THE ROUTE // Taking route 18 from Lima (well, from the northern Carabayllo district) we drove North East along a very bumpy highway to Canta. The roads are currently being re done so we encountered a few traffic stops along the way to allow for the removal of rubble and cement mixers unloading. If you are lucky, there will also be ice cream sellers too as it starts to get warmer. In winter you take any route out of Lima for about an hour and you hit sunshine!
THE TOWN // Heading through Canta and just down the mountain is the small town of Obrajillo, sitting alongside the River Chillon. Obrajillo is surrounded by beautiful mountains, some waterfalls and is home to quite a few horses. These horses (and donkeys) are taken up to graze in the fields high up in the mountains, and these would be the routes we would take when trekking up to the ruins of Pumakoto and to our home for the night.
The town of Obrajillo, is primarily around the main square, but one road takes you down and over the river where there is a cluster of restaurants, a place to take horse rides and a few campsites, then the road turns and takes you up to the town of San Miguel.
THE ACCOMMODATION //
NIGHT ONE // We sorted out a nights stay at Las Cabañas, the first hospedaje you see when arriving in Obrajillo. Very simple, and the owner very helpful and friendly.
NIGHT TWO // A paddock by the ruins of Pumakoto, where we slept in our tent. It was a very cold night, I think I may have had 4 layers on inside my sleeping bag! We awoke to a cold but gloriously sunny morning with amazing views, and a solitary wander around our neighbouring ruins.
THE FOOD // We stayed around the main square (due to recommendations), that the church presides over, where we ate 2 lunches of Milanesa de Trucha (absolutely incredible trout in an extremely thin and tasty coating, served with a pile of freshly fried chips) washed down with a nice cold beer at El Porteñito 1. This is the place to try trout, as the area is famous for it. They breed, protect and sell it here in Obrajillo. Afterwards we talked to the lady on the corner selling locally made cheese, butter, honey and manjar blanco.
At night, the little town is still serving, with street vendors selling glasses of hot emolliente for S/.1, and fried chicken and chips from S/.6. The corner shops are open too, selling everything you need from matches to mayonnaise. Useful when you need both!
When camping, it was a case of a mini gas stove and some pot noodle magic! Plus oaty biscuits, granola bars and marshmallows.
WALKS // There are little walks you can take from Obrajillo. Behind the campsite of La Cascada, you can take a walk above the little waterfall that gives its name to the campsite, and up into the hills. There is a lot of clambering, rocks and donkey poo, but it was a lot if fun for the dogs.
THE TREK // First our job was to get a guide and a donkey to take our belongings up the mountain to camp for our second night. This I left up to my boyfriend, as I am not exactly good at negotiating in Spanish yet, or necessarily understanding everything being said! After speaking to a lot of people in town, we finally found someone who agreed. If you decide to do something like this, be aware of the fact that people don’t like to be taken away from the town at weekends as it is their busiest time for trade. Also, make sure you agree on the price before you go and make sure that they are definitely going to be there to take you. You don’t want to be sat around waiting at 5am for no one to arrive!
We walked up from Obrajillo to San Miguel (another lovely little town, but very quiet), and then from there up into the mountains.
Once into the mountainside you are on an extremely rocky and dusty trail. It sometimes broke off into two different paths but there really did seem to be only one main trail. I wouldn’t advise doing this yourself, just because it is much safer to have someone who knows the way. Just be mindful that they are used to the hills and walk very fast, so keep up!
I however did not. Cambridge is super flat, so I’m not really used to these mountains yet. I’ve done a fair amount of walking, and I did do the Inca Trail, but it is still pretty hard, especially when you start getting into altitude. At the highest point of this walk from Obrajillo we must have hit over 4,000 metres. However, the ruins we were aiming for were down at 3,800 metres. We just managed to overshoot them by 1 and a half hours and over 1,000 metres!
Oh yes, so after a beautiful but difficult climb, I began to think we must be nearly there. However I become more and more frustrated with myself as we are still going and still climbing and we should have been there by 4 hours of walking. I cannot be that slow! I wasn’t. Our guide just happened to forget where it was as she had not been there for over 10 years. Bad luck for us. On the bright side, a man on a horse (yes, an actual white knight I believe) came to our rescue, and showed us the way back to the ruins that we had passed. He then said he would pick us up in the morning and take us home. Thank you white knight!
The mountains were just incredible, and so, so quiet with only animal noises for company. The views were so beautiful and the mountain range seemed to go on forever in peaks of green and brown, some shrouded in cloud. The night was super clear with so many stars to see, and with no light pollution it was absolutely pitch black which made the stars and the night sky so vivid.
We explored the ruins of Pumakoto in first light and they were extremely beautiful all overgrown in plants, flowers and grass. The morning frost was still there so everything just glistened in the newly rising sunlight. You can still climb inside some of the rooms, and with a torch see the places and spaces that people lived and worked in Pre-Inca times. It really is incredible to be able to see the fantastic stone work that was used to construct these buildings. Some areas had more than one floor, and you could peer up or peek down stairs that led to a second floor or a basement.
The walk down was just a delight compared to the difficulty I had the day before. I bounded down the mountainside in the hot sun, stopping for water and to take in the views that still made me smile even after 24 hours.
Downhill is clearly so much better than up!