Written by Neon
Huancayo is a large city, containing many different sections. We chose to slack (walk with only day packs) out of the city to avoid having to stress out about carrying everything we own through crowded streets. Walking through a busy city without full packs on, we were able to look around and have a more enjoyable experience. A great thing about every city we’ve experienced here in South America is that there is no suburban sprawl, so we go straight from busy city out into the campo. Fidgit and I walked through Huancayo along the sidewalk, and transferred over to the railroad tracks as we moved into the countryside. The tracks took us along the valley floor, paralleling Rio Mantaro. After a day of walking, we came back into Huancayo for the night.
Huancayo is at the southern end of a large valley, so we spent the next couple days walking along the valley and through the many small towns that were dotted along the railroad tracks. We approached the town of Jauja (pronounced ‘how-ha’)at the northern end of the valley just as an afternoon thunderstorm rolled through. Fidgit and I donned our rain jackets and made our way into town for the night. We were meeting a friend of a friend that evening, so we quickly dropped our things at the hostel and went across town to meet him.
Fidgit had been in touch with Pedro for a couple weeks, and he invited us to be on his local radio show. We walked into the radio studio and Pedro immediately put us on the air, interviewing Fidgit about the trip. It was a Spanish language conversation, so even though I was invited to participate, I turned down the opportunity, because I didn’t feel my Spanish skills could keep up with two fluent speakers. After the radio show, we had a late dinner with Pedro and his friend, Kique. Pedro then invited us to join him the next day for a tour around a local Reserva (he’s also a local guide). That sounded very interesting, so after discussing between us, Fidgit and I agreed to join him for the day.
We met Pedro the next morning in the town square and headed towards the small town of Huaripampa. The Reserva was right outside of Huaripampa, and we walked up a steep hill and through a quebrada with Pedro pointing out different areas of historical interest along the Ancient Inca ‘road’ we were walking. We went about 7 km throughout the day, and there were ruins and many other sites of archaeological interest in such a small area. After a day of trying to comprehend Spanish explanations while walking up and down steep roads, I was excited to get back to the hostel and relax. Being an introvert in such community-minded countries can be trying at times.
The next day, we left Jauja, and Pedro came along. He met us in the town square with his backpack, and we all walked out along the road before cutting off onto a dirt two-track. We followed the track until lunch when another of Pedro’s friends met us, and we all walked along the valley’s Inca Trail into the small town of Tingo. After talking with the school master, we set up camp in the school yard and tucked in for the night. The next morning, we arose early and made sure to pack up before school started. All four of us then left Tingo via the Inca Trail that ascended to 4,200 meters and hung out up there until it dropped into the next valley. Pedro’s friend left us at the pass, and the three of us walked on, seeing how far we would make it that day. Fidgit wasn’t feeling well, so we were trying to figure out what would be the best plan for the next couple of days. We had a late lunch before descending to the small town of Huanca and we all rode into the city of Tarma. We then parted ways with Pedro and headed to a place with hot water and comfortable beds so Fidgit could get some rest and hopefully recuperate.
From Tarma, Fidgit and I were able to walk along an area of the Inca Trail that cut across above the city while also allowing Fidgit to rest and work on getting better. We walked from Huanca through Tarmatambo and, following the Inca Trail, went up and over a pass and down to the small town of Cochas Bajas. We also took some time off-trail to multitask – getting work done and Fidgit resting to get over her cold.
Officially leaving Tarma, we walked up a valley and promptly dropped into another long valley. Walking along railroad tracks paralleling the road, we saw many trucks passing by. Soon enough we found these trucks were going to and from the many mines along the vast valley floor. Fortunately, there was also Inca Trail along the valley floor that we were able to follow along the Western side of Lake Chinchaycocha, which is nestled inside a small National Reserve. From the town of Junin at the south end of the lake, we were able to walk along without much elevation gain or loss which is nice when you’re already at 4,000 meters.
After a couple days of walking, the Reserve ended and we walked into the town of Vicco, then along another dirt road that skirted a huge mining operation to get back onto the Inca Trail. We had wanted to take the trail the entire way, but much of it was under water at the end of this rainy season.
The next section was a bit tricky, so we found a way to walk it from the north end (a road ambiguously named Road 100) going south from just outside the city of Cerro de Pasco. The ‘trail’ was more visible at the north end, so we followed it down to where we hadn’t been able to see anything on google earth pro and were able to follow our GPS route through the fields and over many fences along the way. We did end up getting our feet wet during a hail storm that blew across the valley flats and us that afternoon. Thankfully, the sun came out after the storm, and I was able to warm up before we made our way back into Cerro de Pasco for the night. We then diverged a bit from our original plan to travel laterally and dip into the Huayhuash Mountain trekking circuit that goes through those amazing peaks.