A Travellerspoint blog


Climbing in crampons – day 4 and my birthday

Well it’s 3.30am in the morning and it is cold and dark. I am in my sleeping bag pretty much dressed to go. I had the sense to keep my outer layer of clothing between my liner and sleeping bag so they weren’t too cold. I was surprised the water in my platypus wasn’t frozen..it is minus 8C! I quickly pull on my walking trousers and fleecy. So far that’s 3 layers on my bottom half (thermals, leggings and walking trousers) and 4 on my top half (thermal top, merino wool top, Lt wt fleecy top, regular fleecy). That feels just about right for my body just now. I have a thin pair of gloves to wear beneath my heavier gloves. My weakness is my feet. My Scarpa boots are quite narrow so I find I can only wear one pair of socks..I can’t feel my feet!! I keep wiggling them. Contacts in, grab a hot chocolate and a slice of eggy bread to go and off we go all piled into our jeep. There are 6 of us. Ronaldo is driving in the pitch back and no clearly defined road. It all looks so flat. Eloy seems to roughly know where he is going but in the dark it is very difficult. As we drive along Eloy is looking for 2 piles of stones showing where to turn left!! We eventually find them but he is unsure if this is the right place. We drive on a little further but he decides it is and we turn back taking this turn off...about 20 minutes later we reach snow. We all get out to examine where we are..not the right place..back in and back to the 2 piles of stones...Carry on until we find more. 10 minutes later we find them and turn left here. Eventually we come to the base of Mt Mismi and pile out. It is now 6.15am. We had hoped to be climbing by 5am. Oh well. We pull on extra layers as it is really cold. I did take off my puffy jerkin but kept on my waterproof heavy jacket and had 2 snoods on -one round my neck and one covering my ears. I also pull on my waterproof trousers. We each take our crampons for a little later. Where we started is very rocky so we need to clamber over these huge boulders first. This takes us about 20 minutes. It is more difficult with walking poles but we must have 2 walking poles for the next section. Soon we are over the rocks and onto snow. Later in the year the snow will be much further up. At the moment we need to walk for 40 mins in it before Eloy tells us to put on our crampons. He obviously has to show us how to fit them. Francois and Rob have theirs on and off while I wait for instruction on how to put them on. Eloy is helping Carol and Paul next. By the time I have mine on the rest are already quite far on, especially Francois and Rob. Francois has climbed Mismi twice before. He is really on this trip for the kayaking. Anyway off I set at my pace which is a little slower than the rest. I began to realise my crampons didn’t fit right- they were too big and my feet were slipping out the side. I called on Eloy and he checked with Carol too but her’s were fine. He had to change his crampons with mine as his were much more adjustable. While adjusting my last crampon, Carol and Paul walked on. Once set I didn’t wait as my pace was obviously slower than Eloy’s. As I reached the steep gradient of Mismi I did catch up on Paul and Carol but I badly needed water and something to eat – sugar!! My hose for my platypus was frozen so I had to open up my platypus and drank out of the body of it. I also had some of my snacks to give me a little sugar...never has half a Twix tasted sooo good!! Off I set but by this time Carol and Paul, and now Eloy, were well in front. To try and catch up instead of traversing as they were, I climbed straight up. I seemed to be able to cope with it for a time. It was very steep though– about a 70 degree gradient. I had found my natural pace for this altitude (now about 5200m) which was slow but consistent (I didn’t need to stop much), but about half way up my calves started screaming “STOP”. The pain in them was tremendous so periodically I knelt forward and wiggled my toes to take the pressure off them and ease them. They did feel they were stretched to the maximum!! This technique worked for a time. The other problem I had was the rest of the team were now out of sight and I couldn’t see where they were or which path they had taken. As I walked up I kept expecting to see the crampon tracks from them. I called out as I was getting a little scared and I was tired...no reply. The only way was up. I noticed the track I was taking was also taking me up the steepest slope so I traversed across a little until I eventually found crampon tracks. I then started following these, only to a certain extent, using shorter turns to speed my ascent. My platypus hose had now defrosted since I moved it onto the sunny side, so at least I could drink some water without stopping. I didn’t dare take my backpack off as the slope was so steep. I just kept climbing up, slowly and steadily!! Eventually I could hear the rest and discovered them to my right. Where they were required ropes so they suggested I go straight up and would get the views there. They were just starting to get ready to come down. Carol was first. She had been running on adrenaline and just wanted down now!! Francois and Eloy waited on me as I reached the top and sat down....I was exhausted and very close to tears...but at least I had made it. I managed to turn round and plant my crampons in the snow but there was no way I was moving!! I was encouraged to take my time and rest. I ate the second half of my Twix...yum, yum... and took in the views...really spectacular!! Right beside me was a huge incline that would have required ice axes...believe me just looking at it scared the begeezers out of me!! Photos taken and feeling better I warned Eloy not to leave me and to help me back down. Francois set off and the instruction I got from Eloy was to have faith in the crampons and walk straight down!!! Are you sure??? Yep (or “Si”) was the reply. Lean back, plant your poles well back and plant your crampons flat into the snow, don’t roll your feet as you would normally walk...OK said I and did as I was told. The snow was very good and it worked beautifully with a little tweaking of my style to get it right; so straight down I went for most of the way anyway until my knees needed a rest so we traversed the last little bit. This did mean I caught up with the rest quicker. All in all we did this stretch up and down in 3 hours...quicker than Eloy expected.....What I didn’t learn until later was that while at the top Paul kept asking Eloy to go and see if I was OK but because of where they were he said he had to look after them. He also said I wouldn’t be there for 2 hours and did they want to wait that long...that I wouldn’t make it. Carol’s reply was “You don’t know Heather!!” If I had known that earlier I was have clobbered him..well when I was somewhere safe!!
Anyway down safely, clambering over all the rocks again and a “little” tired, we went in search of the true source of the Amazon.
The first plaque – very colourful and pretty, we come to was put there by the Brazilians who thought they had found the true source...not quite as it turned out. They had missed it by about 100 meters. Following Eloy’s instruction we walked further round to find a brass plaque and a beautiful little inlet with very clear water flowing freely out and down the mountain. Little icicles were in the areas unheated by the sun. This place felt very special. We all did feel the need to drink some of this very special water and lift a little stone to commemorate our journey here.  It was really beautiful as you can see from my photos on facebook. I think at this stage a bit of hysteria set in with some of the team, namely Carol and Paul, as the adrenaline rush wore off and they realised what they had just done...with lots of laughing and splashing of water. I needless to say was still a little quiet and fatigued watching them.
Eloy then beckoned us on further and we came to a beautiful little waterfall discovered by Lauren McIntyre as the true source. There is not much between the two places to be honest. Here there were many icicles and beautiful shapes so when I was persuaded to stick my head under, it was rather cold!! It was refreshing though. 
After a time here we all headed back to the cars and found lunch being prepared. As the photographers were wandering around it was felt they could be some time so lunch would be best prepared here...boy, it was lovely...avocado, tuna, ham, cheese, tomato and bread. Yum,yum...after such an early start and only a little breakfast and snacks we were ready for it.
By 1pm we were packed and ready to leave on the next part of the adventure.. This part was to see if this road really was a proper road and that we didn;t have to double back on ourselves....On the map it looked as if we should be able to continue on...and a man on a bike had said “yes” just don’t turn left for the mine – turn right....How could we go wrong?????
Off we set with us leading and Rob following. To begin with it was all flat with no definition and no real road. I had asked Ronaldo how he had got on going back to base camp...he had got there eventually was his reply!! It was very pretty if a little barren and seeing vicunas (very rare and shy creatures) running across the plain in a small herd of about 9 was pretty special.  As before, the road soon required 4 wheel-drive so it was slow going. We came to the first of our decisions. One road went straight on and one went up a slight incline disappearing shortly after that. We opted for straight on. Within another 15 mins another road disappeared to the right. This must be the road so down we went. It was very rough!! In a matter of 10-15 mins we came to a dead end...the road just ran out!! Rob came up behind us and asked about the direction and whether we were using GPS. The answer was no so he took the map and did GPS it. It was decided to go back to the last junction and go straight on this time. Again a rough road, fording small rivers and finding new paths as the road was too rough to continue. After about another 40 minutes the road ran out again!! This time the road ran out at a river with a quite a steep banking. However there was a main road above, so tantalisingly close!! There was a big discussion about whether we could ford the river but the decision was to turn back and head for the first junction – up the hill. We had obviously lost a lot of time doing all of this but spirits were still reasonably high especially when it really did look like the correct road once we reached it. Eloy was relatively quiet for most of the journey as he was unsure of the road. The reference to the man on the bike did keep coming up though! As we continued along this, now much better, road the general feeling was we were on the right track at last....yey! We soon came to a turn in the road that led to the mine and we turned right....the man on the bike had been right!! The road soon deteriorated into what we had become accustomed to – fording rivers, avoiding huge trenches of mud in the road by creating a new path and avoiding huge boulders. This was slow going as you really couldn’t rush it especially with heavily laden jeeps. When we reached a nice stretch of road where we could speed up a little, it was short-lived. The road also seemed to go on, and on, and on!! It was not all bad though as we saw lots of beautiful scenery, rock formations, vicunas, (small deer), viscatchas (like chinchillas) and herds and herds of alpacas, a few llamas and many different types of birds.....WONDERFUL  As we slowly picked our way along this road Carol suddenly turned round and said, ”Is it your birthday today Heather?” I replied yes. She was so apologetic at forgetting and being a poor friend wishing me a happy birthday, as did the rest. She asked if I had forgotten. I said no... I had remembered at 3.30 that morning!

