Got A ‘New Step’ in Cuispes

(This is the second blog entry about my experience in Cuispes. Am writing this from a small hotel in Bagua. (not Bagua Grande)

Robot maintenance issues (health concerns) demand that I alter my original plans.  Have been poring over my detailed map of Peru (ITMB publications) and gave myself a few days for the subconscious to digest some things. New plan is to proceed to the North coast of Peru and see the Westernmost point of South America and the actual scene of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and The Sea’: Cabo Blanco.)

Mule ride and hike to Chinata falls: Friday 13, 2015

P1130076My mule pal that carried me up to the entry of the hiking trail leading to Chinata waterfall

Mules are stronger, and generally healthier than horses and larger than burros. They are the ideal pack animal for farmers in the highlands. My mule was completely accustomed to carrying heavy loads up and down the mountain. Most of his cargo, though is potatos, yucca, plantain, or other produce. I’m pretty sure my 160 lbs. seemed about normal to him.

I always talk to any animal that has ‘agreed’ to lend me their strength.  This guy was very healthy, calm, and very well mannered.  I also appreciated the fact that Mario (my guide) did not use a bit in his mouth, only an elementary halter made of rope loosely tied around his head. He stopped occasionally along the way grab a mouthful of forage for breakfast.

I found that the legend about mules being stubborn is probably a myth. (at least it was for this one). Rather, I saw that he was very deliberate. He would not allow Mario to ‘control’ his pace. He demanded that he set his own pace.  He halted at precarious looking places to check them out before proceeding. He stopped at each ‘intersection’ along the trail, like a car stopping at a stop sign. He looked both ways before proceeding. He did not stop that often and only briefly. Mario led the way and coaxed him onward, not jerking on the rope but gently pulling on it. Mario never got angry nor ever raised his voice to the mule. They were partners.

(The following link will give insight into how some of the Cuispes trails were improved in 2009/2010 with the help of USA volunteers/funding and the work of local Humans and oxen:

This mule’s behavior did not match the word stubborn in my opinion.  Seems to me he was cautiously smart. It’s not like he doesn’t accomplish his requested tasks. It’s just that he won’t be ‘forced’ into doing something he doesn’t feel is correct.  I like mules.

P1130078No bit in his mouth. Loose rope for a halter. Good to go.

P1130087First Sighting of Chinata

P1130121Come on… gently now, you can do this

Mario is still adjusting to the idea of a potential career as a guide. As previously mentioned; this is virgin tourist territory.

My right ankle was in pain from the previous day’s 6 hour hike up and down the Yumbilla trail. I have ankle injuries (both ankles, two different injuries, a year apart from each other).  My right one gets really cranky the morning following a long hike.

Clip clop of mule hooves on rocks/mud/water and bird sounds

This (Chinata) trek required an additional 3 hours round trip foot hike on steep, muddy terrain when the mule gets ‘parked’ for a while. It is certainly possible to hike this whole trail on foot from Cuispes center, no problem. I was taking good care of myself. (part of good robot maintenance) The mule didn’t mind too much and I needed the help.

P1130153Yes, we had to ford a few streams along the way.  I did ask for the mule’s name. It was not Mario’s, if the mule did have a name, Mario did not know it.

P1130186The mule is tied up down below as both Mario and I trek onward and upward on a steep and muddy trail towards Chinata. We crossed two ‘huaycos’ (mudslides) which are normal in this area from Dec to April.

Huaycos are like mud and boulder/rock avalanches. When they start there is no stopping them. Nor is there any preventing them. They will continue to happen in these parts as they have since the Andes were formed.

P1130208Passing nearly vertical sheer rock wall faces along the trail

P1130222A lonely mushroom along the pathway

Saw several types of mushrooms along the way. Mario said some of them are edible and others are not. I don’t know a lot about mushrooms.  Scientific studies suggest that mushrooms may be the single largest life form in the forest. ( Their mycelium; the fungal equivalent of a root system, can attain incredible lengths under the soil.

P1130266Chinata !

The sound of Chinata falls at the lower tier

Chinata falls ranks right up there in the top 50 in the world at 573 meters (1880 ft.) It has three tiers.




Left Cuipes on mule about 8 AM. Parked the mule somewhere along the trail and continued on foot. 3 hours round trip up/down on foot back to the mule. Arrrived back in Cuispes around 3PM. My right ankle pain was kicking up. Paid Mario for the mule and for his guide services. Asked Mario if he thought we had time to take in one more before nightfall. He said we could take a mototaxi up to the trailhead of Pabellon. He said that the foot path to Pabellon could be done in about 45 minutes round trip. I thought I could handle it… in spite of the fact that it was Friday the 13th. Had a late lunch with the husband and wife proprietors of Hospedaje Rocio. Took a pain pill for my ankle.  Mario returned with the mototaxi around 4PM. There was a light rain on the way to the trail entrance.

Next up: The Pabellon hike