I woke up around 5, but didn’t get up until 5:30 when I thought I heard my name being called. That wouldn’t make any sense. Until of course you realise that Juan and his friend Epifanio were awake and drinking. They’d been up all night, and were eager for me to share some of the gallon jug of clear, aniseed-flavoured alcohol that they were drinking. I accepted a couple of very small shots, but then excused myself and drank water instead. They were full of far too much energy, and Epifanio was telling me that I needed to go to Arequipa, where he is from, so I could visit his family.
After about 20 minutes of very drunken conversation that went in circles so many times I made my excuses and went off to pack my things up. By the time I was doing that, Epifanio was starting to vomit. I thanked them for their kindness, and while Epifanio sat doubled-over, looking sorry for himself, Juan accompanied me outside, walked to the little shop next door and suggested I get some snacks for the road. I had a few, but grabbed a couple of packets of biscuits anyway. That wasn’t enough, and Juan kept telling me to get more, more and then some more over the next 10 minutes. I ended up with a huge amount, costing about $7.50, before Juan was finally satisfied – possibly because I had pretty much one of every snack in the shop – and then paid for it. He accompanied me out of town, and then went back hopefully for an hour of sleep and sobering up before a day of work.
With my panniers lighter, thanks to sending 7kg of things ahead to Cusco, the big bag of snacks fit in easily, and I started my way up the hill. It was quite steep at times, and having not been above 4300m before I was feeling a little low on air so pushed on and off as I made my way up slowly past llamas and alpacas (look very similar, just an alpaca’s face is cuter) to the top at 4855m before starting to fly down as I could see possible rain in the distance. Also, while it was the highest point on the road, it wasn’t a mountain peak with a fantastic view of the surrounding area, and there were mainly more alpacas to look at.
By the evening I made it to the town of Hector Tejada, also known as Pallpata, which had looked like a big dot on the map but was pretty lacking in terms of things. There was one small restaurant on the main square, and I ate there. Such a bad choice. The food tasted OK, but it was twice as expensive as a dinner at other places (apparently there is mining nearby so prices are higher), and two hours later, while chatting with the security guys in the municipal building I started to feel my stomach. We chatted for almost two hours before they eventually asked me where I was planning on staying, and invited me to stay there.