In the morning we saw small herds of vicuñas. They are the smallest of the South American cameloid family (relative of the llama and alpaca) and have not been domesticated. Their wool is incredibly soft and warm and I read they produce the finest natural fiber in existence. They were so valued to the Inca that it was against the law for anyone but royalty to wear vicuña garments.
We finally arrived in Huambo around noon on our last drops of water. We thought about staying but after seeing the dismal lodging options we decided to push on for the Colca Canyon.
What I am in desperate need of is a shower. We had anticipated having a river to wash up in tonight. Huambo had an impressive system of aqueducts but outside of town the riverbeds were all dry. In hindsight, we should have taken advantage of the water while we had it. It’s been six days since we’ve bathed. We have two 5 liter dromedary bags which often double as camp showers. But because of the lack of water on this route, we’ve been on water restriction, saving all water for consumption.
I am to the point where I can’t stand myself. The air wafting up out of my sleeping bag is downright foul. Adding to this is our sleeping bags have developed a stink of their own. They key is to lay perfectly still.
When we’re outside, it’s tolerable. But in confined spaces like in the tent and the cocoon of our sleeping bags, we fully appreciate the magnitude of our funk. We’ve also acquired an earthy smell. At this point, I probably smell more like a donkey than a human. Our bodies are starting to itch, probably from the accumulation of oils, salt, dead skin and dirt. We have a pretty high tolerance for being dirty, but this is pushing the limits.
We have baby wipes, but we’ve been cautious to use them because we’re down to the last drops of sunscreen. The sun is powerful at this altitude and without sunscreen we’ll fry out here. We’ve convinced ourselves that yesterday’s sunscreen and dirt will provide at least a little protection over cleanly scrubbed skin. Luckily, I’m carrying a luxury item of facial moisturizer with SPF 15. We’re using it to get by until we can find something stronger, which might not be until Arequipa in 150 miles. Even with our existing tans, the SPF 15 is not enough to keep us from being rosy red by the end of the day.
We’re camped near the top of another mountain pass and are treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve seen.