Butt Naked at Sixteen Thousand Feet

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I don’t often feature guests on my blog, but when fellow Aussie Will Jackson from The Bearded Wanderer sent me this hilarious piece, how could I possibly say no? 

As I shuffled my seemingly lead-filled boots up the scree slope – lungs squealing for oxygen, feet blistered, back aching, knees twingeing – I decided the payoff for all this pain had to be more than just a pretty view.

It was day five of our eight-day 170km jaunt around Peru’s Huayhuash Cordilleara, widely regarded as one of the world’s great treks, right up there with Nepal’s Annapurna circuit, and I was rooted.

We had trudged about 100km by this point and were already well desensitised to the jaw-droppingly spectacular views that had, at first, left us in breathless awe.

“Oh, another series of razor sharp ice-covered peaks stabbing spear-like into the sky like an army of titans challenging the gods? Whatevs.”

Up and down, up and down we had walked, rarely straying below about 4,300m above sea level. I’ve no idea how many kilometres of elevation we climbed and descended and then climbed again, but it was a shitload.

We had already crossed two passes at 4785m and 4950m that day and around mid-afternoon were heading up to the reputedly spectacular 5050m-high Mirador San Antonio.

After about an hour of agony the 75 degree slope still gave no hint of how far there was to go. Every time it looked like we were nearing the top, a new horizon was revealed. And the loose pebbly surface made it feel like we were walking up a bastardly-big sand dune.

The seemingly-endless grind had left me muttering to myself like a booze-addled tramp.

“Stupid shiting hill. Grrrrr. Freakin’ lack of oxygen. Aaagh. Sunnavabitch cold. Brrrr.”

To distract myself from the ordeal I tried to think of what would make a good memento to make it worthwhile.

It was unlikely there would be anything but rocks up the top to take home as a physical souvenir so a photo was the only real option, but I didn’t just want one of the view. Every other schmuck who had been up there would have the same pic.

We had already done plenty of amusingly posed snaps during the walk – mainly shots of us leaping into the air in heroic poses against the stunning cerulean sky. For something truly memorable I’d have to kick it up a notch.

And then I had a thought…

Australians have a long and proud history of what we call “nuding up”. Usually we do it at sporting events but occasionally we like to flash some flesh outside of the stadium, like at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall or more recently Rhianna’s “flying tour bus“. Mass nude photographer Spencer Tunic always gets his best turnouts Down Under. We even have an annual naked foot race at a popular music festival.

I decided that was it. When I reached the top I’d get into some high-altitude nudity. I’d make my nation proud.

Let me be clear, I’m no naturist and I’d never done anything like it before. I’m deeply ashamed of my hairy, pudgy body and jelly-like bottom and will normally only let people get a peek on condition that I get to put my penis in them.

But, you know what they say, travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone. And there are few things more uncomfortable than stripping on top of a mountain range with a sub-zero wind whipping your naked flesh while your fellow trekkers giggle and point.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity – and several moments when my heart was pounding so hard I thought I might black out – I made it to the mirador.

The view from the rocky saddle was pretty freaking great. Looming over a wending river valley and stunningly beautiful azure lake far, far, far below was the monstrous 6,344m Siula Grande, made famous by the book and documentary Touching the Void.

It would make a fine backdrop to my bare ass.

I realised I needed an accomplice in order to pull off this stunt. A one-handed Facebook profile-style selfie really wasn’t going to cut it and I didn’t want to have my arse turned into a raspberry iceblock while I set the camera on timer.

Marion, a German lass I’d befriended in Huaraz a few days before the trek seemed to have a sense of humour, so I worded her up.

“Hey, once everyone else leaves could you hang around for a bit. I’m going to get naked and need someone to take a couple of photos?”

She grinned and agreed. Perv.

With the plan in place, I took a couple of quick G-rated snaps and then huddled out of the wind against a rocky cliff face.

For about 10 minutes the group milled around taking photos and admiring the view but eventually the wind chill became too much and in ones and twos they started back down the hill.

Meanwhile, I was having second thoughts about the whole thing. It was cold with all my clothes on as the wind cut through all five layers. What would it be like if I took them all off? Not only could I be risking hypothermia, I feared the prospect of suffering frostbite on a particularly important appendage.

But just then, as if from divine intervention, the wind died, the clouds parted and the mirador was bathed in warming sunshine. God was obviously keen to see me get my kit off.

I shed my woollen scarf, blue outer shell, leather jacket, thick Peruvian woollen jumper, t-shirt and long-sleeve thermal top, boots, jeans, thermal long johns and undies.

Then, pink bum cheeks jiggling in the clear Andean light, I ran over to have my photo taken.

Will Jackson is an itinerant Australian journalist. He’s 33. He has a beard. And a blog. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook.

 

 

Readers: How far have you gone to get a good souvenir of your travels? Share your stories!

 

 

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