What an incredible couple of days I’ve had! Following the ‘unique’ New Year experience Lou and I got up early at about 6.30 and caught a taxi up the valley to a little village called Patacancha. From there the plan was to walk to Lares, a trip that we heard could be done in two or three days; slightly concerning, given that we were due to have a business meeting in three.
The road up to Patachanca was spectacular, with Andinos running in family groups the other way down the valley road to get to a big parade for the municipal major, in their colourful traditional clothing. Arriving in Patacancha, we strapped on our bags and set off through the base of the valley, skirting alongside the fast flowing river, swollen with rain. Following directions from locals as the trail was fairly difficult to pick out, we passed field after field of potato crops, turning eventually up a steep climb and into a higher valley that opened out into a jaw dropping view.
Passing through the valley we saw adobe and straw huts surrounded by livestock, and very little other signs of life. At one point a group of Peruvian mountain bikers passed us, descending from the mountain pass at 4500m to which we eventually climbed, our minds slightly boggled as we descended on the other side at the climb which they must have done to reach altitude.
Descending on the other side of the pass, our feet eventually led us to Huancahuasi, a sleepy village dispersed along the river that flowed down from the snow peaks above us. We decided to stay there for the night, accosting a home owner and paying him a bit of money to get some food and a space to sleep, playing with his kids until nightfall. Initially slightly wary, they family warmed to us eventually, but we were slightly embarrassed to realise that the couple had given up their bed for our benefit, sleeping on the floor in the upstairs section of the two room house despite our strongest protestations.
It was very, very cold during the night, and neither of us slept well. The house, a dark and cramped little adobe number with an outside drop-toilet, was an eye-opener; a far cry from the comfortable surroundings in which we passed christmas. Despite the discomfort of staying the night, it was well worth the effort, starting the year with with a strong reality check and a perspective on how many people in rural Peru live.
Leaving fairly stiff the next day, a two hour brisk walk took us through the mists of the valley down into Lares, where we checked into a hostel for the followin night and payed a well earned visit to the local thermal baths, dunking ourselves in bubbling hot water to soothe tired legs. A fine end to a new beginning, and a surefire reminder that there are better things to do on New Year’s day than lie in bed moaning with a hangover…
3rd January 2010