Jacqueline, our guide, spoke candidly about the elevation of today’s plan and again, there was definitely “method in the madness” of leaving this highlight for the last day, as according to Dr. Harry, it takes the body about 3 days to adjust to elevation and today is Day 3! The plan was to drive to some high Andean freshwater lagoons located about 13,000 ft high.
We stopped en routes to see parts of the original Inca trail—2,800 km. to Cuzco—and then at the village of Socaire which was the most important agricultural town in the Incan empire. They used the terraced garden plan with channeled irrigation systems still in place today. We stopped to visit a small farm and saw corn, fava beans and black potatoes (one of about 100 varieties grown in this area).
At 10,000 ft., we had the option to bail out with an “escape vehicle” or carry on and all of us were feeling fine so carried on. The last 30 km. were on a bumpy dirt track but the end result was so worth it… two spectacular azure blue lakes with snow-capped volcanoes around it. We spotted a fox en route and the rare and endangered vicuna (whose precious throat hairs create $2000+ scarves) which only dwell above 12,000 ft.
Yet another gorgeous picnic awaited us with sliced roast beef, salads of couscous, endive and watercress and a spot of wine, although we had to be careful with the elevation and counter with lots of water and coca tea. A melt-in-your-mouth chocolate confection topped it off.
Driving the two hours back to our hotel, the clouds were noticeably changing and I could swear I saw rain off in the distance although that would be EXTREMELY unlikely… by the time we arrived, it was indeed sprinkling and proceed to treat us to a major thunderstorm with lightening and downpours of rain for about an hour. I cannot emphasize how bizarre this was to take place in the direst desert in the world…but the local people were so excited and convinced us that we were “lucky charms!”
Jacqueline promised that a rainbow always followed the storm, and I patiently waited on my wet porch for it to stop, scanning the skies and was ultimately rewarded with a wonderful rainbow stretching to both sides of the canyon.