Speed and Strength
The last week and a half moved at a neck breaking pace. The group had lofty expectations and there were still so many things they wanted to do and see. A a sense of urgency was building and plans must be made. With less than two weeks left, we needed to be clear about planning the rest of the trip or we’d miss out on so much.
On the must do list: the Lares trek, a trip to the Amazon jungle and finally a visit to the epic Machu Picchu.
The trip was winding down, but there was not always a common sense of peace. From an interpersonal level there were pockets of tensions rising from time to time. There were bouts of homesickness to address, alternating teens feeling shunned or left out on occasions and a bit more teasing and taunting taking place within the group. There were external dramas too, effecting (or not effecting) the general vibe.
Recognizing it’s not easy living together in such a small space, nor is it easy to facilitate when there continues to be a feeling of disunity between the team, I continued to try and keep the group focused on creating as much magic as possible. As a group, we managed to push through most obstacles, many times without comfort, but I’m certain we each gained personal strength as part of the journey.
After returning from the “great day hike” of the previous week, Miro and Devin were clear they were not interested in going on a longer, multi-day trek. Xavia was straddling the fence, knew she could manage it, but not feeling 100% either. And I honestly wasn’t sure I had the strength or stamina to trek in the high altitude, carrying heavy bags. Knowing if the rest of the team was not committed, I too would stay. And we were coming down to the wire, we needed to make definite plans. And we needed to make them NOW.
Our “great day hike” was on Sunday. We all needed at least one day of rest and reflection, so I arranged for our group meeting on Tuesday. That evening, Lorene came to speak about the Lares trek and we urged everyone to make a personal commitment. Time was running short.
It was settled then, Luke and Shauntae were clearer than ever they wanted to do the Lares trek. Ben, the only teen interested, was also onboard. It was a small group. There were three in our group committed to the trek, four including our guide Lorene.
Miro, Devin, Xavia and I would stay behind, and plans were in motion.
Unfortunately, the few days following the “great day hike”, Luke came down with stomach “issues” and Ben was battling a painful ingrown toenail problem. Delay one day. Nevertheless, they were committed and reservations to rent the equipment for the trek were made, reserving a large tent, proper sleeping pads, warm jackets all necessary gear. Delay two days. The group set out and bought their cooking fuel and food for the trek. Delay three days. Delay four days. Finally, early Sunday morning, the group of four hikers were ready for their trek.
To Lares with Love
Written by Lorene from LoreneSudAmerica.wordpress.com
After the “great day hike”, Ben, Luke and Shauntae were the only ones still thinking they like hiking enough to go on the 3 day-trek to the hotsprings of Lares. So the 4 of us met on Sunday morning, ready to tackle the challenge, direction Calca, in the Sacred Valley, our first stop. From there, we boarded a packed minibus, (it was market day in Calca). Luke almost had to sit on an old man’s lap. Finally he sat in front of the old man and all the locals enjoyed the situation very much. Luckily, fifteen minutes later, we reached the small village of Huaran, the start of our trek.
Everyone was excited and ready! We started our actual hike just around 11.30 am. The day was sunny and hot, it seemed with each resting point, our exposed skins became the snack of choice for all the small black flies in the area. Our path gently climbed up the hill towards the end of the valley, following pastures, eucalyptus trees and river along the way.
Our lunch and snack breaks (tortillas with PB&J were definitively Luke and Ben’s favorite) were welcome to keep spirits and energy high. After 6hr of walking, tired but happy, we reached the community of Cancha Cancha (3950m -13000 feet), our campsite for the first nigh. We felt blessed to see a herd of sheep and llamas coming down from the mountains to greet us.
A encountered a big group of hikers who had already set up camp there, so we decided to set up the tent on the school yard just behind for a little more privacy. Our tent was set up quickly guided by the last rays of sun. In the meantime, diner was cooking, we had time to sit in awe of the evening’s first stars shining through the milky way. The moon wasn’t out yet and since there was no electricity in Cancha Cancha, there was no light pollution to hinder our view.
As Luke said, “This is the best observation of the milky way he had ever have!”
After seeing some shooting stars (but, sorry Lainie, no UFOs), the four of us crawled into our sleeping bags in our shared tent and try to get some rest after a long day.
