Having returned from our warm up trek the Ausangate, the legs were feeling good and we set out to join 3 big hikes into one 24 day epic walk.
Walking around the San Pedro market eagerly buying the food we’d need for the first leg of the trek, we quickly realised our packs would be pushing 25+ kgs. But, we had endless packets of Oreos, and they are worth their weight in gold and more.
After a few hours in a cab we arrived at the trail head at the end of a sketchy little road in Cachora. Sleeping in a little wooden shelter, we awoke only to see the surrounding mountains completely fogged over, thus we couldn’t see the 1,600m descent that was about to torture our knees. Our excitement of starting a 24-day trek was soon backslapped by Pacha Mamma as the 16km of straight downhill left our legs shaken to the bone. Walking on flat is a rarity in the mountains, but luckily we had a solid 100m of flat ground as we crossed a bridge over the river, which psyched us up for 800 vertical meters of climbing we’d very soon have to tackle.
Hours later and almost conked out from dehydration, as the sun partnered with the ascent to make our lives miserable, we made it to the first campsite. Finally, able to shed some weight from our heavy packs, we cooked dinner and let the lactate hang-out in our beaten legs as we had no energy to do anything, a perfect recipe for soreness. In times like these, it’s the Oreos and the epic views that combine to create life’s magic moments.
The climbing was by no means over as we set off the next day en route to Choquequirao, which are huge Incan ruins perched amazingly on the side of a mountain. Smashing the climbs and another 15km, we set up camp, ate Oreos and miraculously felt 10 times better. Although not knowing much history about the Incas, one half of me thought they were absolute spastics for building these cities in literally the most difficult places. Then again, with panoramic views of mountains, crisp air and stunning waterfalls, I wouldn’t have minded getting into the property market here hundreds of years ago. This place was stunning and only had 50 odd people exploring the area, compared to the thousands at Machu Picchu.
More climbing and then a 1,000m descent couldn’t keep the stoke away as we kept pushing on. When hiking, you often spend a few minutes at a time looking down and watching your step. On this particular day, every time I’d look up at the valleys, rivers and mountains in view, I’d be left so humbled and fuelled by this mystic environment. We set up and cooked dinner at some old Incan ruins all by ourselves that night. Watching the orange sunset glide down the valley as we ate was a moment of pure magic.
Climbing and descending quickly became the norm and it felt damn good to be giving our bodies a slog as we climbed another 1,000m. Heartrates high, sweating profusely and legs feeling like thick tree stumps for hours became an amazing body-meditation practice. Feeling that pain and soreness, and realising our bodies amazing ability to push-on, allowed my mind to find the beauty in these challenging moments. I felt an amazing natural high for hours despite the sheer difficulty.
A tour group was trailing behind us and we shared some beers with some epic people in one of the most amazing campsites of the trip. The arvo was spent eating an absurd amount (two dinners and 4-5 rounds of snacks), reading and rubbing our eyes, finding it difficult to believe how lucky we are to be smack bang in a remote part of the Peruvian Andes. The rewards of hiking provide an unparalleled and lasting fulfillment. Previously, I was so used to chasing short term pleasures in a bid for long-term satisfaction, which always ended up a disappointing cycle because we will never find true salvation by simply living for the next pleasurable event. Freedom is here and now and every aspect of hiking (the environment, the people and the simplicity) combines to facilitate a beautiful presence of mind and appreciation for the smallest of things.
One more tough climb over a 4,100m pass and another long, gradual descent, we then reached the tiny town of Yanama. The first leg of this trek was now done and we managed to sniff out the towns only two avocados and promptly devoured some smashed avo rolls for lunch. By now we had made great mates with an English couple (Matt & Becca) who are on an epic honeymoon adventure, and the arvo was spent with beers, cards and inspiring chats. ‘We give you a island and all you do is butcher our language’ Matt alleged as our classic Aussie vernacular left them and the rest of the tour group perplexed. Amazing conversations and enjoying the shelter of the tour groups huge canvas tent, we were stoked to be in the company of other sweet people who have also uncovered the beauty of adventure.
Up next, Pat gives us the story of second leg which includes sleeping in a cave, exploring enchanted forests and walking through the most insane valley we have ever seen. I haven’t had a dig at him yet, and in preparation for his upcoming dig at me, all I’d like to say is that he has literally, not figuratively, but literally, shit himself three times this trip.
Until next time,