To our subscribers: Please pardon the two posts pushed through earlier this week. We have been working diligently to finish writing last year’s progress and get going on the beginning of this season. As we did so, we ran into technical difficulties using the app and sent those posts accidentally and out of order.
You can read Neon’s take on the end of last year here.
Written by Neon
As we headed out on the first leg of our third season, I was feeling many different emotions, ranging from apprehension to excitement and anticipation. We had been delayed nearly a day in Florida so spent less than 24 hours in Lima before flying into the small town of Andahuaylas. We made it into Andahuaylas just in time for their yearly regional festival. Parade after parade during the day we spent there preparing for our first leg. We caught a ride on a local van to get to our starting point of Huancarama. The two hour van ride made us and a few other passengers carsick, so we took a few moments in town to rest before heading up towards the pass.
We climbed up along a well-worn footpath and crested our first pass just in time for a late lunch. As we were eating, a man came up and told us about the area. He mentioned that there were some Incan ruins in less than ten kilometers. As we left that rest stop, we made it our goal to camp at the ruins he had mentioned. We were able to follow another footpath to the ruins and the caretaker allowed us to camp there- what a way to start season three of this adventure!
The next couple of days were generally uneventful as we made our way down into a valley each morning and up out of said valley each afternoon. The clouds and rain had a way of dispersing just as we were huffing and puffing our way uphill. I was glad it wasn’t cloudy all day, while at the same time irritated at mother nature’s timing.
In three day’s time, we made our way back into Andahuaylas. The regional festival had ended so we were able to make our way around town without running into parades, which made our errands much easier. I was able to look over the route to Ayacucho and we were able to head out of town feeling prepared for the stretch ahead.
As you may have figured out, most of the large towns/cities are in valleys here in Peru. So, we had another climb out of Andahuaylas. We were able to make our way up and nearly out of the valley on our first day leaving town. We were also walking through quite a few smaller towns along our way.
Our second day out of Andahuaylas was like a roller coaster in slow motion. We made it up to a route split then down along an old two-track to cross a river and climb up again to follow the Inca trail over a pass and down once more, through a valley and up to go over another pass and down to another river, all in 100- to 200-meter(300-600ft.) increments. It was tiring, and I slept well that night after we set up our tents in a perfectly-sized meadow uphill of our last river crossing of the day.
Waking up to a wet tent had become the norm, so we packed up quickly and climbed up to another pass before beginning our largest descent yet- 2,000 meters (6,500ft.) down to Rio Pampas. It drizzled all morning and the clouds parted just as we made our way into the small town of Uranmarca. We stopped in a small restaurant for lunch. As we paid and made our way to the door, a woman asked us where we were off to. Fidgit told her we were heading down to cross Rio Pampas. She replied that we wouldn’t be able to, the river was far too high right now, and it would be better to go a different direction to a bridge and cross there. We’ve heard many people tell us that we couldn’t do things that we’ve done, so we took her advice with a grain of salt.
We continued our descent towards Rio Pampas, asking other locals along the way if we would be able to cross the river. The answers we got were mixed, some saying no way and some saying oh yes definitely. As we closed in on the valley floor though, we began hearing more ‘No ways’ than anything else. It was still the rainy season, and another river we crossed near the valley floor gave us a small taste of what Rio Pampas may hold.
We walked straight down to the edge of the brown river snaking along the base of the valley to see for ourselves what this river was capable of. The water braided its way through sandbars and was flooding its banks, with whitecaps popping up all through the main current. I would guess Rio Pampas was about 500 meters (1,600ft.) wide, on average. Fidgit stepped in to test the depth and strength of the current- she was thigh deep four steps in. We decided to walk along the river for a bit and see if anyone along the valley floor had any ideas or options as to how we could cross this river without having to walk the 30+ kilometers out to the bridge.
We made our way to a small town and were told a story by the local shop owner of how a ‘strong swimmer’ of a young man was swept away a month ago, as well as how there was a mudslide just out of town a couple nights ago. A bit more hesitant to attempt a river crossing, we still made our way along the river to where our route crossed the river, wondering how its creator was able to cross. After much deliberation and taking a good hard look at the chocolate milk water below, we decided to walk along the river to the bridge instead of risk life and limb.
Dejectedly, we walked on.