At about 4.30pm we came across a man with his herd of alpacas and llamas and asked him if this was the right way and he said yes. He also said the last time a car that had been along this way was 4 days ago! A little further on Paul decided to drive and was keen to progress. The road was a little better so he increased his speed. The sun was quite low now, hitting the windscreen straight on...then bang..he hit a stone. Ronaldo suggesting stopping to see if the tyre was OK but no..it had quite a tear in it! Shit!!!
All stop... and the drivers from both vehicles checked the spare...as luck would have it, it was also flat! After trying to repair the main wheel with the kayak repair kit, it was decided to swap it for the spare and blow it up to see. It seemed to have a slow puncture and Rob’s driver had a pump that operated from the cigarette lighter. So this became the best option. Use this one and stop periodically to blow it up. Where we broke down was stunning I might add. Huge herds of alpacas in the distance, a beautiful lake and the sun setting. Quite idyllic if we weren’t so tired and still miles from anywhere!!
Back in the car we headed off again and believe it or not we discovered the road was blocked by nothing less than the farmer building a wall of stones across it!! Everyone out and moving the stones to let us through...a few metres on and another wall!! This went on for a total of 4 stops with one blockade being a type of gate. Obviously the locals don’t want this to be a main road!! Off again and about every 20 minutes stopping to blow up the tyre we progressed even more slowly. We were now driving through beautiful wetlands with flamingos and lots of different types of birds. Rob’s ideal spot and to be honest I could have happily spent time here if it wasn’t such a b***ch to get to from either direction we discovered. I initially had thought he would return from the other direction but the journey was far from over with the road deteriorating even further. This was made worse by the fact that it was now pitch black and difficult to find alternative paths through. Paul had given up driving and handed back to Ronaldo as he was so tired. To be fair Ronaldo was also tired but persevered..being that he was the driver. Eventually we could see lights in the distance and as we stopped to blow up the tyre again Rob and his team carefully passed us and continued gingerly on. He made it to the main road...yey!! We followed soon. It was still a dirt road but a heck of a lot better than we had been on and Paul knew it went to a small town called Kyoma. It was now 7pm and we had travelled 69km since 1pm!!
In Kyoma Paul decided we would try to get the tyre fixed, have something to eat then decide where we would sleep. We found a small garage that Eloy knew but it was closed so the tyres would need to wait until tomorrow. Ronaldo could get them fixed while we were on the water then come to meet us with Justo later. We weren’t going to see them until 4pm anyway. Paul found a little cafe that could give us soup and a saltado with a cup of tea. OK that would do. We sat down and Carol went to the toilet...advising if desperate it would do. Personally, I thought, I’d stick to outside. My little antibacterial hand gel came in very handy during this trip.  Soup came and although the men asked that the women be served first, as you would expect in such a male dominant society, they ignored them and served the men first. I received my soup..chicken... very obviously as I had a chicken foot in the middle of my plate...claws and all!! I duly drank the liquid and left the foot!! The men, surprise, surprise had chicken meat!! Next course was lomo saltado (a traditional Peruvian meal of beef, rice and chips) which should be with a good cut of meat but was actually the poorest cut. Again I had a joint with a little meat clinging to it that wouldn’t come off. I ate most of the lukewarm chips and a little rice in the gravy. I didn’t have much of an appetite! While we were waiting on the meal Paul had investigated the hostel next door. They had 9 beds..there were 10 of us and 4 beds were in one room. The drivers would have to sleep in the cars to safeguard the equipment. I suggested could we not find somewhere to set up the tents as we were geared up for camping. Paul came up with a couple of ideas but the best was to go to the site we should have been going to with hot springs. It was only another 30 minutes away. This was where we parted company with Eloy. We headed off and soon found the site, found a dry area to set up camp and in no time were set. Justo, the soul, had hot water for me in a jiffy for my hot water bottle.  We were still camping above 4000m so it was still reasonably cold. Carol and Paul decided to have a dip in the hot springs at 10pm but I just headed for bed. I would try it out in the morning. During the night (which turned out to be only 10.30pm Carol could tell me, there was an almighty roar as a bull and, I would suggest, a couple of cows made their way to the water behind us and realised there were a lot of obstructions! I actually expected to feel our tents being man-handled by them but luckily other than making a lot of noise they left us in peace.....at last sleep....mmm. I had also decided that I would nominate the next day as my birthday.  .......next instalment on the Apurimac River to follow...until then mis amigos....Beunos noches. 

