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Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Red Valley, Peru Roberta Fregolent

When climbing to new heights means conquering a fear. 

Volunteering abroad also means discovering the beauties and culture of a new country. I did not want to miss any chance to do that. That's why a couple of the volunteers I work with and I decided to trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountain from Cusco city.

There was just one problem: I have a fear of heights, which prevents my body from moving when I am close to a mountain edge or in similar situations. (I am like one of those buskers you see posing as frozen statues in town squares—except no one is giving me a dollar.) 

When we got to the top of the mountain where our trek was starting, we were given helmets and mountain biking body armours. While my two friends were already speeding up with toothy smiles, I was terrified. But there was nothing else for me to do, except get on my bike. I went slowly down the hill, letting everything pass me. Stopping to adjust my bike, I couldn't help but notice how breathtaking the mountain view around me was—and how unreasonably afraid I was. I jumped back on the saddle and continued down the mountain. I think an actual grandmother passed me on the next section.

My next challenge during the trip was throwing myself down a zip line. Due to a party the night before, I was too tired to even realize how high up the launch pad was before the guide shot me through the air. I can't say that the ride wasn't scary—but it gave me a great sense of achievement for pushing my personal limits. 

I can't say that the ride wasn't scary—but it gave me a great sense of achievement for pushing my personal limits.

When we started walking to get to Machu Picchu, I had difficulties to jumping across the bridge planks; the only thing I could see were the rocks of the running river underneath. However my travel companions gave me their hand to help me cross. They helped me forget about my anxiety and control it, all while encouraging me to keep going. They helped me understand that the physical struggle and inconveniences of a hard walk in an exotic country are worth the incredible feeling that only reaching the top of a mountain and seeing Machu Picchu can give you.

Thanks to my two adventure partners I pushed myself to try things that I would not have done by myself. Before the trip, we didn't know a lot about each other. We have very different personalities and come from different backgrounds. But together, we overcome all the challenges we encountered, big and small.  

Looking back, we are still laughing at that time when we drank herbs tequila thinking that it was herbal tea. Or again when they took a happy picture of me with thumbs-up in front of a plate that would give me food poisoning on the way to Rainbow Mountain. The trip brought us closer together. Now that we're back to volunteering, we go to the office and school with a different spirit.

Unfortunately, our paths will soon split as our futures are meant to be in different countries. However this experience will always be part of our lives. Because most of the time the people you travel with are those that fill the pages of your journey diary.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Roberta Fregolent

Roberta Fregolent is volunteering with the NGO Helping Overcome Obstacles in Peru, in the city of Arequipa. As a Programme Assistant she helps develop their Educational, Health and Social Development projects for disadvantaged children and women.

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