Published: August 23rd 2005August 22nd 2005
Just a few of the many llamas on our trek.
I went on the llama trek this weekend that I have so been looking forward to. It was quite an experience! We drove two hours to the base of a mountain where we gathered our llamas and horses. We didn´t ride the llamas, but had the choice of riding the horses if we got tired. The llamas were there to carry our bags, and for ambiance I guess. The hike was only three miles, but with the altitude, it felt like much more. We went up to 14,500 feet, the highest I´ve ever experienced. It´s amazing how quickly you lose your breath and even get dizzy. I rose to the challenge and was pretty proud of myself. On the way to the top of the mountain, we experienced rain, snow and even hail. It got cold fast! When we got to the top, our wonderful guide, Pancho, explained to us that we should give to the mountain gods for our safe journey. We all made a wish and threw flowers into the wind. The mountain gods must have been with us because we all returned safely, despite some unexpected altitude sickness.
The view from the top was indescribable! We descended
what a dork!
This is me with the village that we stayed in, in the background.
a little to a remote village nestled in the mountains. This is where we spent one very cold night! It just so happened that they were having a wedding ceremony which they celebrate for 3 full days. We got to join in for some of the festivities. Everyone was dressed in their traditional dress of very brightly colored skirts, scarves and hats. They greeted us with cooked potatoes which most of us put in our pockets because we were nauseous from the altitude. We met the happy couple seated under a homemade canopy with their godparents. Godparents play a very important role in the families of Ayacucho. People were bringing them gifts of bread, fruit and even soda. Pancho explained to us that they would probably sell these things so they would have some start up money. They had music playing all over the village, but no dancing. Pancho said they were very religious people who did not believe in dancing or drinking, ¨not like Catholics¨ he said. I thought Julie would get a kick out of that.
The eight of us spent the night in a one room school house out in the middle of huts and hundreds
inside the village
That small rock structure you see is the home that we visited.
of llamas. I was very unprepared for the cold, which had to be below freezing once the sun went down. We had a small bonfire, which helped a little, and then nestled into our sleeping bags for the night. That´s when we really started to feel the altitude. My head hurt, I was nauseous, and had various other stomach problems that I won´t go into detail about. I will never underestimate altitude sickness again! In fact you can blame all kinds of things on the altitude. We do; loss of memory, gaining weight, even my crazy hair! It´s very convenient.
After a very restless night, we awoke to a frightened baby lamb running around the room Baaaaaaaaaing at the top of it´s lungs. Pancho had just purchased it from a villager for 12 soles. Why, you ask. Why not? I decided it was time to venture out to the latrine, which was a little journey in itself. Imagine walking outside in the crisp mountain air, frost covering everything, the sun shining bright. Then walking through several llamas also covered in frost, still laying down but all watching suspiciously as you walk by, making your way to a little shack
inside the village
This isn´t a great photo, but these are some of the villagers cooking.
with a hole in the ground. It was a very surreal experience. I started to thaw out in the sun. I drank some tea and watched some of the little boys who lived there play soccer, with their homemade goals. That was my favorite moment. The morning in the mountains was so beautiful. I thought, despite the cold, that it would be a very good place to live.
We rode horses through the Andes for about four hours on Sunday. A little uncomfortable with the state of my stomach, but enjoyable none-the-less. The scenery was like something out of National Geographic. No photos would do it justice!
Pancho told us a little about the people that lived in the village. He pays them for use of the school house, horses and labor. Every trek he uses a different family so everyone in the village could earn some extra money. We visited one of the families in their home. When I say home, I mean a little rock structure with a straw roof. It was smaller than the horse stalls at TTC. A family of four cooked, slept and lived in this space. With Pancho translating, they asked us questions about the United States. The man asked if the U.S. could help send food and clothes to their village. How do you answer that question? I wanted to cry and give them all my money. I tried not to complain about being cold after that.
The llama trek was a great and enduring experience. I am defiantly better off for having gone. However I´m still waiting for my stomach to be better off! I have been back at the Wawa Wasi for the past couple of days. The kids are all used to me now and they run up and hug me when they arrive. Julia wants me and Ian to come back and visit Ayacucho. I can´t believe I only have 3 more days with them. Coming home will be very bitter sweet. I have added photos to some of my other blogs. You should check them out! I hope you are all doing great! Lots of love!