Licapa – camp 4700 – camp at a different 4700 – Huancavelica.
The day previous over the two passes had been hard and when we awoke in Licapa we contemplated a rest day but it was only 3 days to the provincial capital of Huancavelica and limon pie so we made a plan to carry on. There was nowhere to buy food after the first small village 15 km in so we did a shop up of our standard fare (bread, pasta, fish, tomato, crisps, eggs, mayo, puffed corn, tea bags, milk powder, red onion, garlic, vanilla biscuits, sublime chocolate/p’nut bars, loo paper and alcohol). Alcohol? Not to numb the pain, no, but for our meths burner.
We have had fun tracking down alcohol on our travels as many towns don’t want to admit that it is easily available and that locals buy the alcohol puro (or meths as we know it without the purple colour) as a cheap drink, $3 a litre, usually out of a bucket or in one shop a large teapot behind the counter. We now take our cooker with us to show people and it usually only takes asking the right person, or a small shop away from the plaza to find it. We have only had one batch that would barely light and it was out of small 120ml commercial medicinal bottles which we think might have been watered down because people drank the stuff. It resulted in a cold dinner and no cups of tea at a camp. Not happy. Apart from that, the burner and very light titanium ‘clikstand’ has been very successful even at 4700m and in the cold.
Anyway, it was a pleasant dirt road that ran perpendicularly away from the paved highway and back into the high valleys. Alan was tired and flat until we stopped at the first village and saw all the colour and activity of the fortnightly Saturday market. Locals were dressed up in their finest and we saw for the first time men in traditional clothes. As good as that was the pastries one women had for sale (10 less after we shopped), avocado, and cheese (which had been scarce in Licapa). I could even replace my leaking mug with a new pink one. Buoyed by that experience we carried on.
Halfway up the climb to the pass we stopped for a brew and lunch in the hot sun and we saw the storm clouds brewing. Just before the pass we passed a ‘Sanctuario’, like a small church, 2 candles burning, Stations of the cross and Christmas decorations. It was tempting to call it home for the night but it wasn’t till we got to the pass, heard the thunder and felt the first thuds of hail that we hightailed it back to our Sanctuario for the night. The thunder, hail and snow was pretty intense for a couple of hours by which time we were ensconced, kindle and ukulele were in use and we weren’t going anywhere. The sun came out and at 5 we got our first visitors – a bus load of men descended with a heap of candles to light. They were a bit put out initially with us but once they heard our story, it was not a problem.
They left us with a cosier sanctuary and once it got dark we set up the tent. At 8 a truck driver woke us up and after lighting his candles, decided to sit for an hour and chat (as well as we could with my limited Spanish). Eventually he drove off and at 10 a local on foot woke us with banging at the door – we couldn’t believe it – 4700m, cold night, quiet road – he also seemed reluctant to leave, despite saying how cold it was and his casa was only 15 min walk away. Maybe something got lost in translation!
So a day of surprises and good fortune – it is what makes the journey so special
The next 2 days saw us staying high through vicuña reserves and smelly mining country before descending on 57km of sealed road to Huancavelica, hot showers, and the end of the 2nd short stage of this journey.