With our first section of the trek completed, we were ready to leave the crowds behind. Not that we’d been swamped by them previously, but apparently on our next section from Yanama to Huancacalle and then on to Santa Teresa we shouldn’t expect to see a single gringo and no more than a few local farmers.
From Yanama onwards, the landscapes only got more dramatic and beautiful. Leaving the little town behind, we started a slow climb alongside a raging river before moving into the hills. The hills slowly morphed into mountains, treating us to plenty of false summits. We soon found ourselves in a lush valley, with moss covered rocks and old, willowy trees that wouldn’t find themselves out of place in an ancient forest.
Just as the weather started closing in and we began to tire, we stumbled across a cave tucked into the hills. Above the cave was a forest so intertwined with vines and moss that it almost felt like a single living organism. It was impossible not to feel an energy within the trees and forest.
We spent the night in the cave next to the smouldering remains of our campfire watching thunder and lightening rip through the valley below. Despite how intelligent we appear, we failed to realise that a campfire in a cave was most likely just going to fill the whole place with smoke. Luckily, all our stuff is nicely smoked to remind us of the lesson learned.
Unfortunately, Scott popped his matt once again (he is still sensitive about his weight so best not to say anything). While Lachie and I voted to stick to the original plan of finishing the rest of the section over two days, Scott didn’t like our democratic ideals and we somehow ended up walking the 25km with a 4,600m pass in one day. All so Scott could fix his matt at the village of Huancacalle. It’s not our fault he’s put on a few pounds gorging on Oreos…
Luckily, the walk was a doozy and we left the valley behind as it opened up in to an alpine tundra. The snow-capped pass was made only more incredible by the ancient Incan road that wound up it and down the other side. Only a few km out of Huancacalle, a bloke driving along the road we were walking offered us a lift. He runs a taxi service, but I’m not sure what his business model is because he didn’t charge us anything for the ride. Either way, it meant we had even more time to gorge ourselves, add to Scott’s growing weight issues and take our first shower in over a week at Huancacalle.
After a few days of real beds, fresh food and checking out the Incan ruins of Vitcos and Rosaspata, we were ready to move on. The elite team of professional hikers that we are, our first day out of Huancacalle we covered an abysmal 3km and 500m of elevation gain before we decided to call it quits for the day. Before you ask, it wasn’t because of the weather, it wasn’t because of an injury, we were just lazy and decided we’d rather play cards and read.
The following days only raised the bar in terms of beauty. We again moved through breathtaking alpine lakes and tusic, down lush valleys and finally dropped 2,000m into jungle. Throughout this, we camped at the top of a waterfall, got caught on the top of a mountain in the middle of the lightening storm and pushed ourselves through three 4,500+m passes in a single day. During the lightening storm, we placed bets on whether it would strike the largest (Scott) or densest (Lachie) object first. Unfortunately we didn’t get a conclusive result, and although both show signs of significant brain damage, this is thought to be pre-existing.
By the time we cruised down into the village of Santa Teresa, we were well and truly into the rhythm of trekking. We rose and fell with the sun and our bodies started to regain the fitness we’d lost after a few months on the bikes. It was a reminder of how important simplicity can be.
Next up, Scott shits his pants, we make the final trot to Machu Pichhu, oh and did I mention Scott shits his pants?
Stay tuned – Pat