Monday, April 8th, 2013
After hanging out for a few days with Aurélie and some of the other visitors to the casa de los ciclistas 4 of us went on a long hike from La Cumbre down to Chairo on the "Inca trail". I rented a backpack, got some food together, and we caught a bus from La Paz that dropped us off on the highway going over La Cumbre pass. From there we climbed up 200 meters to 4,800 then began the descent. We started late in the afternoon so we only got down a few more hundred meters before we camped in some abandoned enclosures. I made a fire with what was available but it wasn´t enough to fully cook a meal. It was cold at this altitude but with two people in the tent I slept pretty well.
The next day we descended down through fields and a few small villages as the landscape slowly changed from high mountain to jungle. By the end of the day we were in a mistly jungle canyon packed with vegetation: banana trees, vines, fruit trees, and all the trappings of a tropical environment. The second campsite was at El Choro which was nothing more than a collection of rickety shelters and one tiny house that looked like it had an occupant but they never came home. There was enough wood around to make a decent fire (even though everything was damp), so we cooked a full meal on the coals.
The next day was more hardcore decent with some steep climbs thrown in, passing over a river with waterfalls in many spots, then climbing up switchbacks to get around the next hill before descending again. At one point we saw a bunch of monkeys jumping around in the trees but I couldn´t get off any decent photos.
My legs were killing me on day two. I guess 9,000 plus kilometers on a bicycle wasn´t enough to prepare my calves for this. We made it to the end of the trail by 5 o´clock of the second full day, caught a minivan to a dusty junction on the highway to La Paz, and from there another minivan drove us the 85 kilometers back into the city. We arrived completely exhausted and sore back at the casa de los ciclistas. I could barely get up and down the stairs due to the soreness...every time I sat still for more than 5 minutes the muscles in my calves froze up. In a guide book I read later that people usually do this hike in a full three days so we went at it a bit too hard. Beautiful scenery through, it was amazing to start in the treeless moonscape of the high Andes and finish in a jungle with monkeys.
I´m going to need a few days for my legs to recover...