Hiking from Huaren to Lares

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February 13th 2010
Published: March 19th 2010
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Hike from Hauran to Lares 13th-16th Feb 2010

Aiden our Irish pal and bartender in Paddy's had talked several times about doing a hike in the surrounding areas, Now we had done some hikes but with a few beers down our necks we devised a plan to do a "proper" 3 day hike into the Andies, We met in Paddy's on Monday night, John and I had earlier that day been refused an extension on our visa and were considering a mad dash to the border of Chile to get our stamps renewed but were assured that the Peruvian authorities are a friendly lot and we would pay a small fine leaving the country and then would be ok to return again, So about 10pm full of sauce we decided we would go the following morning, John ran to a hiking store and hired us some sleeping bags, we had a few more beers with a couple of Canadians who thought we were nuts and headed to bed around 2am full of fabulous ideas of our upcoming Andean adventure.

The clock blared in our ears around 6am and I got up full of the joys, evidently I was still buzzing, showered packed and off to meet our hiking buddies. We left Cusco about 8am on a small mini van for Pisaq one of the towns badly damaged by the now infamous floods, The bridge was half swept away and pedestrians are only allowed to cross, on the other side we negotiated a taxi to Hauran, the sun was shining and all was well.

We left Hauran accompanied by two wee boys rolling old tyres along the road, they wanted to show us the path and we were happy to be guided. The main path leads to a village in the mountains called Chancha Chancha which was to be our midway stop off for the night, We had planned to hire and mule as our whole first day was to be up-hill alas this was not to be though we were told we could get a mule and handler in Chancha for the following day.

We passed the church and looked what would be described as a goat track, All was well as the river flowed to our left and the terrain was fairly forgiving, all around the plant life was amazing, the flowers exotic and the greens so green it reminded me of springtime in Ireland..

After a few hours the packs grew heavy and each step seemed more and more difficult, At times it was not fun and I struggled as did Danielle our packs seemed to get heavier, it had started to rain and I grew quite miserable, I filled my head with the mantra, "keep going it will be worth it in the end" It was over 6 hours before we saw civilization again, I first noticed when I would see specks of red flashing on the surrounding mountains but when I focused there was nothing, It took me a while to realize it was local shepherds bringing sheep, goats llama, alpaca cows mules and horses back to the village, We were nearly there, I was relieved to say the least. I was suffering fatigue altitude sickness and back pain and these souls where darting across the mountain at breakneck speed and the were considerably higher on the slopes than us edjits in the valley, Our altitude was about 3500metres.

We soon found out that they were in a particular hurry as carnival is not just a town event and as we approached the village, pipe music filled the air, a party was in full swing, With a sigh of relief we entered the stone cottage hamlet, There are no roads/running water/ or electricity, We were truly slap bang in the middle of the Andies and we were glad to be there. We were greeted by two little girls in colorful dresses with elaborate hats worn in this area, they let us catch up but when we spoke to them they shyly darted ahead leading us to the festivities, we looked sorely out of place in our hiking boots and north face jackets among this happy crowd sporting long embroidered skirts, the men in three quarter length pants made from rough wool and colorful ponchos, some bare footed other in sandals made from car tyres, the kids wrapped in similar textiles, little ruddy cheeks peaking out, it was cold but these folks didn't seem to feel it. The houses were made from stone with grass roofs, for those of you from Ireland they would be similar to the thatched cottages of our ancestors. The paths and fields were muddy and smoke came from under the grass roofs as apparently chimneys are not used here, I imagine lung problems are common.

Several men played pipes fashioned from bamboo and boys blew on large conch shells and we were greeted by the men and offered Chicha from a circular vessel not unlike a car tyre with a spout and chilli peppers hanging from it, we never found out why because these people speak Quehua and only a few speak a few words of spanish but hospitality is a global language and we were treated to theirs.

In a field in the middle of the hamlet young men and women danced in a circle, you could be forgiven for thinking it was more like domestic abuse than dancing as the women held horse whips which they where not afraid to use, they whipped the men about the legs and torso with abandon, the men on the other hand clenched in their fists what appeared to be apples and thumped the living daylights out of the women, literally punching them, as painful as i am sure it was for them, it was also painful to watch, we gathered this was the young singles of the village and the dance was a rite of passage to choose a husband/wife, It was the scariest lust I have witnessed or maybe I just live a sheltered life. I had brought sweets for the kids and gave them out when a woman younger than me and about half my height started to beat me with the fisted apple, she didn't hold back, now i'm no wimp but this hurt, when she got me on the knees few times I had enough and I'm sorry to say I shoved her away from me, Danielle later was subjected to the same fate, it was not malicious and I think it was probably the opposite and a way of having us join in.

