After traveling to Peru twice before, once in 1969 for a very brief visit and once again in 1985 to hike the Inca Trail and visit the headwaters of the Amazon, I knew I was in love with this colorful and vibrant country and had to return to explore more of the area. I feel so comfortable in Peru, I'm confident that I have lived here in previous lives. Just wish I could remember the language better!
This time I opted to go with the outfitter Mountain Travel and I met up with my group in Lima. We traveled by bus through several small mountain towns until we reached the trailhead for our circuit trip through the Cordillera Blanc which is an extensive mountain range north of Lima.
I really enjoy the open air markets in the small villages en route to the trail.
Most of the people in the rural mountain areas are Quechua and the women still wear the native dress. Spanish is actually their second language which works well for me. We can both stumble along. This woman is spining yarn, probably from either llama or alpaca (or sheep).
The agricultural methods are still pretty primitive.
When we had extra food in our lunches, such as this orange, we would sometimes share with the villagers along the trail. They were happy to get fresh fruit. As you can see, the men and boys wore clothing that was much more Westernized than that of the women.
Another fun way to interact with the local children was with bubbles. we didn't want to give out candy due to the lack of dentists or encourage begging by giving pencils or other gifts. I think this was a good alternative. On other trips, I've taken kites or let kids borrow my binoculars which are fun to share.
Both the woman and the child have a baby on their backs. The older woman is spinning yarn as she is walking.They were generally very shy. I actually got a chance to talk to this woman (who was the grandmother of the girl). I stopped to change a roll of film (that won't ever happen again) and got behind our group. Because I was alone, she was bold enough to approach me and start asking me questions. She was very surprised at how old I was (38), that I wasn't married and didn't have any kids. I felt very honored to have had the chance to interact with her.
Pepe was our guide. His English was very good and he was a great guy. Unfortunately he was just recovering from peritonitis (burst appendix) and he had not given himself enough time to heal. Towards the end of our trip, he became very ill and luckily one of our trip members was a nurse and she was able to give him an injection and he was evacuated to a local hospital. She visited him in the hospital when we returned to Lima and it appeared he would survive. But income from guiding trips like ours is so important to local guides that they can sometimes push it when it comes to their own personal health.
Out campsites were magnificent! Surrounded by beautiful mountains. Our gear was carried by burros and we just had to bring a daypack on our daily walks.
It is frequently easier to carry our dinners live than to attempt to keep food cold. So here I am playing with my food! We were warned not to get too attached to the chickens, so we promptly named them. The cooks were very discreet when they killed them. But we surely did enjoy our chicken dinners.
More than once we were visited by the "federales" in camp. This was during the time period when the Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path ( a Peruvian Maoist group) was becoming very active, especially in the Andean highlands. Most outfitters stopped running trips to this area in the early 90's due to terrorism and violence.
I actually wondered what was in some of the boxes our burros carried. It would have been very easy to smuggle arms to some of the small villages we passed.
The climate was generally arid but we did have some cactus treats.
And other pink flowers.
And Lupine, which grows to over six feet high in the Blanca. (Lupinus grande, as they call it in Peru)
We crossed over a series of passes with dramatic views, often shrouded in clouds.
A reflection of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world Alpamayo.
Huascaran is the highest mountain is Peru at just over 22,200 feet.
And again, one of my favorites, the children.