June 10, 2012

The Long Journey to Papallacta II

We have been to Papallacta before, but never like this.

Tamara, Meghan, and Ayelet keeping their backs to the wind
The road was long, rainy, and being swept with strong winds. The hiking conditions were so bad that two of those three hikers in the picture above would not arrive to Papallacta on foot, but by bus. And frankly, I do not blame them.

Greg before the trail gets rough
We started with a group of nine people on Saturday morning on what we hoped to be a 5-7 hour hike through a beautiful lake district in the Cayambe-Coca National Park. After walking two miles up a service road to a mountain pass, our group decided to split up. Half of the group went back because of the gusty wind and driving rain.

As four of us journeyed on, I soon began to regret my choice. I could barely see. Our small group walked at different paces so I was soon on my own, ankle deep in mud and water, and slipping down the trail. Soon a hard fall in the mud instantly followed by another made me frustrated and shaky. My feet were still dry, but not for long.

As I pushed on from one trail marker to the next, I was glad that the clouds were not so thick and that the rain was letting up. However, the trail turned from an endless mud pit into a shin-deep bog. The occasional hop over a puddle would forcefully drive my feet deep into the deceiving marsh. Words from my dad were now stuck in my head, "Don't let your feet get wet or you will be cold."

What I did not know at the time was that I was about halfway through the hike at that point. I stopped to gather my thoughts and take a rest as I entered the lakes region of the reserve.

From there on out, the hike was mostly flat, but the muddy patches kept reappearing. I was fed up, but knew I had to push on. I needed to get my brain off how bad the conditions were and onto something else.

So, I decided to do some math. Everything here is metric and the trail signs let me figure out that I was hiking at over 10,000 feet and that my journey would end up to be around 9 miles. I had finished the hard part and was excited to meet up with Ayelet and the group who were comfortably sitting in the thermal baths in Papallacta.

We had a refreshing overnight stay with friends and roasted s'mores over the campfire in our cabin. You can be assured that a Papallacta III will take place, just maybe on a different path.
A hummingbird to point us home