Sunday, December 16, 2012

Walking to Cancha Cancha - just past 4200 and something meters!

Photo by Emerita

This is where I am going somewhere up there in the  'V' between the two mountains on the left side of the photo - up at a little over 4200 meters elevation. We had walked for about 45 mins or perhaps a bit more already and .... this is where we were going - somewhere off in the distance - still quite unimaginable for me but I had made a promise to myself that if I really couldn't do it it would not be a defeat to turn around and come back down - that is....if I decided that it wouldn't work while there was still daylight enough to make it back down the path safely.

A horse can be the best of friends - this is Alejandro's horse - the father in the family I was going to stay with up there on top of the world - he had come down to Huaran to see if he could bring anything up to the village for us. Since I had said right from the start that I was in no condition to both walk and carry it was arranged that the horse would take my load. For a while Emerita had carried my back pack, this had made me a little upset, since I didn't want anybody to have to walk and carry on my behalf.  I had tried very hard to pack as sensibly as possible knowing that I was not going to be the one to carry it but it still had some weight to it - after all I wasn't sure if I would be staying for two nights or 6 nights - it would all be figured out when I could tell how my body would react to the altitude, the 'lack' of oxygen and all that jazz. 

We walked and walked and about three hours into the walk we happened upon this beautiful trunk, the texture of which was delicious - the peeling bark and the interesting plants which had decided to put down root in the cracks of the bark and thus extract their nourishment from a decaying and very nutritious beauty.

We hit the lunch time spot and I would be fibbing  if I said that my body was not welcoming this rest. There were juicy sandwiches in Valerio's backpack, I had water in my flask, there was soft dry moss to sit and rest the weary bones on .... and ... the six year old Anais went exploring by the creek, climbed and jumped, over and right next to the rushing water - helping my heart race a little extra at times but.... she never fell in, she is a nature child used to moving about outside and with full control  of all her body parts - (unlike someone else who might not have fared so well on the trunk balancing over the creek part  had there not been a sturdy bridge already)

Photo by Valerio

And after a chew of sandwich or perhaps it was before - Emerita and I posed while Valerio clicked to make yet another piece of proof that ... Pia really is doing this - and at this point I can say - Pia actually did do it! she did not turn around.
At the depicted moment in time the air was fresh, not too warm, the water was rushing over the rocks, very cold water indeed, it is glacier water coming down the mountain. Soon the rain season will begin - as it is I was lucky that I had a day as beautiful as this to walk to Cancha Cancha - The temp was just right, not too warm and not too cold.

Photo by Emerita

The bugs weren't too bad either - only in one area were there lots of giant black flies - and that was another layer to the walk, as you ascend a mountain there are so many micro climates to pass through, every once in a while vegetation changes completely - until finally it is very clear that ... we are up by or above the tree line - I was .... in awe and pushing every thought of my own 'limitations' aside.
For I would like to stress that I am not really an avid mountain climber, a runner, or a very active sports person. I am passionate about weaving of all sorts and about international folk dancing  and love to learn new dances and rythms and then I can go on and on for something like hours but.... walking up hill - ha - the 5km I walk several times a week down our road to the stop-sign is a piece of pie now - As the hours passed by and we were still on the way up the mountain I started moving slower and slower. I also started to not have quite as much energy for admiring my surroundings or even getting astounded by them.

Photo by Emerita

Emerita and Valerio had taken Anais along on this long walk. Anais had never been to Cancha Cancha before and she is 'only' 6 years old! For me the wonderful thing about this was that when Anais was not quite 'cooperative' - you know those moments .... are we there soon? I want to be there now! The three of them would make little stops - and I .... I kept going, one foot at a time in front of the other, right, left, right, left for I was beginning to fear that if I stopped even for a moment I might not be able to get my butt in gear again. I couldn't really see where we had started out from when I looked back and .... Cancha Cancha was not yet visible, although I was assured that it was ... just up there behind the nose on the left side of the mountain that is just past....

Photo by Emerita

Down there, where there is a clear green little splotch, that is where we started out - we left home at 7.30am and started the actual hike up the mountain about an hour later.

Cancha Cancha where we were headed  is one of many small high altitude communities found in the Andes Mountains - no electricity (but they do have outhouses) thatched roofs, house walls built of bricks made of mud and straw - there is a school with service from grade 1-3 - although on the day we went up apparently the teacher went down, he didn't like it up there! and so... the kids were once again without a teacher - well, without a school teacher - their greatest teachers showing them what they need more perhaps are their parents, aunts and uncles and grand parents. Without their knowledge of how to live on and in the mountains the kids would be quite lost - this is a hard and challenging life. I am not sure how long it would take me to get used to it - if I ever could.
Photo by Emerita

We are now at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, perhaps a little later - as you can see it isn't dark - yet - in the very background behind the mountains is another mountain with glaciers and the little green splotch by my elbow is Anais, still hopping along, the walls and shapes to my left are  .....our destination. Valerio has just said ... welcome to Cancha Cancha Pia, you made it and I, I began to cry - for I do not remember having been this tired - for a while I had been going only because I knew ... it was too late to turn back and so there was only one way and that was up and towards where we had planned to go.

Photo by Emerita

In Dorothea's kitchen Anais immediately picked up the fire tube to blow on the embers in the wood/cook stove. Dorothea had warm sweet tea for us and a plate of newly boiled potatoes on a communal plate which was  placed on the floor in front of our feet and then... we peeled potatoes with our fingers, put the peels back on the side of the plate  and popped the potatoes into our hungry mouths and washed them down with the wonderfully warm and delicious tea.

Photo by Emerita

It was magnificent to sit down after all that walking. Around us life continued - the guinea pigs were talking and scurrying across the floor into their secret corners (there weren't all that many left for there had been a birthday party in the family the previous week), a hen kept coming to the door to check out the potato-peel situation, there was a kitten that was all cuteness and very willing to warm a lap or an arm if one started to feel a little chilled. Jose, Dorothea's husband was braiding a llama rope, that is a rope made of llama fibres. It got braided good and hard, it was for tying loads for transportation onto the horses or llamas. See the first photo with the horse being loaded at the top of the post.
I had arrived and .... I slept indescribably well and deep - that is .... in between the thunderclaps and the loud sounds of the rain pouring down outside.

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