Huallanca to Rio Maranon

Written by Neon

Walking along the lower elevation of the Huallanca valley warmed us up for a couple of days and then we ascended once again up a side valley. It definitely wasn’t as frigid as the towering Huayhuash Circuit, though it was chilly enough for comfortable walking.

After a steep ascent Fidgit and I walked through a small town along the edge of the valley rim just in time for lunch. There was a woman cooking meat on a grill along the town soccer field/central park area. We bought a skewer and settled in to eat as the town dog pack crept closer, hoping to grab a snack. We finished lunch, threw our leftovers to the pups and walked on. The high valley was beautiful- a steep descent to a river on one side of us as we followed the Inca Trail north.

We were able to go generally up towards a pass at the end of the valley before a mellow descent into another lovely valley. Setting up camp for the night next to a clear stream under partly cloudy skies was refreshing. The bonus of not setting up in the rain with all my layers on was also enjoyable.

As we settle in for the night, Fidgit suggested setting a goal for the next day to encourage us to cover ground. Tired and already unsure of completing a different goal I had set, I wasn’t interested. Sharing my thoughts with her was not well received. The next morning, she asked me to explain my thoughts on goals and failure, which didn’t go over well either and we ended up walking separately for most of the rest of the day. Towards the end of the day, we were once again able to talk and decided to walk separately for a while.

Fidgit and I ended up sleeping at the Municipal building of a small town that night. I woke up early the next morning and set off alone, continuing to follow the Inca Trail as I ascended up towards another pass. The morning was beautiful- the cool air, morning dew on the plants, watching the sun rise over the hills, seeing some kids walking to school and adults heading to their fields for the day- all while ascending toward the pass. I crossed one pass and made it slightly down then back up steeply to higher pass before stopping for lunch. The breeze blew clouds over the pass as I sat eating lunch, feeling accomplished and hoping for good weather to allow Fidgit to get over the pass later that day.

After lunch, I began my descent. Down I went along a wide Inca route, past multiple farmhouses and fields, through a couple small towns with kind old women sitting outside to give me directions or encourage me along, through some interesting Inca ruins, and to a dirt road. I ended up at the bottom of the descent in the late afternoon, and decided to walk the last few kilometers into the town of Huarituna. Fidgit and I had agreed to meet in Huarituna at a hostel I had found on Google. I was so tired when I got there that I didn’t have much energy to feign interest in the hostel owner’s idle chit-chat. I did my best, and then scurried into my room at the first opportunity.

I slept late the next morning, figuring Fidgit wouldn’t arrive until late morning at the earliest. She walked in around 11AM and informed me she’d like to continue walking alone to have time and space to think. We were able to have lunch together before departing separately- her with her full pack, me with only a day pack- my plan was to slack pack down the Maranon River. We were walking down to the river because we would be rafting it in June and wanted to connect our foot/boat prints as much as possible.

I walked about half way to Rio Maranon following a dirt road along Rio Putchka and its valley before hitch-hiking my way back to Huarituna for the night. The truck that picked me up was full of kind and informative people, talking with me a bit and then talking amongst themselves for the majority of the drive. I ate some dinner and curled up in bed for the night. I had forgotten how tiring walking in heat can be and slept soundly that night.

Waking up early, I went out to get a ride back to where I had left off. Unfortunately there wasn’t much traffic so it took me two and a half hours and three vehicles to get there. Thankfully the valley sides were steep enough to keep the road shaded until late morning and it was mostly downhill to the river. Multiple cars, trucks, and buses passed me once I was walking, so I had a good feeling I’d be able to get back to Huarituna. Along the narrower sections of road I was relieved to not be passed by a vehicle, though got nervous as I approached Rio Maranon. The wind picked up as Rio Putchka’s canyon met Rio Maranon’s and I nearly lost my hat a couple of times. It was so cool to see something we had been talking about for so long that I pushed against the headwind with more vigor than I knew I had. Crossing the bridge and heading towards where the put-in was marked on the GPS, I heard the distinct sound of a motor- a bus coming from the opposite direction was trundling along the road ahead. I was now racing the bus to see how close I could get to the put-in before I caught that bus. Near running along the roadside, I made it within a kilometer before flagging down the bus and hopping on, ready to make my way back to Huarituna.

The bus made its way along the narrow dirt road, coming so close to getting me home in a timely manner. It then decided to stop and wait for an hour or more at the small town before Huraituna. I attempted to get a car, but the drivers were unwilling to go such a small distance. I was so exasperated that I decided to walk the few kilometers. Just as I walked out of town, I was able to flag down a passing vehicle and they took me the few kilometers to Huarituna. I was then able to pack up my bag and await Fidgit’s arrival so we could head to Huaraz together. I sat outside so she could easily see me, and the hostel owner even gave me a chair then proceeded to ask many questions from the front passenger’s seat of his parked car while his adult daughter took a bunch of photos of me sitting in front of the hostel. It got later and later and still no Fidgit. I had seen her along the road, so I figured she wasn’t able to catch a ride back that night. Around 10PM, I settled in for another night at the hostel.

The next morning, I set a time limit to wait and then my plan was to head into Huaraz where I would have phone service and wait for Fidgit there. Thankfully Fidgit showed up, and we got to wait for the vehicle to Huaraz together. We were able to talk out some of our frustrations and concerns as we waited, which assuaged some of my concerns. We then caught a ride into Huaraz and spent the next couple hours trying to not get carsick.

Arriving in Huaraz having successfully abstained from vomiting, we were able to fill our growling stomachs and find a place to stay. Over the next couple of days, we rested, ate, worked, and planned our journey north. We had arrived at Rio Maranon a month earlier than our planned raft trip was scheduled to begin, so we planned to go up to northern Peru, where the raft trip would end, and continue north into Ecuador. Bus tickets were bought, routes were checked over and then we made our way north for a month(ish).

Click here to visit Neon’s blog page directly.

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