A Pan-American Adventure; Part 2.2 – The Trek

As alluded to in the previous installments of this series, the primary objective of this trip was to embark upon a high-altitude, multi-day trek in the Peruvian Andes. We had organised this a few months in advance through KE Adventure; a Lake District-based adventure holiday company who come with a great track record of fairness towards their employees/affiliates, along with being known for providing varied and quality adventure holiday products.

From our starting point at Tinqui, our route was to circumnavigate the 6372 m Ausangate mountain of the Peruvian Cordillera Vilcanota mountain range. Along the route we would come to traverse high mountain passes, visit small, remote settlements and finally diverge from the typical Ausangate Circuit trail to take in some remote lagoons. Resulting from the latter extension, the trek was to last for nine days as opposed to the traditional five.

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Basic route map annotated with camp altitudes.

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A Pan-American Adventure; Part 2.1 – A KE Adventure

Our main reason for being in Peru was that we had booked ourselves onto a 9-day, high altitude trek around one of the highest mountains in Peru – the Ausangate mountain. We had booked with a Keswick-based  company called KE Adventure whose operation comes with a good reputation with regards to their guides, customer service, product and treatment of their local staff.

Their Ausangate itinerary lasts for 14 days and includes 4 days of acclimatisation prior to the start of the trek. During these initial days we were taken to several Incan structures both around Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. After the trek we were taken to Machu Picchu for a day-trip which was included as part of the itinerary. I will cover both the trek and Machu Picchu in separate posts.

As we were already in Cusco before the beginning of the itinerary, we met up with our guide and drove out to the airport to pick up some other members of the group. We totalled 6 members plus our guide, so half a regular group. Sarah and I were by far the youngest, with the additional members being >50 years of age. Each of the other members were relatively well experienced when it came to trekking at altitude, and all were well accustomed to KE, some having been on 12 trips with them! Like them and their obvious vote-with-your-feet mentality, I can only praise KE and their affiliate in Peru – Tambo Treks – and would certainly book with them again.

From the airport we travelled for 3-4 hours (including stops), driving to our first port of call – Ollantaytambo – a small town in the Sacred Valley home to a massive Incan citadel. But beforehand we stopped at a village around an hour outside of Cusco, Here we were shown the process and materials utilised to make many of the alpaca knit-wares that you see all over Peru.

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A Pan-American Adventure; Part 1.0 – Cusco, Peru

The past 5 years has seen me embark upon an educational journey. One for which I had previously fought and struggled, but which eventually led to me losing my convictions prior to its completion. Though complete it I did, and recently ended up with my doctorate.

During the summer just gone, I handed in my thesis and was examined successfully and as a post-hand-in/viva celebration, my other half and I took to the wind, spending the best part of 2 months visiting Peru, Seattle, Vancouver and Reykjavik. In this post I shall be referencing and depicting our first few days in Peru, where we spent time in Cusco. Though first, let’s get some technical talk out of the way.

Space and weight constraints meant that I could only take one camera and that WAS going to be a film camera! So I decided, due to it’s robustness and apparent versatility and durability, to take the Pentacon Six with my Zeiss Biometar 80 mm f2.8 attached. I also took 12 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 and all shots in these posts will have been taken using this set-up and generally exposed at ISO 200. As usual, all films were processed, printed and scanned by Ag-Photographic’s Photolab service.

So…

The journey to Peru was one of the longest and somewhat disconcerting journeys I have had the pleasure of making! Travelling from Heathrow, we changed in Bogota and Lima, before making the final leg to Cusco also by plane. Over-zealous airport security and the inevitably tight airline seating space were highlights. Plus anyone who has flown into Bogota may well know the insane level of turbulence you will experience when landing there.

Anyhow, in one piece and with all baggage intact we arrived in Cusco somewhat bedraggled. For our first few days we had booked into a room in someone’s house via AirBnB and we so relayed our directions to the driver of one of the ‘official’ cabs which can be acquired at the airport. The journey wasn’t too far thankfully, and one of our hosts was waiting to greet us.

Our room was basic but lovely, with a great mountain view. We were also furnished with coca leaves and a thermos of hot water, which was to become a staple of our Peruvian component. Come evening we were, as one might say, knackered! We thus hit the sack quite early and took up our adventure the next day.

I’m not going to take you through a day-by-day account, but suffice to say that we spent our time exploring on foot and also took advice from our hosts on certain things to see or where to buy groceries – this gave us the chance to see places that one might not ordinarily visit.

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The Unkillable Clerics @ The Hop – Oct 2015

Well, here we go!

Before I get stuck into the holiday snaps, I’m just going to post a few shots from a gig that my other half’s band played a few months back at The Hop, an Ossett Brewery pub in Sheffield city centre. Known as The Unkillable Clerics, they play a rather technical brand of ‘post-rock’ based upon metal, folk and classical influences.

I had well stashed a roll of Ilford’s high-speed Delta 3200, just waiting for a special occasion. A few gigs down the line (i.e. too well-stashed!) and I re-discovered this hidden gem in the fridge, so naturally I decided to put it to good use.

Loaded into the Pentacon Six  affixed to the 80 mm f 2.8 Zeiss Biometar, I metered the film at half box speed, ISO 1600, using the Gossen Mastersix and a grey card, (Ilford recommend somewhere between this and ISO 6400). Having never used this film before, I figured I’d start at the bottom, perhaps being somewhat over-wary of the ‘low light’ conditions in the venue.

Given my relative ignorance of this specialist film, its expense and the fact that I was sending my holiday films off at the same time, I decided to get these developed professionally; so processing, printing and scanning was performed by Ag-Photographic’s Photolab service. Turnaround on a total of 12 films was just two days after receipt at their lab, as usual a fantastic service!

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Anticipation…

Much has happened since I last posted. I completed and handed my PhD thesis in. Moved house. I was examined on my thesis and passed, somehow and with minor corrections mind. Then we went on a much deserved holiday where we spent significant time in Peru, followed by Seattle, Vancouver and Reykjavik. Moved house again. Completed and handed my corrections so officially becoming a Doctor of Philosophy. Moved house again! Phew!!!

Amongst all of that, my holiday films have been transferred from freezer-to-freezer, house-to-house but now, at last, I’ve finally got my holiday films developed. Processed, printed and scanned by Ag-Photographic’s photolab service.

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Anyhow, I’m very much looking forward to getting a look through these images and will bit-by-bit post some of them up here with a wee story perhaps.  x