. 

My recent trip to Peru was in short AMAZING, the longer version of my trip I would like to share through some of the stories and memories I made. 

We started our trip in Lima, a super modern city! Actually, it felt like a city from the future! My favourite part in Lima was chilling out at the beach in Miraflores with these surfing guys who we rented our boards off. One of them was studying English so he was practising his English with me and my brother Jared (my travel partner on this trip), while we tried out our broken Spanish. One time, I even stepped on a sea anemone and one of the guys sat there and carefully pulled out each spike for me. 

Huacachina was also amazing! The sand buggies were one of the most intense fun rides I’ve had, vertically roaring down sand dunes! 

In Lima on our last day, we lost half our clothes we bought with us. We put our clothes in the laundry and the lady told us to come back at 6:30 pm and then we were out all day, got hopelessly lost for a while and by the time we got back, the shop was closed and we had an early flight the next day. So goodbye to half my clothes! Jared was always trying to convince me to pack fewer clothes (have 53 shirts at home) and here fate was testing me! We had to buy more clothes at our next stop in Cusco including undies (lost all my undies) and bras, in broken Spanish which was an interesting experience! 

Cusco felt like stepping back in time! We went from Lima, a super modern city filled with gardens and skyscrapers to Cusco with cobblestone roads, lots of twisting narrow streets and old buildings everywhere! I love Cusco! So much life around every corner, walking down the street is an adventure in itself! That’s one of the things I really love about travelling, all the different little details. 

We stayed in Cusco two nights to acclimatise (I had mild altitude sickness with constant headaches) and then off on the Salkantay Trek with our final destination Machu Picchu. The trek was awesome! (Yes I know I overuse this word but…it was awesome!). There’s just something different in simply walking, eating, taking in the landscape and people around you, sleeping and then doing it all again. The trek though mind you, was not easy. I struggled a bit with altitude sickness on the first day. We walked up this big hill to get to Humantay Lake and it felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest! I was also not the fittest in the group (by that I mean the most unfit). So when our guide Freddy suggested that I take the horse up the mountain the next day instead of walking, it did not take long to convince me! 

Riding a horse up the mountain (my horse was called contour, I loved him) was one of the best things I have ever done, absolutely loved it! I have always loved horse riding, I just don’t do it often (mainly because it’s expensive), but it was so damn peaceful sitting on that horse and just taking in the mountain backdrop around me. Did we get some dirty looks as we approached the Salkantay pass as we overtook people dying of lung collapse? Yes. But was it worth it anyway? 100%

The next part of the trek was downhill with lots of uneven stones. I have been doing this trek in my mums hiking shoes, which travelled around the world, on her one year honeymoon with my dad. So these hiking shoes are about 30 years old but I wanted to take them halfway around the world with me! #oldschool

However, this downhill trek on rocks was just too much for these poor old hiking shoes and they fell apart. It was raining at the time and I said to Jared “One foot feels really wet”. I had a look and the entire sole of one of the boots was gone! And that my friends, was the day I lost my sole in the mountains! Though truth be told, I feel like I have given myself away to the mountains long ago…

After trying to fix the boots with duct tape and shoelace they just kept falling to pieces, I had to accept that they were done. A worthy place for them to end though I think, in the mountains on the way to Machu Picchu. I then finished the rest of the trek in crocs, in true Aussie style! 

The rest of the trek, I borrowed a spare pair of shoes and then eventually bought my own pair in Machu Picchu city (Aguas Calientes). Lending me his spare shoes is just one example of many of the kindness in the mountains by the people around me. Our group and guide Freddy were amazing! Everyone was so laidback, easygoing, fun and we genuinely cared for each other. When my shoes broke, almost every single person asked how I was. When one of us got sick from food poisoning, everyone was trying to help. I may never see any of them again but I will never forget the fun times we had! 

Our guide Freddy was also awesome! I hung out with him a lot because I was almost always at the back. It wasn’t long before he became a good friend and my Peru brother. We would talk away the hours about everything from his culture and beliefs to long-winded Peruvian jokes and my very short, bad Aussie jokes! We joked around a lot and he would always yell out PUMA! For the puma to come get me after I told him about my desire to get a selfie with a puma! Me and Freddy, as well as our whole group, shared many funny moments. We met a dog which I decided to call Wally and Freddy thought I said Bolly (which means balls in his language) which he thought was absolutely hilarious and told everyone! Another ongoing funny moment was with me and Nadine (Swiss lady) in our group, she found me and my brother, especially me, really hard to understand with our Aussie slang and dialect, and I sometimes found her hard to understand. We would always be like “I don’t understand” and laugh! 

Our trip on the Salkantay Trek with all these awesome people ended at Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was magical! We got up at 4 am to be the first ones up there. I remember rushing up with about 20 or so poncho people (it was raining) and being on top of this peak, surrounded by mountains. It was super misty at first, but once it cleared, it honestly took your breath away! I loved learning about its history through Freddy and walking among the ruins, it is one of those moments you never forget! 

After finishing the trek we were exhausted but once we recovered a little, we did a day trip to Rainbow Mountain. So, Rainbow Mountain in all the pictures looks beautiful and sunny but when we showed up at 6 am in the morning it was completely covered in snow. I was not prepared! I had light cargo pants, a jacket and a rain jacket, a beanie but no gloves. In short, we were freezing our asses off! Or as our guide, Carlos kept saying ‘mucho Frio’ (very cold). It felt like an arctic wasteland as we trekked through the snow. We stopped on the way to share coca tea with our guide from a local and bought some much-needed gloves! When we finally arrived at the top, the sun finally came out and you could see some colours of the rainbow mountain! It was incredibly beautiful, thank you to Pachamama (the Quechua word for ‘Mother Nature’) our guide Carlos kept saying! 

Arequipa was our next stop, the city Jared would stay in for a month to do his TEFL course. The city to me was big, loud and like most cities full of life! We were lucky enough to stumble across a free live carnival in the main plaza along with some awesome buskers! 

As well as exploring the city we also ventured out to Colca Canyon. The canyon is huge, second deepest in the world! And I walked down it and back up again so in short, super hard! But I’m so glad I did it! I remember that first day after walking all day we got to the camp exhausted but soon rustled up the effort to jump in the pool and play the ‘find the coin game’ for hours!

It’s funny all those little moments that you don’t plan, that can stay with you forever! Playing in the pool for hours is one of them, as well as our Peru guide giving me dating advice I will never forget or walking the rest of the trek in crocs! When it comes down to it, life is all about those little moments and making those moments count, that’s why I love travelling, that’s why I will never stop living life as best as I can until my time is up. Make it count! 

Written by Jessica Styan

2 thoughts on “That Time I Lost My Soul In The Mountains

  1. helenstyan says:

    Awesome story-telling Jess, gives a great sense of your travels and why you love it so much. I had not seen some of those photos. RIP my boots!


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