Trek: Chillca to Jamunto
June 23, 2011
We walked 12 to 15 miles the day before through a wide valley, ending the day at the start of a narrow canyon. Our second trekking day would primarily be a canyon hike with hamlets here and there along the way and another roadside camp spot, this time in a more populated area where our overnight would serve as the most interesting thing to occur for some time to come. The plan for the day was simple, push another 12 to 15 miles to a point about 6 miles short of the next day pick-up point in Pitumarca. The depart time was set for 7:30.
We were up early and had the camp broken on time and early enough to sit down for breakfast before the gear was bagged and loaded onto the horses. Rocque and Leo were still loading when we hefted the packs and climbed from our roadside camping flat to the road above and were on our way. The first leg of our hike continued through the canyon before making a curve and opening up into a valley lodged between our canyon exit and the next defile to follow. We passed through the village that occupied the center of this valley as the kids were headed for the school. Gary made a number of passing "friends", one of whom figured that a quick grab of his hiking pole would catch the big white guy's attention for sure. It did but G's hand through the loop on the end of the pole derailed the 8 years old's best laid plans to ahve gringo give chase into the shcool yard.
The school commotion was soon over and the kids went on their way and we left the wider section of valley for another narrow section, this one being more vegetated, narrow and rugged than the previous narrows. About this time the road crew passed in the ten wheel truck taht serves as the means of public transport for the valley. They recognized the anglos that were camped the the close of their previous day's work and waved with enthusiasm. This truck would continue to pass us, going one way or tohe other for the rest of our walk and by the time we finished a day and a half later, there was waving and horn blowing at every pass. The next canyon section lasted about one half mile before again opening for just a short bit before again closing in and dropping down a hundred feet to the next open stretch, where we again met the river. Domingo pointed to a switch backing trail that followed the far side of the canyon, noting that the road had been in place for about 8 years and that before then, the serpentine trail was the only route in and out of the canyons leading back to Chillca.
We came to yet another village and stopped there for the arrieros to catch up with the pack train. This was a good time for a snack so we killed off the box lunches with Domingo for about twenty minutes before the horses came into view. Once re-united, we set off once again, and passed through another narrow section before making the large curve to the right that we knew would be the start of our trek to the west, our direction of travel all the way to the outskirts of Pitumarca, another day away. I anticipated that the road would remain in the bottom of the canyon, but after we traveled about one more mile, the canyon became so narrow that the trail had to switchback perhaps 700 feet up the side of the canyon to pass the narrow section high on the hillside. We eventually passed the mouth of that second narrow defile and looked out onto terraced fields tucked in yet another wide spot between narrows.
The road remained high, now taking perhaps a mile and a half bend around a side canyon before dropping down far enound to coming back to the main direction of travel. We made good time from this point as the road was literally under construction with a D7 dozer spreading fill generated by a loader and a couple of trucks working to wide the road another mile in front of us. Civilization was definitely coming the to Chillca valley. We stopped for lunch at about 1 p.m., having sandwiches, salted cucumbers and pasta salad. The horses grazed, we sat on a hill overlooking a village below while the herd of llamas that were grazing right above us ignored our intrusion. A couple of young village girls climbed up the hill from about 500 feet below and joined us for lunch as there was plenty and everyone in our group had already had their fill . . . food simply does not go to waste . . .
If there is one thing that has been ever present in our trips off the beaten climbing track it is the generosity and giving nature of the folks we've been with. We've shared dinner with an orphan kid herding sheep in the Apolobamba, given extra groceries to locals at the end of a trek and now we sat on the hill above a Peruvian village having lunch with three kids passing by. It is simply refreshing after the social chill that we seem to accept as normal at home.
When lunch was done, we were up and moving again, having to cover another hour and a half to two hours to the camp spot for the evening. We cut off the road for a half mile and down along the stream course before again joining the road lower down beneath some of the most interesting terraced terrain we saw during the course of the entire trip. It is simply amazing at the efforts that have been made to create land able to be cultivated and the way in which terraces are squeezed in between two fins, literally on the side the steepest of hills.
After another couple of miles, we stopped at a wide point in the road to camp. In the U.S., our selected location would likely be described as a cross between a road shoulder and someone's front yard. However, the concept of property is obviously different in Peru and soon enough our tents were up, the horses unloaded and staked out to graze, and some afternoon popcorn was being popped in the cook tent. Another good dinner followed a few hours later and all through the afternoon and into the evening, the locals, kids and adults alike, walked by, stopped, and scoped out just what was going on here . .. three white dudes camped along the side of the road . . .
I did ask Leo how many trekking groups came through here in a year and he replied that probably only one or two as most stick to the Ausangate loop and have no interest in exiting the upper valley by walking the extra miles on a dirt road for the purpose of not covering the same ground twice and creating a point to point venture. We'd accomplished our goal . . .