A late start then, not! We get up in the dark, eat in the dark and leave just as the sun is coming up through the pass. It´s going to be a tough climb today but after the descent we will no longer be at altitude so that will solve one problem. We want to get it done too before the day heats up, hence the reason for the early start.
Interestingly we start off on a slightly different path than the groups in front of us, and maybe an hour or two in we notice there´s quite a few who have taken the option of the horse to the top of the pass, one large group of girls maybe 8-10 of them. Bernice might be walking slow compared to the boys but she is at least doing it all under her own steam. Looking at the faces of those on horses as they pass us, we think it´s much safer to walk, the ride looks terrifying as the horses have a mind of their own and are walking on the edge of some really steep drops at times….
We have a couple breaks on the way up and then quite a long one on the pass (4,600m); after all the obligatory photo taking that is, then it´s a nice constant drop back down into the valley below where our cooks are putting together lovely lunch menus for us all in Huayraqmachay, which is at 3700m. There is time for a short siesta before the long walk on down the 1,100m or so metres we still have to descent to the village of Collpapampa at 2,600m where we´ll be camped tonight.
The other downside (couldn´t resist the pun) of today is that Enrique seems quite keen to walk at the same pace as his friend, who just happens to be guiding a group of 12. This means, try as we will, we feel we are walking now in a huge group and being herded like cattle. We try walking slower, we try walking quicker, and we try dawdling when it´s time to set off again after pit stops and at least stagger the groups… but without much success.
Our campsite is nice, we are in the garden of a smallholding that has a shop attached and a loo at the bottom – more convenient than last night – that was an age away from our tents. At least Enrique is keen in some seclusion and not plonking us in the same huge field as the big group. Interestingly we don’t know what company this other guy is working for… is it one of the bigger more expensive outfits? It´s blatantly obvious that they are getting no different an experience to us and in fact with such a size group and only one guide potentially a poorer one.
The house whose garden we are camping in has some little puppies there too, much to the amusement of Bernice. Bizarrely we have 3 completely different tents, the same make but different models from last night. Well apart from Wim´s whose is very shabby and very different. We notice this (considering the horses are supposed to carry all the gear we need on to our new location each day) just before Jason and Nigel realise the zip to theirs is broken and torn away from the seam. When we ask Enrique about the different tents he denies it and says they are the same ones, he´s not so convincing though after the faulty zip is pointed out.
It´s not like it makes any difference to us, we thought maybe, and sensibly, they kept some gear at each location, especially if it´s used day in day out. Save the horses etc. but why the denial, it is indeed a mystery to us all. Anyway he spends the next wee while hand sewing the zip back onto the door and fixing it so it’s useable, while we have our dinner.
It is here also that we all get to taste “Inca Kola” thanks to Wim. It is a common drink we´ve seen about that looks like a bottle of fairy liquid, in colour anyhow. So as you can guess it was with some trepidation we all had a taste … and blow us away with a feather if it doesn´t taste exactly like Irn Bru (that´s a Scottish soft drink that outsells Coke in Scotland for those of you who don´t know what it is). So the question is: What came 1st? Who has copied who? Answers on a postcard please! Needless to say it went down well with everyone except Huw.
With regards to the scenery we have walked through today, no amount of description would do it justice. The amount we have walked is by far the most of the whole trek as is the height difference; surroundings changing dramatically between glacial vistas to rainforests via cloud forests. We can only hope you get a good idea from the photos when we upload them.