Socma to Corimarca

Trip Start Oct 01, 2009
Trip End Oct 27, 2009

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Monday, October 19, 2009

Another early morning on my Peruvian adventure, I guess waking up at 4am is to be the theme of my trek, however I did get an excellent nights sleep, the altitude only attacked my bladder once during the night.

I peeked out of the tent to find it was still pitch black and with the stars still visible in the sky, the only sounds I could hear were donkeys calling in the distance, this makes a nice change to the sound of cars and airplanes that I normally hear back home.

Dee woke around 4:15 and we decided that we would take a walk up to the village to watch the sunrise above the camp site, now this was to be more exciting than I had anticipated!  We adorned our headlamps, hats and warm clothes over the top of our nightwear (a really good look, London fashion week eat your heart out) and headed up the steep hill.  On route we were startled by an old lady and her dog that appeared from nowhere, she gave us a quick hola and carried on her way, she had no torch and was wearing just traditional Peruvian clothing, myself and Dee were dressed in thick layers, both wearing torches and yet we found it difficult to navigate the rough terrain, yet she was a pro and seemed to float over the undulating landscape.

We reached the village centre and stood next to a rock structure around 4 foot tall.  The sky at this point began to lighten, however visibility was still only a few feet at this point, it was then that I got the shock of my life.  In the distance my headlamp caught the silhouette of some large animals moving up the dirt track towards us, I could see the silver reflection of their eyes and then suddenly I realised that it was a herd of bulls!  I tried to remain calm until I noticed that one of the bulls had taken a liking to me and was headed straight in my direction, now at this point the wise thing to do, would have been to take shelter behind the rock structure and in deed this is exactly what Dee did, however me, I am still standing there as this beast came closer and closer, eventually he was stood no more than 2 feet in front of me, he stopped, looked at me and tilted his head, my heart was racing and Dee was saying are you ok, all I could do was say shush to the bull, like that was going to make him go away.  I relaxed a little when I noticed that he seemed to be more interested in just looking at me than charging me, although looking at the sharp points on his horns did not provide me with any degree of comfort.  Finally the bulls were herded along by a local gentlemen who smiled at me as he went past, however that bull had taken a real liking to me as all the way up the hill he kept turning and looking at me, not sure what the connection was but I am very pleased it only lasted only a few minutes.

After the bull experience we stayed and watched the sunrise over the camp site, another beautiful experience, the mountains all around us changed colour from black, to blue, to red, to orange and then to their natural colour.  At moments like this I am so grateful that our (Dee and I) sleeping patterns force us to be up early, as the rest of the group slept we had already started the day with an adventure and my memory banks had already stored something I would never forget.

Before we left to head back down to our camp, Dee and I just stood for moment taking in the surroundings and enjoying the experiences of the Andes.  We then noticed some local people shouting to each other across the hillside, they did not have the use of telephones and this was their way of communicating, it appeared that conversation was taking place all around the village, who knows what they were saying, but it was certainly a far cry from the over developed towns and cities I was used to, where the main form of communication is to walk around with a mobile phone attached to your face.  Again I caught myself thinking, have we got it all wrong, when you strip things back to basic life becomes less complicated, less about what you own and more about living, another humbling experience locked in to my mind and one that I hope will make me think twice before wanting and believing I need the next new techno gadget.

After the early morning adventures and breakfast we were privileged to meet the local school children and present them with gifts we had brought with us from home.  We were given instruction that we must present our gifts with both hands, to use one was against local custom.  This was exceptionally moving, the kids were so grateful, a new book and pen was like watching one of my nieces or nephews receiving a new Nintendo DS for Christmas.  The harsh truth was that this was a pass to eduction, a chance of learning, without these gifts these children would not be able to attend school, the area was so remote that a simple pen and book was hard to come by.  I will never forget the look of joy in the girls face when I handed her my offering, it made me melt.  I watched as others gave their gifts and the children waited patiently for their turn, grown men and women thought back the tears, how could you not be touched by this.  I had a real sense of guilt, guilt that I could have bought more with me, guilt that I worry about materialistic things that seem so important to me and yet in the grander scheme they are all greed.

Now on to the trek of the day, we were all gathered around by Jenny (our expedition leader) for a quick warm up, part of the daily ritual, this was a bit of fun but very much needed, today was going to be a hard climb up over several hours and our muscle needed to be as limber as possible.

I had taken my MP3 player with me, along with lots of tracks that artists from had donated to provide me with inspiration along the route, I had decided that this morning I wanted to get lost in my surroundings and music, this was perfect, I was in my element, I was walking through some of the most beautiful, dramatic and humbling scenery in the world and I felt like a sponge, just absorbing everything, my eyes were registering one thing after another, a hummingbird, some horses grazing, local people going about their daily business, ruins on the hillside and so on, everything was new, everything was basic and everything was magical.  Whilst going through my music I came across one track (Ya Jamal by Khaled Dajani) from the wohomusic site that lifted me so high that I could have floated up the steep hill, it was perfect, it was an instrumental piece that seemed to transfer my emotions in to music.