Posted by Heather Buc 20:29 Comments (0)

Finding Mt Mismi

Days 1-3 of our amazing reki/ adventure with Amazonas Explorers

OK so it’s day 1. I came up to Cusco the night before as suggested and thought..plenty of time to pop into town for a bit of shopping the next day before we needed to leave. Carol and Paul had a bit of an issue to sort out before we left as they had two Choquequirao treks going out in the next 2 days and they had just found out a main bridge on the route had been washed away with the floods. Off I toddled into Cusco arguing with the taxi driver about how much he was going to charge me. My Spanish might not be brilliant but I can stand my ground and will not be ripped off!! Anyway there I was in the centre of Cusco at 8am wandering around, what should have been Saint Pedro market which is in a big building not far from the main plaza, but everything was in disarray and a lot of stalls outside with most not yet open yet. The gates to the building were all closed. How did I know they were going to fumigate the building that day?? As wandered round and round looking for my little lady that sells the amazing dried mangos and pears...not dried like hard crisps but really juicy and..well flat!! Anyway as I wandered round I got a call from Carol. They had just heard from Rob..who had set off at 5am (with his driver Jose Alfredo and his brother-in-law (a professional photographer)) because he wanted to stop a lot and photograph birds and he had a meeting...to say there was a strike at Sicuani and we shouldn’t delay as we would be held up...so we were now leaving at 9.30am! OK – no lady today..she must be having a long lie so I headed back. We were on the road at 10am. Ronaldo, our driver, a lovely guy, about 29 and pretty good looking actually as Carol and I both agreed, turned out to be an excellent driver and seemed very caring and mature which among young Peruvians was refreshing and unusual I can tell you!! Although on the way home, as we were taking the mickey out of this flash Subaru with large spoiler on the boot, filled with young guys, Ronaldo sheepishly announced he had one, but without the spoiler...oh well he still seemed a really nice guy, so we will forgive him that. 
Justo, our chef was also with us. He had slept in the office the night before, got up early and prepared a lunch of rice with veg, ham and lovely flavouring, so we could eat and keep driving. As we left Cusco Ronaldo pulled over and a young boy handed us all ice-creams, courtesy of Ronaldo’s girlfriend’s mother who had a contract with the ice-cream company...very nice...we put on some good music..my I Pod of course and we were set for our road trip.  As expected we came to the Sicuani strike but actually it wasn’t too bad. All we had to do was support the strike by letting them paint “Viva la Huelga” on the window (Long live the Strike)! We still had to do a slight detour here as the road was very congested. Back on the main track we headed into the mountains passing a wonderful lake, very picturesque, Lake Langui and eventually came around a corner to see an enormous town – which looked totally out of place in this huge valley with nothing around – called Yauri. The only reason this was here was because of the HUGE copper and silver mine at Tintaya which we came to shortly after that. What a blot on the landscape..both Yauri and the mine with huge plants and machinery going on for miles!! I have no idea what the output for this place is but it certainly looked awful and seemed never-ending! The interesting ..or not so interesting thing about Yauri was it had not signs to tell you which way to Colca, Cusco etc so you could go get lost in Yauri for some time. The people weren’t very helpful. It was also still under construction so you could come to a dead end as the road was still under construction as we discovered after being told this was the way to Colca! Most of the road along the way from Cusco was dirt track.. so a little rough..it was a treat to get tarmac. At Impeza....miles from anywhere we discovered the bridge had been washed away and there was no way to ford this river I can tell you. We had noticed a small sign on the left slightly further back saying you could pass between 6am and 6pm so we thought we would try it. There was no mention of a diversion just that you could pass this way. Fortunately for us it was 4pm so we followed this route..not an easy one..a bit of off road required here and passed a dam with water spouting forth (pretty impressive)..to join the main track again. There were big gates we had to pass through so if you happened to get there after 6pm...you were stuck for the night! On we went with the occasional stop to find a bush (as was the case for the whole trip..no toilets around here) and were soon within 40 minutes of Colca Lodge. Paul thought it would be nice to come in the back way so this is the way we took only to discover 10 minutes before Colca, again the bridge was out! It was now pitch black but Carol, myself and Justo decided to pick our way across and walk the last 20 minutes on foot while Paul and Ronaldo turned and went back taking the main track into Colca Lodge. When we arrived at Colca I felt quite conscious of the fact that my trainers were now very dirty and I was in a high class establishment! I therefore decided as we sat in the bar, to go to the toilets and try to clean my trainers a bit. It took a bit of work and I had to clean the floor afterwards but at least I was a little cleaner on these cream carpets!! The director’s lodge, the grounds and the hotel generally were beautiful. I was absolutely whacked by this time but managed a light meal of pasta. I was also persuaded to give the hot springs a quick try before bed. Paul and Carol went off for a massage...there are some perks to being a director.  The springs were lovely lying in them looking and listening to the river meandering along beside you and all the lovely stars and constellations shining down ...pretty special actually.  Some of the springs had been damaged with the recent, unprecedented floods but you really only need one to chill in and there weren’t that many of us there. I lasted about 30 minutes then off to bed.

