Trip Start Jun 30, 2006
23Trip End Jul 29, 2006
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Let's just say, to start, that I now have a much better idea than before of exactly how altitude changes can affect your body.
Huancavelica is perched at about 3600 metres. Our hike would take us to just over 4100 metres, much of it (most, rather) involving steady climbs
It’s quite the feeling to run out of oxygen simply because there isn’t enough in the surrounding air for you, and your body hasn’t compensated for it, yet. It’s like you’re puffing, and breathing as much as possible, and it’s not doing anything for you—like suffocating, I guess. It was terrible. I’ve never been so physically exhausted in my whole life, I think. Not even during Steve Sir’s workouts at Taekwondo... hehehe.
Somehow I kept on trailing behind the group until about halfway through the hike, where I semi-recovered when we reached a flatter stretch. I had been too tired to enjoy the views up until this point, and holy man, they were just AWESOME. Mountains all around you, tiny villages scattered at incredible heights, alpacas grazing in herds (there was even an alpaca on our path, who was friendly, and incredibly cute). Just, wow, I guess. I did take pictures. But, as before, I will upload them when I had more time on hand.
All in all, it took about 3 hours to reach the top. Maybe 4. It was quite the lung-busting experience for me. But it was worth it. Upon reaching the abandoned mining town, we were approached by a man who informed us that the mayor of Huancavelica was up there, too, and he wanted a picture with us
So in a few moments, a truck arrived carrying not only the mayor, but several other city officials who had been up there checking out La Mina to see how they could possibly make it more tourist-friendly, to attract visitors. And lo and behold, six gringos had hiked up there. They couldn’t believe their luck. They were so pleased to have met us and had a photo with us that they offered to show us around the abandoned mining town, and offered us a tour of the mine itself (which is sealed off to all people). We couldn’t believe our luck, either.
So we saw the abandoned town (it has been that way for 30 years), including the graveyard and Spanish colonial church. We were taken into the mine, into the area where the raw mercury was trollied in and heated/processed. I guess they used mercury to extract silver. Obviously, mercury is highly toxic, and they had many, many deaths (hence the nickname, Mine of Death). We learned a bit about the process, as well as the history of the mine, which was interesting.
After eating a small lunch, we began our descent. This was easier, of course, although I’m finding that dropping in altitude wreaks havoc on my stomach (it changes the gasses in your digestive system, they expand and contract, etc).
Finally, about 12:45 or so, we were back! After going for a leche asada (dessert), I’m now here, internetting. I’m not feeling so hot. I think all I’m going to do for the rest of the day is shower, go on a quest to buy a sweater (it’s frigging COLD HERE at night), and maybe sleep
The people here are so friendly, without wanting anything from us, such a change from Lima. They are all so curious. We’re the only gringos (white folks) in town, so they always ask us where we’re from. The kids especially are curious. Had an interesting semi-English, semi-broken-Spanish conversation with some shoe shiner kids yesterday. They learn a bit of English in school, as well as Spanish, and Quechua (the native language). Geez! Must be a big workload... plus they all have chores, and some of them jobs (like the little shoe shiners).
All for now. Hope everyone back home is doing well!