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The Andes again

Another dose of guinea pig for dinner, another dose of camping at 4000m, another dose of ancient ruins.

And here I am in Huaraz again. With Viktor. Not having too much time to kill we opted for a shorter 2-3 day trek across the Cordilliera Blanca from Olleros to Chavin de Huantar.
Again we rented an equipment and ventured into the mountains.
It was delightfully different from Santa Cruz trek. It didn’t feel so much in-the-middle-of-mountains, we were more “licking” the mountains, and the mountains had refreshingly different feel, but the trek was completely empty. We didn’t meet any other tourist. Nobody. Just the two of us against the mountains. That was so unique and so fucking awesome and I can still hardly believe it. The only people we met were few local shepherds. Ladies living their lives like if it was 1800. Literally.
It was my strongest authentic encounter with world’s “old cultures”. Years ago when I started travelling, I had those naive illusions, that probably many others have, that I would manage to see the “natives”, to see some “tribes”. Sure I never expected to find Indians hunting down a buffalo with a bow or Aborigines dancing and performing initialization rituals somewhere on a rock, but I surely hoped that I would at least see glimpses, small peeping-hole-encounters with traditions of the days of old. It’s been a long time since I grew up and abandoned these dreams. I hate the tourist shows where some unfortunate workers dance for you at a restaurant, and authentic stuff is just pretty much impossible to come by in 21st century AD . And so I realized that meeting the people high in the Himalayas who run guesthouses, villagers in Vanuatu or villagers in West Timor would be as close as I could get to the “lost tribes encounters”. Yes those people all have power generators and many of them have Facebook accounts, but at the same time they (at least occasionally) dress in somewhat of a folk dress, follow some of their traditions and keep the link to their ancestors alive, and often despite having a Facebook account they don’t have toilets or running water.
Without doubt, there still exist peoples who are truly authentic, tribe-like, but it’s obvious that I have no chance of meeting them, without a commitment that is beyond my limits. How could you find any true authenticity in places that are easily reachable for tourists? And with today’s volume of world’s tourism, everything is easily reachable for at least some tourists, which is usually enough to destroy the place. To get the real thing I would have to abandon my comfortable backpacking ways and venture out deep, deep, DEEP into jungles and deserts. Things that you simply cannot do alone, you need guide and they cost a fortune. And finally going there would mean that I would become the death, the destroyer of the worlds of those people, as Vedas and Oppenheimer put it. Personal ambitions against someone’s right to be left alone when he wants to be left alone. Leave him alone I say.

And here in Peru on this trek I felt probably the strongest feeling of the “lost tribe” ever. Watching those two or three 70 year old ladies who live in their tiny stone-and-hay houses in the middle of the mountains, all alone, herding their sheep, I felt like I finally glimpsed that lost world of years gone by long ago. These short sightings of the ladies up there in the Andes might be my strongest memory from Peru…

By mistake we did the trek in 2 days instead of 3. We camped out only one night (and it was here that my previous wish not to camp above 4000masl came untrue) and for the second night we walked too far and accidently already reached pueblos that are connected by a road to Chavin de Huantar and so, being low on time and not wanting to trek along a road we took a bus and slept in a guesthouse in Chavin de Huantar, our destination. The next day we went to see local “thermal baths”, which turned out to be hole-in-a-wall affair, with a tiny bath/pool for two, which we could fill up with natural hot water. We did our gay bath, which was excellent way to rejuvenate our bodies after the trek and then we went to see the big thing in Chavin: the ancient ruins. These ruins are 2000 to 3000 years old! That puts them on similar scale as the Egyptian Pyramids. It’s not Teotihuachan or Machu Picchu, but they are quite impressive for their age. And from there we returned to Huaraz, through wonderful road winding through the mountains and offering magnificent panoramas of Cordilliera Blanca. In Huaraz we caught last vistas of amazing Cordilliera blazing orange in the setting sun and down to Lima we went to catch a plane to the Amazon.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak