Sunday, 14 January 2018

Macusani to Pisac

Fidgit and I weren't feeling great leaving Macusani, though that had become the norm. Our bodies were breaking down, our nutritional needs were not being met in this area, and the attempted breaks were no longer restful. At this point, we had been walking through South America for nearly a year, walking our way step by step toward our season's end goal: Cusco, Peru. We had made it to Peru, and parts of our trips were becoming more arduous as we closed in on our goal. We were making it, though, and continued to try and focus on the positive while acknowledging the rest of what we were experiencing.

So walking out of Macusani was difficult, though I was bolstered by the knowledge that we were closing in on a goal, which can sometimes be a great motivator. Especially if you're closing in on the goal ahead of schedule, which we were! I had taken to the ritual of crossing off each town and doing the math every day to count down our kilometer-age. That means I had some idea of what we had left, not anything definite because Fidgit had made an educated guess on our distances, and sometimes/most times we didn't follow our route to a T.

We walked for a couple days- honestly, they ran together at this point- and went through towns regularly. We thought the towns along this section would be small, and we were correct. We had planned accordingly and stocked up on items you usually cannot find in small towns: oats, drink mixes, salami. etc. I tried to find something enjoyable in each day, and the changing terrain helped with that.

We made our way across some beautiful landscapes and skirted some amazing mountains, though there was one mountain in particular that I was waiting for- Nevado Ausangate. I had read that the Inca believed this mountain to be the birthplace of llamas, and it was also the highest peak in the Cusco region. As we neared Ausangate, I began checking to see if each snow-covered peak we passed was the mountain. A few days after this continual checking began, I finally saw the majestic, glacier drenched Cerro Ausangate. It was a view I savored as we walked around the western side of the peak. For three days we navigated around the massif and found our way to the small town of Ocongate. To me, reaching and then passing Nevado Ausangate was our last marker before we reached Pisac and the potential end of our season. The mountain was not only beautiful in its lore and aesthetic, it was also a sight for sore eyes in this worn-through adventurer's mind.

From Ocongate, I just felt like I was on auto-pilot, with "Just get to Pisac" being my mantra. There wasn't energy left for much other than one foot in front of the other through the next few towns. Fidgit and I weren't on good terms as we crested our last pass and descended towards the Sacred Valley though as we neared Pisac, I found a small reserve I didn't know I had to make it up and then down through some amazing Incan ruins. At the end of a very long day of mostly descent, Fidgit and I stumbled into Pisac, Peru.

We had made it at last to somewhere that had at one point just been a spot on Google Earth Pro, and was now a real, tangible place! The couple of days we spent in Pisac were the first in a long time that we were both more relaxed and able to take care of ourselves. I headed into Cusco with renewed energy.
Are you Ausangate?

Old tracks and new shrines

Everything is wearing out

Are you Ausangate?

Are you Ausangate?

Are you Ausangate?

Full Moon Rising

Are you Ausangate?

These gentlemen let us stay in their storage room during a Lightning snow storm.

Some post storm snuggles

Are you Ausangate?

Post storm views

The local 'wild life'

Are you Ausangate?

We also made it to the 7 Color Mountain

There it is, Ausangate!

So Glaciated

Farewell for now, mountains

Finding our way through another town

Fidgit crossing the last pass

Andenes in the Andes

We are going the right way!

Hello, Town! (Coming into Pisac)

Sunday, 24 December 2017

First full section in Peru: Ananea to Macusani

When we got back to Ananea after a few days of rest, we were grateful that the weather had also shifted. It wasn't as windy or rainy as we walked out of town. We took our time walking out of Ananea and through the town-sized mine along the outskirts. We camped that night in a ditch at the edge of the dirt piles that signified the mine. After the mine, the land opened to nothingness, and we made our way along the dirt road. The barren landscape spread before us, and we walked through the boring day, trying to find the mountains we had left behind in Bolivia. Late in the afternoon, we found them. Well, technically we found a really cool trail at the end of the dirt road that led down into a valley filled with brush and farming plots, but it wasn't boring. The way to get into the valley was a mix of trail and washed out areas, and it was overgrown at the bottom. In the valley, surrounded by farmland with a river running through it, was a small town. We ended up in the small town for the night in a modest hotel along the main street.

