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Adventures with percentages up a mountain

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Hi all – time for my slightly delayed June update.

The research trips for dolphin I.D. have now completely finished so we are now on the homeward straight with all the fin analysis. Stefan has been very busy with other issues this last month (he’s had a book published) and Diana has been working on publicity for the “fight against Chepeconde beach closure” so Clara and I have been ploughing on.

Stefan also teaches future bird guides as an additional job and he had arranged to take some of his students up to the Bosque de Zarate (about 2 hours inland from Lima) for a trek and some training. I thought I may as well invite myself to get out of Lima for the day. Diana and Clara also joined us so at 4:30am (ugh) the 4 of us found ourselves in the jeep, driving out of Lima to meet the students in the village of San Bartolome before our trek. I’d met some of the students before on a research trip.

Diana and Clara on arrival in San Bartolome

Diana and Clara on arrival in San Bartolome

I had already decided that I had no intention of taking any interest in any birding training that would be happening – nope, that day I would be a tourist and just enjoy the scenery. So, we met up with the 5 students who had stayed over in San Bartolome the night before, paid some random woman our 5 soles each who accosted us as we drove into the village – she was probably the mayor, as we drove into the village she sniffed us out and issued us with our entry tickets for the trek and told us to leave the jeep in the plaza central ….. this plaza central was basically the size of our jeep. So, leaving San B on foot, the village with a new “installation” for the local kids to play on for the day in the plaza ….

The Nissan installation in the Plaza Central

The Nissan installation in the Plaza Central

At the beginning of the path that marked the start of the trek there was a sign explaining it should take about 5 or 6 hours to reach the forest (dear god) and about 3 hours to come back down again. We were leaving at 7:00am but it looked like it was going to be a long day ! I headed off ahead on my own, wanting to go my own pace ….. the path was a fairly wide track twisting back and forth up the mountain …. Uphill …. All the time ….. not even a smidge of levelling out for respite. God it was tough. I left the others behind me as they kept stopping for bird training and I prefer not to feel as though I’ve got to catch people up. Mind you, the views were pretty spectacular. After about an hour I passed a sign saying I’d completed 10% of the trek – 10 bloody % I gasped !! An hour later, with no further signs passed I reached a sort of plateau area and I collapsed onto a rock with my wobbly legs and waited for the others – oh my god it was hard work ! The rest followed in dribs and drabs, they had now become 3 groups – Stefan with Diana and Clara and Carlos, then couple A and couple B as I’ve called them. Whilst we rested for a bit at the plateau I pondered where the route went next, I could see the continuation of the wide path we’d been walking on go into the distance and it seemed a bit more levelled out, after all, we were bloody high up – maybe we’d be at about 40% by now ??

At the Plateau

At the Plateau

But no, we found a sign pointing upwards towards, what can best be described as a vague line in the mountain side, going up, and up, and up ….. you get the idea ….
So, off we headed again, me striking out ahead – this was worse, it was steep, continuous, a very thin path (one person wide), with a drop down the mountain side on the right hand side. It just went on and on ….. ahead I saw a sign – “ooh, what percentage now ?” I thought ? 30%, great.
About 40 minutes more of agony I stopped at the 40% sign for a break. By now I was not far off 3000 metres. Another 40 minutes or so I see the next sign ahead – has to be 50% doesn’t it ??? …….Nope, 40% again !! After confirming with myself I hadn’t gone round in circles and contemplating doing serious damage to the sign I took a deep breath and continued …..
A particularly steep, strenuous and soul destroying 30 minutes later I came across the next sign ….. 40 BLOODY PERCENT !! SERIOUSLY ????!!!!! At this point I sat down to ponder whether my mental faculties had been diminished by the effort. I had been walking for about 5 hours now and was knackered but also I started to think about getting back down (which is always tougher for me). So, sitting there, waiting for the others I decided, I’m an adult and I’m done, there is no way I’m going further, I’ve enjoyed the views and I don’t want to get stuck up here and walking down in the dark. So, when, 20 minutes later Stefan and his group of 3 arrived I told them my decision, wished them luck and started to head downhill. I passed couple A about 20 minutes after that, wished them luck and continued on, waiting to pass couple B on the way up. However, on rounding a corner I saw couple B ahead of me heading down as well ! I shouted out to them and they had given up on the second 40% ! So, I joined up with couple B and we descended together …. About an hour later they received a text from couple A saying they’d made it to 55% !! We were glad we’d made our decision !

View down to the Plateau and San Bartolome

View down to the Plateau and San Bartolome

At the end of the 40% tek

At the end of the 40% trek

We got back down to San Bartolome at about 2:30pm, had some lunch and sat around the Nissan installation in the Plaza Central. By about 4:00pm couple B decided to wait no more and get a bus back to Lima. At about 6pm couple A turned up – they had turned back after 55% so it was just Stefan, Diana, Clara and Carlos left up the mountain …. With 2 hours of daylight left. Once couple A had jumped on a bus I was left in the plaza on my own, forming part of the new installation.

By the time darkness came I was starting to wonder if they were ok, I had a mobile phone with no signal so I couldn’t contact them, I was thinking of that bloody narrow path in the dark and I couldn’t really do anything. I walked out of the village up to the beginning of the path of the trek to see if I could see any sign of torch lights coming down the mountain, nothing but darkness to see so I headed back into the village again. I repeated this action about 20 bloody times that night ! In the end I decided to find the mayor woman and ask her if I should be worried, she said she’d had a call a few minutes ago, they were fine, they’d got lost but they were on their way down now. So, I drove the jeep from its installation point in the plaza down to the bridge near the trek entrance and waited there and stared at the mountain side for about 3 hours hoping nothing happened to them on the way down in the darkness. At long last I saw the tiny spots of light coming down the path and eventually Diana and Clara appeared followed by Stefan and Carlos, all knackered and very thirsty but luckily no worse. I felt like a mother hen welcoming back my lost chicks !
So, at midnight with everyone in the jeep and me driving (no way I was letting Stefan drive after all that) we headed back on the journey to Lima. The drive wasn’t without incident as we got pulled over at a police checkpoint, I was looking forward to seeing how the locals dealt with my international driving licence but, typical Peru, the officer looked in the jeep, asked me where I was from and promptly asked for the I.D. documents from Stefan and Carlos – nothing from the women in the jeep !!

Anyone ever thinking of doing the trek up to Zarate – give yourself 2 days and take some camping equipment !!

Less strenuous news – we had a client query for a birding tour of Pantanos de Villa, they wanted to go on a Saturday morning. Stefan asked me to contact them as he was conducting an exam in the morning so he wouldn’t be able to take them until early afternoon, either that or I guide them !! So, I gave them 2 choices, wording my email that if they come with me they are getting someone who has nearly no experience or if they go later they get Stefan the expert ….. I signed off and sent the email fairly confident that my email would convince them to choose Stefan ….. 10 minutes later, they want to go early in the morning with me as their guide – Aaaaggghhhh !!

So, with Clara helping me (for that read, blind leading the blind) I have conducted my first bird tour flying solo !! It went ok actually, I identified 33 birds and I think the clients had a good time !!

More news next month !

Posted by cbr600 12:50 Archived in Peru

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