Hiking the Andes on a potato

Trip Start Dec 17, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2012

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Where I stayed
Casa de WOW

Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Saturday, December 31, 2011

A horse tale

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. Putuco explains that this is a very sacred site for Peruvians, and it is hard not to notice the fabulous energy this place offers. The best thing of it all: there is nobody here, just us. We make giant juicy avocado and tomato sandwiches with produce bought from the local market. It tastes heavenly!

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. We slip and slide our way to our host families home where we get greeted by two curious kids in traditional colorful clothing. They are really excited to see us and proudly lead us to trough the door and to a sparse room made up of three walls with nothing in it but their mother, Valentina, working on her weaving. Her eyes are kind and she smiles at us, a few teeth missing. She can't be much older than 24. Her husband welcomes us and shows us to our room where we will sleep. It is across a small little yard filled with mud and some trash. There is one bed in the room and before we know it, Putuco and our host are on the top floor moving their bed down for us to sleep in. We protest as we don't want for them to give up their bed, but they insist.

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. Ummm ok, I guess we just squat and go.

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. Josh has to lie diagonal to fit. I fill in the little triangle that's left of the bed. Thank God for a warm sleeping bag. Outside, a million stars shine above us, promising for a clear beautiful day ahead. I fall asleep remembering how lucky I am to live such a rich life. On so many levels that is.

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! To hike a steady incline for close to 5 hours up to 15000 feet on a couple of potatoes is near to impossible.

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

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mistytravels on

Wonderful!!! Wish I was there too!
Did you get bruised too from the horseback-riding with cameras, like Peter and me? (Even drew blood due to Peter insisting to ride with the safari-lens on one of the cameras) :o/
Abrazos xxx

swedishvagabond on

Yes! my body was acing for days after. It takes some serious skills to ride with a ton of gear slung around your neck!

Laena on

Love you so much Micaela! Your writing is so amazing! You are such a gifted and talented storyteller with words and images and the combination of the two is just mindblowing! Its such a blessing to experience your adventures with you! I really feel like I am there at times! Sending all three of you so so so much love!!! <3

swedishvagabond on

Thank you for your kind words Laena! I can't wait to capture your celebration of Love! XOXOXO's

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