As we made our way out of town along the peotonal, or walking path, we ran into many people. They were on their way to work or school, and were very curious as to how we had found their valley haven. Many of them also wanted to get photos with us. They were also kind in answering the questions Fidgit and I had for them. These people explained the tiered sides of the valley as 'andenes' and also explained why not all of them were in use for farming- the land needed to rest for a certain period to produce properly. It’s amazing the things you learn when you ask.

We wound our way around and through a couple of valleys and towns in the next days. Fidgit and I were in a cloud for most of it, but the views were exceptional when we did have them. We also ended up following an older local man up and over a pass, taking the walking path instead of following the winding switch backs of the dirt road. 

After a couple of days walking through a cloud, we crossed a pass and burst free from the dampness, as the valley sprawled out before us. We made our way down the valley, and found ourselves back in the desert atmosphere that Fidgit and I had become so familiar with. We went from high rain forest into the desert simply by crossing from one side of the mountain range to the other. Rain shadows became a more real thing to me that day.

Since we had made it back to the desert, we walked along that day until we found water near the small regional capital of Crucero. We walked into town the next day, with some of the local well wishers (aka dogs) following along behind. From Crucero, we followed the valley’s river out and across to be able to go up another valley. The next wide valley we made our way up had a mine part way up it. So we were being passed by many mine vehicles until we reached its entrance, and then the valley fell silent as we made our way towards the town of Macusani. Two more days of walking and we were there, walking into the edges of Macusani along its stream. Fidgit and I were both ailing by that point, so we took some time off in the small town. We were very grateful to have a private bathroom during that time. We did take the opportunity of a town without internet to relax more and take care of ourselves, which was nice.

Walking out of Ananea

Which trail should we take?

Follow the electrical lines to town

Walking along a trail "Los Antiguos" built

Fidgit goes around a boulder in the middle of the trail

We made it into the valley!

A kind family, they answered many of our questions

Walking along a 1.5 lane road

On our way to another pass

The man who showed us a shortcut to the pass
walks ahead of Fidgit

These kids were on their way to school, and stopped to
get a photo with us

It's like a cloud forest

Clearing up over the pass

What are you looking at?

They get closer when you have food

Startling a sheep

Make your own bricks: A visual

We made it to Macusani

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sorata to Ananea: Crossing the Cordillera Apolobamba and into Peru along the Ruta De Los Tres Cordilleras

Fidgit making her way up and out of Sorata
We delayed leaving Sorata, because we were not excited for the multi-hundred meter climb in front of us. So, instead of leaving, we decided to have breakfast and lunch at the same restaurant and then hike out with very full stomachs. Going uphill. In the middle of the day. Can you see where this is going? I did not fare well, and ended up losing about half of what I had eaten in an unfortunate vomiting incident. We ended up hiking into the night to get to a place flat enough to set up our tent and pass out.

We passed through quite a few small towns along our way
The next day, we continued our trek upwards and found our way along a lovely valley. The route we were following was obviously an old road, but had been washed out in a few places and was no longer accessible by vehicle. The many small towns along this 'road' seemed unaffected by its state of disrepair, and were going along their days as usual. Many people stopped and talked to us in many of the pueblos we passed through.

Walking along the dirt tracks
Compared to the Cordillera Real that we had just come out of, the route was less arduous, so we were able to (inadvertently) pick up speed. We were also traveling through at least a town per day which helped keep our food bags light. As we made our way from town to town, we also noticed that even though these remote towns were neighbors, each one had its own personality. Some were outgoing, with the animals and people coming up to us immediately, others were more stand off-ish, with us having to make the first move to communicate. The government of Bolivia also seemed to be trying to reach these towns, as we saw attempts at tourist infrastructure and town health centers.

