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Published: January 7th 2016
Intensely beautiful: waking up to snowy spires of dark rock catching the sunrise on their east faces, descending through green warmth past horses and cottages, winding down through jungle and high river gorges--it was spectacular!
We discovered the true nature of the Salkantay today. After yesterday’s traditional mountain trail, today’s descended along a winding river gorge, passed the occasional house, then turned into a dirt road that passed through a tiny town. The way was no longer a clear trail, but an unmarked road. We tended to guess at junctions. In the afternoon the road opened onto the side of another high river gorge. I was about 20 minutes behind Gabby and Tyler as usual, trudging again in the now warm and dusty weather, and wishing I could be hiking on the other side of the gorge, where a picturesque trail cut through the jungle. It took us about two hours to realize the trail on the other side of the river was the Salkantay. We explored options for descending the steep side, but could find no safe place to climb down and cross. But hope came after flagging down the rare truck--apparently there was a cable across the gorge
with a hanging seat. I remembered seeing a picture and mention on the blog of a rivercrossing with a zipline, but I had conveniently lost that page.
In any case, the cable and its hanging wooden and metal box were not the ones in the blog’s picture. This gorge was almost three times as high, and instead of a seat there was a box with a wooden bottom and low open railing. We tugged at the heavy rope until the box was on our side, loaded Tyler and his bag, and let him go to whizz down the cable. When he was halfway across I turned to Gabby “You know, we should’ve checked that the whole rope was intact before we let him go...” It was. Our two bags went next, then Gabby and I. We were giddy with the exhilaration of being slightly lost and stupid in some solitary corner of Peru, ziplining across a river to get to an unknown bank. There was squealing involved. How did Indiana Jones take adventure with such a straight face?
We landed on the other side where the owner of the cable waited for us with his little daughter.
We had ended up directly at the campsite we had been searching for. Instead of stopping there though, we hiked on for another few hours to the next site. The trail now passed through tunnels of lush jungle. It began to rain, beautifully; the trail turned to mud, our boots slipped; my sleeping bag escaped from its ameteur knots and bounced out of sight down the jungled bank, I climbed down into the wet green to rescue it; we went on through more rain; soft white caterpillars swung from ethereal strands of silk hanging before my eyes, angels seemingly everywhere at my feet and above; a dog ran out to bark at me; I was startled by the appearance of an old man behind me on the road: our solitude, his ax and creamy blind right eye, until he smiled and gave us directions; the rain dissipated as the sun set and we walked through the one road town of Sahuayacu and asked to spend the night on a yard kept for trekkers. Three dogs played with our tent and shoelaces as we collapsed on the grass, too sore to move. We had a dinner of tortillas, tuna and carrots
in a small wooden shed before sharing the night with wet boots and mosquito bites.
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