Day 2 –
We had to be up and ready for 9am in the car park so had agreed to meet for breakfast at 7.00am. Breakfast, as you would expect, had everything so we had a leisurely and big breakfast (well I did) of cereal, fruit, omlette, toast, coffee and tea too. Everyone had arrived throughout the night and we were all assembled at the table. By 8.30am we were all packed up and ready at the car park to meet out guide Eloy and the muleteers. This is when we discovered that the mules could not follow us but had to take a different route. This was news to us all and not the norm. What this meant was no water replenishment at lunchtime and no lunch until 4pm when we expected to arrive at camp..so lunch and tea would be combined!! Not good for me who likes to eat alot...thank goodness for a big breakfast! Justo went into action and put a few things in his rucksack..which was just about as big as him!! He had rolls (like flat bread actually) and ham with some crisps for lunch). We also had our snack packs which Carol and Paul now supplied in reusable bags to save using paper or plastic. Great idea!! So off we set at 9am leaving the muleteers to finish packing up the mules. We had been told to pack lightly for that night as we were probably a little light on the mule front and we would be roughing it a little for one night. Off we went leaving the muleteers to attach the last of the bags, the rest in the jeep and we were soon into our stride. Within half an hour we came to Uyo Uyo ruins..under repair...very pretty and with some inquisitive llamas.  Here we stopped for a short time then continued on our climb. Colca sits at about 2800m and by 2.30pm we had reached 4400m passing a lovely waterfall and some beautiful mountains in the distance. I had asked if this was Mismi but it wasn’t. There was a lovely legend about them (which I can’t remember completely so won’t even start). It became a standing joke for me throughout the day ...where was Mismi??? We reached about 4500m and decided to stop for lunch. After a nice lunch actually and taking care with our water we continued on but shortly it became apparent that Eloy wasn’t all that sure where the camp was going to be! Justo got a little frustrated and took off to see if he could find them. He maybe didn’t know these mountains but he knew mountains and we all had confidence if anyone could find them he could! This was when things got a little scrappy. Francois and Mario walked a little faster so were well ahead. I was tiring so was quite a bit slower and eventually Carol, once she had checked it wasn’t altitude I was suffering from, gave me a stern talking to, to egg me on as we needed to get to camp and she was getting cold as she didn’t have a lot of layers in her day bag. Robb wandered off taking photos of birds with his huge camera that he was carrying..8kg in weight!! Eloy...well when the going got tough he seemed to disappear!! I was just making sure I could keep going...head down, I Pod on and keep trudging!! Eventually we rounded another mountain and valley having reached 4600m and were told to head for this black lump of rock, way in the distance and this is where the camp would be. Oh well more up and down and it was quite a distance but again I just concentrated on what was in front and as long as I was heading in the right direction I would get there. Traversing this mountain was not easy as there was a lot of scree so very easy to slip. We seemed to have been walking at the same angle and in the same direction for most of the day so my right leg and hip were starting to feel the strain. 40-50 minutes later crossing another mountain we climbed up to this section of rock only to discover...no mules and no camp!! We had no idea where Justo was at this point. Eloy appeared periodically but still had no idea!! At some point a decision had been made that we should meet at this mud hut slightly further down the mountain where we may have to spend the night...great!! It was now getting dark so we had to move and quickly. Paul and Rob headed to a higher point to see if they could see anything. Eloy was ...somewhere!! Carol and I headed down towards the river which we knew we had to cross before it got too dark. On the way down we heard Justo calling from the opposite mountain...we couldn’t see him but could hear him. At this point Francois and Mario appeared and we all headed for the river. Paul and Rob soon came on behind. We found Justo and Eloy also joined us. It was pretty dark by now. We decided to eat the rest of the bread and ham while making a decision about what to do now!!!! Water was pretty low with us all sharing now and we discovered we only had 4 head torches between 8 of us, as we had expected to be in camp way before now!! It was about 6pm when we decided to get into file with the torches evenly spaced and follow the path back to Colca, hopefully meeting the muleteers on the way and find out what went wrong!! The track had been muddy in places and the bigger rocks were an issue when you can only see shadows. The moon was only a crescent moon but did provide some light which was great. It was about 7.30pm when we found the muleteers and what the problem was. Yep it was the floods and they had washed away the bridge here so they couldn’t go any further. We had to carefully cross here one at a time with the help of Eloy and a muleteer. Once across lights were switched off to preserve batteries and not dazzle everyone and discussions ensued regarding what to do next. It was a bit surreal standing in the moonlight with lots of very chattering in very fast Spanish that I could only pick up a little. After about 5 mins Paul asked us whether we wanted to head back to Colca- about 2 hours walk or climb 10 minutes up the very steep incline to where the mules were and assemble the tents. I was happy to go with the majority decision but after another 5 minutes of discussion I said we should make a decision. We opted for the camp. It was a very steep ascent especially without a head torch but we all made it and helped erect all the tents. Justo quickly had water on to boil for hot chocolates and by 8- 8.30pm he had soup ready for us. We all then hit the hay as we were whacked...we had been walking at 4000m to 4600m for 11 hours with only a break for about 1 hour! Despite the jaunty angle our tents were at (I propped my feet up with my rucksacks to prevent me falling out the bottom of the tent ) we all slept very well. We were now at 4200m. It was cold but not too bad. I had my hotwater bag. I have found this a must at these temperatures.