As we made our way towards the Bolivia/Peru border, the weather also decided to shift - we were coming into the rainy season. Because of this, and the not very flat land, we were staying in towns more often. Not many of these towns had what most people would consider accommodations, but we were able to ask around and sleep indoors. Indoors could be a spare room in a house, a small space in a school, or a multitude of other options I had never considered before.

Neon getting water from a spring
We dropped down from the town of Caja Cachi to get our passports stamped out of Bolivia and into Peru. Because of the remoteness of the area we were crossing, there was no occupied border post along our route. Thankfully, we had been warned and were able to get stamped through smoothly after a short explanation. We came back and continued along our route for a day before the weather really moved in.

Our second day back on trail, we woke up to rain falling on our tent (we did still camp sometimes). We packed up and wore all of our rain gear - pants and jacket. By mid-morning, my feet were soaked, and the rain was coming down harder. We came upon a town around lunchtime and were able to eat at a small restaurant to be out of the rain, and it had slowed by the end of our meal. We walked out into the cloud and continued into the evening before finding a dry place to stay. After a night's rest and attempts at drying out, we walked back out into the rain and over the day; everything got soaked again. This time, Mother Nature had a special treat for us - in the last hour of walking, the rain turned to a wet snow and plopped down on us. I was already soaked by this point, so the snow just perpetuated my descent into the realm of hypothermia. We made it into a Posta, or medical center, and the gentleman there gave us his space heater, and a hat full of animal crackers - we enjoyed both thoroughly and fell into an exhausted slumber that night.

The farming plots along the mountainside
In the morning, the skies were clearer, though the temperatures were lower, and we got our first view of the Apolobamba Range. What mountains! They were coated in snow in the distance and steaming as the sun shone down. That morning, we also came upon a rio, the official border between Bolivia and Peru. As the river flowed sinuously down the valley, we made our way up along the Bolivian side, not yet ready to cross into Peru.

Views into the valley
Crossing the altiplano at around 4,000 meters has its advantages and disadvantages. There are no trees, nor really anything not human-made, above hip height. We learned that we could see towns from very far away; we knew what was coming from nearly any direction, and also it is terrifying when it storms. We were watching clouds blow in and partly over us along the border valley. I ran into the small town of Huacachani when the lightning began striking around us. Fidgit was not far behind, and we found a small shop after our five kilometer speed walk/run in. As we were talking with the woman running the store, it came up that her brother had recently been killed while tending the family's animals - he had been struck by lightning. The Bolivian/Peruvian altiplano life is not for the faint of heart. Despite her recent loss, the woman was in good spirits and introduced us to the rest of her family, one of whom housed us that night as they were preparing to go to an inter-country market at the border the next day.
Pigs herd themselves here!

Fidgit looking out at our next pass
We said our farewells the next morning, and continued along as the wind picked up and the clouds moved in once more. We officially crossed the border right at the pop-up international market, as they were packing up from two days of socializing and vending. The rains came in, though not as hard this time, and the wind nearly blew me off route a couple of times as we made our way into Peru towards the border/mining town of Ananea. We stayed in another small pueblo along the way, and a couple locals told us about a back way to go, so we followed their directions. We made it across another pass and dropped down into Ananea right as the predicted afternoon storm began sprinkling rain on us.

Wind -burnt and tired, we were ready for a rest. There weren't very many options in the town of Ananea, so we took a mobilidad into a larger town to find a hot shower, contact our families, and exchange money (Bolivianos into Soles). After a few days of eating and a solid resupply of energy and fat, we made our way back to Ananea to continue along our route.

Some new dog friends in town

Fidgit talking to some kids at a school we stayed at

Lovely sunsets...

...sometimes make for cloudy mornings

I am not a fan of snow.

A hat full of animal crackers

Snowscapes in the morning

Walking along the valley

Clouds rolling in over the mountains

Hot springs/communal bath house

The 'river' between Bolivia and Peru

Walking into Ananea