I am so. tired. But tonight is the first night since I arrived in Peru I don’t have to get up before 6AM – hooray! Of course, that’s because tomorrow is the prep day for our ascent of Pisco, so the toughest bit is yet to come.
We struck out this morning at 5:30AM for a 2-hour drive into the mountains. Our horses were late (again), so I made friends with this lovely lady, and in the process had my first real conversation entirely in Spanish.
Our mission today: follow our friend Juansito far up into the mountains, where he’s personally planted and nurtured 80,000 Polylepis seedlings to restore the mountain slopes. This man is amazing – I couldn’t guess his age, but he bounded up the rocks like a wiry old goat, leaving even the horses behind. When we finally reached the grove, he demonstrated his replanting technique for the camera, slicing off a Polylepis sprig, preparing it with a bag of earth, and replanting it nearby. It was surgery – precise, and beautiful, like Juansito himself.
Through a series of ancient stone gates, we found ourselves in the grove. Purple and yellow flowers clustered around waterfalls that cascaded down from snowy mountains above, shaded by the full grown Polylepis, and sheltering the seedlings in their nurseries.
The Polylepis were also amazing – monstrous, twisted things with knotted pale wood and ragged, papery bark. Their trunks and limbs stretch and lean at wild and distorted angles – if they’d been a painting, I would have thought someone had poured a glass of water on them when the paint was still wet.
My riding improved dramatically over the course of the day – I can now sit on a trotting horse without looking like I’m bouncing on the world’s worst trampoline. By the time we got back to the car the sun was setting a deep yellow, washing everything in a strange glow. Beautiful as it was, I was beaten to a pulp from riding, climbing, and filming on the rocky slopes. I climbed into the car and went out like a light.
Tomorrow we gear up for our 3-day climb of Pisco peak, which will offer some of the most beautiful views of the Andes mountains. But first – I am getting a good, long night’s sleep.