Up at 6am we had breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans (kidney beans in a tomato sauce..not Heinz but lovely); cleared out our tents and set off for Colca...2 hours... OK that was nice and easy for today after yesterday. Eloy had set off earlier to find Ronaldo and the jeep to come and meet us. Carol and I favoured a nice hot shower at Colca, hot springs and a nice lunch.  We weren’t sure we had everyone’s backing but we would see how it developed as the day went on.. After about an hour’s walking we met a lady with her 2 children and asked if we were on the right path...Yes and it would take us about 2 hours!! OK this is a very elastic 2 hours but why should that surprise me in Peru!! It was a stony but pleasant walk down very scenic and lots of alpacas with some making a lovely crying noise..I had never heard this before. We were not sure what it meant but this is where we sat, near this herd and ate our snacks. After about another 2 and half hours walking we could see the jeep coming to meet us. Great we were really happy about this and piled in. It was going to take 2 runs as the jeep still had a lot of gear in it. Francois and Mario had walked on. This surprised me as Mario had been saying what a problem his knee was and he was on really strong medication to help the inflammation and pain. Anyway 30 minutes in the car and we reached Colca Lodge...so much for the 2 hours downhill. I was sure glad we opted for the tents the night before. On the way we passed through a lovely village and Carol pointed out the very different traditional dress in this part of the country. It was very ornate depicting the animals and mountains around. In one town blue was the main colour for the Calana Condors but in another it was sequins and pinks. They were beautiful. In years gone by, in one village, they used to strap planks of wood to the children’s heads to make them pointy..considered to be beautiful. Fortunately this doesn’t happen now!!
Back at Colca Lodge we all got out and Ronaldo with Eloy set off to find Francois, Mario and the muleteers to lift Francois and Mario, and take all the gear from the mules, pay them off and send them home. We were now going to head towards Mismi in the jeeps – Rob’s and ours. Carol and I made the most of our time. We were going to have a hot shower..but first Justo had decided Carol could buy him a beer!! He had obviously enjoyed his beer the night before. We had to laugh at how comfortable he was making himself. We had a coke each. The hot shower was lovely I can tell you.... I thoroughly enjoyed it washing my smalls at the same time and drying them in the very hot sun. I pulled on my shorts from my travelling bag and looked quite the part for Colca, however our relaxation was short-lived. Paul arrived to say we were having a quick lunch and heading to the Mismi campsite...oh well no hot springs then. Rob we discovered had headed straight for the hot springs, jumped in the river to clean off most of the grime then got into the springs. Not to worry I was happy I had my shower. Lunch of tomato salad, trout and fruit salad was lovely. At 3.00pm we packed up again we headed for Mismi, this time in the jeeps. The track was really rough so it was not long before 4 wheel drive was engaged to cope with the journey. The jeep was full inside and on top so Ronaldo had to be careful to get the balance right of how much of an angle we could tolerate..he managed this well and was very careful. He seemed to be able to judge the road ahead well. We passed Ran-Ran and by about 5-6pm we pulled in about an hour from Mismi as it was felt this was far enough. This was Aquenta. With the tents up (we were all getting pretty adept at putting these up now) and settled some of us headed up the hill a bit to watch the sunset over Mismi...Mismi...we had found Mismi!! 
It was like a moon landscape here – very stony, very flat, very little definition. By 8pm it was also minus 12C!! We were now 4900m! The drivers also had to keep starting the jeeps every 3 hours to make sure they didn’t freeze. Unbeknown to me there had been a meeting and we were all getting up at 3.30am to leave for Mismi..was I in?? Well I hadn’t come this far without giving it a try!! So up at 3.30am, grab some eggy bread and a hot chocolate and in the car for 4am!! What a treat for my birthday....yey!!
Before I went to bed I had to give Eloy my boots to fit for crampons. It was incredibly cold that night and I didn’t sleep well despite multiple layers of clothing!!............... to be continued. 

If you enjoyed this blog there is much much more to follow in a few days....until then mis amigos...Chao. 

Posted by Heather Buc 10:00 Comments (0)

Trip to Mismi


26th drive from Cusco to Colca lodge – Paul, Carol, Driver, Justo(the cook) and I. To leave mid morning say 1100. Staying in the directors house – very nice . Lunch en route somewhere.
Hotsprings at Colca Lodge so swimsuit required. Rob (a zoological specialist with a huge focus on birds)would be arriving in his own car, Francois (Paul and Carol’s partner) and Mario (Francois’s friend) would meet us there later that evening. In total we’ll be 7
27th Meet the guide Eloy and the muleteers and start hiking from the hotel up up and up to some campsite around 4400m
28th Keep hiking up and around mount Mismi to Carhuasanta – the true source of the Amazon – here we’ll meet the car again and camp at about 4900m
29th Option to leave V early and climb Mismi – its 5300m Paul believes and not technically but there may be snow so we’ll take some crampons along. Apparently its only couple of hours so we should be back for lunch and then we’ll drive to Angostura and camp beside some hotsprings
30th plan is to canoe in inflatable kayaks (either in doubles or singles –Down a fun and easy section of the Apurímac – awesome scenery and ending at Tres Canyones – truly spectacular
01 Another day of canoeing past some cool ruins called Maucallacta, into a lovely sheer sided black granite canyon and then end at Machu Puente and drive back, if time permits with a quick stop in Kanamarca ruins and be back in Cusco, probably late evening.

Just done some of the hardest things ever!! Truly challenged me to my core!!
Everyday had its challenges meaning late camping and often early mornings. 6am was a long lie!
......from climbing sheer faces in crampons and kayaking in difficult waters for the first time!!
....and as Carol (my friend from Cusco) said ticked some boxes I didn't even know needed ticked. !!
Our reki has proved this is not a commercial trip. Confounded by the weather so walked at over 4000m for 11 hours to find the mules, slept at over 4000m for 4 nights with temp dropping to -12 degrees. Getting up at 3.30am and donning crampons to climb a 70 degree snow slope for the last 400m of Mismi for amazing views, found the true source of the Amazon...absolutely amazing. Couldn't find the right road with some ridiculous off-road driving, requiring the 4 by 4 for sure but eventually some wonderful hot springs as a treat, 2 days kayaking on the Apurimac-(water just the right level)- from the Amazon source in incredibly beautiful dinglydells with wonderful birds and ducks in front of us also riding the rapids – how does the water not choke them??? Coasting through (well some of the time anyway) some amazing canyons that just seemed to go on and on. As Carol said Grade 1 rapids but Grade 5 on nerves as when you are in these long canyons if you got into trouble which was possible because we didn’t know what was in front of us...Paul hadn’t done this stretch for 12 years!! Despite capsizing on the last day which was very scary it was an amazing trip with Paul and Carol buying me a lovely dinner in Bacos in Cusco for my birthday on the Tuesday....body still recovering from the beating!!!

I did say to them though....if you are doing another hike up the side of a mountain in crampons....count me out!! I think I have had enough adventure for a little while!!

I’ll give a fuller detail later and the photos on facebook tell their own story but they are a bit out of sync so sorry about that!

