Sunday, 19 April 2009

Three Danes, two Englishmen, one very good trek

I realise there's been a hideous gap in my postings to this... so to quickly catch up, on Wednesday I taught again (3 straight hours 9-11!) and had my "pub quiz" in the evening. Neither of these was a disaster, which was nice.

Thursday morning was very quiet, taken up by reading and chilling out. I am only working three days a week, and haven't yet decided whether I want to ask for one day more (four is the norm). There is a significant possibility of getting bored, but also of recovering, plannning, and doing long weekends away. In the evening, most of the volunteers went to Urubamba (the largest local town) for a traditional Peruvian meal. All the food was cooked in hot stones in the ground, and tasted delicious, apart from the odd bit of gravel. Needless to say, there were were plenty of potatoes and choclo (a type of maize which they adore here).

I stayed in a hostel Urubamba that evening, along with another volunteer from England. The reason behind this was that early on Friday morning, we set off from Urubamba on a two day guided trek to Lares, a town with famous thermal baths. With us were three volunteers from Denmark. The trek was astonishing, as much for the variety of the landscapes as for the remoteness of the places we reached.

We started by climbing up through a series of valleys, following the course of a river. As we climbed over ever-higher passes, our surroundings changed from sub-tropical vegetation to flat green meadows, to steep slopes with ever more rocks. Things that stood out were Inca ruins and a Quechua farming community. The Inca buildings were far from the usual quality - it turned out that this was because they were built in a hurry, fleeing the Spanish up into the mountains. The current famr buildings were of a very similar appearance. There was no road, no electricity here. Chickens, sheep, guinea pigs and dogs roamed wherever they wanted. We spent a very cold night at just below 4000m, sitting around a fire and listening to strange languages (for me, Quechua and Danish). The view from the campsite was astonishing- we could see down the valleys we had climbed, and towards mountains that must have been a hundred miles away.

Saturday morning was tough. We climbed to the highest mountain pass, at 4300m. The landscape was nothing but rocks - no plant could grow up there. There used to be a glacier, but as our guide explained, in 18 years it has completely disappeared. Something is clearly happening to the Earth's climate. Climbing at this altitude was tough - we had to stop pretty often just to catch our breath. I have even more respect now for people who can tackle far higher mountains, in the Andes or the Himalayas.

Hard as the ascent was, the view from the pass was more than worth it. It was a real panorama of valleys, snow-capped mountains, and lakes. We then descended through this, to have lunch in another remote village. This one received electricity and a road for the first time last year. Again, animals were everywhere. In the low, dark stone house where we ate, guinea pigs scurried all over the floor. There was one room, and as far as I could see, no proper beds. It is very difficult and a bit distressing to imagine people living their whole lives in these conditions. We all live on one planet, but there are many different worlds.

There is more to say, but I have to go now. Part 2 to follow...

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