Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trekking around the Alpamayo - Part IV

Every morning Eli and Roger come around to wake us and serve hot tea. Fifteen minutes later Roger returns with two basins of hot water to wash. This morning we were up at 6AM and breakfast was at 7.

Before we leave the tent we pack all our things up, ready for the donkey drivers, who fold up the tents and balance everything on our donkeys. Four of our donkeys and one of our drivers left the day before to head home. That still leaves us with two drivers and ten donkeys though!

Breakfast always starts with hot porridge, oatmeal or quinoa. Quinoa is a high altitude super grain, high in protein and now available in supermarkets in the U.S. We ate it as cereal, as a substitute for rice and in soup. Quinoa is shown growing in the picture top left. There is a basket of bread with margarine, jam, honey and peanut butter. Next, we alternate omelets with pancakes.

Because we especially requested it, there was perked coffee as well as all kinds of tea. Most of the time we drank matte de coca to help with the altitude. Scott chewed coca leaves on the trail as well, but he was the only one of us.
We were back on the trail at 7:45 heading slightly downhill for an hour through the valley. We passed two stone huts, each with one family and lots of animals - llamas,

horses, sheep, pigs, cows and bulls. One of the men came over to ask for some pain killers for a tooth ache and we gave some to him. Eli explained that in the past they had more knowledge of herbal medecines but now they are becoming used to modern types. Then we started uphill to the Yanacon Pass (4610 meters). The two pictures above are deceptive.

The distances are squashed somehow and it's hard to understand the perspective. That waterfall is huge in the top right photo and the photo under it to the left is taken once we had climbed above it - if you double click on that photo you'll see the donkey train in the distance. We stopped at the beginning of a steep section and Eli suggested I ride for awhile.

It was really scary this time. Once the horse and I almost fell backwards! Only quick action by Marcello pushing and Roger hauling saved us. I got off and finished the rest of the way on my feet. We were in loose scree from landslides and it was challenging. Even more so on the way down. But way below us Myoume and lunch was waiting by a pretty stream so we were motivated. On this side of the mountain the water goes to the Amazon and the Atlantic, rather than the Pacific and it was much lusher and greener.
The pastures looked like gardens with lupine everywhere, purple spikes with grayish green leaves and tiny yellow & white flowers. There were small trees with bright yellow flowers that smelled like chocolate!
Seriously! Yellow and white daisies in bunches grew profusely close to the ground. Scott loved this spot so much that he talked to Eli about coming back here, with me
to camp for a week some day. I should mention that there were white mountains hanging over and cliffs surrounding it with waterfalls everywhere - paradise! It was a short break for lunch as we had 4 more hours of downhill, sometimes steep, but always beautiful. Everyone was exhausted at the end but there was a lot of excitement at the campsite. Several women with their children were waiting for us with a few bottles of beer and coke to sell. They sure tasted good and the profits from this enterprise must be very helpful for them. Especially since Walter bought one bottle of beer for everyone in our group! This was the only time on the trip we had this opportunity.

This campsite is on a big flat plain surrounded by mountains (see above right with horses grazing). At the end of the valley is an enormous handing glacier and above it, only occasionally seen are the three jagged white peaks of the Nevados Pucajiria, all over 6,000 meters.
The next morning we were up at 6 and on the trail at 7:30 again, another long day. As we went down the valley the homes became more prosperous and women in native dress were driving the sheep and cows up the hills to graze. We followed a group of them up a long side valley for 3.5 hours to the top of Tupatupa Pass (4360 meters) and found Myoume setting up our lunch at the top. The sun went behind the clouds (that's a view from our lunch spot on the right below and Scott, Geoff and Myoume on the left above),

and I was really chilled and unable to warm up, even with the tea. So after only a brief stop, I started down slowly.
After a while I heard Eli yelling and turned around. He was running down the slope and gesturing frantically! One more turn of the head and the sight of a big bull heading my way appeared. Happily Eli threw some stones and he veered off. My hero!
More adventures in the next entry.

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