Saturday 12 May 2018

April 28th, 2018 Milloc to Marcapomaconcha. Highest altitude of trip so far.

April 28th, 2018

Snow! Sleet! Hail! Rain and then sunny intervals. Cold.

An invitation arrives at my tent doorway at 6:30 a.m. to have breakfast with Germano and Miguel in their Hydro-electric company building. Not feeling hungry I eat a little cheese with a few water crackers. 

What I want is strong coffee and two mugs of such are perfect. We sit and chat as best we can using paper and a whiteboard to talk about families, films, reasons for being 13,000 feet up in The Andes! On the whiteboard is written about Dorian Anderson's brilliant World Green Birding (BIGBY) year list record and how I am trying to beat it. Germano and Miguel proudly show me framed charts of diagrams showing the water movement down the mountains through tunnels and pipeways, river, stream and dammed lagoons to a number of hydro-electric stations. As for films Miguel enthusiastically describes his favourite as the ultra violent Mel Gibson film, Apocolypse. Both men have families. Miguel is from Ica in the Paracas and Germano has a wife and two small children in Huancayo. They use my binoculars on the terrace. There is a large herd of llamas on the ground on the other side of the road. I describe how an Alpaca spat in my face at Cusco, large green lumps of stinking stuff and we laugh when Germano said that it happened to Miguel only yesterday and shows me the remains of green horror on a plastic sheet.

Setting off up the mountain road, it zig zags, circumnavigates three large lakes and ascends a couple of thousand feet. For some of it it either rains, sleets, hails or snows! Then it all stops and the sun comes out to reveal stupendous snow-capped mountains on all sides. 

Looking down on the second of three lakes a pair of Silvery Grebes are swimming and diving. It is difficult to see them let alone photograph them through the sleet.
Three motorcyclists pass having a tour from Lima. One of them stops and chats, a Visa officer from Cerco, Jean Pierre Petit, a Peruvian (!) offers advice before heading down the valley to catch up with his friends and later find me on Facebook.
Three huge rock-filled lorries slowly pass me on their way uphill. Each one's drivers and passengers wave and pip their horns. Such friendly people, not one vehicle has passed over the last few days without saying hello and either waving or putting thumbs up. I watch them as they crawl uphill and see the route I will have to take up and over the summit, knowing that it will the highest point that I will have had to have climbed, well pushed more like, in the first three months. It's all downhill from there … I wish!

On reaching that summit, 15.821 high, my reward is that the skies clear and the sun comes out. There is a huge expanse of grassland to see and a momentous view of a snow-capped peak that must be close to 20,000 feet high. The bike can now be ridden and what a joy that is as I cycle to the nearest main road, still not tarmac but it does have a better surface. A few birds are on the short, well grazed grass here including Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants. On reaching the main road there are large herds of fifty or so each of Llamas! They are huge!

Miles downhill later I pass a small pueblo called Sangar and stop to look at the numerous birds gathered on the marshy area between the road and the small village. Mostly Puna Ibis, there are three Black-necked Ibis to the left of them and an Andean Negrito picking around some marshy vegetation. A passing motorist stops to say hello. He tells me that my aimed destination, Marcapomacocha, is twelve kilometres away. Will I make it before dark?
A shepherd, a couple of kilometres later, tells me that Marcapomacocha is fifteen kilometres away. I have gone backwards! A few miles later, sorry about this kilometres - miles stuff but I use miles, Peruvians use kilometres, the road to Marcapomacocha splits off to the left. Unfortunately it is all uphill and so it is a long push. Just the last few hundred yards are downhill and it is almost dark when I finally go under the village's welcoming archway, flashing red light that announces that they welcome you to their village. I welcome the sight.
I meet a small old lady, who is so friendly that I give her my squeezy dinosaur as a present. In the village square I find a shop and go inside to ask about whether there is a hostel. Elba, the proprietress, tells me that there is and she goes off to find the key. Elba returns with six other people who all say that they have no idea who has the key. Thinking I am going to be camping, two of the men say, “no problemas, autro place” and after taking me around a corner or two to show me a large hotel brightly lit about two hundred yards outside the village!

Green Year list : 165 birds average new birds to list per day : 5.89 birds

Distance walked and cycled : 24.01 miles

elevation : up 3.465 feet, down 3,230 feet

altitude : 14,503 feet

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