Trek: Jamunto to Pitumarca & Return to Cusco
June 24, 2011
Our last trekking day promised to be short, we had about 6 miles to cover in order to meet John at the outskirts of Pitumarca at 11 a.m. We planned an 8 a.m. departure from our roadside camp and were up in time to make that happen. The tents came down but the cook tent was still up and kind of quiet. We'd agreed with Domingo that breakfast would be a light minimal effort affair so we could connect with John on time.
Domingo however had something else up his sleeve. How, and none of have any idea how, he cooked a regular size 4" thick spice cake, complete with icing, as a last morning surprise is a mystery. Look at the photos and if you can figure out how he did it, I'd love to know. Well, he was obviously prepared for the occasion, having kept the chef's jacket and toque out of sight for the whole of the trek, . . . he certainly passed from the role of cook to the title of chef that morning. Our whole crew, excepting the horses, enjoyed the cake immensely and it really topped off the outstanding job that Domingo, Leo and Rocque did throughout the whole trip to make the entire affair go smoothly from start to finish.
After breakfast the three of us and Domingo set off ahead of the pack train, making good time as we now had to cover six miles in a bit over two hours, but it was a road march and quite reasonable, given that we were down to about 13,000 ft. elevation and virtually swimming through the oxygen rich air. There was more traffic on the road on this morning as Pitumarca was having its annual town festival and many of the folks from the outlying area were coming back from festivities the night before. The road had a few ups and downs but mostly just wound its way down the canyon, past a village here and there, and alongside potato fields and now, fields full of wheat about to be harvested.
We made a steady pace, playing through a small herd of sheep being driven along the road by shepherd kids and stopping to look at potatoes being dried in the sun alongside the road. The truck that serves the area passed us once again, this time loaded with folks going back home and of course . . . the road crew passed us and waved as usual . . . we'd only passed each other off and on over the last 20+ miles of gravel road. The valley also began to open up as we were exiting the Cordillera proper and would soon arrive in Pitumarca, at the edge of the foothills leading up into the mountains proper.
At about 11:15, we saw a familiar van heading our way and it was John and Mariella on their way to pick us up. We chatted for a minute before they went up the road to intercept the pack train, having agreed to meet us about another half mile closer to town where there was a wide spot to unload the horses, fix some lunch, and re-load the van for the trip to Cusco. We hiked on to the agreed upon point and within a few minutes Rocque and Leo arrived with the gear. The horses were rapidly unloaded and the gear moved toward the van while Domingo took care of a fast pasta salad lunch and John covered the most obvious need . . . Inca Cola.
After lunch we took care of a proper propina for Leo and Rocque as they had been the absolute best arrieros that we could ask for. Every other arriero we've encountered has had the personality of his stock but these two were different and they were just great to have along for the trip. Of course their trip was not over as the stock and Rocque called Pacchanta home and Leo was Tinqui bound. They would head back by a more direct route but would not arrive until about the time we got on our plane in Cusco to head for home. We said our good byes and were soon in the van and on our way down to Pitumarca for a brief stop in the town square. The party was pretty sedate as it was just around the noon hour but there were a half dozen corn beer vendors dispensing their potent brew. I'm sure the place got more entertaining as the night went on.
We were soon off again but not before taking a moment to look at the livestock fair going on at the edge of town. The folks had their llamas, alpaca, and sheep out for show and sale, all in their best form. A lot of fine looking stock and exactly the same as a local fair in the midwest, but for the camelids in lieu of the bovines. On the up the road we went, figuring to arrive in Cusco in about three hours. Our route was a bit different as we were coming up from the south and not back in via the Peru to Sao Paulo cross continent road, but once we passed that cut off, it was familiar territory from our trip out of town a week and a half before. John pointed out the specialties of the various towns as we passed through, one is known for its fried pork rinds while another is a serious cuy destination for the lover of guinea pig.
We came into the outskirts of Cusco and could see a bit more activity but not al great deal of extra commotion until we got into the old part of town. This was the final day of Cusco's annual town festival and we'd been told that the whole of the colonial part of town would be swarmed. It pretty much was filled with tourists and . . . judging by our pale skin, we fit in pretty well with the crowd. We'd showered so we even looked as clean as the average tourist, excepting the usual "bummin' around South America" dreadlock crew of course. Our first stop was the grocery store for some mid afternoon snacks and then the search of trinkets began. I am not much of a souvenir buyer, Bob and Gary however needed to cover for a wife and three point five kids as to Bob and a family and plethora of workers for G.
I'm not into the "stuff" scene but I'm never bashful about tagging along to look at the various wares and lend an opinion as to the discount that G should receive if he purchases 15 identical items. We looked a tee shirts, figurines that promised to bring luck to a home, and went into a place that sold higher end weavings, operated by a soon to be certified Peruvian shaman. Bob got checked out by the doc and found that he was in good health but that he had a "hole in his spiritual heart." I opted not to get diagnosed and instead kept an eye on Bob's pockets while the fellow was getting vibes from feeling the bumps on Bob's head. I don't know if G got examined . . . by that time I'd departed the shop to wait on the street, taking in the sun and other goings ons.
Dinner that night was at the Pachapapa Restaurant right up from the hotel and we all ordered Lomo and Cusquena beer. We'd had a great couple of climbs, a fabulous trek, and now we had a full day to mellow in Cusco before catching a mid day LAN flight to Lima the following afternoon.