Rosas cooked us dinner, a basic but hearty soup and spaghetti that Alex gobbled up. I, on the other hand, lost my appetite after having to pick mosquitoes and gnats out of my food before each bite. We ate outdoors at a wooden picnic table, by the light of a makeshift lantern, a candle stuck in the bottom half of a plastic soda bottle. The light was essential so that we could see our food, but it only attracted more insects to the table.
After making plans to get up early the next morning for the final 3,300-foot ascent to Cabanaconde, we retired to our hut to pack and sleep. Alex started rifling through some of our clothes on the bed, and there, crawling on my sweater, was a small but ferocious-looking scorpion, taking refuge in the folds of my fleece.
Alex took the closest thing to hand, one of my sandals, and squished it, but the episode didn’t leave us excited about sleeping that night. We bundled up from head to toe so as to prevent creepy-crawlies from getting in where they didn’t belong, and Alex took his flashlight to bed. We huddled together as far from the wall as possible, and woke up periodically to make sure that we were still scorpion-free. Maybe we were overreacting, but 4:45 a.m. couldn’t come soon enough.
At the sound of my iPhone alarm, we bolted out of bed, checked our boots for bugs (all clear) and dressed feverishly in the dark. Armed with headlamps and flashlights and determined to leave behind what should have been a tropical paradise but more closely resembled a bad dream, we powered up the side of the canyon. We hiked along rocky switchbacks, taking it slow until, three hours and 15 minutes later, we arrived at the top to sweeping views of everywhere we’d just been. We’d made it to the other side of the canyon and back again.
After three days of hiking, we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we brought Rosas to our hotel and treated him and another hiker whom we’d befriended along the way to breakfast. The boys all drank beers at 10 a.m. and toasted our successful journey. (I toasted with much-needed coffee.)
As we ate, we gazed out at the Huaruro waterfall, once again just a tiny white speck in the green canyon. We were a little buzzed, totally exhausted and in desperate need of a hot shower. But we’d accomplished our goal of meeting the waterfall face to face — and even managed to surprise ourselves along the way.
Righthand, a former Post staffer, is a freelance writer currently based in Wyoming.