As we sit in Chachapoyas, Peru, it is hard for me to decide where to begin.
As we sit in Chachapoyas, Peru, it is hard for me to decide where to begin. As we continue our journey and things become more commonplace for us, it only amazes me that everyday, at least several times a day, we stop and are still completely blown away at the beauty around us. Lately, we have been looking at our hike in a different way. Instead of focusing on the fact that we have nearly 4500 miles to go, maybe more, maybe a bit less, instead of worrying every step of the way that we are rapidly approaching the wet season and aren’t quite sure what exactly that will bring to the table, instead of working so hard for a town or a border or a specific peak, we are simply going hiking. There is nothing in the world that currently interests me more than hiking in Peru. This way of thinking, taking each day and each mountain range at a time, makes for far more relaxed, and far more enjoyable way of traveling.
After leaving Catachocha (a town west of Loja) we made it no more than seven maybe eight kilometers before we were forced to turn back. “Why?” you ask; that would be because of the worm that bore into my heel and laid eggs. After giving birth at the hospital to over a hundred eggs, we began south a second time. Ecuador would not let us go easy.
As we descended from the top of a ridge down a steep trail, it was all too soon that the traditional disappearing act took place. We soon found ourselves with no trail and with increasingly thick vegetation to fight through. Why the hell didn’t I buy that machete in town? Bushwhacking down for a long time we finally made our way to the jungle-like river basin nearly 4000 feet and at least 3 climatic zones below the ridge where we had started. We enjoyed picking and eating oranges, lemons, and guanabana off of the trees and treated ourselves to a caÃ±a (raw sugar cane) dessert. The next morning, we walked along the river seeing our first parrots and a spectacle of dozens of different kinds of birds. We left the muddy river climbing from the lush basin almost immediately finding ourselves in desert. It would be a long hot walk before we would again reach water. Totally dehydrated and very ready to reach the road furthest south in Ecuador, we climbed and climbed and climbed, no water, no more daylight. We would spend our last night in the backcountry of Ecuador dry-camping and severely hoping that the next day would bring water. In the middle of nowhere, on a tiny dirt road, a geologist happened to be studying the potassium-rich rock in the area, and oh yeah, he had two extra bottles of water, too, proving once again that everything works out on the trail. After continuing on our way, slightly more watered, we finally made our way to the road and took our last steps in Ecuador. The feeling of completing a country, walking to a border was something that the two of us really needed. It was great to finally feel as if we had actually completed something, that we had conquered a major goal and could know that we have thru-hiked Ecuador. Hell yeah! At the same time that the elation of the border filled our bodies, the reality of a long walk through Peru and an appreciation for what that will entail was not far from our minds. Looking back on everything that has transpired in two and a half months in Ecuador, I am reminded of reaching the half way point on the Appalachian Trail and being bewildered that I could possibly only be halfway after so much experience. This time I am less than one tenth of the way done with the whole trek. How can we possibly experience ten times what we already have? Wow!
Because we needed to cross the border in the desert, we took an eight hour bus ride east to get back to the mountains. With no maps (we hadn´t yet gotten them for Peru) we told the driver of the bus to pull over as we reached the crest of the mountains. At two o´clock in the morning with very little idea of where we were, we got off the bus and within five minutes found ourselves inside a roadside home. The man whose house we had stopped in front of was not only confused about the two gringos who got off the bus an hour before the city, but was also incredibly hospitable. We spent the night in a warm bed and incredibly aware and appreciative of the generosity we have continuously found in the Andes. The concern that people have shown for fellow human beings here is something that will surely inspire the two of us throughout the rest our lives.
The following day we would point the compass south and begin walking on the ridge-tops making some of the quickest progress south so far. Walking without maps and therefore having no idea what was ahead of us actually seemed to help us rather than hinder us. We would also find to our elation that the trails in Peru are far more direct and continuous than in Ecuador. Perhaps we can actually make some progress on trails here instead of the constant bushwhacking and forging our way through uncrossed terrain. Throughout the rest of the week we encountered and met the members of several very small villages. The homes in Peru so far seem to be a bit less equipped than in Ecuador and more dispersed as well. There is also a noticeable difference in the way we are treated by the people here. Too often in Ecuador we felt as if we were wildlife, constantly we were starred at and only once in awhile would we feel like we were being spoken to as humans rather than the freaks passing through. In Peru, we actually can engage in conversation and form some type of relationships with the people here, albeit temporary ones. Perhaps there have been more hikers here, though we are yet to encounter any.
Although the trails here are more continuous and direct, the size of them does not compare to what we are used to. We would often find ourselves traversing extremely angled slopes with little more than five or six inches underfoot, and several thousand feet of space below. The locals seem to skip around on these trails, often with more weight than we are carrying, as if they were walking on a highway. For us, it will take some more getting used to before we can commence our skipping.
For the next four days we would traverse the slopes, walk the ridges, and descend to the valleys, all revealing thoroughly impressive sights and a great beginning to a new country. The mountains of Peru have already given us incredible views of landscapes, waterfalls, and ruins. We are outrageously excited for what is ahead of us in this country and look forward to the months ahead.
We have recently been wondering about our lack of a cause. As we learn about other adverntures biking or trekking for long distances there always seems to be one specific cause. We both have agreed that this is not something we need right now. There are so many causes that we will surely want to help. We both feel that we want to continue to expose people to everything that we encounter as apposed to focusing on one specific thing. We fully intend to use this adventure and forum in the future to further awarness about many things we are exposed to down here.
Please keep writing, we really look forward to reading your emails. Also a congrats to cousins Jonathan and Erin on their first daughter Isabel Mara Rutman who we wish we were there to meet.