Waking up early Thursday April 1st I was greeted by the cloudy, grey sky and a crowd of people in our tiny volunteer house kitchen all packing food for our 8 hour trek to the hot springs in Lares. I was hoping like most day in Peru that the clouds would subside and we would have a nice sunny day. So although I usually never leave for a trek without my waterproof pants, for some reason I was overly optimistic and decided not to pack them. Yes, race directors I know it is "mandatory gear" for a reason.
Anyway, 13 of us volunteers a guide (Miguel, another worker at Awamaki) and a driver met in the Plaza at 6:30a.m. for our 1.5 hour drive up to Patacancha and the start of the trek. It was looking good when we drove up and got out. Two kids dressed in the traditional dress of the region, brightly coloured woven ponchos, hats, the girl in gathered skirts and the boy in trousers were ahead of us and clearly didn't want us to pass them. So Frederick and I started to chase them up the hill side. They laughed and ran, but finally gave up, sat down on a rock and watched us all got by. The weather for the first hour seemed like it might cooperate, but then the clouds rolled in. First a light rain as we walked briskly up the mountain. Well some of us did. Another group was clearly taking their time. We finally converged at the top of a ridge covered with Alpacas and did a brief foot repair on Marjo,who had some wicked blistered. Then we were off again, this time on a little less of an incline until we reached a beautiful lake. However, the rain really began to come down and freezing rain even set in. I was getting a little miserable. Especially since the slow group kept wanting to stop and eat. I think I am so used to eating on the go, that it just doesn't occur to me to stop. I just pull out random calories from the many pockets of my Salomon pack and jacket and munch as quickly as my feet step forward.
The fast group, with me in the lead of course, was of again. I don't mean to sound cockey about being in the lead. It is just I am fast in this company and they kept pushing me in front because I was the best trail finder. I know, those of you who have raced with are shocked. I am too. But I am getting pretty good at trail finding in Peru.
The rain was coming down so hard the already muddy and marshy hills were even more so. Making the trail hard to maneuver through. Eventually like me the others started to care less and less about avoiding water and mud and just started taking the straight line up and over. Especially since the majority had all taken substantial slips in the mud already.
If we could forget just how miserably cold and wet we were, we could really appreciate the beauty of this trek.
If the alpacas and llamas were traded for sheep you would be sure you were in the hills of Scotland.
Plus when these tiny local children ran out to greet us in only "yanky" sandals and brightly coloured ponchos, you had to think, I'm probably much warmer then them. (By the way, "yanky" sandals, are open sandals made out of old tires. Men's shoes have an X in the front, and women's have 2 or 3 colour plastic flowers on the front. They cost 4 soles, about $1.50).
I greeted each child with "Iman su tiky". Quechua for "What is your name". They beamed when they heard there native tongue and proudly answered and then added something in Quechua. Which I had no idea what it was, but responded with my name, Wandacha. And left with a good-bye in Spanish. My one line for the day.
Finally out of the hills and on the road to the hot springs we all reconvened and whined miserably. Most of our hands were so cold we couldn't even move them. I had to desperately put another sweater on but when I when to unpack it from my zip lock and I couldn't even manage that. I had to get one of the guys to do it an then another to zip me back up. I even had gloves. Mandatory gear I didn't chose to leave without. However, I think they just got so stiff being stuck in my pockets only coming out for balance when I had to cross the many ranging streams.
As we walked along the road the rain finally began to subside and since we were so high up the warmth wrapped around us.
We got of the road a ducked into a trail surrounded my tall trees and rocks that ran along a strong running river. This was the most serene part of the trek and reminded my of parts of Ontario. For a moment I thought I was home. And we were all must happier, almost completely forgetting about our misery of a mere hour ago. Until we got off the trail and back on the road to see the slowpokes waving, laughing and pointing at as from the pack of big truck.
The suckers however, felt guilty and we some them waiting on a rock on the next turn.
We all walked the rest of the way to the hot springs.
For 10 soles we got into the hot springs which consisted of 4 pools of increasing temperature. Not exactly like the Nordic spas back home but the salty, hot mineral baths were a welcome change from the freezing rain. The only thing keeping me from the heat was the fact that my dexterity was still limited making it difficult to get my bikini on. But after some struggling I was changed, showered and lowering myself into the hot spring. Phew. My fingers tingled like someone was sticking pins into the hands of a Wanda voodoo doll. Maybe one of you blog readers trying to make my fingers unusable so I don't write anymore badly written post. :p Well too bad, the circulation came back and my fingers have all their dexterity back.
Unfortunately after 7 hours of brrrr I could only stand about and hour and half of sizzle before I just had to get out.