2006 Apolobamba Expedition
Trek from Jatumpampa Camp to Charazani
The rains of the previous evening cleared sometime during the night and we woke to a clear day without the threat of a couple hours trek in the wet. The horses had not strayed far so Alcides brought them to camp early and we broke down the tents and got the gear ready to go one last time. Nobody was really in the breakfast mode, we figured that we only had two hours on the trail and there would be eats in Charazani.
We headed downhill on the Mayan road thorough a sheppard's hamlet and soon reached the intersection of the canyon up which one hikes to approach Akamani. There was yet another concrete footbridge over the stream, similar to those we had crossed in a number of places. These bridges are kind of interesting as they have a steps up and down from the deck proper and are high enough for just about any high water situation. The pack stock, however takes the low feet wet route, as they did not take to the steps concept.
Once across the creek, the two valleys are one and the trail traverses along the southeastern flank of the hills leading to Curva. The trail wends its way back up but the message that you are nearing someplace without too much climbing is clear, we are traversing a hill now and not the side of a mountain. There are also fewer llamas as the land along the trail is divided into plots for growing potatoes. The trek from Jatumpampa to Curva took about two hours by the time we came around a final curve and into the outlining streets of this small town.
Alcides stopped the pack train short of the central square and the four of us hike to the central square to determine if there was any transport that would allow us to skip trekking the final leg into Charazani. The hike from Curva to Charazani would take another four or five hours and we thought that if we could secure a ride, we would skip the walk. Alcides was hip to the idea as well as it would cut a few miles off his return to Pelechuco and let him start on his two day solo hike in one half hour as compared to the following morning.
Curva is laid out around a central square and has a population of perhaps a few hundred folks. There was one potential for a ride and Alcides did most of the talking but then I came in to ensure that the ride was to Charazani and it was today and not tomorrow or involved with some other permutation that would make the walk more attractive. After some back and forth we found that the ride would leave in 20 minutes or so and we would be the passengers in the bed of the Toyota pickup as other folks were riding up front and in the second seat as well. No problem and not my first such ride south of the Rio Grande.
The pickup was a short bed, as in a very short bed, due to the crew cab design. It also had a topper and was to carry a couple of sawhorses, sacks of cement, tools, as well as G, mario, and me and all of our gear . . tight fit. It would do and we got the gear down from the horses and bid Alcides farewell for his trip back to Pelechuco, 70 miles distant. Twenty minutes went by and then another twenty, but sure as heck, some other folks wandered up and we loaded up the bodies for the ride to Charazani. There was damn little room but fortunately the side window of the cap was long gone, so we could sit with our feet out of the bed and draped down the side of the truck. What the heck, sideswipe a pole and we have a half dozen missing legs.
We left on what was promised to be a 40 minute trip and within two minutes we all realized that the cramps that were just starting would make a Guantanamo stress position feel like a massage with a happy ending. I squirmed, Mario squirmed, G squirmed, and minute by minute we managed to relieve some of the cramping but not enough to make the ride anything more than an ordeal. We also had to make a few stops en route as the folks up front were from the Agricultural Ministry and they had to scope out potato fields along the way.
Without warning, we came upon a group of campesinos who were furiously flagging us to a stop. There was something very wrong and the folks up front went up to a house and soon came back with a few more locals carrying a woman who was obviously very sick. She was placed in the second seat across the laps of the four passengers and two more guys grabbed hold of the back of the truck. With three up front, four conscious in the second seat, one unconscious in the second seat, four under the cap and two more hanging on the bumper, we were 14 souls making for Charazani in one very serious hurry.
We did not slow down for a single curve between our pick-up of the sick person and our arrival at the gates of the hospital in Charazani. The drop off along the road is a couple hundred feet along the least steep sections and upon approaching every blind curve, the driver laid on the horn and took us around the curve with nary a touch of the brake. We blew through the main square of Charazani and up to the hospital. The lady as manhandled into the treatment area and the drive gave the signal to mount up for the short hop to our hotel. The ride from Curva to Charazani easily rivaled a river crossing I once experienced in Guatemala when our entire bus was placed on a dilapidated barge and pushed across a river by a fellow in a dug out canoe.
We got a room for the three of us at the Hotel Charazani and called Dani Berrios on the satellite phone to report where we were and that we were ready to be picked up. She told me that Roberto was en route and would be there in just a few hours. Charazani is not that large a place so we figure he would find us or vice versa before the evening was out. With a ride out arranged, we grabbed a couple of towels and the three of us headed for the Charazani hot springs, located about 1/4 mile outside of town. We walked back through the main square and descended to the springs and pool located about 300 feet below the town along the banks of a mountain steam.
If you go to Charazani, you have to do the hot pool, especially if you have just walked 75 miles and spent a few nights on the ground, frozen ground. The water was great and we even convinced mario to give it a try. I don't think he really knew what to make of the whole deal but once he saw a couple of nice looking chicas take to the water, he was up for some sight seeing. We spent an hour letting the kinks of the ride to Charazani subside and then headed back up the hill to find some dinner. The guide noted a gal who catered to the travelers passing through but we found her too late and she had not prepared enough to add us to her dinner seating. She did, however, walk us down a few door and tell a neighboring tienda owner to feed these two gringos and Mario. We were given a time to report back and we were not disappointed by the meal of chicken, rice, potatoes and Orange Crush, of course.
We enjoyed dinner and then while walking to the hotel, Roberto cruised into town, completing the only detail needed to get us back to La Paz. We all headed for the Hotel and set a departure time of 4 a.m. to ensure we got back to La Paz at a reasonable hour.