Hiking the Andes on a potato
Trip Start Dec 17, 2011
8Trip End Feb 20, 2012
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So we all fell in Love. The scenery, the people the food... Ollantaytambo was all over our mind and we stayed a bit longer than we thought. Returning from Machu Picchu and arriving at Casa de WOW, well we felt like we came home again. One of the owners, Winn suggested for us to head out on horseback to see some of the beautiful surroundings with Putuco, her man's cousin. And why not, I love to sit high in the saddle! Our beautiful Peruvian horses mastered the Peruvian trot and while Liz and Josh looked like pros, I bounced like a rubber ball dropping my lens cover as well as my confidence as we moved higher and higher up the majestic mountains. We passed little villages with curious kids peeking at us behind rock walls, hardworking mountain people on the papa fields and rushing rivers.
After about two hours, and when Josh is about half way off his horse as his saddle nearly released, we reached the pre-inca Purmamarca ruins
Our decent synchronizes with the sunset, paining the mountains in soft warm colors. Josh mentions that he wants to go horseback riding more often and Liz reveales that she used to have a horse as a little girl (until the horse bit her mom). I too grew up around horses but I was never a real "horse girl" or "stalltjej" in Swedish. But to explore nature from the saddle, certainly brought out the cowboy/girl in all of us as well as the bowlegged cowboy walk (due to a soar behind) for the next few days.
PS, don't squat with your spurs on.
45 Peruvian min= 4,5 hours
Our hiking boots and sleeping bags were packed, along with a ton of food as we headed for another adventure in the Andes with Putuco. This time we were looking forward to a home stay with a sweet Andean family as well as a 45 min hike uphill followed by a 4 hour donwnhill hike to some hotsprings the following day. Ok, I have done a few home stays around the world, so I kind of had an idea of what we were in for. Liz and Josh, maybe not as much.
We arrived in the late afternoon to a small village surrounded by potato fields and a ton of mud
The sun sets and it is starting to get cold. The town is located at 14000 feet (4,600m) and even if it's the beginning of summer on this side of the equator, the nights are bone-chilling cold. The only heat source is the fire in the kitchen which is where we spend the next few hours. Josh and Liz have had some upset stomachs and are watching Valentina as she cooks with hawk eyes. There is no floor, just dirt. And I can't imagine a shower happens more than once a week, if even, due to the cold. The few utensils in the kitchen are well used and I'm pretty sure they aren't cleaned in purified water. Liz and I ask for a bathroom and the daughter leads us trough the dark to a hill just outside their house
Back in the kitchen Josh is strumming his guitar singing a cover of Beck's "Deborah". The little girl is covering her ears. Try something more mellow I suggest and he switches to a beautiful Sting song. Much better. The coca tea is ready and I am the only one who braves the hot beverage as my stomach has been ok so far. We found out earlier that the secret to "travel stomach" in this part of the world, is in the soup as water boils at much lower temperatures on high altitude (and therefore doesn't kill bacteria).
Potatoes is what's for dinner. Valentina puts a pot of steaming purple papas on the floor. We dig in. I watch how the family peel their potatoes with skillful, near to black hands. It is a hard life they are living here in the mountains. The women still wear skirts and hats all year round, a resemblance from the Spanish conquistadors. And sandals! I shiver in my boots and down jacket, I can't imagine what it must be like to live in sandals on this altitude. Their feet are pretty much completely black from mud and dirt. I believe there is no such thing as a foot file in the valley.
We crash in bed at 8pm
The roosters wake us up before the early bird gets the worm, and breakfast is served. We repeat the potato routine and head down to la Mamacita whom lives just down the road with some food. This remarkable lady just turned 100 years old and lives by herself in the house where she was born. Putucu chats with her in Quetchua. The smile on her face when she realizes that we came with some food for her is priceless.
With a big pep in our step, we take off on our hike. It is supposed to be about a 45 min incline to a pass and then a 4 hour downhill to some hot springs and the town of Lares where we plan to spend the night. The landscape is beautiful. Papa fields as far as the eye can see, massive grass covered mountains, llamas and smiling faces of locals who pass us by. The time goes by and we are still heading uphill after 4 hours and the rain starts to pour down. Luckily there is a small home on the road and we are invited in to rest until the weather is getting better. 45 minutes has now turned in to over four hours with no end in site. Putuco ensures us that we are only 10 min away from a lake, from there it will only be another 45 min steep incline and after that four hours of downhill terrain. We have a pow-wow about the situation as we are starting to question the Peruvian time line. The group decides to move on. In the rain. The next 10 min turns out to be almost an hour through rain and mud. When we finally reach the lake, we are exhausted, thirsty and most of all: hungry
So what happened to all the extra food that we bought at the market before we left for the trip we ask Putuco, well it was all given away to the village. Although I'm very happy that we could donate some beautiful vegetables and other food items to the hard working people of the Andes, I am about ready to faint from low blood sugar at this point. If 45 min = almost 5 hours, I can't even start to imagine how long 5 more hours will take. We are without food and have only half a bottle of clean water each. As we decide to turn around, the sun comes out and we know we made the right decision. It feels like we walked uphill both ways but this time I knew we were on our way back to civilization, a meal, and a hot shower.
Later on that evening we indulged in a phenomenal meal from our favorite restaurant in Ollantaytambo, Puka Rumi. We toast with pisco sours to an interesting 48 hours as well as to Josh's final A in Spanish and, of course, to Pachamama and how lucky we are to have the freedom to roam across borders, and we toast to the hospitality of the wonderful people of the Andes. And to that we are a lucky percent of the worlds population that doesn't have to wonder when the next meal will be served.
Peace, Love and Papas