Posted by Heather Buc 18:07 Comments (0)

My First week in Urubamba

21st to 25th April

After being at the ruins on Saturday I visited Sonia and had a lovely afternoon with her with a lovely veggie curry for lunch. Where there used to be an old pond has now been filled in and is just lovely...a grassy area surrounded by 6 old trees, a lovely array of fragrant flowers with the cats lazing in the shade...quite idyllic....a nice way to recover from the thorns! ! What I also found were 3 large insect bites on my lower legs that are now itching like mad..I should have realised we are not of winter here yet so still lots of bugs about! I also had some mild sunburn on my shoulders despite wearing suntan cream...you think I should know better!! 

Well I am now totally focussed on getting ready for my trip with Carol and Paul, now I have Sonia’s blessing. My head has been full of how I could best manage my morning and still be in the office for 8 or 9am so Sunday included dropping things into the office. That way I don’t have to carry them up the mountain in the morning. To give you a picture of where I am in relation to the office, I am now staying about 10- 15 minutes’ walk from the office and 5 minutes from the bus terminal. If I go to the office I can then walk up the hill towards the church, keep going ..past Ccatan, Sonia’s and on up to the path taking you up the mountain. This is the way I would normally have gone from Ccatan but as I climbed that day (Sunday) I started to think there may be a more direct route from Patawasi (my new accommodation). Anyway I’ll come to that later. My thoughts about my work mornings were to have most stuff in the office (including my laptop) so I would only be carrying my lunch. With this in mind I duly headed to the office at 8am on Sunday with a change of clothes, soap, towel and all the things a girl needs to start her day ...This included breakfast of course. I had a box of cereal and some UHT milk so easy to leave in the office with a bit of fruit. When climbing to keep my energy levels up I’ll nibble on dried fruit and nuts..so I was all set. While leaving everything in the office I met Angel, who was setting up a yoga class in the theatre. It transpired he also does this on a Monday night too at 5.30pm..Excellent!! I have wanted to start yoga again for quite a while now but time....well you know how it is...some things you just can’t seem to get around to.
So off on my climb for the morning and a bit of exploring....When I say exploring, it was more about how long it would take or how far I would be able to climb and how best to get the best out of my training in the time I had before work, which I reckoned could be about an hour climbing then heading back. As I walked past Torrechayoc church and on up the hill I realised this stretch was pretty mundane and not stretching me at all...As I pondered whether I should get a moto to a certain point I looked up to see a scrawny looking sheep with a rope tied round its middle and the rest of the rope trailing behind it running full pelt down the road towards me. Just a little further on up the road were 3 motos...mmm..what to do???...stop the sheep I think..It was getting to close to Urubamba and what would happen then!! In true farmer style I stood quietly with my arms out until it stopped. I edged forward and as it took off past me I stood on the rope and grabbed it..very proud of myself I then tried to find its owner! I had seen someone getting into the third moto and thought that might be the owner but they all trundled past me as I pirouetted about with the sheep!! I’m not sure what it was thinking, going round in circles!! I was now suitably filthy as the rope was none too clean, I can tell you!! I tried the first place I came to , a little shop (there are lots of them every 2-300 metres) but after repeatedly shouting there was no reply. After speaking to a few people to ascertain who it could belong to we eventually decided it must belong further up the hill...oh well I was going that way anyway..so off we went..the sheep a little quieter now. Fortunately there weren’t too many dogs around to set it off. Eventually a nice man in a moto stopped and discussed whose it might be with an older lady...still no idea but they took it off my hands and thanked me for catching it. Sheep-less I now headed off at pace to the foot of the mountain path. As I turned up the path you really feel the difference. The gradient is at least 45% and your breathing becomes much heavier. I set myself a target of 30 minutes to see where I would get to. I was quite pleased with my progress but had to stop repeatedly. It is surprising the difference from last year when I wouldn’t have stopped at all, but I must remember I had been trekking prior to coming to Urubamba so already acclimatised and fitter. Anyway I kept setting myself another target..usually an overhanging bush I could see much higher up or plastic bags marking where the young eucalyptus trees were planted (which I saw last year). Before I knew it I was at the height of the walls from an old Inca settlement that I had seen from Ccatan last year..they were just about 10 minutes away...Fab.. I had finally made it here. I could see “La Crux” in the distance so I thought..why not let’s go there. I have time. I had my dried fruit and nuts for energy as I still hadn’t had breakfast. Here was very overgrown so lots of thorns digging into my trousers but I had my walking trousers on so not so bad. Once I reached the walls I began to pick my way along to the cross. This was a little more challenging with narrow ledges and fairly steep drops down each side. If you know me you know I don’t do narrow ledges well!! So I got down a bit lower to the ground in case I wobbled a bit. I was within 10 minutes of the cross after clambering over scree- like ledges and narrow earth paths which are difficult to grip with your boots. The next stretch looked equally challenging and I was beginning to really tire. I could also see and hear a family of mountain goats in front..mummy, daddy and 2 kids..they looked nervous of me..so I made the decision to turn back and leave them in peace. When I reached the foot of the mountain again, which it turns out you can cut your time down by half on the way back, I turned right and walked the few short steps into the village then turned left down the hill to see where it brought me out. I knew a little further on you could turn down to where Maureen had lived last year and where I stayed 2 weeks but this was much further up than where I was now. Even if it brought me out a little further up the road I would still cut out quite a bit and it was a reasonable gradient if I was walking up there in the morning so would still be getting fitter, working my lungs. So off I went heading down..basically not veering off which brought me down the side of houses, along paths no vehicle could travel on and low and behold did I not come out exactly at my turn off!!! Well blow me..I couldn’t have asked for a better set up. 
