I retreated successfully to the old Incan trail to use as the corridor to Ecuador, but it's not always easy to find and it's taking me a bit of time to make forward progress with the interruption of roundabout searches when the way becomes obscure on the rocky flats. Nonetheless, I've climbed into some of the most beautiful valleys I've ever seen - green and lush (a bit too lush at times and rather overwet), adorable square or round stone huts with shaggy grass roofs, a step back into time that hasn't been compelled to modernize much beyond an occasional solar cell sticking above the shaggy grass roof, no doubt to keep cell phones charged. Every few hours, I pass some shepherds or llamaherds, or people sowing rows of potatoes in stone-walled plots on steep slopes. Quetchua is the dominant language. Some people are reluctant to send their kids to school claiming there's no need to over-educate shepherds. In these cases, I struggle to learn much about the whereabouts of the Incan trail, though my vocabulary has improved over the last week.
The Incan trunk road construction tells a lot about where the Spaniards colonized. Many sections of the road include stairs cut into the white limestone formations. While the Incans, lacking beasts of burden, lacking therefore the need for carts, lacking the need for wheels, built their roads for people to walk along, the Spaniards, dependant on their horses and carts stayed far away from the stairs of the Incan roads and to this day these sections are populated sparsely by people living in stone huts accessed only by foot or, now, horse. These places haven't changed; no car or even dirtbike have entered these areas. Tranquility abounds.
I'll try to continue along the Incan trail, though towns are very few and very far between. Internet access is difficult to find, so updates will also be few and far between. Loving the pilgrim life, difficult as it is. Sanitation in the little stone huts is just what it was when the Spaniards arrived. The inhabitants are friendly and accommodating, insisting I stay as their guest, sharing a meal of mutton or llama soup with rice and toasted corn kernels, sleeping on a makeshift bed of lambskins piled on the dirt floor, the guineapigs scurrying about all night long, and washing in the cold mountain springs. Primative but peaceful.
Europeans come through in pairs every three or four months, several have told me, walking the length of the Incan trail, but carry big backpacks and camp out, never entering their homes, and rarely even speaking with them. The Quetchuan limitation I can understand, but they say that the Europeans don't speak much Spanish and seem unfriendly and afraid of the locals. What a wasted opportunity.