Sunday, September 18, 2016

Peru, Day 3: IT BEGINS

The trail hike to the Sacred Valley begins!

We shoved down breakfast at the hotel and were picked up by van at about 6:30 a.m. Our first stop was the small town of Izcuchaca and its small market. Disnarda wanted to show us what a local Andean market looked like, and like a lot of Peru, it was suitably cute and gritty all at the same time.

Locals brought in their fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat from all over the province to sell at the market. We saw tons of potatoes, black corn, and even a truck full of chicken feet.

After that, we drove through some more villages but didn't stop in any, and then visited the Moonstone shrine, known in Quechua as Quillarumiyoq. 

This is a really cool shrine to the moon and water. We were able to climb around on some paths and staircases. Disnarda, our guide, explained that whenever you see Incan stones placed together with no mortar - as these stones are, and as the stones at Sacsayhuaman are - it indicates a holy place. Pretty cool.

We drove a bit more, then began our hike on the side of the road on a trail that locals use to get to town. I started things off awesomely by forgetting my damn cell phone in the van, so he had to come back. (I plied him with a ten-sole note.) At that point, I'm sure Disnarda thought I was an idiot she was going to have to drag around all week.

At one point, so did I. Walking uphill for several hours at that altitude was a tough beginning to the hike, and I began to wonder if I'd be up for the journey. We eventually made it to the top of the first pass, the pre-Incan ruins at Wat'a, at about 12,000 feet. We lunched and I knitted.

The next few hours were downhill, which went very quickly. We got to see lots of Peruvian sheep and cows, although no llamas yet. (Apparently llamas don't do well as pack animals in this specific area of the Andes, because the loads are too heavy. According to Disnarda, a llama of any size will carry 30 kilos, but not one kilo more. Anything beyond that and he'll lie down and refuse to move.)

I tried to stop and appreciate the beautiful nature scenes, and Disnarda told us a lot about the flora and fauna of the Andes. Because there are not many doctors around this area, many locals use a healer instead, who employs the local plant life to treat wounds and other ills.

I should mention at this point that the three of us and Disnarda were frequently lapped by the horses, porter, and cook who had to get ahead of us to each site to prepare lunch, or at the end of the day, dinner and camp. As we descended on a trail into Chillihuapa, a little town in the middle of a valley, we saw our camp had been prepared for us for the night:

We pretty much slept amongst the burros, horses, and sheep that night, hearing their chatter and watching the stars. I have never been in the southern hemisphere, so I got to see some cool new constellations. As you can guess, it was also so dark that you can see the Milky Way quite clearly, as the Incans did.

All in all, the first day was really fun and satisfying, but I worried about my ability to finish the hike without needing to be forcibly carried by horse, particularly on the second day, which Disnarda had told us would be the most difficult. You'll have to continue reading to see if I make it!

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