Monday 3 August

(magnify) The track from Rayanpampa

Today we are trying the Rayanpampa walk suggested by Pony’s Expeditions. We catch a mototaxi at the bottom of the track and soon reach the plaza. After replenishing our water supplies we go to find a collectivo to Rayanpampa, the start point of the walk. They leave from the far side of town according to the book, but we manage to walk straight past and are directed back the way we came.

The driver wants forty soles. We were told to expect to pay eighteen so we offer twenty. This clearly is not nearly enough so we offer thirty which is also summarily refused. We walk away.

At the taxi stand nearer the plaza we establish that most of the drivers are not interested, but one will do the trip for fifty soles. Perhaps the eighteen soles we were told was per person? We could go back to the collectivos but we are tired of messing around and decide to accept the taxi. The driver wants to pick up a couple of other passengers, who squeeze together into the front passenger seat, and a bit of luggage, which is fine with us as we still have the back seat to ourselves.

Snow capped hills

The drive is quite long, mostly along a rough track that winds up the side of the valley. By the time we reach the lovely little village of Santa Cruz we no longer begrudge the driver at all his fifty soles.

Situated on the hillside and with no surfaced roads, Santa Cruz nevertheless has street lights and a very pretty central plaza. From here it is not much further to Rayanpampa.

Shepherd girl

As we get out of the taxi a woman emerges from the nearest house and offers us directions. We have a photocopied map from Pony’s Expeditions, but it is reassuring to know that we are starting out the right way. We establish that the lake just below us is Pampacocha and that we should follow the broad track ahead of us for Mirama, which we think is the next lake, but actually turns out probably to be the name of the village there.

The countryside is very green here. There are lots of people out working in the fields, most of the women in traditional dress. The track is quite dusty and the sun very hot. The sky is vivid blue and there are a few more clouds than in recent days. Snow-capped peaks glisten above us in the sunlight.

(magnify) Farmer near to Mirama

We follow the track, asking occasionally to check that we are still heading the right way. Quite a few of the people seem to speak Quechua and no Spanish, but the place names are the same. There is a very well-maintained irrigation system. Water rushes down neat channels dug by the side of the track.

The way appears to be very clear. By sticking to the main track it seems that we cannot get lost, although the photocopied map is of limited use. We have occasional trouble with dogs along the route but find that they mostly keep their distance if they see us bend down to pick up stones. If they still come too close then gently throwing a stone in their direction soon puts them off.

(magnify) Farmers near Mirama

We eat our packed lunch in a quiet spot some way from the nearest village. There is no shade but the breeze helps.

The track becomes increasingly dusty as we wind backwards and forwards descending towards (what we hope is) Caraz. A little way down a lorry driver pulls up alongside us and seems to be telling us that we would be better off taking a different footpath back to Caraz rather than the vehicle track. But we have already come a little way down and the track is at least easy to follow. We can see what must be Caraz in the valley, but apart from the track the route down is not clear, so we decide to stick with the track.

(magnify) Caraz in the valley

Further down we come back into habitation. It has been a long walk! We emerge on the main road just north of the town. Turning right towards the plaza in front of an enormous concrete cross, we soon reach the familiar territory of the market.

We roll into the plaza absolutely exhausted and have a refreshing drink in a café. We buy a few provisions and then sit in the plaza as dusk falls, waiting until six before we have dinner. The clouds in the sky and the snow-capped mountains are turning golden orange against the deep blue sky and there is a full moon, large and white.

We have dinner at the Bolivar Restaurant. My garlic steak is quite excellent – just what I needed, and Rachel’s beef stir fry is equally good. There are no deserts available but we do not really need it anyway.

The mototaxi back to the resort is four soles, apparently because it is night, though when we arrive the owner tells us that three would have been sufficient.