On the way to the Can-Can Lagoon

Why this lagoon?

While we were still in Calca, Steve kept talking about a lagoon nearby which was said to be not only beautiful, but also charged with very special energy. We all agreed we’d love to go, and we even made some plans a couple of times, but things just didn’t work out in that direction.

Until one day…

It was at least two weeks after we had left Calca that Katya announced she had acquired a tent from a friend and the four of us could go to the Can-Can lagoon one day, spend the night there, meditate by the water and come back down the next day. Meanwhile we had found out this lagoon was also famous for a special shadow discovered by a guy a few years ago: the shadow of an Indio being “chased” by a puma. He wrote two books about it and the place became quite popular for that, as well as for the legends coming from the Incan times. In any event, the only thing we knew about the shadows was that they were only visible at a specific time of the year, and only for about a month, which happened to be October – the month we were there.

Finally, D day

So we one day decided the time has finally come. We woke up early, packed some things, bought a bit of food for the way and off we went. We did not know the way, nor did we know where we were supposed to start from, but we figured it’d be easy to get there since it’s such a popular place. We were wrong! We looked for the tourist information office in Urubamba just to find out there wasn’t one and we’d have to go to Calca if we wanted information about the lagoon. We then tried the internet but didn’t find any practical information at all about how to get there. We then tried asking some random people on the street, but that didn’t prove any more successful.

We had heard somewhere somehow that the trail to the lagoon starts from Urco, a little village close to Calca. So in the end, almost at midday, we got on a colectivo (the collective taxi) towards Urco. It was then that we learned another very important lesson: if you’re looking for information, ask the colectivo drivers! They know everything what’s going on and especially how to get to the places you’re looking for. When Katya wanted to double check that Urco was the place we needed to go to, she got an immediate reply of “Of course!” as if that were the most obvious and basic information in the world, something everyone should and does know. Well, we had just wasted a few hours looking for that “obvious” piece of information…

Starting the climb

When we eventually got to Urco it was already lunch time, so we found a place where we had the best arroz a la cubana ever, supplied ourselves with 2 liters of water and some 3 liters of chicha to give us energy on the way (chicha is a drink made of germinated corn, it’s alcoholic in a small percentage and it’s also said to be very nourishing and full of energy). It was quite easy to find the path once in Urco, as indeed everyone there knew about Can-Can. There were different ways to get up and when we finally found one we asked a mamacha how long it takes to get up there. She said 4 hours. A few minutes later we asked a papacho. He said 2 hours. Then measured us from head to toe and added “For you, 3 hours”.

Five hours of intense walking later it was already dark and we were nowhere near the lagoon. We had no idea what had happened, as we had followed what we thought was the right trail. We might have been slower than the average because it was so incredibly hot and the path always up, up, up, so we had to stop often to hydrate ourselves and have a bit of a rest in the shadow of a rock or larger plant found on the way. Not to mention we were at over 3000m high, and anything you do at that altitude is so much more difficult than at sea level. Even breathing, for that matter. Also, we had to take breaks to admire the scenery which was, as usual in the Andes, simply gorgeous.

Setting camp and the noises in the bushes

When we realised it was going to get dark soon and we had no idea where the lagoon was, we knew we had to set camp somewhere for the night. We were quite worried as the path was still always up up up and we needed a flat ground to set up our tent. We were really lucky that just minutes before it got dark Silviu came across this flat-ish ground surrounded by barbed wire, a place that seemed perfect for our overnight experience. We were especially happy for the barbed wire as we really had no idea what kind of creatures would be wandering around the area during the night.

And boy, were we even happier just minutes later, as while starting to set up the tent we heard some noises a few meters from where we were. It was already dark so we couldn’t see what it was… but then, as we were staring in the direction of the noise, we saw something shining in the dark. Two of the same things. Round. A pair of eyes! Oh my dear Lord, a pair of eyes! Of course images of pumas immediately appeared in our mind and we starting searching for any file in there that had any information of the kind “how to deal with a puma”. Half way between panicking and staying calm we started making noises to get the creature to move so we could get a look at it with the poor light of our flashlight. Eventually the creature did move and oh, were we relieved to realise it was in fact a … cow! It was a cow!! What relief… oh what relief!

It was peach dark by the time we finished setting up the tent and just as we were about to get in we saw lights at the top of the mountain, coming down towards us, and we heard voices shouting “Pedro!! Pedro!!!”. As it was so soon after the puma-turned-cow experience, we didn’t want to deal with anything/anyone else anymore, so we got inside the tent ready to finally have our dinner of bread, cheese and olives, the only things we dared to carry with us to 4000m.

Literally 2 minutes after we all got into the tent it started pouring. While expressing our happiness that the rain had waited for us to finish setting up the tent, we felt some drips falling from… somewhere. Not little was our surprise when we realised it was raining inside the tent! It was the two layers kind and if they touched each other when raining the water went through, into the tent. Since the ground we had set up our tent on was only flatISH, there was quite a bit of slope going on there and the two layers easily touched each other. We spent the next 20 minutes using our creativity to come up with solutions to the crisis, and in the end we actually succeeded. We ended the night with a bit of dinner and went to sleep in a most uncomfortable position, with the rain continuing it’s beautiful concert outside and with our prayers that it would not start raining inside again. We were cold and miserable as it was, we thought, so being drenched during the night in that very low temperature would have really not been fun at all.

The morning… finally, the morning

Eventually light came… and I don’t think we’d ever been happier and more eager to get up in the morning. We had gone to sleep in the slope, so when we woke up in the morning all 4 of us were crouched at the bottom of the tent, in the part destined for our feet. It was easily one of the worst night we had had in a long, very very long time.

We had a very small breakfast and on the road we were again, eager to finally make it to the damn lagoon. Two hours later, we actually did! That meant we were on the road for 7 hours for a journey we were told would take 2-3-4 hours. We later found out this was the norm in the mountains, distances and time were so relative you could never trust one source… and whatever you were told you had to add at least a couple of hours to bring it closer to reality.

Around 9 am we finally made it up there.

Silviu had decided the previous evening he wanted to stay for another night near the lagoon, and in the morning Katya announced she’d like to stay as well. When we got up there, Boca and I instantly felt we had to stay too. That was pretty funny, as we had originally bought food for one, maximum two meals… and now we were looking at distributing that over 5 meals. A challenge?

Little did we know where our answer would come from and how the 4 of us would manage to survive there for one and a half days with nothing but 6 pieces of bread, 6 bananas and a piece of cheese.

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