A long day’s hike brought us 8.5 miles down the Santa Teresa River valley, from Collcapampa to the semitropical region of Lucmabamba, our final lodge. In today’s trek, we descended another 2600 feet and are now at the comfortable level of just over 7,000 feet–Lake Tahoe conditions!
Many interesting sights and sounds along the way included:
- incredible views that reached from the rain forest all the way up to the snow-clad peaks of Salcantay and other majestic mountains
- flocks of wild parrots sailing loudly overhead
- orchids, passion fruit, banana palms, coffee plantations and avocado groves …no more potatoes down here
- roaring waterfalls feeding the mighty river below, one of which spilled down three levels over several hundred feet
- a poignant good-bye to our trusty arrieros (horsemen) who have accompanied us every step of the way, replete with gifts for their kids and a lottery for the last remaining OCSC baseball cap (these things are hot commodities!)
and finally, a hero’s welcome at the Lucma lodge, after ascending a mile up a recently discovered, 500-year-old Inca road, a brilliant example of the engineering and aesthetic prowess of that ancient civilization.
Unfortunately, there was one sight that none of us enjoyed seeing—a new road being hacked into this wilderness on the far side of the gorge. Ever the diplomat, our guide Dalmiro explained that the road is endorsed by all the towns along the way and is considered essential to the region’s commercial development. Nonetheless, we all felt the same sense of sadness that this magical place—which has for all of human history been accessible only by foot, horse, mule or llama—should soon be a short drive away from the population centers further down the mountain. Progress or not, this is a tough thing to accept. Yet, in the Andean tradition, that is exactly what the people must do. It just is.
It’s warmer down here, even humid, and on arrival we were given icy glasses of fresh squeezed lemonade. Repairing to our rooms for showers, we emerged refreshed and ready for our next adventure. Pisco Sours in hand, we listened in rapt attention as Dalmiro outlined our last day of trekking tomorrow and our arrival at Machu Picchu that evening. We then sat down to another epicurean dinner of causas (delicious potato tarts with fish and vegetables) lomo salteado, sweet potatoes and fresh vegetables. Ending with a desert of coffee mousse and a detailed review of the topo map, we were ready for bed by 9:30. A big day’s trek tomorrow and then on to one of the Seven Wonders of the World!