So, this was it. I have hopefully given the impression that I thoroughly enjoyed the first few days in Peru, because I honestly did. But now we were getting to the part which drew me to this particular trip – the trekking. And I was more than excited about it. I was a little nervous, because I did not know how I would take it to it once we got out there, but I was an awful lot more excited by the prospect. And now it was about to start. So this was almost like day one for me. I had woken at 0300 and 0500 during the night, but that had pretty much come to be expected by now. What I did not expect was the cold shower. In fact, the water from the cold tap was hotter than the water from the hot tap. I did wonder if Russ had got all the hot water earlier, but it turned out he had had to suffer a cold shower as well. Still, all good practice for the coming week, I suppose. You can probably guess my breakfast by now – banana with chocolate and sesame seeds, kiwi fruit, green melon, fresh orange juice and coca tea.
Overnight we had had to move our kit into a duffle bag, and had to make sure that was no more than 10kg. Silvia had also told us to put in a couple of 2 litre bottles of water, which took everyone over the official weight limit. I am fortunate that I brought such a restricted amount with me that I am actually taking practically everything and only leaving a few things behind. That will change once we hit the Inca Trail and lose the horses, because then we have to get down to 7kg. So now we are ready to go at 0745 and we are into the minibus and on our way to our start point – it will take a few hours drive to get there. At 0820 we stop at Iztuchaca-Anta for a toilet break and go into the town market to buy some coca leaves for the trek. We need them for when we are walking at altitude, the idea being you hold them in your cheek and chew on them, and that holds off the effect of altitude. We shall see. The market is interesting – everything appears to be uncovered and not subject to any form of refrigeration, except the bread. The bread comes in a plastic covering. Everything else is out in the open, and the market is selling meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese, dairy products, in fact pretty much all foodstuffs. And dogs are free to walk about within the market. It would send Health & Safety crazy back home. Outside we see an old woman carrying a sheep on her back in a papoose-type sling. There is also a street stall selling meat, and the skins of the meats being sold are on the table next to the meat. As are the other parts of the animal(s) in question. And no-one in the town is suggesting this is not the way to go about things, and I am certainly not here to judge their way of doing things. The toilets by the side of the market do not bear mentioning, though. We leave the town at 0900 to the sounds of pan pipes and salsa on the radio. At 0926 we reach a toll point. I’ve noticed many toll points in Peru, but have not noticed many vehicles either stopping at them or making any sort of payment at them – it reminds me of when I was in Costa Rica many years ago and was told that the road tolls were voluntary. At 0940 we make another toilet stop. So who didn’t go at the market ?
Bo will be pleased, because here comes some Prog – I decided to listen to my iPod Shuffle as we were driving along, partly because I had not listened to any music for a few days, partly because I knew it would get me in ‘the zone’.
Gazpacho – Desert Walk Part 1
Rainbow – Eyes Of The World
Manning – House On The Hill
Lazuli – Laisse Courir
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Some of those were apt, and I noticed that some were stirring up emotions within me. And now we were driving on a dirt track between mountains.
Porcupine Tree – Even Less
At 1010 we left the main road to head to Mollepata, the destination of this drive and the starting point of our trek. We were still on nothing more than a dirt track, but now were driving along a cliff edge.
I checked my phone and was not surprised there was no signal. We were definitely heading away from civilization. Good. Meeting a truck coming the other way required a few manoeuvres to allow both vehicles to pass on their separate ways.
Jethro Tull – Hunting Girl
Some people have dug a hole across the width of the track. There seem to be two slithers of rock across it and we gingerly drive on to those. They hold the weight and we are across. I missed it at the time because I was listening to my music, but we decided to have a phrase of the day, picked by a different person each day from Heather and Andy’s Spanish phrasebook. Heather picked the first one :
Este camino va a Machu Picchu. You should be able to translate that one for yourselves…set out your answers below, if you like.
Matt Stevens – Rusty (The European Perspective session)
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun
Tinyfish – I’m Not Crashing
The Eddie Vedder track really got me thinking about why I was here, what had made it all possible, and now I was ready and focused. There was a quick toilet stop in a village about 5 minutes out, and we arrived at Mollepata, height above sea level of 2900m, at 1100. We got ready at the base of a hill, applying sun cream and insect repellant while watching the horses which would be carrying our kit.
