We opened the tent this morning and immediately closed it again. The weather was terrible! A thick mist was hanging over the mountains. We could not see the forest and decided to stay a little longer until the weather cleared up. We figured we only had another hour to hike to get to the town. It was still very early and I decided to try and sleep a little longer. Andrey wanted to go for a walk and see if he could find the route. When I woke up a little later the weather was clearing up and we started to pack and get ready for our hike.
We were both eager to get to Villa Alpina. The hike started off good. We walked over mountains and crossed more Pine forests but we couldn’t pick up the hiking trail. We knew more or less in which direction to walk so we decided to continue through the forest but we still could not find the hiking trail..
The forest was dead quiet. We could hear the birds in the trees but nothing else not even the wind.. We were all alone. I was surprised to see so many mushrooms! Andrey told me that we could eat them if they are boiled for a long time. Apparently here you can buy a bottle of canned mushrooms for 29 pesos. It is expensive but they looked yummie.
Then we saw the first houses and we knew we were close to Villa Alpina! We just needed to make our way down this mountain. Jippie! But in realty it was not that simple. We found ourselves in a tight spot and at a dead end. We couldn’t get down. Below us was a river and we couldn’t make our way down the cliffs. It was too dangerous. We tried to go down the middle of the mountain but a strange plant was covering the area whole area. This plant had viscous thorns and we got scratched badly. We climbed back to the top of the mountains and eventually saw a couple of goats. We decided to follow their trail but this also lead to a dead end.
We were getting frustrated. We ran out of water and the day turned out to be a scorcher. We were getting desperate. Andrey asked me to keep the bags and he tried to find a way down. Softly I said a little prayer and a little while later Andrey came back and told me there might be a way down but it will take a little manoeuvring. By now we could not see the town anymore. Eventually after a long battle we got down to the river. We relaxed for a while and then we crossed another pine forest and we saw the goats again. By now I was getting sick of pine forests. I just wanted to get to Villa Alpina! Andrey agreed. Luckily the next forest was only a short hike and then we got to the dirt road leading into town. It was another 2kms before we eventually got there. We hiked in total more than 6 hours today and we were exhausted.
Andrey did not want to sleep in the tent tonight. I couldn’t blame the poor man. Our bodies hurt and a comfortable bed seemed like a good idea.We went to a guesthouse and enquired about availability and prices. The woman that helped was really nice. She told us that they are renting the guest house and also manage the restaurant. They have been in Villa Alpina for 1 1/2 years. She asked us to wait for the man who was in charge of the accommodation. We were very surprised to see what the accommodation looked like. They had a big group of children and they were extremely loud. They were not talking but shouting! Sleep wlould not be possible here. They charged 50 pesos per night, without breakfast or linen. Beds were stacked 3 on top of each other and you had to climb over the next person to get out of your bed. No, no, this is not what we wanted. Luckily they were fully booked and we made our way to the camping area.
The camping area was close to the river. Nothing fancy, free and no facilities. It was OK because we were not planning to stay for very long in Villa Alpina. We wanted to hike up to the base camp tomorrow. We decided to go back to the guesthouse later and have a decent meal in the restaurant. Villa Alpina does not have electricity or running water. The make use of generators or solar panels. It is a picturesque little town and the people are very friendly.
Now I have to tell you about the bridge! To get to the camping ground you have to cross a bridge. Below you have the river with a lot of rocks. Only one person at a time can use the bridge. It was one of the scariest experiences ever! They have used very old and thin wood. In some places the wood have disappeared. We decided not to use the bridge when we came back from the restaurant later in the evening. Without any lights I was not prepared to risk my life! We would rather cross through the river and face the cold water.
We had a nice meal at the restaurant. Milanesa (beef covered in crumbs and fries) and a beer. The sun burnt us badly today and we both look like turkeys. While we were busy eating the police came in and told us that we will not be able to climb to Champaqui. Last weekend a 60 year old women died at the base camp. Apparently she froze to death and now they are not allowing anyone to climb to the top of Champaqui. They are monitoring the mountain. Great! We also learned that the hike to the base camp is 1 day, from there you need to hike another day to the top and then it is 1 day to get down. We only had 1 1/2 days left and would not be able to hike to the top. We were too tired to be disappointed and decided to get some sleep and assess our situation tomorrow.
The walk to the camp was fun. It was pitch black dark and we had to “feel” our way back to the tent. When we got to the bridge we took our shoes off and crossed the river. It was a rough day but rewarding!