August 3, 2016

2016 Peru (Day 5)

This was the third day of our trek. Our trek would take us from Ccolpapampa to Playa in the morning, then a car ride to Hydroelectrica for lunch, before hiking from Hydroelectrica to Aguas Calientes.

I had took my ultralight rod with me on this trip hoping to find some native freshwater Andean species, but the combination of a tight timeline and being sick gave me no opportunity to fish the glacial creeks. Hugo knew I wanted to fish and offered me an option. I skip the morning hike and take a car to Hydroelectrica to give me an extra few hours to fish. He explained that the morning hike simply follow the rural road to Playa and I would see all the scenery in any case.

Being exhausted after the hike the two days prior, and my muscles still recovering, I took that offer. To be very honest, I'm not really too interested in hiking the rural road after seeing it. You do get views of the Rio Santa Teresa valley, but it was nothing spectacular at all.

Anjelino continued to surprise me. This time, it was a cake that was baked without an oven!

As I said, the scenery along the rural road was so-so. I didn't take any pictures.

When we arrived at Hydroelectrica, there was a little scare. The employees of the train company were on strike to protest the unfair preference toward tourists over Peruvians for the access to train tickets, as well as fare hikes that went up 300% over the past few years. Anjelino was intending to take the train, together with most of our gear to meet us at Aguas Calientes. However, with this strike, he may need to take a much longer car ride. Potentially, if the strike lasts more than one day, it could affect my ability to return to Cusco and my future itinerary.

Somehow, luck was on our side as the strike seemed to have resolved after lunch.

We hike along the active railroad that follows the Rio Urubamba.

We hiked along looking for some promising waters to fish. The clarity in the water was great but it was puzzling that I can see no sign of life. The river seemed too sterile.

Finally, I saw some puddling and surface rings at a little oxbow pond that was cut off from the main river during this dry season. We had trouble finding worms the entire trek as the ground was too dry, even when we looked under rocks, logs and leaf litter at a local farm. But somehow, Hugo and I found 2 tiny worms and 1 small worm just large enough to put on the tanago hooks.

The fish making the surface rings were small and silvery. They were extremely skittish and any movement would chase them away. I had to stay still and wait for individual fish, or a small school of 3 or 4 fish, to approach my position. They struck very fast but also spat the hook very fast. It took at least 30min before I could finally hook one that flipped off the hook when I tried to swing it to hand.

Fearing it was my only chance, I was losing hoping until another fish took the bait hard and the hook stayed impaled.

Hugo realized my excitement as this was the first species of fish I caught from the South American continent!

I am pretty confident this is Acrobrycon ipanquianus as they were sampled in the Rio Urubamba.

Acrobrycon ipanquianus - Species #579

We hiked onwards to find another area to fish. The Rio Urubamba is a very beautiful river and access was plentiful along the train track. I had planned to focus to native species that are mostly small, and in the interest of reducing my gear, I did not even bring small spinners on this trip. I tried to fish lots of areas from slow pools to fast rapids but found no sign of life.

During the hike, I noticed a lot of Peruvians walking the railway as well. Hugo told me that many of them could not afford the train ticket (even at local Peruvian price), and those who can afford the ticket usually cannot find seats. In the last few years, the price of the train ticket has gone up 300%. The train company converted most of the train with spacious seats to accommodate tourists; while the remaining seats for local Peruvians were small and very limited in number. It was for this reason that roads were blocked and train employees were on strike to halt tourist travel. Family members, young and old, walked the railway. I even saw elderly Peruvians with cranes walking the railway.

Close to Aguas Calientes, the mountain was much closer and seemed to simply rise up from the river.

Upon arriving at Aguas Calientes, there was a beautiful statue capturing the Inca belief of the three realms - the condor representing the heavens, the puma representing the earth, and the serpent representing the underworld. These motifs are found frequently in the city.

I had about an hour to spare before dinner and walked around town a bit.

The main town area is closest to the river. All the streets radiated uphill from the main square.

At dinner, I finally at the chance to order alpaca. The grilled alpaca tasted closest like veal to me. It was nothing special but the meat is lean and healthy.

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