Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yanama to Colpapampa

The hand warmers, a few layers of fleece, and my sleeping bag kept me nice and toasty warm all night, but it was COLD  and windy in the morning when we first started hiking. I'm wearing a couple layers of fleece, my down jacket, and my windbreaker.

The hike from the campground started off as a gentle incline, through villages and farms. We saw several students walking to school, carrying 2-3 pieces of wood for the fire used to cook their breakfast and lunch.

After about 45 minutes, we were leaving the pastures and getting into higher and dryer grounds.

There were still lots of springs and waterfalls along the way. We had approx. 25 water crossings along the way.

After steadily climbing for about 3.5 hours, we finally reached a grassy meadow where we stopped for a rest (nap) and a snack.  The snow capped peaks of Pumasillo were to our north.

and the peaks of Padreyoc were to the south. We will be heading over the pass about 2/3 from the left in the picture (under the biggest blue section of sky).

Because of the altitude and the possibility of somebody getting ill, Vilmar and the emergency horse walked with us instead of the rest of the crew. I think the rest of the crew would be jealous of they saw him resting with us!

After the break, we tackled the final climb to the pass.

Here we are getting closer.

Arturo instructed us to wait at the rocky section just below the pass until the rest of the group arrived. It was really cold and windy but the rocks provided a bit of a wind break. When Emilie and I got there, we saw this family and their mules taking a break before heading down (they were going the opposite direction as us).

We are almost all together.

Brad finally caught up.
Yeah, we all made it to the top (4850 m / 15908'), without the emergency horse! Unfortunately, the clouds blocked the view of the Santa Teresa valley below. We snapped a few pictures, then headed down the other side to get out of the wind.

Even as we started our descent, we still couldn't see the valley below us.

We also ran into another mule train on the way down.

Finally we got our first clear view of the valley below. Now we just have to get there to set up camp.

Between the more gradual slope of the path and Ben and Karryn taking tons of pictures, I wasn't hiking downhill alone at the back of the pack for a change. After about 2 hours of hiking from the pass, we stopped for a lunch break.

Then we started hiking again. The bottom of the valley is getting closer. The light line on the right side of the picture is the trail we were on.

After hiking another 1.5 hours after lunch, we crossed this river, then reached a gravel road that went through several villages and would lead to our campsite.

There were a few shortcuts through the fields that bypassed some of the long switchbacks on this road. About half of them were very narrow and steep, so I evaluated each one. Instead of going really slow on the steep ones, I took the longer route on the road, but at least I could go at a faster pace and not worry about twising an ankle or my knee. On the more gradual ones, I took the short cut.

I arrived at camp about 10 minutes after the group, and just before dusk.At this point, we shared a campsite with lots of other groups - all the groups doing the Salkantay trek. The campsite was a lot noisier, with other groups, villagers (a baby crying all night), and livestock. Between the tent on a slope and a pig grunting outside my tent all night, I didn't sleep well. I woke up to the sounds of what sounded like a pig and rooster fighting to the death. Not a good sound!

Trail Stats:
Distance: 21 km / 13 miles
Duration: 9 hours
Elevation gain: 700 m / 2296'
Elevation loss: 1900 m / 6232 '

Camping elevation: 2682 m / 8800'

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Maizal/Mina Victoria to Yanama

I had a miserable night last night. The tent was on a slope and I kept sliding down until my feet smashed against the side of the tent. To add to the fun, there was a donkey just outside of my tent (I actually bumped into it through the tent) chomping away on grass right by my head. It triggered dreams of the donkey chewing out the tent stakes and the tent sliding/flying/tumbling down the side of the mountain. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well!

We were now back on our regular schedule. We spent the first 1.5 hours climbing uphill through mud, with only a few spots of "dry" ground. Luckily there were enough rocks on the trail to hop between, so we didn't sink ankle deep (or deeper) into the mud. It was physically and mentally draining making that climb (or maybe I was just tired from the flying tent donkey dreams!)

On the bright side, the water contributed to a beautiful lush landscape filled with gold and purple flowers.

After about 1.5 hours, the mud finally gave way to drier ground. We passed several "caves" that were really mining tunnels. Arturo claimed that several passed all the way through the mountain (then why were we hiking OVER the mountain?)
At the time, I didn't realize that this pose made me look like I was squatting to take a crap. That dark "stain" on my right leg is MUD! Really.... it is.

For the next 2.5 hours, we continued to climb towards the Yanama Pass (also called Abra Victoria). Part of the trail closest to the pass was an old paved Inca road. Walking on this section made me glad that I didn't take the Inca trail, since the pavement was harder underfoot than the trails (although a welcome change to the mud earlier in the day).

After a total of about 4 hours of hiking, we finally reached the pass at an elevation of 4130 m / 13,546'.