We were introduced to our cook, Rosauro, and our assistant cook, Fermin, who would be with us for the duration. We were also introduced to the three horsemen, Antonio, Lysaudro and Alberto, who would be with us for the first few days. And under a boiling hot sun we set off at 1130. And stopped for a water break at 1140. And then really pushed on, not stopping again until 1235. Silvia brings us to a stop at 1255 to smell some of the mint growing at the side of our trail – and it does have a very strong smell. Delicious. We halt for lunch at 1310 and are now at 3200m. We have been given a packed lunch, and I have a ham and a cheese sandwich, a banana, a tangerine (which looks like an orange) and a biscuit. There are very light drops of rain as we sit there eating, and still the very hot sun, but we can see more rain in the distance. The cooks and the horsemen pass us as we eat, and after we take the opportunity for a toilet break we depart our lunch spot at 1400. We encounter another smell of the countryside at 1430 – skunk. Not delicious. We take a quick water stop at 1440 and watch two boys being taken for a walk by their cows.
Silvia tells us these are the sons of the farmer whose land we will be camping on for the night, and we arrive at that camp at 1500. This is Soraypampa at 3600m and we have walked 7km to get here. The walk was ‘undulating’, according to Silvia, which we soon learn means a lot of uphill with some downhill. The tracks have been very good, though, pretty even throughout, and no scrambling so far. And the countryside we are walking through is stunning. Silvia high-fives everyone as we walk into camp. It’s a very nice touch.
The sun is shining and we are given a bowl of water to wash. So I use my flannel to wash with, and use my towel to dry with. And with the sun beating down I hang them both on the tent to dry. If only I had known what a mistake that would turn out to be. I had been walking in my Scarpa ZG10 boots, Paramo boxers, red Berghaus Argentium short-sleeved base layer with zip neck (also known as red top number one), and my Paramount trekking trousers from The North Face (as recommended on Hugh Thompson’s website), and that kit had served me well today. Now I changed into red top number four (Berghaus Argentium long-sleeved base layer with round neck), my red Mountain Equipment lightweight fleece, and also put on my Berghaus fleece hat, while applying more insect repellant. All to no avail because they had bitten me while I was washing. At 1620 we had afternoon tea. Crisps, crackers, elderberry jam, coca tea. I thought we had taken it at a steady, gentle pace today, but over tea Silvia told us we had gone fast and arrived at camp earlier than she had thought we would. I had found it quite easy going, not a very long distance and not very hard terrain, and I think overall this just showed me I was ready from a fitness and preparation point of view and that my body was taking well to the altitude.
I accessed the Fishtank (the forum for the band Tinyfish) through my BlackBerry and found out there had been an earthquake in Peru. I quickly sent off a few texts to let people know I was not in the area of the quake. Silvia managed to get some more details and confirmed it was not near us, but that it had been a 5.9 and would have been felt in Cusco. I think we were all a little taken aback with the news.
We took our minds off it by playing cards, first Chase The Jack, and then a particularly violent game called Spoons. We managed to rip the groundsheet playing that one – thank goodness for the gaffer tape I had brought with me. Sunset was around 1800, was stunning, and was almost impossible to capture on camera.
And then we could see the lights of the towns below us – absolutely nothing as glaring as the lights in this country. Dinner began with quinoa and vegetable soup, while Silvia told us what we would need in our daypack for tomorrow – just a hat and fleece, by the sounds of it. Frankly, I still have no idea how she got away with so little ! She would be waking us at 6am so we could be away at 0720. The main meal was trout with mashed potato, cucumber and tomato, and a cup of coca tea. And over dinner a daddy longlegs landed on my notebook. I excused its intrusion and did not squash it. We walked out of the dinner tent to a wonderfully clear sky and a striking view of Venus. Into our tents at 8 (I was sharing with Russ), and it was lights out by 2030.
I woke at midnight and went off to the toilet, using my Petzl head torch on red to guide me. One of the horses was loose, but just standing there eating away at the grass. There were lightning storms happening either side of the valley. I must have stood there for an hour just looking out into the distance, looking up at the stars, enjoying the feeling of being out in nature. I was woken again at 0430, this time by the rain. And I remembered my flannel and towel. They were destined to never dry again.
You can see more photographs from the day here.