The rising sun started to warm us up and we realized it was a little later than we thought. But it took time to really start waking up in the cold of morning. Breakfast was made and enjoyed and we packed our bags, ready to start our second day of hiking towards Pachacutec pass, the highest part of the trek at 4600 m- 15000 ft. Today was going to be our biggest challenge!
Along the way, we saw some llamas and alpacas grazing, corals, 3 high mountain lakes and 2 caves. Luke, Ben and Shauntae went exploring the caves. While they were exploring, the weather started to change and large ominous clouds started to roll in.
Before we reached the pass, snow and fine hail started to pour down on us. We all were effected but Ben was feeling quite a bit tired. I suspect he had left part of his energy exploring the cave. Ben really did have proper hiking boots, which didn’t help the situation either. Together we pitched in carrying his gear and with a little bit of help we arrived on the other side of the pass, greeted by better weather.
On the other side of the pass, it was time for a well deserved break. The hardest part was over and from there on, it was ONLY downhill.
By “downhill” it meant 30 minutes of very steep downhill hiking and we arrived the first lake. Excited, we started to skimming stones across the lake and even considered a quick dip in the lake. We soon realized swimming in the ice cold water was a bad idea since we still had a lot more hiking to do.
Passing the shore of the second lake, we entered the valley of Quiswarani . We had a wonderful view of the village below. After passing a waterfall, we reached the village of Quiswarani. There we had 2 options.
Option One: Camp the night in the village and walk one more day over one more pass to arrive to Lares.
Option Two: Walk 30 minutes more to the Calca-Lares road and hope to get a ride into town. If we couldn’t find a ride though, it would be another 10 km hike on a dirt road.
The idea of soaking our tired muscles into the hotsprings this evening instead of waiting another night sounded appealing. So we all agreed on Option # 2.
In hindsight, I think it was also the best option, as I wasn’t certain that Ben could endure another day of long hiking. His feet started to hurt real bad even though he had done really good so far, but I was afraid another full day of hiking might do him in.
We set out, following some shortcuts, we made it to the road in time to miss a minivan to Lares by only five minutes! And so, we started our walk towards Lares.
After walking a kilometer or two, it was starting to get dark, requiring us to wear our headlamps, still no cars in sight. I was starting to think we ran out of luck and we would have to walk the whole way to Lares.
Just then, our luck changed and we saw headlights coming our way!
The headlights belonged to a large freight truck, which luckily stopped for us. I quickly asked if they could give the four of us a ride. I also asked what they were carrying in the back of truck, secretly hoping they wouldn’t say “basura” (trash in spanish). The driver answered back with a smile “it’s sand”, in Spanish and told us we could jump in. Yeah!!!!
The 4 of us climbed up the ladder, hurled our backpacks in, and got settled for the ride. I thought, “this sort of thing is unthinkable in the States, but here in Peru, THIS IS NORMAL!”
It was quite an experience, riding through the night on top of a sand truck, looking at the stars and waving to people on the second floors of their house who seemed astonished to see four gringos on the top of the truck.
After a short stop, to deliver 2 bags of sand, we made it to Lares.
What an experience, and with much gratitude, we offered money to the driver for the ride, but he wouldn’t accept. With smiles, we said our goodbyes as the truck crew went off into the night.
In town, we celebrated with a good diner then continued our hike for the last mile to reach the hotsprings! It was finally time to relax and enjoy the well deserved dip into the hot pools!!
That night, we all slept well after our hot baths.
Early the next morning we were awoken by a loud cracking sound. No one registered what happened, and we just went back to sleep. Later that morning when we all started to get up, I realized that there was now a hole in the tent! It seems that Luke is definitively too tall for Peruvian standard tents, and because he’s so tall, his legs caused the tent support to SNAP!
We spent a relaxing morning basking in the Lares sun and enjoyed another hot bath. Finally we were ready to head back to town to find a bus back to Calca followed by a bus back to Cusco. It was the end of a good adventure!
Thank you to Ben, Shauntae and Luke for the great adventure!
…And thank you Lorene for guiding the group and taking time to share your story here!!
There’s more: The Amazon jungle + Machu Picchu tales to tell. Go to Page 2 now!
Read the entire Unschooling in Peru Adventure here, by week: