Catherine is very meticulous, organised and pernickety. There may be slight deviations from her diary to this blog but I take no responsibility for any disparities as there is a slight chance I might actually be right.
Day 1 Ausangate
We were collected early morning by Liz and Alfredo from Andean Travel. We met Jason and Katerina from Colorado in the minibus and travelled back towards Puno for approximately four hours. The journey wasn't too bad until we turned off the main road and accessed a dirt track road. This took possibly 1.5 hours and reminded me of the road of death in Columbia. It didn't help that I got carsick. Lunch was within a derelict roofless building, held on tablecloths with a chef, proper cutlery and was in the company of a horse. It tasted fantastic (the food not the horse) and was a sign of the standard of the cuisine to come. The first trek started after we were suitably stuffed and even though being extremely out of breath, we managed the short first day. The lodge was a huge surprise as it was obvious that it was a high class of lodge. The lodges, being the highest in the world, were a partnership between the Chillca village locals and Andean Travel. No-one else can use the lodges so we had a pretty unique experience. On arrival we met Catherine and Sarah who had arrived the night before and had been out for a six hour trek, we also met the official guide Rene. Liz and Alfredo were guides themselves but were there to learn the route for future guiding.
Dinner was a way of introducing everyone to everyone properly and we prepared for the second day which was to be a nine mile hike at approx 4800 metres
Day 2 ausangate
We both had mega headaches due to the altitudes so the trek was a bit difficult. Gina's head got to an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and then the nauseasm started. It got to the stage that she was forced to take the emergency horse up the hill. If it wasn't for the horse I sincerely thought we would have been in serious trouble. We arrived at the highest lodge in the world with views up to the glacier that was oozing down from Apu Ausangate which is the mountain that is honoured and worshipped by the people of the Andes. The day seemed to last forever but eventually we got Gina to bed, medicated and heated with multiple water bottles. The camera stopped working this day for no reason, Not a good day all in all as there was no beer available that night.
Day 3 ausangate
6.30 wake up call as per usual. Gina much improved but a pretty poor sleep for me so I have a headache before we start and I'm also cream crackered. The camera returned to life for an hour or so. After the usual superb breakfast we ventured outside for a ceremony to provide offerings to the Ausangate 'god'. The offering comprised of many herbs such as incense and aniseed, seeds, trinkets representing the stars the sun the moon, made of gold and silverlike materials and lots of coca leaves. We had to line up on two sides and were given an alpaca skin which contained a pouch containing coca leaves. The skins were taken from premature or stillborn alpacas so no cruelty occurred. We were given coca leaves as well and were shown how to blow on them while offering to the Ausangate which we had to face. Once done we were shown how the locals decorated the ears of the llamas to show which ones were leaders. I have to confess that it didn't look too nice seeing the big knitting needles going through its ears multiple times, there was a fair bit of blood. Gina had to leave the scene. I had to endure it. I've never been one for hurting animals. People, no problem, but not animals....
We had a steep start to the day which was difficult as we'd just been stuffed. Gina feeling much better than the previous day managed much better. Slow but sure as the altitude was still a killer.
As we traversed round Ausangate we passed a number of valleys, lagoons, glaciers, glacier lakes, settlements and fields of llamas, the scenery changed beyond belief, I'm sure the photos won't do justice in any way.
Lunch by a small lake was the usual high fare, the locals often had to hold the tent down by the guy ropes due to intermittent gusts.
After lunch it was less than two miles to the lodge but obviously it was circuitious, plenty ups and downs, under a fierce winter sun.
Hot shower in a freezing room meant a quick dress up and straight through to the communal fire. Popcorn, Mate, Twix and a beer made things a bit gooder.
A wee beer leads to some good grub which leads to some star gazing, a wee beer then early to bed. The lodges have no heating and it is absolutely Baltic. I don't usually feel the cold but I now understand why we need the tweezers. Hunt the walnut whip is not much fun when standing in a freezer desperate to pee.
