We knew that this would be a tough day. It would be an 18 km (11 mile) hike with a steep uphill start to it. Then through some villages whose only physical access to the outside world is via this trail! Group leader Ollie said that he would wake us up at 4:00am, we would pack our bags and start the uphill climb before breakfast. So that's what we did!
The idea was that we could do this steep uphill section in the dark before the sun got on us. We would do 87 switchbacks (I guess someone counted them at some point!) to our breakfast stop which we would reach around sunrise.
We started hiking at 4:30am in the dark. Of course we had several rest stops along the way. We all went at our own pace...Ruth and I and a couple of other stragglers bringing up the rear! Ollie guided the front group up, Lindsey was in the middle somewhere, and David stayed at the back giving motivation to us slowpokes. It was essentially one foot in front of the other. Slow, small steps. This section went from 7,500 feet to 10,000 feet altitude in less than two miles! (2,300 meters to 3,100 metres in less than 3.2 kms!)
Almost two hours later the sun started to come up. We still hadn't made it to our breakfast spot, but I'm sure the faster ones were already there. We were sure starting to get a view though! As the sun rose and the light shone through onto the area we had been the afternoon before we were treated to some spectacular views!
Looking down on the road we had been on yesterday afternoon!
Breakfast at 6:45am. Already had two hours of strenuous hiking done!
We enjoyed our breakfasts. They boiled a big pot of water and then we had hot drinks...choice of coffee or hot chocolate with sugar and powdered milk if you like. While we waited for more water to boil, they laid out dry oatmeal, granola, peanut butter, and homemade jam. Then, you make your "mosh"! Put some of these ingredients into your cup, add some water, mix it all up and enjoy. Seconds too if you want!
Heading off after breakfast. We had sat and rested for quite a while and it was 8:10am when we headed off for the next leg up.
There are no roads to these villages, but there are a couple of old signs on the trails.
Here's Lacey contemplating one last push to the altiplano!
At 9:20am we made it to the top...finally! If you look closely (just right of the center of the horizon), you can see the peak of the Santa Maria volcano that we had climbed the weekend before!
Us at the top!
The "altiplano" is a section of fairly flat land at the top of this steep section of trail that we just finished. We would hike about 8 kms (5 miles) across this interesting landscape dotted with tiny communities connected by this trail.
These people don't see many foreigners. Quetaltrekkers groups of between 7 and 14 people hike through here every two weeks, but other than that unless you hire a private guide there won't be any other strangers coming through. We would try and say hello, but didn't get much response. Occasionally children would call out "hola" and wave, but mostly these people didn't want to be bothered by us. They all speak Spanish, but they also have their own Mayan dialects. In fact, throughout the trail there are communities who speak three different dialects. It's very localized. Here's a few photos of our walk across the altiplano...
Local women doing their laundry!
At 12:45pm we stopped for lunch.
I was sitting in the shade of the tree eating my lunch when I noticed some movement only about a foot away. This little guy had come out to get some sun and let me take a photo of him so close. Maybe he had never seen a person before!
Wanda and Sara. These goats were kind of curious about their food!
Ollie, leading the way. We had no problem keeping up on the flatter stretches. It was the steep uphills that we had a difficult time with.
The local graveyard is very simple.
By 3:00pm we started to head down into the valley where our overnight host was.
But first, a rest. The next section downhill is pretty steep.
Steep downhill. About halfway down, we stopped for the night. Made it to our destination around 4:00pm. It had been a long day. Remember, we started out at 4:30am! The next morning, we have to head up the other side.
Our sleeping quarters! Here's Ollie explaining how to sit on the boards so that they don't flip up or break!
The building on the right was our room.
Ha and Stefani at work purifying water for the next day's hike.
Some of the locals came by to watch us. I finally got up the nerve to ask if I could take photos. This group were actually fairly enthusiastic about it and the kids had fun looking at the photos even if it was on the tiny screen on the back of the camera.
This lady and her children. I realized after I took this that she was actually breastfeeding the younger one!
A boy and his cousin.
Even grandma wanted in the photo! Or great grandma? Not sure and forgot to ask!
We had vegetarian curry and rice for dinner made by our hiking guides. It was delicious! Early to bed again because we had a LONG day and we were getting up early again the next morning!
Here's a link to our hiking route this day...we did 18 kms (11 miles) and went from 7,500 feet to over 10,000 feet in elevation!