Written by Neon
We delayed leaving Sorata, because we were not excited for the multi-hundred meter climb in front of us. So, instead of leaving, we decided to have breakfast and lunch at the same restaurant and then hike out with very full stomachs. Going uphill. In the middle of the day. Can you see where this is going? I did not fare well, and ended up losing about half of what I had eaten in an unfortunate vomiting incident. We ended up hiking into the night to get to a place flat enough to set up our tent and pass out.
The next day, we continued our trek upwards and found our way along a lovely valley. The route we were following was obviously an old road, but had been washed out in a few places and was no longer accessible by vehicle. The many small towns along this ‘road’ seemed unaffected by its state of disrepair, and were going along their days as usual. Many people stopped and talked to us in many of the pueblos we passed through.
Compared to the Cordillera Real that we had just come out of, the route was less arduous, so we were able to (inadvertently) pick up speed. We were also traveling through at least a town per day which helped keep our food bags light. As we made our way from town to town, we also noticed that even though these remote towns were neighbors, each one had its own personality. Some were outgoing, with the animals and people coming up to us immediately, others were more stand off-ish, with us having to make the first move to communicate. The government of Bolivia also seemed to be trying to reach these towns, as we saw attempts at tourist infrastructure and town health centers.
As we made our way towards the Bolivia/Peru border, the weather also decided to shift – we were coming into the rainy season. Because of this, and the not very flat land, we were staying in towns more often. Not many of these towns had what most people would consider accommodations, but we were able to ask around and sleep indoors. Indoors could be a spare room in a house, a small space in a school, or a multitude of other options I had never considered before.
We dropped down from the town of Caja Cachi to get our passports stamped out of Bolivia and into Peru. Because of the remoteness of the area we were crossing, there was no occupied border post along our route. Thankfully, we had been warned and were able to get stamped through smoothly after a short explanation. We came back and continued along our route for a day before the weather really moved in.
Our second day back on trail, we woke up to rain falling on our tent (we did still camp sometimes). We packed up and wore all of our rain gear – pants and jacket. By mid-morning, my feet were soaked, and the rain was coming down harder. We came upon a town around lunchtime and were able to eat at a small restaurant to be out of the rain, and it had slowed by the end of our meal. We walked out into the cloud and continued into the evening before finding a dry place to stay. After a night’s rest and attempts at drying out, we walked back out into the rain and over the day; everything got soaked again. This time, Mother Nature had a special treat for us – in the last hour of walking, the rain turned to a wet snow and plopped down on us. I was already soaked by this point, so the snow just perpetuated my descent into the realm of hypothermia. We made it into a Posta, or medical center, and the gentleman there gave us his space heater, and a hat full of animal crackers – we enjoyed both thoroughly and fell into an exhausted slumber that night.
In the morning, the skies were clearer, though the temperatures were lower, and we got our first view of the Apolobamba Range. What mountains! They were coated in snow in the distance and steaming as the sun shone down. That morning, we also came upon a rio, the official border between Bolivia and Peru. As the river flowed sinuously down the valley, we made our way up along the Bolivian side, not yet ready to cross into Peru.
Crossing the altiplano at around 4,000 meters has its advantages and disadvantages. There are no trees, nor really anything not human-made, above hip height. We learned that we could see towns from very far away; we knew what was coming from nearly any direction, and also it is terrifying when it storms. We were watching clouds blow in and partly over us along the border valley. I ran into the small town of Huacachani when the lightning began striking around us. Fidgit was not far behind, and we found a small shop after our five kilometer speed walk/run in. As we were talking with the woman running the store, it came up that her brother had recently been killed while tending the family’s animals – he had been struck by lightning. The Bolivian/Peruvian altiplano life is not for the faint of heart. Despite her recent loss, the woman was in good spirits and introduced us to the rest of her family, one of whom housed us that night as they were preparing to go to an inter-country market at the border the next day.
We said our farewells the next morning, and continued along as the wind picked up and the clouds moved in once more. We officially crossed the border right at the pop-up international market, as they were packing up from two days of socializing and vending. The rains came in, though not as hard this time, and the wind nearly blew me off route a couple of times as we made our way into Peru towards the border/mining town of Ananea. We stayed in another small pueblo along the way, and a couple locals told us about a back way to go, so we followed their directions. We made it across another pass and dropped down into Ananea right as the predicted afternoon storm began sprinkling rain on us.
Wind -burnt and tired, we were ready for a rest. There weren’t very many options in the town of Ananea, so we took a mobilidad into a larger town to find a hot shower, contact our families, and exchange money (Bolivianos into Soles). After a few days of eating and a solid resupply of energy and fat, we made our way back to Ananea to continue along our route.