GoNOMAD Book Excerpt:
editor's note: It’s the beginning of Kinga and Chopin’s third year on the road, hitchhiking around the world. After North and Central America, they are now in Peru, finding themselves… buying a horse to hike across the Andes.
16 Oct 2000
The winding road leads through snow-covered mountains, green valleys, and little mountain villages. Our truck stops to pick up an Indian family carrying bags of llama wool and leather to Cuzco.
“Do you want to swap? I’ll give you my little one,” she says pointing to her baby girl, “in exchange for a car. It doesn’t have to be a big one, just any car, so that I don’t have to drag along with these slow trucks anymore.”
I point out that we too are ‘dragging along’ – in the same truck that she is, and for the same reason – we don’t own a car. But the Indian woman just gives me a doubtful look that says: “You can’t tell me that you gringos can’t afford a car.”
We’re breaking some new records here – it’s already the third day in this truck, and there are still a few hundred kilometers to Cuzco . The ride is slow, but beautiful – until the end of the paved road. Then, it becomes slow and painful. The truck has lost whatever shock absorbers it once had, and the road is so bumpy that there has been no chance for a nap – through the entire night of driving.
In the village, we find out that from the ruins of Choquequirao, you can trek all the way to Machu Picchu . Some people say it takes twelve days, others say you can do it in six – all you need is a guide and a horse to carry your supplies. A few people offer their guiding services, and they have horses for rent – for astronomical prices. We weigh the options and come up with a better idea. We figure that we can buy a horse for the trip, then sell it later. Let’s do it!
In Search of a Horse
“Only not a donkey! Donkeys are afraid of the water, and there’s nothing in the world that will make them cross a river or a stream.”
So we finally strike bargain with this shop owner. He offers to sell us an eight year old horse for a hundred dollars. He’ll bring him here in the morning. If the horse is alright, we’ll start tomorrow.
A hundred dollar bill and a beautiful horse change hands.
“He’s a strong, brave horse. His name is Alasan,” the shop owner tells us.
He shows Chopin how to secure our backpacks onto the horse’s back, and while they’re fastening the ropes, I feed Alasan some alfalfa. We are also lucky to find an excellent topographical map of the area – and with that, we’re ready to go.
We reach a place which is completely enveloped with mist and clouds. We grope our way through the clouds, trusting the path, not quite knowing where it will lead us. We push on for a few hours, then the mist clears away and we are presented with a breathtaking view of a lush green valley, with a river winding through it at the bottom and a high mountain range on the other side. We know that the ruins lie behind that range, but this isn’t relevant now. Right now every step on the way to our destination is just as interesting.
After a full day of hard climbing, we reached the ruins of Choquequirao last night, but only briefly saw the setting sun cast its orange light on the Inca ruins before disappearing behind the snowy peaks. We camped at an Incan terrace at the bottom of the fortification, where Alasan found plenty of grass.
Today we get up at sunrise to visit the ruins. What’s most incredible about them is their beautiful, remote location among total wilderness. As we walk through the crumbled walls and stone buildings, we meet a local archeologist. He is the only person here, along with a few helpers, and they are astonished to see us. He tells us that the Choquequirao complex is even more remarkable than what we can see now since most of it is still covered by jungle, waiting patiently to be unearthed. However, due to the lack of funds, the excavation work is slow-going.
Reluctantly, we decide that it’s time to move on. We pack up, the archeologist wishes us luck and we’re on the trail again towards Machu Picchu . The path isn’t as clear now as the one leading to the ruins was, so we have to be careful not to lose it. We descend to the next valley and have to cross a fast flowing but luckily shallow mountain river. We take off our shoes and pants, and wade across, congratulating ourselves on not having bought the donkeys. Our brave Alasan has no problem crossing here.
To see how it all ended (or how it began): ledbydestiny.com
To Buy This Book From Amazon visit Led by Destiny: Hitchhiking Around the World
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