Writings by Deia Schlosberg
(click here to read bio)

Writings by Gregg Treinish
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In The Heart Of It
By Deia Schlosberg

November 2, 2006


Starting from Leimebamba this time, we took a few days to get rolling, finding ourselves doing a fair share of bushwhacking on steep terrain. Eventually, we broke through the brush and were able to see some promising ridges ahead that would potentially be our home for the next few days. Camping next to a small ruin, we set out the next morning for an incredible ridge walk, with mountains falling away from us on both sides as we headed south. We both felt great, and it seemed that hikes like this day were the reason we were doing this trek. Unfortunately, our lovely ridge was t-boned the next afternoon by an impassible wall of cragginess, so we were forced to descend and ascend and descend and walk the length of a valley and ascend again. Sometimes the mountains work with us, sometimes they don't. Or rather, we just get lucky at finding ourselves aligned with their impartiality. This detour, however, brought us past a hanging lake in the clouds with cascading waterfalls pouring the previous night's rain into it. Here, we ran into a couple of young fishermen who gave us correct directions to the wrong place. In a moment of mutual absent-mindedness, we followed them and ended up descending several thousand feet on a beautiful trail through cloud forest to a small town that we had no desire to be in. Half a day later of winding back uphill on muddy trails and soon-to-be roads (as well as partaking in some delicious fried lake-trout from a kind local family) put us in Chuquibamba, our intended destination.

All of these small high-Andean towns we began to pass through are inhabited by descendants of the Chachapoyan people, the Incan, and the Spanish. The towns themselves have no vehicle roads in or out, and so the roads throughout the towns are grass-covered, and the traditional ways of life are strong. However, this is changing quickly as new roads are being constructed all the time; just in this past segment of our trip we happened upon several in progress with crews actively excavating the ridge-sides. We talked to the people in these small towns regarding how they felt about the new roads, and though they identified some advantages, for the most part they seemed saddened by the changes that would come without their choosing. It´s very interesting hiking through and getting to experience areas just beginning the slide into modernisation. Interesting, but I'm not particularly keen on it.

From Chuquibamba we had a rather uneventful beautiful hike to Uchumarca, another grass-roaded town. We were told ahead of time that Uchumarca had a road going into it, and we wondered what affects we might be able to see because of this line to Modern Peru. The translation of "a road into town" is that there is a road an hour and a half of a steep hike above the town. Consequently, the town itself does not seem too altered, though I´m sure there were more subtle changes seeping in because of the proximity to city access. Hiking steeply up out of Uchumarca the next morning, we found ourselves a good route south following contour, giving us nearly a whole refreshing day without a seemingly pointless ascent-descent combo. We were, however, assaulted by hail en route. Those buggers sting like a son of a gun. In Bolivar we resupplied,and did some sink laundry.

Leaving Bolivar was beautiful, following Incan-road trails through impressive limestone formations and then on a muddy path through high pampa once again. We stopped for a lunch break at what we thought was an empty building, until recess happened and we were flooded with five to nine year-olds fascinated by the two huge gringos with packs sitting in their field. We shared some soccer and silliness with them and kept on going. Two more beautiful hiking days though jagged ridges and along Incan trail routes took us to Bambamarca, where we stayed with the generous Family Peña-Chiguala, the kids of which turned out to be fine fairy-tale actors as well as trail guides. A steep drop after Bambamarca brought us through several climatic zones, ending up in what felt and looked like the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Here was Calemar, a small town along the Marañon River, which we intended to use only as a brief stop to get a drink and lunch and then continue the few hours to La Punta, the only point within days walking which cars have access to. From here we would travel to Cajamarca to get our mail and full resupply. In Calemar, though, sitting on the sidewalk, eating our machete-opened tuna with rolls, it was apparent they didn't get too many backpackers when we were surrounded by the town in full, asking about our trip and our origins. One man in particular stood out, by his size, his booming voice, his armed body guard---this was Lucho. He took an immediate interest in us, and insisted that, since there wouldn't be a car at La Punta until at least the next evening, possibly later, we stay with him at his house until then. We were wary of his persistence until we noticed the way the people of the village were treating him--with ultimate respect and deference. We soon found out that he was El Presidente, an office granted to him by the government. I´m still not sure what it means exactly, but it's very important in Calemar. Everyone seeks Lucho's approval. It turned out to be another very nice brief home-stay, sharing some ideas and meals before we made our last hike out along the river to La Punta.


From there, it was a 28-hour journey because of the rough, muddy roads and the three methods of increasingly standard transportation necessary to get from the bottom of a remote canyon to a central city. We are now in Cajamarca, still, longer than we wanted to be because of the impossibility of getting back on a bus with my current digestive status. But soon we will return to the trail. And soon as well, our good friends Jessie and Dave are meeting us for a month of trekking, flying into Quito on the 15th. We are very excited for the wonderful company that they'll bring. Our next update will most likely be near Thanksgiving, a thought that already makes us sad, as being away from family then will be very difficult. But, as always, we think of you often and love you all.