Written by Neon
Leaving Paucara, I noticed we had made our way into the 12th parallel, meaning we were at 12 degrees south from the equator. I was so excited, because we had been moving through the 13th parallel since the end of last season. The Andes in this part of Peru curve to the west, causing our route to do so as well, and not making northern progression as quickly had been wearing on me. “We’re finally going north again!”, I thought excitedly as we made our way along the edge of the road out of Paucara.
We made our way up a wide valley, short-cutting the switchbacks of the road before finding a more direct pathway up to a pass at 4,100 meters (13,400 feet) where we stopped for lunch. It was the day before Easter, so the campo seemed calm and quiet as we continued our way along our route, finishing the day at one of the more beautiful campsites we’d stayed at in a while.
We slept well and in the morning continued along the valley edge, following a conveniently placed aqueduct to another trail. These paths led us along and down to another valley floor and a small town. It being Easter Sunday, we didn’t expect anything to be open, so were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a grandmotherly woman standing in front of her shop. She sold us cold sodas and some bread and we sat in the shade of her awning to consume them before moving on. We stayed along the valley floor the rest of the day, passing through a couple more small towns before finding camp along the railroad tracks. I had developed a nose and chest cold, so I was grateful for the lower elevation (we were down below 9,000 feet!), though the heat of the day had taken its toll, and I was ready to stop when we did. Fidgit and I looked at our route versus following the railroad tracks and decided to continue along the tracks. We would make it to the same place with only a few kilometers difference in distance to do so. We would also avoid an unnecessary 300 meter elevation gain, so we were excited.
Leaving our campsite the next morning, we were interested in seeing what kind of ground we could cover on a railroad gradient. As we progressed through the day, the railroad grade was nice, but the loose heel-sized stones that covered the tracks were not. The railway wound its way along the side of the valley with multiple tiny pueblos along the way. The views were amazing when I had a chance to look up from making sure my next step wouldn’t cause me to trip and fall. We had lunch at a stop building along the tracks, and found some water in a fifty-five gallon drum to replenish our empty water bottles. Our feet were struggling, especially Fidgit’s – she had developed red splotches between her arches and the ball of both of her feet which were painful every step at this point. After lunch, we walked on as best we could, finishing our day with an admirable 37 kilometers (23 miles) logged.
After asking in the nearby pueblo, we slept in the railway station at the edge of town. The next morning we attempted to sleep in, only to be woken by a local woman dropping something off at the station, presumably to be picked up by a passing train that day. We grunted and grumbled as we packed up, sore and dehydrated from the previous day’s efforts. Since we had covered so much ground the day before, we were able to walk/limp into the city of Huancayo by early afternoon. I hadn’t showered since Ayacucho, and with the heat, I felt bad as we made our way through town to our accommodations for the night. We made it, showered, stuffed our faces, and fell asleep in another new city.