Let It Be

After nine months of hiking (and living) with the same two chicas always by my side, being apart from them was like being torn from my other half. I have no idea how we are going to cope when this adventure comes to an end! We finally reunited in Ayacucho after my 10-day trip to the Galapagos and Quito with my family and my unfortunate/unplanned four-day stay in Lima while working out traveling logistics.

The plan was to hike from Ayacucho to Huancayo. The distance in between the two cities is a good two weeks of walking, and since I am heading home soon, we decided to shorten it to a week and do one more rugged trail hike as our final trek as the Tres Chicas. (Typing this literally hurts my heart). Starting out of Huanta we hiked along a dusty dirt road, twisting along the steep mountain-sides and following the dark turquoise river snaking through the colorful desert valley. There was an impressive juxtaposition of vegetation as the menacing cacti were intertwined with the tantalizing tropical fruit trees drooping with papayas and avocados. Small towns and villages dotted the path, providing us with nourishing and extremely satisfying lunches while on the trail. We could get used to this "gourmet" style hiking! This road is a common biking route for tourists, so we weren't standing out as the only gringos to ever come through but rather as the only hikers. Reactions from people hearing our story will never cease to amuse me: "Caminando?! De Huanta?!" with bug eyes staring at us in disbelief. 

The white church is a beautiful contrast to the brown-hued mountains
This reminded us so much of Northern Argentina's desert region...glad to get to revisit it! 
The turquoise river (so badly polluted) 
Walking down the dirt road with a magnificent flowering wall separating
us from the tropical tree plantation inside

These harsh, barren, and, at first glance, seemingly unpleasant towns were filled with the gentlest, kindest people.  We had little old ladies wiping the sweat from our arms, kiosk owners gifting us avocados and chirimoyas, and people generally looking out for us. A few times we were warned of the "chorros" (Peruvian slang for sketchy dudes and/or thieves); once we were checked on while setting up camp "...because of the kidnappers." After a few warnings and seeing a significant amount of police checkpoints on the road, we inquired about the safety of the area. Apparently they are cracking down on trafficking in the region - including transportation of coca leaves and cocaine (coca leaves are only legal in certain regions of Peru).  It isn't dangerous...just as long as we "don't walk at night." Check. Furthermore, after asking a few people about camping security we received the nonchalant response of "no pasa nada." Despite the warnings, we felt entirely safe and every town welcomed us with open arms. 

Shelley and Trinity walking through Anco
There were so many goats all throughout this valley.
We were hoping for some goat cheese but it never appeared ...
The dusty, curvy dirt road. We camped on a little ledge right
about where the truck is in this picture. 
Ricardo - the sweetest old man we met in Mantacra. He gave us oranges
and offered up a spare room for us to sleep in. 

After four and a half days, we had hiked 130 kilometers to Mantarca where we skipped ahead to Cerro de Pasco, our starting point for the next leg. Between the dry, hot days, the sand flies nipping at our every bare inch of flesh, and the dust caking our moisture-less skin and burning our lungs, what was there to love on this leg? Everything. Waking up to the sun cresting over the mountain-tops; having the warm night breeze cool our skin as dusk settled in; camping in the oddest places - corn fields, mountain ledges - with even more bizarre sounds - pigs oinking, geese honking, roosters crowing, cars rattling, music blaring; noticing the details of the dramatic landscape; eating dinner by the light of the moon; talking, or not, and just being, letting the moment wash over us. When you only have a limited amount of time left, you have to appreciate absolutely everything the trip brings, negatives included. For me, walking through the heat and dust, batting away bugs, and being woken up by farm noises at 6am are things I may despise at the moment but know I will miss desperately. So, I just let it be. For what would this trip be without trials and tribulations? Because, in the words of my mom, "sometimes things are rough, but mostly great, just like the mountains we climb." 

We camped smack in the middle of this recently harvested corn field 

I know it looks like she is leading me, but I am actually leading Shelley down the road.
 Her eyes were burning from the dust so she had a little shut eye session 

  • Eating off-the-tree avocados and chirimoyas (Buttery avocados for less than USD 20 Cents!) 
  • Trying lúcuma, a delicious sweet potato-esque fruit
  • Taking 2 hour long lunches and still hiking 30kms in a day - one day we hiked in the afternoon for 4 hours entirely non-stop! 
  • Hot lunches almost every day - such a treat and definitely gives us the energy burst for the afternoon haul 
  • Being called "machas" for inquiring about beer. This could be a low point, but I am embracing the fact that we chicas appreciate a cold beer on a hot day 
  • Ice cream and/or popsicles while in towns. So refreshing! 
  • The evenings on this trip were like those glorious summer nights back home - warm, soft breeze, perfect temperature . We savored the feeling, although we did wish we had a nice glasses of crisp white wine to accompany the evening. 
  • Asking where the bathroom is during lunch and being told "el campo" (outside)
  • Playing beauty shop with the parasites that feed on the cacti - the purple lip color really added something, don't you think?? 

This little parasite has made it in the cosmetics industry 
Shelley looking sooo pretty with her parasite-colored lips... it has been a while since make-up!

  • More than once, we were seriously craving a cold beer at lunchtime but the towns were completely drained of the frosty beverage - very disappointing! 
  • While in the small town of Piso, the Colorado wildfires came on Peruvian news. We are all so saddened to hear of the devastation and our thoughts are with everyone affected.
  • Seeing another big-as-your-face tarantula. We thought we had left the land of gigantic spiders!! 
  • A giant turkey chased us down the street! It was actually quite frightening. Who knew our newest feared animals would be poultry. 
  • Searching for ice cream in the small town of Mayocc, finally finding the one shop with a freezer hidden behind scaffolding and being told the key to unlock the delicious treats was nowhere to be found!
  • The riverbeds were completely covered in trash - on the rocks, in the water, and all over the trees. Unfortunately, seeing an abundance of trash is not new to us...this, however, was extreme. 
  • It is SO cold here in Cerro de Pasco with no relief to be had (i.e. nobody has heating) - Trinity is walking around town wearing her sleeping bag. (She read about this trick in one of her lightweight guides). 
  • Trinity failed at the GoGirl - enough said. 
  • Bug bites while going to the bathroom! Quite unpleasant

Trinity had a little friend stick into her finger - the cacti are not always so pleasant
Gorgeous valley with the river meandering through 
There were so many colors it was like walking through a rainbow
Cacti - the natural security system 
Exploding with vibrant colors 
Ruins, old man with donkey, and color-streaked mountains...pretty good. 
Many years ago there was a huge landslide that wiped out towns and killed about 200 people.
You can see the slide path going down through the middle. 
We tried to get our feet close for a picture (for size comparison) but this guy got all fired up!
Large spider attack mode is not appealing, so we threw down the shades instead.
Just one of the many trees covered in garbage...such a sad sight  
The bustling market in Quichuas 
Took 9 months but we finally had to go through a tunnel - Trinity about to make history :) 

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