It’s time for our ten hour treck to Los Chilchos. The night before, Ricky gave us a presentation what to pack for the four days in the middle of the rain forest. The bottom line of it was: as little as possible since it all has to be transported on horseback (or on our backs).
Chris has already gotten used to the trekking saddles over here by practicing on our wooden horse at our hotel ‘La Casina’.
So we were ready for our big trip to the remote village Los Chilchos.
We got up again very early, as it will take us the whole day to make our way from Leymebamba to Los Chilchos and no one wants to be stuck on the trail without daylight.
One hour drive with a minibus to our drop off point and then an eight hour walk and ride on horseback. Sunset is around 6 PM each day. Not much time to spare.
After a bumpy ride with a minibus up a steep, windy road we were confronted with the real Peruvian weather in this region. Low hanging clouds, obscuring the mountain tops and a drizzle of rain to start with.
We all suited up accordingly to resemble mountain expeditioners on the trails for days. Our horses, or should I say ponies, were already waiting for us as well as some pack animals. Everything has to be brought there by foot or pack animal. There is no road to Los Chilchos, just an very rocky and muddy path up and down through the mountains.
We put on rain gear, cold gear and wind gear and then got assigned our mounts. By and large everyone was happy about their horse (and one mule). Esther had a pretty grey called Moro, Chris a nice black mare called Nena. Harry had the mule to start out with and found it quite comfortable. Once all were mounted and the saddle bags stowed, we set out on a wide muddy track towards a misty destination in the distance, some eight hours away. The horses are so sure footed and tough, that they can carry a third of their own weight on their backs for hours.
A light drizzle and a fierce, cold wind made us all snuggle further into our warm coats, hats and gloves. Soon at least the rain stopped and it started to clear up a bit on the lower mountain sides. The higher we got, the denser the clouds got again. Chachapoyas, people of the cloud forrest. One has no doubt that this name fits perfectly.
We alternated the walking and riding, some preferred walking to riding and vice versa. All of us were wearing rubber boots instead of hiking shoes, as the mud is ever present and ankle deep in most places. Boot liners, thick socks, plasters, all needed to make sure the blisters did not show up too soon! We’ve never hiked the mountains in rain boots!
First we had to hike and ride up 6.000 feet only to then descend 8.000 feet to Los Chilchos, in a warmer valley. The highest mountain pass had no view due to the low clouds but the altitude was making everyone breathing heavily. Despite all of us being reasonably fit, one has the impression of total unfitness when climbing up a steep, rocky slope in 12.000 feet altitude.
We had lunch on a nice half way point and as we had left the cloud cover behind, breathtaking views started to emerge. Even the sun came out and we saw undisturbed nature and forest for miles on end in each direction. Really not much different must have looked this exact same trail a hundred years ago.
We shed our rain gear and several layers of clothing on the downhill trek to Los Chilchos.
Deep ruts forced our horses to take very careful steps and often the downhill stepping stones felt like vertical drops to the rider. Amazing what those animals can accomplish! They sometimes ponder their next move and very rarely take a wrong step. On the very steep slopes, we got off the horses to make it easier for them to navigate this very challenging terrain.
Part of the trail was a stone paved band of rocky blocks of stone, not smooth at all, but keeping the path intact. Some of the path was just pure mud holes and gravel. Stoically all animals went about their path and we were all grateful for it.
The lower we got, the hotter it got too! Apparently we were super lucky with the weather as fellow travelers had told us of hours of wet misery in the saddle and on the trail on other visits to Los Chilchos.
Tired and saddle sore we finally arrived at Los Chilchos around 4.30 PM and were shown our sleeping quarters for three nights. Chris and Esther had the luxury of a room to themselves even if the beds were not constructed yet. Improvisation is key here and soon we had two working beds in our rudimentary abode at the coffee plant while others slept in the health clinic.
Solar energy provided some lighting but other than that there was only one electric outlet in the whole village that could charge Chris’ drone.
To round out an exhausting but eventful and wonderful day, we were invited to the school for a community dinner of a simple but rich chicken soup and yucca.
Fun fact: as dessert hot, very sweet coffee (in the late evening!) was served and the locals dip their cheese in it, like we dunk bisquits in it. Off we went to a well earned sleep, looking forward to meet the people living at such a remote place.