By this time we were ready to set up camp and the kids lead us to a type of community centre with a flat piece of grass out front, We pitched the tents, Aiden god love him was comical with his tent pitching, it was a bit of a show watching him poor love, top ramon noodles, fresh local cheese and punjana tea and we all fell into a well earned sleep.

Daylight woke us up and as we emerged from our tents we were surrounded by the most breathtaking view, snowcapped mountains peaked above the surrounding cliffs as the sun rose above them, In the distance we could still hear the conch shells wailing as we later found out the party has 3 days and each day starts further and further up the valley.

On the previous day we had meet a local man and asked him if we could hire him and his horse for the final trek to Lares, we agreed to a price and Pablo arrived bang on 8am, We had porridge, burritos (small bananas) with honey and more tea, bellies full ready for the day, we didn't need to dress as we had slept in our clothes, too bleeding cold, no fancy sleep ware here, just be glad you have shelter.

Danielle and I were slow to get started, hindered by the many kids that wanted to peer at us, we gave them sweets and they happily posed for photos and a wee chat. the boys unimpressed by our lingering shouted at us to get our arses in gear, the worst was yet to come we had not yet peaked oh lord, too late now no turning back.

As the morning wore on the terrain became more hostile and the need to get over the pass became urgent as we watched black clouds roll in some below us some above us, the scenery was amazing, We were truly witnessing the splendor of the majestic Andies, My head was not my own as Altitude made it fuzzy, my steps were guarded and often I would stumble although my mind had not send that message to my legs, very strange feeling.

I asked Aiden how he was feeling as he seemed to powering ahead, he told me he was playing rugby in his head and it took his mind off the trek, I not that big a fan so it didn't work for me. At last we crossed the pass although sometimes in cloud which were literally racing across the valley, we did get to see the glacier Nevado Chicon and another called Nevado Sawasiray, we also passed 4 lakes way below us and arrived in the town of Pan Pacorall, a small village consisting of a handful of houses and of course a church, we were descending and my legs came back to life again, my lungs stopped burning and I could once again take deep breaths, the rain was pouring down at this stage, I was still dry but the other were not, we needed to bolt ahead now and get to Lares, We stayed on the main trail mostly though Pablo showed us a few cheeky shortcuts, Lares emerged in the distance around sunset, a welcome sight, we had walked 30kms. Lares has hot springs which are really nice, the water is milky but its the minerals and to be sure just into a hot bath was heaven after the previous 2 days.

Lares is a small town of perhaps 300 people, there are few hostels here but luxury of any kind is not available, we booked into a hostel which was very basic, the sheets were damp and the walls crumbling but our choices where limited, A shower was out of the question as it was just a trickle of cold water, we went for dinner in a "cafe" chicken and rice and spuds, tasteless but hot, wet or not we fell asleep like babies.

Next morning we negotiated a small mini van to take us back to the sacred valley to the town of Pisaq, this was to be an adventure which put the fear of god in us all. The 14 seater bus pushed in 24 people (I counted) it was a rust bucket with bald tyres and squealing brakes, it was this or walk back the way we came, we opted for the death trap.

Pointer………if you suffer vertigo or a fear of South American buses do not do this trip, after the rain had distorted a lot of the road with mudslides, local people had cleared the road to make it passable but the verges had been washed away, John was not impressed to the point of being angry, each time the bus went around a right hand turn of which there were many, the whole side panel of the bus stretched outwards, I was sitting above the back wheel and as the panel moved so did the floor rise under my feet, The sheer drops into the valley below were at time inches away from the wheels of the bus, God save us!!!!!!!! A young man sat on the floor next to me on a sack of potatoes, his arms rested on my knees and his head on his arms, John had a young guy do the same with him, as I said before personal space here is not important. It was a grueling ride but all dues, the driver was careful unlike many of the drivers here, word of advice to those traveling in these parts, DON"T read the news reports about buses, it will just put you off and you have to bear in mind that thousands of buses travel this country everyday. The scenery again was breathtaking and 3 hours later we arrived safely in Calca, took a taxi to Pisaq and said goodbye to Aiden and Danielle, We had decided to stay and check out the Sacred valley, We booked into a beautiful little called the Inca Inn, Dinner and bed, We had made it, a mad adventure, difficult but worth it.

Sorry to my folks that are reading this, the photos are all messed up, I'm trying to figure it out but you get the picture (pardon the pun)


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