Kellie O'Donnell Heading to the Hills

Trip Start Sep 08, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Chiquisca Camp
Choquequirao Camp
Yanama Town
Pichaunuyoc Camp
Abra Victoria Camp (off of the Inka Trail)
Quelque Machay Valley Camp
What I did
Rio Blanco
Rio Apurimac
Playa Rosalinda
Marampata Camp
Abra Victoria
Abra Choquetacarpu
Maizai Camp

Flag of Peru  , Apurímac,
Monday, September 17, 2012

Note: I stole this title from one of my favorite bosses of all time and I thought it appropriate for this post. Special thanks to KH for your consistent awesomeness. More people should take a page out of your book!

If you are curious about the route, I think this link will work: Google Earth Map of Trek

DAY 1: I was still recovering from my bacterial infection but developing a healthy relationship with my new friend Cipro- it was the worst I've felt since probably childhood. The three hour(ish) van ride to our Chocoquerao trek starting point in Cachora was a challenge to say the least. Six trekkers, the driver, our guide, a cook, a wrangler (not to mention all of our stuff) were crammed into the van. I remember stopping at a beautiful spot to have lunch but the memory is a bit fuzzy. It was hot and we were in the 'high jungle.' I do remember the bugs, and they started their assault on us almost immediately. 

When we arrived at Chacora, we met our mules got situated and headed on our way. It was hot and for lack of better word... gross. Luckily, we didn't have too much hiking ahead of us. Something about the heat made the trail manure especially potent. After stopping for lunch on the side of the mountain, we headed up to the first pass before heading down to Chiquisca Camp. It was dark when we arrived at camp, but it was worth the amazing sunset views of the Andes we had just had. Amber put it best when she described our camp that night... America in the 1800s- it was a Peruvian Wild West. All four of us lady trekkers were huddled on a bench guarding our belongings (we were told to watch our stuff in this camp) while the wranglers set up our tents and the cooks made our dinner.

The camp was made even more eerie when our guide Antonio told us the dark tale of the 'Fat Sucker.' Apparently the Fat Sucker made its home in the area and is known to have many manifestations. Fatty S likes to steal people from their tents, take them to a cave then suck all the fat off of their bodies in order to make his manifestations wardrobe (masks and such). It reminded me of Fight Club. Never did losing weight from a sickness work so much in my favor! Later than night, I had interesting dreams (In case your are appearance was made by Brad Pitt, Edward Norton or the Fatty S). When I woke, I was again grateful Pablo performed the ancient shaman ceremony for us before we left. I actually think my strange dreams were a result of Pablo connecting our spiritual being with Pachamama (Mother Earth). Believe it or not...

DAY 2: We hiked down to the Rio Apurimac, crossed over via the cable car and headed up a very long steep path to an upper camp (note: I lost most of my pictures of days 1-6 so will be putting relevant images in as I can find them. Special thanks to my fellow bloggers for the temporary copyright infringement). Luckily were we able to find some shade. The rest spot had a random little store that sold warm soda and other snacks. Little did we know, we had a lot more hiking to do before lunch. I spent most of the day hiking by myself and feeling frustrated often. Every new switchback just revealed another. I was hot, hungry and still sick. More than once the words 'you gotta be F#$KING kidding me!' came out of my mouth. Lesson learned: I'm grumpy without enough snacks, especially hiking. Good thing I was by myself. The miracle moment was when Ellen, our trip leader, camp down from the trail to meet me and carry my pack up to the lunch spot. ¡Gracias a dios! All the hard work paid off as the lunch and subsequent siesta were the best of my life! What a beautiful location. We continued on and got to our Choquequirao camp site just before dark. Again, another amazing sunset!

DAY 3: In the morning we had an introduction ceremony with our cooks and wranglers before hiking up to the main urban area of Choquequirao. Antonio gave us a tour then we had free time to explore. This was also the site of the 3rd SHFC but that was one of the lost pictures. It was a great shot taken from top ceremonial area seen in this picture. Ahh well. It turned out to be a fantastic day with very little tourist traffic at the site. Choquequirao, is considered the sister site to Machu Picchu and was well worth the visit. Absolutely, amazing with lots of areas to explore. We camped at Pichaunuyoc that evening. We enjoyed our usual 'happy hour' of popcorn out on the terraces while watching the sun set. Antonio shared with us another legend involving Pachamama  and two brothers. A lovely story which was accented by the appearance of fireflies!! I hadn't seen fireflies in years. I didn't now they existed in Peru! YAY! This was my favorite night AND we had a fire.