Because of the elevation, Vilmar and the emergency horse (with very little cargo) stayed with us. Luckily, nobody needed to use it. Although, there was a group of hikers behind us with a very sick Australian who really could have used the horse.

Then we did what we did best .... napped! It was a bit cold and windy at the pass, but the rocks were nice and warm. So we napped on them while waiting for lunch.
We then enjoyed a delicious lunch at the top of the pass.
During lunch, a condor flew over us.

After lunch, we took another nap as our mule caravan headed toward the campsite.

The trail hugged the side of the mountain with steep dropoffs. In some places it was very narrow (and a bit scary) but the views were amazing.

On the way down, we explored a few more mines and then finally caught a glimpse of the village of Yanama, where we would be spending the night.
After about 2.5 hours of hiking from the pass, we finally arrived in Yanama. One of our horsemen lived in the village, so Herbert, our cook, used the horseman's house to prepare our dinner.

We arrived at the campsite a couple of hours before sunset to find our tents set up for us.

While some of the others took a nap, I washed some clothes, took an icy cold shower, then enjoyed hooping in a big grassy field before other groups of hikers arrived to share the campsite.

For dinner, Herbert made us deep fried cuy (Guinea pig), along with deep fried yucca root, pasta, and a plate of beets, carrots and green beans.
I took a piece of the Guinea pig, thinking I would just take one polite bite. I chomped every bit of meat off the bones! It was delicious (or I was really hungry!!)

It was really cold at this elevation and I was thankful for my warm sleeping bag, layers of fleece, and the chemical hand warmers my friend Pamela gave me for my birthday. I put one in the little pouch at the foot of my sleeping bag, and the other in my fleece pocket, and stayed warm and toasty all night.

Trail Stats:
Distance: 12 km / 7.5 mi
Duration: 6.5 hrs
Elevation Gain: 600 m / 1948'
Elevation Loss: 550 m / 1804'

Camping at 4100 m / 13451'

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Choquequirao to Maizal

Today we got an early start since we were combining 2 days of hiking. We started with a 40 minute hike uphill to the main plaza at Choquequirao.

We spent about 50 minutes exploring the ruins.

Arturo suggested that these buildings may have housed mummies.
So naturally, I did my best mummy impersonation.

After exploring the site, we climbed up the terraces using steep steps.

Then we followed the trail along the aquaduct and up the hill, away from the site.

Before heading over the hill, I got one last glimpse of Choquequirao. After hiking through cloud forest for about an hour, we reached the top of the ridge.

Then we got a view of  the Rio Blanco. This is where we were supposed to have spent the previous night; instead, the river would be our lunch spot today.

After reaching the ridge, we began our descent towards the river. This side of the mountain was much drier than the cloud forest side. The trail was dry, dusty, and slippery. The others flew down as though they were skiing. Each time I tried to speed up, I slipped and fell, so it was back to slowly picking my way down.

After about an hour of hiking downhill, I caught up with the group at another sector of Choquequirao (I think this is the Pinchinuyoc sector). They had arrived 10 minutes before me and had nearly finished their snack. I skipped the snack and poked around for a few minutes before we continued down the mountain. From the ruins, the trail got narrower, steeper, and more slippery. Great! 
From this view, the river still doesn't look much closer.

I spent the next hour and a half hiking alone, since I was slower than the group. I had no idea how far ahead they were, since the combination of the steep slopes and the switchbacks prevented me from seeing them.
I didn't worry too much about my slowness, since I knew they wanted to play in the river (it was too cold for me!). I figured the slower I was, the more time they had. They had about 20 minutes before I arrived, which was about 10 minutes before lunch was ready.

The area by the river was full of biting midges and mosquitoes, and would have been a miserable place to spend the night. At this point, the group again thanked me for getting sick and having us camp the second night at the ruins instead of by the vampire river!

View of the trail we came down.
Despite having a delicious lunch and having my appetite back in full force, I was careful not to overeat at lunch, knowing the next 3 hours would be spent climbing up this trail.

After about the first hour of dry dusty trail, the landscape got more lush. I saw quite a few butterflies, orchids, and even a shiny black snake.

Despite the long day, we still reached the camping spot at Maizal about an hour before sunset.

Trail Stats: Choquequirao to Rio Blanco
Length: 10 km / 6.2 mi
Duration: 5 hours
Elevation gain: 450 m / 1476 '
Elevation loss: 1450 m / 4756'

Trail Stats: Rio Blanco to Maizal
Length: 8 km / 5 mi
Duration: 3 hours
Elevation gain: 3040 m / 6691 '
Elevation loss: 20 m / 66'

WOW!! That's a lot of ups and downs!!!

Camping at 3000 m / 9843'