After a couple of hours of walking we arrived at a waterfall, we were told to take swimwear if we wanted a quick dunk, how could I resist, I was in Peru and I had never stood under a waterfall before, I quickly changed and followed a few others that were brave (or stupid) enough to give it a go.  I stepped in and bang, brain freeze, it felt like my head had been slammed in to a wall, I stayed in for seconds, but as soon as I came out I felt great, it had now been a few days since I last had a shower and the welcome feeling of clean water, regardless of how cold felt good.  We stayed here for a short while and breathed in the splendor of the place, the waterfall towered high above our heads and disappeared into the tree canopy, the sound of rushing water rang through my ears and the warm sun shone brightly through the leaves, a little piece of heaven right here on earth.

After our short stop it was onwards and upwards, again we faced a steep climb up to our lunch destination (Perol Nyoc ruins) at 3,520 meters.  This leg of the trek was to be a tough challenge on most of the group, every step felt like I was carrying a heavy load, at points I was gasping for breath and my head was starting to pound, at last the altitude effects were starting to take hold, I don't say this like I was welcoming the feeling, it was just that I knew at some point I would suffer, I quickly shoved some coca sweets in my mouth and hoped for the best.  It was very difficult to be beaten by any form of physical illness, it only took a quick look around to realise how lucky I was to be here and how amazing everything was.

We made it up to Perol Nyoc and it was well worth the hard trek, the views were out of this world, we could see for miles down the valley and we could also see the distance we had traveled.  Unfortunately for some the physical challenge combined with the height had started to become too much, a number of the group were suffering from headaches, sickness and general exhaustion.  I was not immune as I said but the coca candy seemed to be doing the job, I had a mild headache but a short rest did the trick.

After 20 minutes or so we were invited to view the Perol Nyoc ruins, we were told that Across the Divide (our travel company) were the only group to use this route and therefore we would be part of an elite group of people that had ever seen the ruins.  Some of the group took the chance to take a rest and to be honest I was split between taking the chance to sleep or seeing the ancient site.  My curiosity won and I went off to the ruins, I am so glad that I did.  The ruins were pre Inca, again little was known about them but they were so well preserved, for years they had been lost to the overgrown countryside.  The buildings were made from lightly coloured stone and stood grandly on the edge of the mountain cliffs.  The view from here was beyond belief, standing back from the edge of the cliff it appeared that everything just dropped down for thousands of meters.  In the distance I could see the glacier peaks and below I could see the base of the valley some miles away now.  Simply breath taking!

After the visit to the ruins and lunch we continued up the mountain to the Inca terraces of Corimarca at a height of 3,740 meters, this would be our third camp site and one at extreme altitude.  I had prepared myself by eating extra coca candies and drinking a few cups of coca tea at lunch.  On route the air became very much cooler than we had experienced up until this point, the effort of walking became harder and breathing became increasingly difficult.  Thankfully this stretch was only 45 minutes long as I don't think some of us would have been able to cope with much more.  The hike up was probably the most quiet of all, the group conversation had dropped to a minimum and we all wanted to see the sights of gorgeous yellow tents we now called home.

Todays hike over and we are now in camp, it is really cold so the extra layers are on.  I took a quick walk around the hillside using the last of my energy and watched a herd of cows walk through the camp. In addition to this, just prior to our evening meal two young children, no older than 10 drove a herd of goats through the camp, oh how things are really different up here.  Life is so simple, I couldn't help but think that these kids must find the sight of us so called developed people very funny, gasping for breath and looking like we had the worlds worst hangovers, struggling to cope with the altitude, change in temperature whilst adorning ourselves with fibers designed to keep out the coldest weather and sleeping in tents designed for extreme weathers, these kids had sandals on, thin cotton shirts and lama wool cardigans, they slept in mud huts and looked so free....  What a sight we must all have been.

At dinner the group were treated to the local delicacy (guinea pig), the sight of it was not for the faint hearted as it was presented on an orange plastic plate, head still attached with teeth sticking out at the front.  Not good!  To accompany the evening meal we were joined by the village elder, he sat in the corner of the yellow tent we called the dining room and played the harp throughout dinner, I would like to say that I enjoyed the sound of his music playing however it was not good and when he sang it became painful, oh well I guess not everything in the mountains was to my taste.

Tomorrow is our longest trek, 10 1/2 hours and we would be reaching a height of 4,440 meters, I decided that an early night would be a sensible idea and headed off to bed around 8:30pm.

Another great day in the mountains!!!
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