Marcahuasi Part I: Just getting there! + Orientation

Marcahuasi Fact sheet:

* Marcahuasi is the site of an ancient civilization that eclipses Machu Picchu in both altitude (4008 meters above sea level vs 2,430 meters) and age (approx 1,500 years vs 670 years old)

* The site is famed for strange visions and extra-terrestrial encounters. Wooooooo!

* The whole complex is so large that it takes up to a week to explore all of its features

More facts and an extensive writeup are available on Perupedia- The Peruvian Encyclopedia

Tired and bleary eyed, we arrived at the sleepy sierra village of San Pedro de Casta [SPDC] knowing that in only a couple of days we’d have to hike from the relative tranquility of  the pueblo to the harsh,  radiation bleached (but even more tranquil) Marcahuasi that’s located some 1000m above SPDC at a dizzying 4008 meters above see level.

Just getting to SPDC alone involved an early rise at 5:30am, followed by breakfast and a stomach turning 8 hour ride, through some of the most challenging terrain I’ve seen yet in South America to release some of that breakfast.

The same journey wasn’t also without hazard or events. Early on in our trip everything went totally ape shit when our path to Chosica (the connecting point to SPDC) was blocked by a 10 ton truck that somehow veered straight into a bridge,  spilling coffee (of all things!) over both lanes of the highway. This forced an early exit from Julio’s uncles taxi and somewhat of a lengthy walk through what can only  be described as the pure chaos of 500 people ejecting themselves from cars, stumbling over sacks of coffee and generally rubbernecking at the debris left over from the truck which lurked precariously over the side of the juggernaut concrete bridge, with little or no police might I add. It would only be later on when we discovered that the driver had been killed in the accident when he was strangled by his own safety belt: Asides from being rather ironic, it’s probably NOT the best advertisement to wear one by any account.

But ce’ les Peru. The land where crazy shit happens all the time in some way or form.

After reaching Chosica via the kind heart of a taxi driver willing to pick us up, we were relatively early (by 30 mins at 8:00). Twiddling my thumbs I decided to go get a coffee, whilst the girls (Chani and Maren) decided to explore town for that relatively short period of time (No point in getting lost I thought to myself).  I also had time to contemplate over something rather odd that Julio had told me:

“Chosica is one of those areas of Peru that have been described as being a place of eternal paradise, because of the consistent good weather and low precipitation”

This was as I was eating some kind of pastry and looking out of the window at the  LA-esque smog rolling down the street. I guess paradise couldn’t come so early. None the less, we were quickly being whisked on our way to SPDC, on another bus (6 soles) until…… we reached a dam and more specifically a complete stop because of the landslide that had occurred the previous night.

The landslide happened to be quite a welcome break however as we had our first chance to meet our traveling companions to be; Alberto and Lucho.

Alberto (now in his early thirties) had been a theater teacher until a year ago when he decided to switch into doing promotion for other artists (musicians, dj’s, actors etc) and keep the theater spirit alive by doing the occasional mime act for adults and kids alike.

Lucho (similar age) is deep in a similar line of work, independent cinema. Under the guise of being a producer and a actor. As a matter of coincidence Peruvian cinema is getting a lot of attention at the moment after one of it’s films won several internationally renowned awards.

The three hours that it took for the ant like workers and jcb’s above to clear the road really gave us time to know each other and made me appreciate just how friendly the Peruvians can be.

Checking in, Checking out

Checking into our hostelry (for 10 soles) at the ‘indigenous price’ I had the chance to snap some interesting graffiti from the small pueblo. Other readers of my blog posts on Perupedia might have already read my fascination with this often un-appreciated art form

(Pictures will come soon, devoted readers!)

At this point, with the sun drawing in we opted to have an excellent dinner at the local restaurant for a mere 4 soles each – a repeating theme of this bloggers posts due to the limited activities at SPDC. This meant that we were pretty much always pretty much consisted of drinking, eating, sleeping and lying in the sun (but not necessarily in that order)). Inside the restaurant we opted for the traditional bistec a lo pobre in lieu of any pre-established menu on the walls.

Post dinner we met up with Lucho and Alberto at the only significant monument/party venue that’s open in town after lights out: The lookout point. From the lookout point (armed with our supply of cheap brain degrading booze) you could really see every star, supernova, black hole, shooting star and general weird shit that was going down in the universe at that moment. The spectacular view also allowed us to see our own galaxy, the milky way in clear view as a band of cloud streaching nearly half way across the night sky. At this point alberto left for some reason (I can’t recall why, exactly)

With the amount of booze increasing and the immaturity levels decreasing at that point it’s probably best to leave some of the stories to one side : general yank and brit bashing etc :P. None the less we made it some of the way home before I bumped into Alberto again.

He asked me where Lucho went and I pointed to the hilltop with a grinning limeran on top of it, My wine bottle in his hand, whaling into the night. There I said, with a cocked smile.

Yes, we’d reached SPDC. Only tomorrow would we get our first taste of hiking in this mountainous area and of the festivities to come.

Stay tuned for tomorrows post on day 2 of the Marcahuasi trip. In the meanwhile I have a flickr gallery of all our photos which can be viewed here

peter gent

I used to work in the games industry. Now studying for entry into politics and Spanish at portsmouth university. 2009 Karikuy Volunteer.

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