On Saturday the sixth of August 2011, I began a trip 25 years in the waiting. It is a journey that I have dreamed of doing since I was a child. I'm off to South America, specifically Peru & Bolivia with a relax at the end in Buenos Aires. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

This journey began for me in 1985 when I lived in Port Lincoln. It was a beautiful summers day, the sun a rich golden warmth that eradicated the edge that lingers in people after Christmas and New Years. Children were everywhere frolicking along the foreshore and through the waters, jumping from the Jetty and enjoying all that could be from the day. The morning drew to afternoon and my sister and her friends started to wander further than my mother wanted them to. She sent me to bring them back closer to her view.

I stepped into the blue water lapping the shore, took a few steps into the pitiful surf, and fell. Electricity shot through my body, screamed into my skull, nerves became alive like never before. I yelled, but not understanding the pain, thinking it was probably just a stubbed toe, I reached into the water and pulled my foot free and into the air. My mind went white, my voice pierced the golden joy of summer, the water darkened, staining with the rich blood pouring forth from my foot, opened like a baguette.

During my stay at the hospital where they repaired my foot as best they can, I received a gift from my Grandmother. It was a calendar with pictures of places around the world. In the calendar I found two that I had to see – The Pyramids of Giza and Macchu Pichu. I have carried a picture of Macchu Pichu with me since then, and finally on the 21st of August 2011, I will be there after having hiked through the Andes for the previous three days.

Below are the entries for the Peruvian leg of this trip.

August 18 to 20 2011 Lares Trek

Today is not a good day. I went out for dinner last night and had a bad burrito. I was up most the night vomiting, and I know right now I'm disoriented and dehydrated. I'm taking my re-hydration powder, which tastes foul, and am trying to control my tumultuous stomach. My fellow travellers seem to think I look like a corpse, all sunken eyes and pale skin. Still, I am not going to let something like this stop me. I have all that I need to get me through the next few days – sheer willpower.

First off we need to gather our group. A bus ride around town finds us picking up 2 Australians, 3 British, and 2 Germans, joining all of our group except the Danes. We all chipped in some money to buy bread for the locals that we would meet on our journey. The bread is a gift to the peoples for crossing their land, and is something that is difficult for the locals to sustain in their diets, and it is better than giving sweets as these people do not have the access to dentists and do not practice oral hygiene as we do. The bus then takes us up the mountains to the start point of our trek. We then drove to Pata Cancha (3900m) to begin.

At Pata Cancha we met with our guide, chefs and porters. We shook hands and greeted each other. Anan, our guide, then introduced us to chewing coca leaves and the offering the Apas and Pachamama coca leaves along our trek. Then he handed out some snack bags and we began our ascent. We hadn't gone very far when Anan stopped and explained a little about the importance of the Apas to the people of this area.

Not long after we encounter another troop finishing the Lares where we began it.

When we continued onward, it was again steadily upward. In under an hour the group had already divided into the fast and the slow. I was in the lead group, even aching under the weight of my sickness. Up through the valley, the town slowly disappearing behind us, only small collections of habitations before us. The sun was mild but bright and the land radiated warmth, yellow and white stone interspersed with grasses and small trees gripping for all life.

Anan stopped us at a small village (5 houses and small farming area) and spoke to a local. He then took us to their home where we waited for the rest of the group to catch up. I lay back, using my pack as a pillow and my hat to shield my eyes. It took 15 minutes for the rest to rock up. We broke into two groups and went into the family's home. It was a single room, dirt floor, thatch roof abode. In the corner was the bed for the whole family covered with alpaca weavings. Across the floor scurried guinea pigs, chickens, and a cat. Outside was another cat that I had seen and two dogs. In another corner was a small wood stove for cooking. The room has a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

Anan spoke with the women of the house. She is 18 years old and before her stand her two children aged 3 and 1. Her husband, 23, is outside tending their small field. The animals, Anan says, are to deal with various pests in the area or provide a need:

  • The dogs deal with foxes
  • The Cats deal with Rats
  • The Chickens provide eggs
  • The Guinea Pigs provide an education for the children and later on food.

All the animals live in symbiosis, understanding their role and position in the household.

The family spends the majority of its time tending their small field, helping in the community and weaving textiles for sale. The husband comes in, places an arm around his wife and beams a smile so bright. He is very proud of his family and the life they live. The wife and Children also shine with smiles. These people are very poor by our standards but happier than most of the people I know or see in Australia.

