The following is Sarah Field's last post on the Tres Chicas blog, produced by Field and friends Trinity Ludwig and Shelley Brook as they hiked the length of South America. While Field returned home to Carson City early, the remaining two continue the journey. Read more at www.eathikesleephike.blogspot.com
After nine months of hiking (and living) with the same two chicas always by my side, being apart from them was like being torn from my other half. I have no idea how we are going to cope when this adventure comes to an end! We finally reunited in Ayacucho after my 10-day trip to the Galapagos and Quito with my family and my unfortunate/unplanned four-day stay in Lima while working out traveling logistics.
The plan was to hike from Ayacucho to Huancayo. The distance in between the two cities is a good two weeks of walking, and since I am heading home soon, we decided to shorten it to a week and do one more rugged trail hike as our final trek as the Tres Chicas. (Typing this literally hurts my heart).
Starting out of Huanta we hiked along a dusty dirt road, twisting along the steep mountain-sides and following the dark turquoise river snaking through the colorful desert valley. There was an impressive juxtaposition of vegetation as the menacing cacti were intertwined with the tantalizing tropical fruit trees drooping with papayas and avocados. Small towns and villages dotted the path, providing us with nourishing and extremely satisfying lunches while on the trail.
We could get used to this "gourmet" style hiking! This road is a common biking route for tourists, so we weren't standing out as the only gringos to ever come through but rather as the only hikers. Reactions from people hearing our story will never cease to amuse me: "Caminando?! De Huanta?!" ("Walking?! From Huanta?!") with bug eyes staring at us in disbelief.
These harsh, barren, and, at first glance, seemingly unpleasant towns were filled with the gentlest, kindest people. We had little old ladies wiping the sweat from our arms, kiosk owners gifting us avocados and chirimoyas, and people generally looking out for us.
A few times we were warned of the "chorros" (Peruvian slang for sketchy dudes and/or thieves); once we were checked on while setting up camp "...because of the kidnappers." After a few warnings and seeing a significant amount of police checkpoints on the road, we inquired about the safety of the area.
Apparently they are cracking down on trafficking in the region - including transportation of coca leaves and cocaine (coca leaves are only legal in certain regions of Peru). It isn't dangerous ... just as long as we "don't walk at night." Check. Furthermore, after asking a few people about camping security we received the nonchalant response of "no pasa nada." Despite the warnings, we felt entirely safe and every town welcomed us with open arms.
After four and a half days, we had hiked 130 kilometers to Mantarca where we skipped ahead to Cerro de Pasco, our starting point for the next leg. Between the dry, hot days, the sand flies nipping at our every bare inch of flesh, and the dust caking our moisture-less skin and burning our lungs, what was there to love on this leg? Everything.
Waking up to the sun cresting over the mountain-tops; having the warm night breeze cool our skin as dusk settled in; camping in the oddest places - cornfields, mountain ledges - with even more bizarre sounds - pigs oinking, geese honking, roosters crowing, cars rattling, music blaring; noticing the details of the dramatic landscape; eating dinner by the light of the moon; talking, or not, and just being, letting the moment wash over us.
When you only have a limited amount of time left, you have to appreciate absolutely everything the trip brings, negatives included. For me, walking through the heat and dust, batting away bugs, and being woken up by farm noises at 6 a.m. are things I may despise at the moment but know I will miss desperately.
So, I just let it be.
For what would this trip be without trials and tribulations? Because, in the words of my mom, "sometimes things are rough, but mostly great, just like the mountains we climb."