Day 4: We hiked a steep trail down from camp to the Rio Blanco, then there was a very miserable hike up, up, up and more up to Maizai Camp, our lunch spot. We had very enjoyable views until the hungry bugs showed up... again! After lunch, there was more up and the group spit up according to the varying paces. Darkness rolled in quickly and so did the fog. Luckily, Ellen and I were very close behind our cooks. After some whistling and yelling back and forth with the wranglers who were already in camp, we realized we were off our mark. Apparently we overshot the camp by about 100 feet. This was the first time during the trek that I actually felt a bit nervous. For the record, this was my least favorite night. For the record, it was Amber's favorite. We had two totally different experiences that night. Eventually, everyone made to camp safely. Our elevation at this site was over 13,000ft. This was the highest I've ever been up to this point. Neat but BRRRRR! Bonus: I didn't need the Diamox for altitude sickness! Yay!

Day 5: The next morning greeted us with great views of the snow capped mountain. After breakfast we met back up with an Inka Trail that took us up and over Abra Victoria. More great views! On the way down we explored some old silver mines before heading down to our camp in Yanama. After a dinner and a good game of chase with Wilfredo's (one of our wranglers) kids, I climbed in my tent. Lights out!

Day 6: We left Yanama and headed towards our camp in the Quelque Machay Valley. This was my favorite hiking day and one of the most beautiful valleys I've ever seen. Along the way we came across the house where Wilfredo's mother lived. We chatted with her a bit then continued our 'Peruvian flat' traverse for a few miles. During our 'traverse' which consisted of many ups and downs, I decided to try out riding one of our emergency horses. The horse was not in use and I was asked if I was interested... I couldn't turn down a chance to ride a horse in the Andes. Good news: I survived a really precarious stretch of trail that had encountered a recent landslide and avoiding going off the cliff.  Bad news: I lost all of the pictures I had taken so far during the trek. I think it was from all the jostling and getting knocked around. It was actually safer to stay on the horse than to get off. Crazy! Anyway, I dismounted once it was safe and continued the rest of the way on foot. Little did I know the adventure wasn't quite finished for the day... there were quite a few amazing thunderstorms in the valley that evening. The lighting was spectacular, despite my concern about being so close to previous rock falls. Sometimes you gotta give it up to the Universe...

Day 7:
Every morning our assistant cook knocked on our tent and offered us coca tea and hot water for washing. I was especially grateful because this was a very cold morning. Again we were on the Inka trail heading to the highest point on the trek - Abra Choquetacarpu (15,103 ft!!). I made it in one piece. 'Summit fever' got the best of me and I certainly felt the altitude. We didn't spend much time at the top, headed half way down to our lunch spot then the other half down to where the car was waiting for us. Trek complete!

Little did we know we were in for another adventure on the way down to Huancacalle. Halfway down the very under developed dirt rocky road, the van started to smoke and we had to stop. Despite the altitude headache and the smoke, I did have enough sense to jump out of the van. It seemed only the gringos were concerned as the rest of our crew stayed seated. It turns out it was just a slight electrical brake light malfunction which was resolved by disconnecting a few wires... no big. I was thankful because my passport was still in the van. Whew! As we climbed back in, I asked Amber how much time I had from flames to explosion. Her response simply was: 'you got time.' HA! Good thing I was next to the window. I was fully prepared to climb out as I mapped my escape in my mind. Amber thought it would be funny to have her last memory be of my butt out the window as the van exploded. Sometimes you gotta give it up to the Universe...

We ended up making down to the town without any further major issues. One more time with the ¡GRACIAS A DIOS¡

Thanks for reading! My apologies for any grammar mistakes. I figure I'll have plenty of time to fix them when I get back to the EEUU.

PS I'm a little behind in posts but I hope to get caught up here soon.
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jocelyn on

Awesome stories, it's so good to hear from you. Being sick while being on the trail sucks though. Looking forward to what was next

mc1rvariant on

Thanks Jocelyn! I saw a drum kit the other night at the restaurant. I was tempted to play but there weren't any sticks around. :( Anyway, I thought of my favorite LRC ladies. Miss you!

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