I got back to Patawasi at 11am a little tired, needing food and a shower!! It was fairly hot!! I was met by Wimmie and Rymi who were a bit gobsmacked by my climb and doing it alone..I must admit I don’t think anything of it. It is really quite safe here..It is broad daylight and small villages with lots of families so fine. Anyway it transpired they were having a cooking lesson for some of their volunteers at about 11.30am and did I want to join them. For 15 solis I would get a lesson in how to make Lomo Saltado – a traditional Spanish dish and then eat it..sounded good to me. So off for a quick shower and just ate an apple before joining them. There were 2 other Dutch girls there and the chef was from one of the 5 star hotels in Urubamba. It was really interesting and we got the full recipe...so I’ll be having a go at this when I come home. I mentioned it to Sonia later that night and she wants me to make a chicken version in her kitchen if I want ..so may well do. So what is Lomo Saltado I hear you ask. Well in true Peruvian style it is carbohydrate overload with rice and potatoes- fried as chips. The rest is beef with lots and lots of garlic and ginger, tomatoes, onions and some herbs thrown in. The liquid is mostly soy sauce and finished off with a flourish of coriander. It was very nice but as usual I couldn’t finish all the rice so the chickens got some. Oh I don’t think I have told you about the chickens and cockerels. Well it transpires that Rymi fights with the cockerels – a big sport in peru and he even judges. I didn’t fully understand all his Spanish as to why their way of fighting was better and more humane than some other countries ..and I didn’t really care to find out any more to be honest. Rymi is fanatical about them and he even kisses them..eeck!! There are some cute little chicks though, running around with their mother too. The cockerels start crowing about 5am in the morning but it doesn’t bother me unduly. I tend to leave the scraps for them too. ..this consists of the banana skins, eggs shells, carrot peelings, apple cores ..are the main things I know about so far. We all sat out in the garden area amongst the chickens and ate our Lomo Saltado at the tables set up there, with some beer to wash it down..all very civilised on a Sunday afternoon. Later that evening I was attending a theatre production by Nino and Yeina...a bit of slapstick comedy so eventually I had to excuse myself from the group and get ready for it. The show started at 5pm and I was meeting Sonia beforehand. The show was very amusing..like the old fashioned mime..that you used to see many years ago. Nino is very good with amazing facial expressions and Yeina is learning fast..making a good double act. All in all it had been quite a Sunday. I went to bed when I got back and was shocked it was only 7.30pm...I didn’t get back up though!
My hill walking on Monday and Tuesday worked well with my fitness levels improving daily with me reaching higher heights each day. Instead of walking along to the Inca walls I turned up the mountain and kept climbing. When i have time I must go to the top to see what is over the other side. It won’t actually take that much longer. I have now met most people in the NGO including volunteers and been updated on where we are..What has worked, not worked and where we are at the moment. Sometimes things fall into out laps so you just have to go with it..like an NGO offering water filters at amazing process with a 99.9% success rate at clearing the bacteria and parasites. This and a volunteer keen to progress the children’s home and the offer of land bringing it more into the current picture. ..It is all very exciting. Fani is doing an amazing job and I was well impressed by how she was managing it all. She works really hard and has a handle on it all, but needs a bit more support. I will obviously be dealing with the finance and want to look at all that first including getting all the Gift Aid sorted. I will also be looking at the fundraising side. ..plenty for me to work on. Tomorrow I am meeting Peter and Alison at Ollantaytambo and who have been here a few weeks. Peter is a dentist from Lancaster and came to us by default as his Columbian trip fell through..lucky us. He has now assessed all the children’s teeth and given us a report so great for any dentists following on. I want to speak to him to find out what his plans are on returning home so we can hopefully get a dental program started similar to our medics program. It will also let me see the new cafe which will be good.
So my trek..Well I am off on Wednesday night (tomorrow) to Carol and Paul’s so we can leave mid morning for Colca canyon..meet up with the rest of the group and head up Mount Mismi on Friday. So another exciting destination for my birthday..I’ll be up Mt Mismi – around 5000m with spectacular views I hope! The trip involves climbing to over 5000m, sleeping in snow possibly, possibly walking in crampons...a first..seeing the true source of the Amazon..then into canoes and following the Apurimac and some beautiful canyons and ruins. Fortunately the canoes are 2 main so I can be at the back of someone not really being a canoer. All in all sounds amazing...so my friends until I return next week I hope life is treating you well and if something untoward comes your way. Stop, take stock and see what direction you truly want to go in...maybe this was meant to happen this way for you to find a new path. 
Hasta la proxima semana mis amigos. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 17:17 Comments (1)


