On Thursday, 17 June, Paulino left us in the morning to travel as fast as he could to Quebrada, the nearest town, in the valley of the Rio Yanatile, where he would be able to find a public phone and make a call to Cusco to let our vehicle know where and when to come meet us. It would be a long trip, down to the river, and then all the way over a mountain range. We knew he was the one team member who was most able to do it, though. This was his territory. Later that same day the rest of us headed off as soon as fresh mules arrived at Mario´s chacra. We loaded them up, three of them: it was a good thing we had the extra mule now, as we no longer had Paulino´s --two backpack--strength and endurance with us.

We made a steep descent to a tributary of the Rio Mapacho, which we crossed by way of a small rickety swaying bridge, and then we crossed the Mapacho itself by way of a large rickety swaying bridge. We then began a descent via tortuous mountain trails, following the mules, that never let up that whole day, into the range known as the Cordillera de Lares-Lacco. The Andean sun cut through the thin air to sap our strength and move us toward dehydration. Even the nearly super-human Goyo was struggling under his heavy load, having contracted some kind of illness. Finally, just after dark, we arrived at a campesino settlement of two adjoined huts, and a patio of stone, where we were graciously welcomed to make camp. There were giant cockroaches aplenty, but for those of us who were dead-tired, it was a picture of luxury. The place was called "Bellavista."

The next morning's spectacular find is even more testimony to the difficulty of exploring for ruins in this terrain- while answering a call of nature, Greg noticed that there was a rectangular form covered in
vegetation, nearby. Upon further observation, he realized that it was
an Incan ruin, the stone walls of what had been a moderately sized habitation. The stonework indicated that it was of "rustic" Incan style. Back at Bellavista, the local folk told us of another ruina that lay above us on the forested hillside. We climbed up, through some dense underbrush, and found an above-ground tomb, a "chullpa," that was the finest preserved such specimen that we had ever seen. It was exactly like the "Chullpas de Ninamarka," on the road to Paucartambo, far to the southeast, vestiges of the Lupaca culture that reached all the way there from its heartland around Lake Titicaca. The tomb was of well-fitted fieldstone, and it was circular, with a very low entrance-opening, and with a roof formed by overlapping stones placed around one lintel stone that spanned the diameter. There was nothing inside the tomb, but it was important testimony to how these remote, now-forested areas were intensely habitated by not only the Incas but their predecesors.

We moved on, to resume our climb over the Cordillera. The ascent was so constant, at an altitude again approaching 12,000 feet, that the mules had to be constantly goaded and threatened with gutteral shouts of "¡Mula carajo!" for them to keep going. Our own loads became heavier and heavier, as well. At around 4 P.M. a welcome sound greeted us- a shout from Paulino, who had arrived at the destination of Quebrada. He had made his call and arrangements and then headed back toward us. With his "animo" and help, we were able to force ourselves up the final rise before emerging at "Abra Bellavista," a point at which the end of a dirt road for trucks snaked its way into the forested highland, twisting and turning all the way from Quebrada. We bade farewell Mario and gladly made the bone-shaking three-hour ride to Quebrada.

More of the Paititi story would be ahead of us the next days...


~ Greg Deyermenjian