Day 5 – March 21
Hiking – 15.5 km (9.6 miles), 936 meters (3,071 ft) elevation gain.
Long slow climb along the 2,000 meter high ridge (Fila Bugú) that separates the drainage of the Río Coén from the Tapari. After crossing high points at Alta Chinegucha, Surisan, Buikuari and Cerro Carguicacha we dropped back down to the headwaters of the Río Coén; now more like a stream 1,100 meters above where we’d last crossed.
I’ve always prided myself on my navigation skills and have been hiking and backpacking since I was about eight. Chris has probably spent even more of his life wandering around the mountains and deserts and Andy does trail and off trail ultra-marathons. I would have sworn you could have blindfolded any of the three of us and rolled us down a hill in a barrel and we could have gotten out, shaken off the dizzy, and been right back on track.
Boy was I wrong.
The crew always walked strung out over a kilometer or more. El Machete and a couple of the more gung-ho porters let the way followed by a couple of trekkers, then the main group of porters, a trekker or two and the other guide and any stragglers bringing up the rear. I’d frequently hustle to the front of the line then fade to the rear when something to photograph or explore off trail caught my eye.
Andy, Chris and I were enjoying a rare section of level ground along a ridge line along chatting away when we realized we weren’t seeing the telltale broken leaves and machete chops to the cane or lianas that sometimes crossed the path. We had been traveling without a trail for days and the ground was fairly open as it usually is under a dense canopy so we often drifted a little off route.
The procedure kicked in. I noticed there were no signs of travel ahead and said “off route” Andy replied “checking right” and Chris “checking left.” I took the middle and we split up and angled backwards looking for machete cuts, broken twigs, or foot prints that weren’t ours. Every 30 second or so we’d call out “nothing left” etc. both as an update and so we didn’t loose track of each other.
After three or four minutes someone found a cut and called out “on route” and we headed to the voice. We took a couple of minutes to work back and forth making sure we were on the trail of our leader and not one we’d made and then set out again.
After about ten minutes we were surprised to see Justin and Andres in front of us. We knew they’d started out quite a way behind because Justin wasn’t feeling well and Andres had been shooting pictures of the last little river we crossed.
We were even more surprised that they were walking towards us. Justin asked “what’s up, why are you guys going back?” We thought he was kidding. They must have run and gotten ahead of us when they heard us fumbling around off route. Nope.
We had gotten turned around and were headed completely the wrong direction. If it hadn’t happened I would have sworn it couldn’t happen. One of the three outdoors men would have to notice we were going the wrong way. Nope.
It’s incredible how much you rely on the sky or at least a horizon to navigate. I’ve done 50 miles at night in the Colorado Rockies without a problem, but the dense canopy of the rainforest and the uniform horizon of green and tree trunks in every direction can be amazingly disorienting.
Camp Below Catarata Ririgu
I was pretty envious of Chris’ choice to go with the Hennessy Hammock and rainfly sleep system on the fifth night. There was nowhere to set up a tent that wasn’t covered with roots and rocks. Turned out it didn’t really matter because I probably could have slept on a pile of broken glass.
We share a fire in a rock ring with the porters and had Mountain meal Sweet and Sour Pork and Chicken Teriyaki for dinner.
Photo Gallery Day 5 – Fila Bugu to Catarata Ririgu
Each of the images below is linked to a larger version with a detailed description