Another Sunday, Another Beautiful Walk in the Country

Matt, Mistina and I set off for Llacanora on Sunday afternoon with the goal of finding the waterfalls near the town.  Matt and I had previously embarked on this trip but were sidetracked by the cave art of Callac Puma.  A worthy diversion, but this time we wanted to reach the waterfalls.  Mistina, a teacher from Nebraska, was game to join us and was tasked with keeping us on track to our final destination.  What a great time!  It was about a 5 mile walk on picturesque country roads from our house to the small town of Llacanora.  Once in Llacanora, we saw a sign for the waterfalls, but the directions subsequently became unclear so we kept asking everyone we saw, which included a guy walking down the street, an old lady minding a store, a lady who was actually there to go to the falls for the first time and didn’t know where to go either (we told her once we found out) and a couple of guys getting drunk sitting outside a shop (on our return trip, one guy was passed out and the other had inexplicably removed his shirt). You follow the the road above Llacanora and eventually turn left down an unmarked dirt path.  It’s about another kilometer to the first falls.  We never figured out what is referenced by the 1000 meters on the sign – perhaps the turn off.

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Once on the path, we knew we were on the right track as we passed “tourist restaurants” and knick-knack stores.  Eventually, it became even more obvious due to the amount of other people enjoying a day in the countryside. The paths were well traveled and generally easy to navigate.  We arrived at Hembra Falls and were impressed.

Hembra Falls

Hembra Falls

We kept climbing upward and eventually arrived at the even more spectacular Macho Falls, which are about 30 meters high.  Due to their size, we couldn’t get a photo of the entire falls with our i-phones.

On our way back, we decided to walk on the other side of the river.  We arrived at this aqueduct, which we either needed to cross or go back down and around  to cross the river.  Mistina mustered up her courage and went across.

Brave MistinaI took one step and chickened out.  A man standing below starting shouting up words of encouragement and succeeded in shaming me into crossing.  I started across in a most undignified fashion as my coach yelled specific instructions (in Spanish) to me.  I froze at the wire I had to step over, a maneuver that required me to actually stand up a little.

Pathetic Kerry with Cheerleader

Pathetic Kerry with Cheerleader

Under the direction of my drill sargent, I made it across and then Matt came skipping over.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t skipping, but he certainly had no fear – note that he is walking on the edges of the aqueduct and not with his feet in the middle!

Fearless Matt

Fearless Matt

Matt Crossing

Matt Crossing

We left Llacanora, but not before watching two little kids zoom down a steep hill on a skateboard.  The younger one clearly wanted us as an audience and gave a little wave as they set off and then again upon arriving at the bottom.  Super cute. We headed back on the road to Baños and stopped at one of the restaurants along the way.  These “campestre” or countryside restaurants are very popular and usually open only on the the weekends.  They generally have large grounds with play areas for kids, huge tables set up under multiple pavilions and a nice, family feel.  We chose one that in a valley that had about 50 cars in the parking lot and cheerful music and felt we made the right choice when Matt and Mistina saw several of their students with their families.  We only had one glitch when the waiter tried to seat us in a table off in a alcove.  I think he meant it kindly, but nobody puts these gringos in the corner and we asked to sit with the rest of the clientele, a request that was granted.  Unfortunately, they were out of about half of the items on the menu as we arrived around 3:00, but Misitina had fried trout, Matt had grilled beef and I had a delicious stewed kid (as in baby goat, people!) dish.  We ended our meal with picarones, fried squash/sweet potato doughnuts, and as we had already walked about 7 miles, walked back up to the road and caught a cab home!

Kiddie table

Kiddie table

An Unexpected Adventure

The beauty about living in Peru is that we have plenty of time to see and explore to our hearts’ content.  As a result, we can deviate from our plans knowing that there will be another time to see or do what we originally intended.  It is a wonderful feeling and on Friday we put it into action with a fantastic result.

It was the Saint Rose of Lima holiday, which doesn’t mean a whole lot to us except that Matt didn’t have school (and no volunteering for me).  We wanted to get outside and enjoy the day and after some deliberation decided to walk about 3 ½ miles to a small town in the mountains, Llacanora.  There are also some waterfalls near Llacanora and we thought it would be fun to take a leisurely walk there, eat lunch somewhere and walk back.

We set off and were not disappointed.  10 minutes from our house we were on a road in the mountains.  The views were spectacular and the air was fresh.

About 2 ½ miles into the trip we saw this sign:

The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins

“Pictures, that sounds interesting,” we thought and decided that a 450 foot hike up the mountain was probably worth it.  There was a decent path and we quickly came upon a house where a hip-looking guy was climbing a rope spider web, which seemed quite out of place.  We greeted one another and then because the path looked unclear, we asked him if we were headed the right way.  He confirmed that we were and urged us to forge ahead and said there were beautiful views.  He and the woman in the yard were laughing, not in a mean way but in the “silly Americans” way, so we continued on.

We realized that we didn’t know what we were looking for, so I did a quick google search and learned there are caves and ancient rock art on the site.  We hiked about and eventually saw some fantastic rock art that apparently dates back to between 8,000-5,000 BC.

The paths were hit and miss, but it wasn’t as difficult as the climbing at Cumbemayo.  After an hour or so of hiking we decided to head home so we would have time for lunch before our appointment with a new plumber.  (No surprise.  He didn’t show up.) But we will definitely return to this incredible site again, prepared with a picnic lunch and a full day at our disposal to explore the larger caves, which we never found.

Idiot Art

Idiot Art

Once home I did some research on Callacpuma or Puma Orco (Puma Hill), but didn’t find a whole lot.  It is a designated archeological site and there is concern over damage being done to the pictures and people adding their own “rock art” to the site.  Callacpuma isn’t referenced in any of our guidebooks and doesn’t seem to be much of a tourist attraction, which makes us even happier that we found it.  The rock art extends over 3 square kilometers, so we have plenty more to explore.  I also researched whether pumas still live in the area as at one point we heard a noise that sounded like a big cat roar and I joked about mountain lions, not realizing the name of the site we were visiting.  This morning we had breakfast with Maribel and she told us the the place is considered sacred ground and most people go in March when it is believed the spirits don’t mind you are there.  She also said there aren’t any wild animals left in the area.  Perhaps we heard a Puma Spirit!