Written by Neon
Leaving Ayacucho, we walked past the bus station at the edge of town and down into a narrow river ‘quebrada’ then ascended a small mountain to cross into another river valley. It was a hot day, though thankfully a cool breeze was blowing through the valley as clouds built in the distance. We stopped in a town to sit in the shade and drink cool beverages before continuing up to the tiny town of La Vega. There was no hostel in town, so we asked about camping and were told we could camp in town, and they would keep an eye on us. As we wandered towards a place to camp, a local shop owner came up and offered us their neighbor’s house. We weren’t sure, but followed yet another stranger into their house. His wife was sweeping the floor, preparing for our arrival. We ended up camping out in their front room. As a thunder storm rolled through outside, we chatted with the family inside before going to sleep for the night.
Waking up the next morning, we ate a quick breakfast and walked on. During the night I had gotten ill, so I was moving slowly and not feeling great. The weather commiserated with my mood, and a slow drizzle began as we made our way along. I was shuffled along at what felt like a snail’s pace. Thankfully, there was a larger town ahead and a shortcut to it. We made it into the town of Huanta as the skies cleared that afternoon and found a place to stay. I immediately took my soaked clothes off and fell asleep, only waking to eat a bit of dinner and drink some water before the next morning.
I felt infinitely better the next day, but still didn’t want to push it. We opted to carry less weight and walk down to a bridge, then come back to Huanta to give me a chance to rest more. We walked most of the day, descending into a wide river valley. As we descended, the weather got hotter and I was glad to have enough water and my umbrella for the last stretch. We made it back to Huanta that evening and I was able to get some more rest.
We set out the next day, shoving ourselves and our stuff into a moto-taxi to get back to the bridge. The valley floor sat at 2,100 meters (6,800 feet), and we had a 2,000 meter (6,500 foot) ascent to get out of the valley. The sun was relentless and the shade non-existent as we made our way up and up. Crisscrossing the road, I was glad to have shortcuts to bypass the multitude of switchbacks. The aridity of the climb was intriguing- though it was obvious that water shaped the land, there was no water along the mountain sides, only in the river snaking along the valley floor. We ended up camping before the small town of Marcas, because I was still recovering from illness and ascents are exhausting.
Making it through Marcas in the morning, we were able to get some supplemental foodstuffs and walk on. We left the road and began following the Inca trail to go up and over a pass. Lunching at the pass, a local man came up to chat with us for a bit before making his way back to his herd of sheep. As we made our way along the descent, I noticed an ominous cloud across the valley, slowly but surely moving towards us. I watched the lightning strike the far peaks as we curved along the mountainside. Fidgit and I began hearing the thunder roll across the valley and the breeze picked up. The clouds covered the sun and we began looking for a spot to take refuge. We happened across a dirt road and a passing local told us about a nearby town. We made our way to the pueblo as the rains began. By the time we made it to town and found our way to a small room in someone’s backyard that they sometimes rent out, the skies had opened and the downpour lasted a couple hours. We cooked dinner by the light of my headlamp dangling from the ceiling (because the power had been out in town for a couple of days) and tucked into our beds for the night.
Waking up to partly cloudy skies, we made our way along after breakfast. The Inca trail and road were the same at times, though sometimes the trail was straighter as the road wound into the nooks of the mountainside. It was always nice to be off the road, and finding the Inca trail and seeing the centuries of wear along it is amazing. I’m so glad to see these routes still being used today. We made our way into the town of Paucara in the midst of a hail storm, thunder echoing off the steep valley sides. Rainy season is nearing an end down here, but the storms are still nothing to scoff at. We have been lucky along this stretch to be mostly off-road while still being near towns if we do need to bail to avoid lightning strikes/gnarly weather.