Tuesday 12 August 2014

Day 90: Cordillera Huayhuash trek (day 8) - The bull has escaped

Heading up to the Tapush pass from Huayllapa
After a night in the company of a rampaging bull, we weren't quite sure how we were going to make it out of the field safely this morning.  Fortunately someone came past our 'campsite' and returned the bull to its enclosure, only for it to boot its way out again a few minutes later and then escape the football pitch completely.
Irrigated farm in a dry valley

At this juncture we discovered the limitations in my Spanish vocabulary.  Guy asked me to go and tell someone that the bull had escaped but, if you can believe it, the teachers at London's City Lit do not appear to believe that 'the bull has escaped' is one of the most important phrases you need to learn before visiting a Spanish-speaking country.  They have all kinds of strange ideas that you might need to know how to order a drink or book a hotel room or buy a train ticket.  This lack of thoroughness left me unable to inform the village of the bull's invasion, but I imagine he announced himself loudly enough.

As it turns out, quite a bit of my vocabulary is rather poorly adapted to the circumstances of trekking in the Huayhuash.  I am well able to discuss with someone their career as an air hostess or a lawyer, but in Huallapa, where much of the population has barely left the village never mind set up an air-miles account, this has limited value.  On the other hand, I have no idea of the word for a 'farmer'.  The word for 'penalties' at least is ubiquitous.

We escaped through the same opening as the bull at eight that morning and began a long climb up a valley to our day's ration of mountain passes.  Ascending over a thousand metres to an altitude of almost 5,000m carrying full camping gear is a pretty good work out so, once we were over the pass, we were looking forward to getting to the campsite and relaxing.  We changed our minds when we got there.  We had followed a mining track for part of the day and, although we had since left it, the presence of the mine still made itself felt.  The water gushed bright orange past the campsite.

Ground water pollution from the local mining activities in the
Ancocancha valley. TheYaucha pass is in the background.
A lady passed with a flock of sheep and we asked if there was water nearby.  She pointed to the river.  "But it's red; it's dangerous," I objected.  "Yes," she nodded, then directed us around the hillside into a side valley.  Alas, reaching this spot brought further disappointment.  Another burbling orange river drove us further up the hillside, to find a clean side-stream where we held our pans under some dripping ferns and then filtered the output. 

When the boleto man arrived he told us that the orange water was good and the colour was caused by the rocks.  I preferred to trust geologist Guy, who assured me that the colour of the rocks was caused by the water, not vice versa, and that the river has heavy metals in it. Strictly no drinking.

A disused farm site on the way up to the Tapush pass.
Laguna Susacocha (with clean water) just over the pass.
If only we'd stopped here to camp rather than descending to the official site marked on our map!
Another disused farm. Has the red water put them off farming here?
Enjoying clean water finally!
Full moon over the Cordillera

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