Thursday 13 August

(magnify) Reaching the top

I wake a few times during the night, finally caving in and heading outside for the loo.

Today we retrace our steps a short way to see the ruins of the Lanche citadel. As before, Nelson takes his machete and clears a path through the jungle for us as we wind around the walls of circular houses. Paddington and Princessa are both with us. I am amazed at how Princessa manages to keep up with us on the steep scrambles with her tiny legs.

The final structure at the far end of the citadel is a watch tower, which gives us a terrific view down the valley.

(magnify) Nelson at Lanche Citadel
(magnify) Walls and bromeliads
(magnify) Paddington and Princessa
(magnify) Lanche Citadel

Back at the house, the mules are loaded and we head off to cross the Abra Yumal pass into the next valley. It is a long climb, but I find walking preferable to riding a mule for most of it. The weather is not too hot. Alicia and Nelson seem surprised by my preference for walking, but I have little trouble keeping up with the mules and I find riding (hanging on) is nearly as hard work as walking and a lot more sore!

(magnify) Climb to the Abra Yumal Pass
(magnify) At the top

We can see Kuélap in the distance from the top of the pass. The great wall is just about discernible against the rock strata of the distant ridge. From the pass it is a long descent, mostly by road to the Choctamal Marvelous Spatuletail Lodge.

As we come within sight of our destination, Rachel’s mule decides that it is late for tea and begins to trot. Rachel’s most insistent and school-teacherly commands to it to slow down go completely unheeded and I find myself running after it to try to bring it to a halt. As I overtake, it occurs to me that I have not quite worked out phase two of my rescue plan, so I stand in its path and wave my arms about. Fortunately for all three of us it seems to have the desired effect and the mule comes to a halt, eyeing me doubtfully.

Andreas catches up and we continue with Rachel’s mule being led by its rope at a much more dignified pace.

(magnify) Marvelous Spatuletail Lodge

The lodge is well kept and less basic than we had begun to fear. It is lovely to get properly clean in the hot shower and to walk on the sun-warmed tiles of the balcony in bare feet. There is a balcony on both sides of the house, both directly accessible from our room, to catch the morning and evening sun. From the one we have a great view of the pass we just came over, and from the other on the far horizon, Kuélap.

It gets cold quickly after sunset and we go to bed straight after dinner.