If you would like to experience part of the fun of Peru in the winter, particularly the lodges then try the following
Wait until Jan/Feb if in the UK
Put your toiletries and clothes outside
Get naked or if you're a sissy wear a pair of kegs
Brush your teeth/have a pee/whatever you would normally do
Get your creams (frozen). and deodorants (frozen) on
Put on clothes
This will give you a nice warm feel as to how it is each night and each morning and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Day 4 started like the others. A braw breakfast then up a big bloody hill. It wasn't as bad as Day 3 but still hard enough. We were making our way to the final Andean lodge so were going away from Ausangate and decreasing in altitude slightly. This is a difficult day to describe suffice to say that every hour showed a new and amazing pass. Some covered in snow, some dark rock, some red, some grass and some even multicoloured strata which was absolutely stunning.
As we approached the final lodge, one of the locals performed Pututu, which in our case was used to welcome honoured guests but normally the seashell horn is used to call the local villagers together for community or communal meetings.
After dinner the Chilca locals performed for us. Julio played a sixteen string guitar while one of the house girls sang. When done we had to take turns dancing which was absolutely knackering as we'd walked so long, were so tired and were still at altitude. A good final night in the mountains.
We went to bed with our electrical items. Something we'd do each night. I slept with my iPhone iPad and head torch. Gina with her head torch and phone.
Each evening the guys would leave a hot water bottle in our beds due to the lack of heating in the bedrooms and bathrooms. I have a confession to make. The hot water bottles are wrapped in alpaca coverings so that you don't burn yourself. When I woke in the morning I discovered a naked water bottle in my bed. It wasn't smoking a cigarette or anything like that but it was a bit worrying. I wonder what Freud would make of it. Seriously though, no hot water bottles were hurt in the making of this blog.
Day 5 the final day of the Ausangate trek.
A later start than normal kicked off with yet another steep ascent first thing. Fortunately it was a short 45 minute slog. Most of us were out of breath though so it was a bit humbling to hear our horse guide playing the flute while carrying a heavy pack and guiding the emergency horse.
A few hours later, passing by some amazing sights we met the local weavers who made assorted items from alpaca wool. Gina bought a couple of "willy winkie" hats for the kids. Let's see if they wear them. G here .... The hats suit me just fine so we can share.
Eventually after many stops we reached the tent for our final lunch. The guys played and sang for us again and then we presented them with their tips and said our goodbyes.
Then most of them got into the minibus and came with us to Cusco!! We had to say goodbye yet again. (And Brazil got beat 7-1)
The six tourists and Liz and Alfredo agreed to meet for some Pisco Sours to bid our own farewells. Catherine and Sarah had great intentions to leave at 8 for their meal but Pisco said no.
I fortified myself with an Alpaca burger where's the rest had nibbles of prawns. Not surprisingly the Pisco girls were quickly blootered, Catherine especially. Really funny.
Eventually Catherine and Sarah bid their Adios's and staggered either home or to the restaurant, I don't know which. Hopefully we'll see them again. Both true ambassadors for old engerland. The remainder of us went to a locals Disco where after some normal tracks they introduced an authentic Peruvian group who were absolutely mind blowing in their presence, aura and the tribal mood they introduced. Gina danced and danced and danced most likely till her Pisco worked off. G .. Fab soul dancing music and i don't mean music of the early 80's
Unfortunately the group had to end, Jason was poured into a taxi by Katerina, and shortly afterwards we made our way home, shepherded by Liz and Alfredo who we must thank again for their help, assistance and friendship throughout the trip.
Final thoughts on Ausangate. I was very disappointed that my facial hair doesn't grow great at altitude as I was hoping for the grizzly look but more importantly, the harvest of belly button fluff was extremely poor. Just a word of warning for any of you........
Gina. Extremely challenging trek due to the altitude. However it is an uplifting energising spiritual trek. Spectacular scenery, wonderful people. Def worth the effort a totally unforgettable experience. Taught me respect for the mountain, the mountain people, and myself and oh horses! The whole team were a great help and support getting me through some very difficult moments during the trek. Alfredo and Liz kept a close eye on my condition the whole way. Much appreciated. Sarah taught me how to hike at altitude and how to accept and work with my ability. Really helped and before long I was getting the hang of it and doing ok. This was marvellous as I was becoming demoralised with being sick and always trailing behind with the emergency horse at my heels. Most upsetting when you are missing all the banter and laughs up ahead. I also have to say here that Allan was there for me every step of the way. He showed immense dedication to me especially when he had to practically run up a steep hill so that he didn't lose sight of me on the horse. Most grateful Ally x
Next stop, the green house near Urubamba