April 18th to 21st


Braulio arrived at 2.30pm as agreed and we headed off. I was to meet Ineke and my potentially new landlord at his new restaurant near the plaza. Giovanni was very nice and soon I was being shown the room...a very large room with a bed..It looked a little bare and I was reluctant to buy any more furniture when I was only there for 7 weeks..I could live out of my bags though. The bathroom was next door and was to be shared by him and myself..It wasn’t very clean, not filthy but not what you want to see when you first arrive..mental note.. before using rubber gloves and cleaning stuff required. It seemed fine so I thought it would be OK. However I went downstairs to the kitchen and it was looking at a real mess!! Ineke came in and we were discussing it when Giovanni came in. It transpired that the kitchen equipment, utensils, fridge, cooker ..the lot, all belonged to one of the lodgers..a chef. He was moving in 2 weeks and Giovanni was going to replace it all. He put the poor guy on the spot and said it would be OK for me to use it. How could he say No!! OK I thought let’s just see but already I was a little uneasy. I then discovered there was a key stuck in the lock of my bedroom door so I couldn’t lock it. It was secure and I had met the rest and they seemed honest enough. It was getting late so Giovanni and Ineke headed off and I walked up to Sonia’s to get a couple of things. Giovanni had given me some sheets and a cover but no pillow so this was definitely needed. Sonia and Susannah, her daughter who was over just now but only until the next day were in. It was really lovely to see them and as I sat down Sonia commented that seeing me sitting there it felt like I had never been away. I was given a bit of a download..seems like a few things had been happening...all in a day’s work in a foreign charity to be honest. Working with different cultures and countries can always bring its challenges. After about an hour I was really starting to wilt. It was now pitch black and I had a walk back down to Urubamba which was about a 20 minute walk. I had remembered to take my new torch Alan had bought me and it was brilliant. Sonia, the soul, gave me a cheese sandwich, a banana, half a papaya and a tangerine to eat. She apologised for not having much it but she was going to Cusco with Susannah for the night. It came to light that our pro bono accountant was not returning our calls and appeared not to be helping us anymore. He seemingly had bought a number of properties so seemed less interested in us. Sonia and Fani... and now me (if I was up to it) were going to meet Yidera (the accountant for the cafe) on Friday to discuss taking on Living Heart.....of course I was going to be there!! On the way to Sonia’s I had made up my mind that I was not going to stay, especially after going into the kitchen and the chef (whose kitchen equipment it was) was there with his girlfriend. It just didn’t feel right to be using his stuff and I don’t think he was all that happy about it. He had uncoupled the gas too. I would stay one night and look for somewhere else the next day. On the way back from Sonia’s I went into Ccatan to see Miguel and if my room (of the year before) was available. It felt really different as I walked in..it had lost the light if you know what I mean. I noticed all the rooms looked occupied and when I asked a couple where Miguel was they sent me to my old room. He came to the door with his 1 year 3 month old son, Alejandro ...now that was a surprise...no sign of this lovely wee soul when he was with his girlfriend last year!! Anyway no joy but he knew of some places and could I meet him the next day which I agreed to. I would see these places and contact Wimmie who I also stayed with for part of my time last year. I had heard they had moved and had individual apartment s with a shared kitchen just outside Urubamba. I slept fitfully that night and woke at 2am!! Oh well body clock not quite adjusted then..and the thought of facing Giovanni! I managed to doze until about 6am and then got up. Had some breakfast and got packed up. Breakfast was my cheese sandwich and half papaya. As I sat on the balcony on a stool I found and looked out at the lovely scenery as I was eating this, a girl appeared from Giovanni’s room and seemed a little embarrassed to see me. This didn’t seem the right time to have the discussion with Giovanni!! I had made a friend in a lovely bulldog belonging to the chef. She had barked ferociously when I had returned the night before but seemed to recognise me this morning. I gave her a little of my cheese sandwich and she took it so gently..she was lovely. She followed me everywhere after that, even when I wasn’t eating. I finished my breakfast between my room and the balcony but meantime Giovanni must have left as when I tried his door there was no answer. I decided to clear out my room and take all my luggage to the office which I now had keys for. Then I would go to his restaurant. I agreed to meet Ineke beforehand as she knew him and I wasn’t sure how he would react. I would obviously pay him for the one night. She thought he might be angry but on the contrary he was very nice about it and understood. I explained I felt in a month or two his house would be ready and would be very nice. We also stayed for coffee at his new restaurant and I treated Ineke to coffee and a bit of cake. She had been having a rough time and I wanted to let her talk... I hope it helped. The coffee was brilliant. I would go back there again.
I met Miguel and visited the other premises but only one had a kitchen and the duena (landlady) was not in for the other. I had to return at 3pm. Meanwhile I unpacked all the children’s clothes and condoms and left them in the office. I still hadn’t showered so a quick wash down was called for. At 3pm I returned to the hostel and saw Wimmie’s place too. I opted for Wimmie’s. The small room had a lovely feel. It was bright and only 300 solis a month. I discovered I was the only one there so the kitchen would be mine until the others were rented out. I had thought i was sharing the kitchen with Wimmie and Rymi but this was not the case. All the rooms had their own ensuite which was great. They still had to buy a cooker and the bedside table and lamp were also missing but were to follow. Because I needed a shower and was going to Cusco to the meeting the next day I called Carol and asked if I could stay that night thus in the right place for the meeting...I would move in to my new accommodation the next day. This was no problem to stay at Carol’s..as always. Carol and Paul are really great. They all went out to Cross Keys that night but I was too tired after my early awakening..plus alcohol, jetlag and altitude don’t mix!! I stayed in with the kids and watched videos and went to bed with a hot water bag...I had been cold the night before!
Feeling much more refreshed the next day I was ready for a good meeting. Yidera made us aware of a lot of stuff Washington had not, so I knew there was a bit of work to do here. I needed to understand what Ineke had been sending to Washington and if there was something else we needed to be doing. I needed to make sure Fani understood what Ineke was doing and that it agreed with what Yidera needed from us. We were going to meet Yidera again in 2 weeks which was good and we were all clear about what we were going to be doing meantime. I had stressed the importance of haste as I was only there for 7 weeks and wanted to be sure we were in a good place and I understood what changes, major or minor, we had to make. I could then update Ineke. This would be a lot easier while I was here than doing it remotely. All in all it was a good meeting...I’m glad I was there and felt I could provide information that they wouldn’t have had. Fani had been so busy with the day to day operations she had relied on Ineke to keep the finance part going which is what she had been doing for me anyway. Fani left us after the meeting and Sonia and I had a lovely lunch before going to the supermarket. I had hoped Sonia was doing a shopping and I could tag along so Martin could take me and all my shopping as I had to buy everything, to my new accommodation. Sonia had already asked Martin if he would take all my stuff from Sonia’s, that I had stored there from the year before, and my bags from office to my new home for 7 weeks. I also wanted to purchase a dispenser base and 20 litre container of water so I wasn’t buying lots of water in 2 litre bottles and all the plastic it would have entailed!! No recycling going on here so it really irks me to see the amount of plastic lying around. This way they just refill and replace the 20 litre containers. ..much better. So with the car fully loaded we went to Patawasi..my new home. Wimmie and Rymi were shocked at the number of bags but it was surprising how it all had a place and the bags pushed under the bed. Even my mirror had a place as there wasn’t one in the bathroom yet. Other than the warm clothes everything else went into the small wardrobe and drawers, kitchen etc. It is warm here at the moment, their autumn, with very warm sun and occasional showers some days.
On Saturday it was again a lovely day. I had decided to climb up to the ruins behind Sonia’s then visit her. I wore ¾ length joggers and my walking shoes as opposed to my boots but discovered these were not the best for this hike just now!! I spent most of the time pulling little thorns out my trousers ..around the bottoms of the trousers up to MY bottom!! It seemed steeper than I remember and was quite hard going. I think perhaps I had just forgotten!! Instead of going to the ruins tomorrow I will continue on the path to really push my acclimatisation and fitness level...
Now I hear you screaming... ARE YOU MAD!! Can’t you just take it easy for a day or two?? .....Well what I haven’t told you is I have tentatively agreed to a BIG adventure on Thursday and over the weekend. This is with Carol and Paul and because they are all going it won’t cost me a lot of money. They now have a place in the car as Dougie pulled out. I thought....Why not ??? ...but was concerned that I had just arrived. I spoke to Sonia about it and she reckoned it was better to do it now. I tend to agree with her as it was very full on at the end of time last year....so my friends, I am going to heading for a fairly intensive adventure..
Am I mad???? Probably ..but what the hell...what’s the worst that can happen!!!!! I’ll let you know what I’ll be up to when I know.  Meantime from the comfort of my little room; live your life to the full and seize those opportunities...until my next blog...
Adios mis amigos. 

Posted by Heather Buc 19:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 16) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »