Best lines of the Circuit:
‘I love fucking donkeys.’
‘More cheese balls anyone?’
‘That water sounded beautiful. I knew it was safe to drink.’
Musings from the Huayhuash Circuit:
We met a chemist/world traveller/rancher/shepherd/teacher we dubbed Chicharon Beel and his dog Chavo in a massive drainage flanked by grassy shelves and walls thousands of feet high and a glacier clad head wall snow capped with 20000ft peaks. He rode in on a galloping horse with Chavo using his short strides to keep up. Chavo was valiant, his shaggy ears striding in the wind, his underbite obvious under his panting jaws. He spoke of his world travels listing off countries which included Chile, a country he didn’t like. He spoke of living life to the fullest, the plumpest as plump can be. I’m not sure if he was drunk, but his bag full of coca leaves and bloodshot eyes gave me a clue what high he was, but I’m a shit short if he didn’t charm us with his bacon fat. Chicharon Beel gave us some pork belly from a thermos from his wrinkled and dirty weathered hands. We noshed on the delicious charred fat as Chavo, the small noble dog, gnawed on the fat, eventually swallowing the thick slab of fat whole. Then, his tiny jaw opened, the wracking noise of the up-choke ensued, and he gagged out the fat. We laughed as hard as we could possibly laugh.
Atop Punto Rundoy we straddled the fins of rock poking out of the worn flat and dusty areas. We marveled around at the high peaks above us, our first incredibly high alpine pass of the Huayhuash Circuit. Soon, a burro pack train trotted up and we watched the packer shoo the burros down to a level trail that undulated gently to another twin pass a short distance away. Down the drainage we followed dreamboat singketrack while gazing back at the massive amphitheater of Rondoy. We encountered Peruvians from Lima who were trekking out in this awesome landscape. It was refreshing to meet city folk from the selfsame country as the mountain locals who held an obvious difference from the mountain folk: smooth skin, white teeth, a perfumed smell, cleaner clothes, electronics, and a physical struggle to trek up this high versus darker and weathered skin, sparse teeth, a musty and earthy smell, even smoky; vibrant and dark clothing, maybe a cellphone, and an intense propensity to exert their strength in the high elevations, the ease and comfort of the mountain people such an impressive sight to behold. But watching the Limans smiling and struggling and enjoying their time in their high country really showed pride to me, proud to be Peruvian, something I don’t see in the States where not everyone goes to the mountains, or what I’m really saying is where the rich only go to the mountains to buy up land and houses making it difficult for others who love the mountains to live and play and thrive.
Along the hike up the valley exhibiting the famous Tres Lagunas under the enormous skyline of the Huayhuash including the highest peaks of Yerupaja and Suila Grande, we met Pyn and Sylvia, a cool couple who had bought a couple llamas and a dog and had been tramping about the mountains surrounding Huaraz. We met them on their last trip before they head back to Europe and other travels. This adventurous couple wowed us with stories of their worldly travels. After a long and fun descent from Punto Suila they ran into us again at a beautifully blue lake. We chatted again and exchanged information before saying farewell. We skipped into Huayhuash camp where we met Juventino, a local mountain guide who had the rugged look of a mountain guide accompanied by the blood shot eyes and dry skin familiar with time spent in high elevation and under the powerful glare of the sun. He spied on our gear while cheerfully chatting with us. Early the next morning he brought us a pot of coffee. He definitely brought some smiles into our trip.
The Paso Trapecio and Paso San Antonio day, the stunning scenery, the long and arduous climbs, the benefit of hard work as a team, the 3 of us friends rolling into Huayllapa exhausted and sitting on three worn beds under a faint light amid yellow walls, the clock on the wall by the rickety window stopped, time simply frozen, the ache of a long and wondrous day: A dream of a young kid finally come true.