SOLITARY TRAVEL CAN BE A CHALLENGE, SOMETIMES. Animals move in groups so that they can look out for each other. However, solo travel can often be more interesting because there are more spontaneity; more friendships because there are more opportunities (and motivation) to interact with others. I have always relied on solo traveling, mostly because I am such a weirdo no one wants to tag along, and also because of the length of travel.
Having seen the amazing Ollantaytambo ruins yesterday, I am up for an off the beaten track challenge to see the Pinkuylluna ruins. I’ve searched online for its trail information. Although only 2-3 results are relevant, I got enough information to find the start of the trail. This route is comparably more difficult than the ones in Ollantaytambo archeological park, but hey, they are free. After just a few minutes of steep descents, I was rewarded with beautiful views of the city below, and also by its huge walls.
I did not see a single human soul during my ascent. It was me and Mother Nature, how cool is that? There were several forks along the way, I just chose them randomly, wanting to explore more. Going on further, I realized that the trails became scanty. At some point, it was just a vague path that looks more like it was accidentally trampled upon. Nonetheless, I proceeded climbing up, not forgetting to take scary photos for Uncle Tan (look below). After an hour of hiking, I arrived at a dead end high up on one of the peaks. There were no paths in front of me. The way back seemed excruciatingly dangerous.
I am not an expert mountaineer and I have no equipment with me. By now, I know I am stranded. To go down, it is a 90 degree-ish vertical slope across spiky aloe vera like plants. I could wait for someone to help but… f*ck… I just remembered that I have not seen a single human soul. I did tell my home stay mum that I will go hiking, but she may not initiate a search party until late in the evening. Scenes of “Into The Wild” and “Everest” started playing in my mind. I knew I had to find a way down without dropping to death.
Slowly but fearfully, I secured my foot on the rocks as anchor. Moving them a few inches at a time, I found a way to squeeze during the spiky forestation. It seemed like hours when every step had to be well-thought out. I had a few miscalculations but fortunately none were stupid enough (that is why I am still alive). Just a few seconds after I set foot back on well-maintained trail, a couple walked past by me, greeting me “Hola!”, no kidding! I was so wet with sweat, my pants filled with mud and thorns, that I could not respond.
The rest of the ruins were amazing. It was certainly not worth my life, but I would recommend any one coming to Ollantaytambo to visit Pinkuylluna. Of course, please follow the trails and bring a friend.
HAVING NOT LEARNED MY LESSON, I set off alone again to explore the Urubamba River. I did not know how difficult it is to get to the river. I walked north, south, south-west… I followed the sounds of flowing water and discovered a big stream of sewage… Alas, I found Panda. Panda is a stray dog that looks like a panda (that is why I gave her this name). She approached me wagging her tail and I could not resist and gave her a good pat. After that initial encounter, Panda started following me.
I went through farms, Incan walkways, main roads. She followed me all the way. She would lead me by a few steps ahead, but would occasionally turn and look to make sure I am close. Panda and I were buddies. I shared some of my banana chips and she became my guardian angel. We must have walked at least an hour before arriving at the river.
There was nothing special about the river but Panda’s companionship made the trip interesting. When it was time to say goodbye, I gave her a good pat and she went off as if she knew what I was thinking. It was so sweet, and yet so mysterious.
I may have led myself into unfamiliar territories, got lost and/or stranded, but found myself a new canine friend. I wonder if I would see Panda again, yet either way, it was a fun afternoon with her as a my new found travel buddy.