Trekking in the Andes
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
10Trip End Oct 19, 2010
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We left Cusco early on Saturday morning (7 Oct) to start with our hike in the Andes mountains. Our guide Fernando (named after the Abba song), 3 UK students, a couple from the Netherlands, a guy from Israel, Phil, myself and the two cooks piled into the bus that was to take us on a four hour drive to our starting point high above the Apurimac River.
We met up with the mules, horses, and three arrieros (wranglers) that carried our heavy gear during the trek.
The first day was a fairly easy start. Departing just after a lunch that consisted of soup, followed by a main meal with fresh bread rolls, tomatoes, cucumbers and cold meat we started with a gentle hike into the green river valley of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, hiking steadily upwards to the high plateau
The next day was the most difficult. We started at 7 am slowly, but surely going up the switchbacks closer and closer to the grandiose Mount Salkantay. The day was getting warmer and warmer and many breaks were made to gulp down some water and to peel off unnecessary layers of clothes. Suddenly we were at the top of the pass (4,750m) flanked by Salkantay and Huamantay. It was wonderful to just take in the view, catch our breath and to be surrounded by hundreds of apachetas (small piles of stones) left by locals and travelers to honor the mountain gods. Then suddenly the weather changed. We had some sleet, rain and ice cold winds as we started descending down the mountain.
Lunch was served in an old barn, giving welcome protection from the cold rain outside. It looked so much like the Scottish moors and Phil even landed knee deep into a muddy bog.
We continued and it felt as if going down hill was never going to stop.We covered 19 kilometres in 8 hours to camp for the night at Chaullay which commands magnificent views of the surrounding hills and the valley below
Our third day took us from Chaullay all the way down to the small village of Playa. We descended on the eastern slope of the Andes into a sub-tropical valley. The vegetation changed dramatically and Phil kept on stopping to take photographs of waterfalls cascading down into the river below us. My left knee certainly felt the steep slopes down and our heavy cameras certainly contributed to our growing weariness. In Playa I bandaged my knee up just to make sure I would outlast the trek. We covered some 12 kilometres in 5 hours and had the rest of the day of.
On day 4 we had a bit of a diversion from the original itinerary. There was a huge fire in the forest we had to go through. So we travelled by kombi (aka SA taxi style) along mountain passes to the small town of Santa Theresa. They added gas (fuel) via a big bucket and funnel and we continued our trip to Hydroelectrica. It was a scary drive and far below you could clearly see the damage caused by the big floods earlier this year. From Hydroelectrica (where there are two hydro power stations that supplies electricity to the Cusco area) we took a steep climb uphill for about five minutes until we reached the railway track leading to Aguas Calientes. This was a wonderful walk on level ground. Crossing railway tracks and the Urubamba river snaking between steep granite hills
It was very humid and every now and then rain poured down. By the time we reached Aguas Calientes we were drenched. I looked forward to a hot shower, but that was not to happen. Luckily the hot water arrived on the second day.
Phil picked up a cold during the trek and hopefully he will be able to get rid of it within the next day or two.