Exe-rated runners!

Exe-rated runners!
The successful Harriers team, en masse, at the Erme Valley Relays, July 2013

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Comer's corner: Exmouth Harrier on tour, issue 1.

News just in from our roving reporter, Katie Comer, from her travels in South America. That Harrier vest has got off to a good start on its travels, as it is accompanied by proud owner Katie in Peru and Bolivia. Read on to hear of the vest's ventures right here in Comer's corner....

Cusco, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia, including trekking the Community Inca Trail

Having literally got off to a flying start (all 30 hours of it) things haven’t slowed one iota. With just one day to acclimatize, I was dispatched with 27 passengers to tackle the Inca Trail Community Trek, which is specific to Dragoman and passes through two communities where donations are made from every passenger. Over the years these donations have enabled the Communities to build schools and hire teachers, so the benefits are obvious to see. With visits to ruins Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman”) and Pisac on the way, the first afternoon’s trekking to 3,700m proved to be a challenge as the weather changed. With snow, failing light, and altitude sickness to contend with morale was low with around a third of the campers. Fortunately dry clothes, copious quantities of coca tea, a good dinner and a good nights sleep meant everyone was ready for action and the ‘big’ day’s trek up to 4,700m the following day (and a leader who convinced everyone that it was a much bigger hassle to go back down… yes, that’s me!).

Day two started with fine weather and the scenery which had hidden the night before came out in all it’s spectacular glory – it was stunning. Snow capped mountains surrounded the Community of Cancha Cancha and provided a superb backdrop to commence the second day’s trekking. It was a long haul to the first pass. The better acclimatized members of the group managed it comfortably, while I found plenty to do at the back encouraging some of the less fit and those suffering in the altitude. Fortunately with the added help of the local guides we achieved a 100% success rate to the top which is apparently rare. I made the most of the opportunity to build a snowman at the top, although in spite of my best efforts the local guide, Yamil, was less keen to indulge me with a snowball fight and the passengers were just too relieved to get to the top. The weather had changed again, and a long but gradual descent with a good smattering of snow took us to the second campsite. The weather had cleared up by the time we got there and our Peruvian contingent soundly beat the gringos in a game of soccer but they definitely had an advantage at an altitude of 3,900m where it felt like our lungs were exploding at any speed faster than a walk!

After a very cold night, day three started with glorious weather. The group split at this point, with a shortcut being available to the third nights camp with some hot springs. I joined the main crowd, tackling another pass which we made in good time (Pic 6). The views were stunning and this turned out to be my favourite day on the trek. Seven hours trekking, spotting Andean geese, wild chincillas and condors, took us to the hot springs where we were able to relax in thermal heated pools until dinner. We also had the opportunity to purchase a couple of beers – imagine my surprise when they turned out to be 1 litre bottles! Two bottles and a few hours later a select few were back in the hot springs with significantly less clothing. This wasn’t really a problem until three security guards appeared to see what we were up to!

Day four started with a mild hangover, easily solved with a cup of coca tea. A final visit to the hot springs after breakfast set us all up for a beautiful drive from Lares to a short two hour stroll through a stunning gorge, where we also saw an aureolis of the sun. A final drive to Ollayantaytambo finished the last day of the trek and a very comfortable hotel! An evening visit to the ruins, followed by an insight into a traditional Peruvian house, complete with guinea pigs, ducks, cats and a dried llama foetus on the wall gave us some insight into how the smaller communities live.

The following day I waved my passengers off on the train to Machu Picchu with Yamil, and I took the local bus back to Cusco. The remainder of the day was spent at the very glamorous truck park getting to know Yana, my new 18 ton truck. The evening that followed was reminiscent of two nights earlier, just with more clothing, as celebrations were due and dancing on bars commenced!!

After another free day in Cusco we finally hit the road with 19 passengers (the remaining passengers were heading west to Lima), and immediately came across a road closure. Unfortunately Yana is just too big to manage the diversion turn required around the narrow Cusco streets, so some serious reversing and holding up of traffic was commenced. If anyone has ever experienced Peruvian drivers then you will know that this is an achievement in itself, especially as they couldn’t actually see the truck until Steve had reversed it 50m down the street. Problem solved Dragoman style, off we set towards Puno. A brief stop at Sillustani ruins (Inca cemetaries) en route saw us arrive at Puno at sunset where I finally managed to convince most of the group to be brave and try street food which was an instant success.

The following day started with a cycle-taxi ride to the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. We caught a boat out to the floating reed islands of Uros where the local communities were incredibly welcoming and showed us how the build the islands, and the reed boats which they use to fish. Back on the truck, we headed to the Peru/Bolivia border and Copacabana for nightfall.

With two nights scheduled at Copacabana I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The lake was so blue we could have been in the Mediterranean! The Island was beautiful, and held yet more Inca history with Puma rock being the reason for the naming of Lake Titicaca.

The final day of the trip involved a long days drive over the altiplano to La Paz, a bustling city seated in the basin of a valley, over-looked by Mt Illionis. I spent the afternoon exploring La Paz and signing myself up for some Gravity Assisted downhill mountain biking on the Worlds Most Dangerous Road the following day, which turned out to be almost 70km of adrenaline fuelled fun down a rather narrow gravel road overlooking a 300m drop with no crash barriers. The guides were brilliant, as were the bikes and I discovered an inner speed demon in myself, despite having never really been downhill mountain biking before. The opportunity to play on some 80 km/ph zip wires finished off the day perfectly!

Where will the vest venture next? Keep tuning in to find out! In the meantime, some photos to make us all incredibly jealous!

Katie and her truck. Is that a Grizzly t-shirt we spy?!

With a trek group on the world's most dangerous road in Bolivia. Should we be worried?!

Pink flamingos in Bolivia.

Katie keeping warm by a hot spring

1 comment:

  1. This is really a great place. I wish I could make it and have a tour in here. I will be pleasured if that will happen.
    Exmouth tours