Saturday, June 19, 2010


We woke up early to catch the only bus going to Cachora at 4 am. Why do buses going to interesting places always leave in the middle of the night? In a classic peruvian tradition, the only seats left for us were in the very back of the bus, as the locals showed up a few hours prior, to get the good seats up front. As soon as we got in, the bus left off. It turned around only once, because the driver forgot to fill up the tank. Once we got out of town, the driver turned the music on loud (at the passengers´ request, at 4:30 in the morning!)and we rolled on.
We found ourselves in Cachora at 7 am, it was a fresh morning, but the people huddled, rubbed their hands and cursed the cold as if it was -30. The cattle was being led down the streets to the pastures. We asked several people the way to the ruins and started walking.
The first 10 kms were easy, the trail was in fact a good dirt road, the sun was shining and our spirits were high.We had brunch at a scenic lookout and started our descent into the Apurimac valley. As we were taking a break at another lookout, Tom (with whom we were stuck on Kuna Yala and then hiked in Colombia) with his friend Kai walked out from around the corner! We hugged and continued on in a group of five. Tom and Kai had an ambitious plan: to do the whole trek in three days.
When we crossed the bridge across the river, the sun was already going down, we were tired and decided to camp below Santa Rosa, on an attractive shelf with lots of dry grass and firewood, overlooking the river. Tom and Kai pressed on to Santa Rosa though, driven by their tight schedule.
Next morning, a little bushwaking through the prickly trees and tall cactuses(!!!), and we were back on the trail again. The trail was steep. And long. It took us an hour and a half to reach Santa Rosa, but Jonathan, light on his feet as an elf, sped ahead of us and was already resting for half an hour when we cought up with him. He turned out to be a much faster walker than us and he usually walked ahead, stopping and waiting for us. ¨You guys stop too much¨ was what he said. From Santa Rosa the trail got steeper, and we got to Marampata a few hours later. This time, Jonathan was already resting for one hour!
From Marampata the trail levelled off somewhat, and we walked to the campground below the ruins. Tired as we were, we had a big dinner and went to sleep in the fresh mountain night.The next day we explored Choquequirao. The site is only 48% excavated, and there are debates whether it should be left half covered by the forest or completely uncovered like Machu Picchu. The site is very spread out. First we went down to the terraces and were blown away by the size and precision of the construction.Monolithic steps connected different levels, and dry water channels were everywhere. According to an archeologist that we met on one of the levels, the terraces go all the way down to the river. It was hard to believe. Going up from the terraces to the main plaza was hard work. When we got to the top, we had a big lunch and dose off in the shade of a tree for a few hours. Refreshed, we explored the palace that overlooked the whole site and then rested the rest of the day on the ritual platform, enjoying the magnificent vista that opened up from there. The platform was made by levelling off the top of the hill and looked more like a spaceship landing ground rather than a religious space. A condor flew close by two times.The next day we descended. We desided not to come back the same way (as most guided groups do), but to go to Huanipaca instead. This way was closer, but steeper. It was hard. Our muscles were still hurting from the climbing of the previous two days, and the trail was punishing for us. When we got to the river, we had a refreshing swim in the mighty Apurimac and walked a bit more uphill to an abandoned hacienda. Jonathan was eager to climb all the way to Kuñalla, but we pleaded to stay where we were. A few new cottages were built near the crumbling adobe ruins of the old house, obviously with an idea to rent out rooms to tourists. There was no one in that night, so we asked the caretaker for a camping spot. He showed us a place in front of one of the cottages, we set up camp, collected firewood and cooked dinner.
Next morning we woke up early to make it to Kuñalla for the 11am bus. This time Jonathan beat us by an hour and a half. Half an hour after we dragged ourselves into the village, the bus, which was actually a truck, got loaded with people and huge bags of beans and left. It took the truck 5 hours of windy mountain roads and countless stops to pick up or drop off passengers and goods to get to Abancay. It was the only transport in the area to the big town for the weekend, so people were heading to town with stuff to sell on the market. Chics and cuys (guinea pigs) in bags, tons of beans, sacks of corn, pig´s bloody body parts (including its head), some firewood, an old dresser and 18 passengers sitting on top of the cargo constituted the load. The wind was very cold, and we were frozen when we finally unloaded in Abancay. Once in town, we headed straight for the bakery, bought sweet cones filled with a kind of brown concentrated milk, and had a good dinner for a dollar in a restaurant. We then went back to Khaled´s place, watched a movie and fell asleep. We will stay with him for the weekend and then go to Cusco.

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