We continue on our way up the valley. We need to make it to our lunch spot in good time. We are not walking for more than 20 more minutes when our cooks and porters overtake us. They are locals and are amazingly agile and swift at this altitude. It will be hours before we catch up to them and by then they will have set up the lunch tent, the cooking tent, a toilet, and have lunch prepared for us.

Onwards. Upwards. Bank left. Track Right. Crest.

Every 20 minutes it seems the land gets more beautiful. Each turn shows me something that takes my breath away. This land is raw, young and gorgeous. The striations across the hills lends the mind toward terracing, as though the land is informing the inhabitants of how best to live here. The rocks change hue, adding reds and pinks, browns and blacks. There are moments I feel in some mad special effect of what should be planet earth but the depth of field is wrong, the palette is off, It is intoxicating. I wonder how many people would choose such a place to die, in peace and beauty.

We arrive at a stream, steadily flowing and park ourselves once more to allow the group to merge once more. Pack = pillow, Hat = Face cover.

The group converge and the strain of altitude is showing on Nathan. It's been a hard walk for him.

A rest for everyone. The good thing about being upfront, is that the rest is longer. I'm feeling much better already with the thin mountain air. I can feel the strength returning. This land is a powerful one. Metaphysical people will say that the youth of the land and the pure air, the clean flowing stream allows for increased pure energy flow. The Quechua will tell you it is Pachamama. I say, that this planet has some incredibly beautiful places that no matter how jaded you are, or spoiled for beauty in your homeland, can't help but make you stop and appreciate the that very moment in space and time. Call it what you will, I call it powerful.

Up again and on (this will be a theme if you haven't guessed). More beauty, more valleys, more streams. The Lares takes you through small villages of no more than 5 families. Ahead we see the tents and it is time for lunch, or at least it will be when the others catch up. The lead porter gives a cold juice & water when we arrive and the lead team sits down and basks in the wonder of the area. We are at 4200m.

We eat a light lunch of chicken, rice and bread. Once we are all rested, off we go again, except for Nathan who unfortunately has to turn back. The altitude is taking too much of a toll on him, and for his health he must return to lower ground.

We have three hours of hiking to go to reach our camp-site and our porters will overtake us within the hour. I am completely recuperated, and lost in the wonder and beauty of the landscape. I'm not sure what people think of my silence, but I don't care. I've nothing to say, I am enamoured.

We reach the peak our days journey at 4450m and the vista is incredible. In the far distance clouds dance between the mountains, giant plumes of moisture twisting in the channels of air from the surrounding topography. I thought I had seen beauty in the first part of the day, but I was wrong. I knew now I would be seeing beauty all the way, some subtly different and others vastly so.

The rest of the walk was easy going, downhill to the 4100m we would be sleeping at. Down into the valley with the dancing clouds, then along a mountainside to our camp – completely made with smoke already rising from the cooking tent. We are settling on the side of a water catchment, not quite a swamp, but more than a marsh.

We eat and play cards into the night, fighting off the cold. Some go to bed early as they are not feeling well, the altitude affecting them. We didn't know it yet, but tonight it would drop to minus 8 degrees centigrade. Not the coldest I've ever been, but when it comes to that level of cold it's something you don't really get used to. Most people commented on the cold.

The next morning. we rose and got ready to start our day. The porters brought bowls of warm water to refresh ourselves. A breakfast of quinoa porridge and coca tea, then onwards again. Today is the big one where we reach the highest of our journey – 4600m.

It was relatively easy until we reached the major ascent. Each time we thought we were reaching the top, there was another peak. It seemed to take forever. I was in the lead group which consisted of myself, two other Australians (1 male, 1 female), and a British girl. When we reached the pass between two mountains that marked the highest peak of our trip the view was incredible. A glacial lake below, a sheet of ice on the mountainside directly next to us and a view behind that stretched for hours. It was incredible and more than made up for the stop starts on the way up the last 500m.

The remainder of the group joined us over the next 30 minutes and each had wonder in their face as they saw through the peak. When Anan arrived, he offered up his altimeter for use in photos – we had reached 4700m under our own steam.

The downhill segment to lunch, where we camped, was easy. The night was much like the previous one, cold, reaching only minus 6 degrees centigrade.

The following morning we trekked downhill to a kindergarten where we would eat lunch before taking the bus back to Ollantaytambo.

The Lares was an exhilarating walk, not actually all that difficult except for the lower atmosphere, but beautiful and rewarding. There are so many other trails throughout this area that I look forward to returning here and exploring some of them more.

At the bottom of the trek, we caught a bus and then a train to Aguis Callentes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.

Other Peru Articles:

Joomla! Debug Console


Profile Information

Memory Usage

Database Queries