18-Oct-2004 -- Before ever taking off on this point I had to decide if it were closer to Occoruro, a village I had visited months before or along the road that runs from Tocroyo to Puno. I asked some questions and decided the Puno road had the most likely chance of getting me there. I also had to take two cracks at it because it took me too long the first time.
I Leave my house in Cayma in the City of Arequipa at 4:30 am on the morning of October 18th, 2004 and drive past the up the hill past the airport that has a measured altitude of 2543.9 meters above sea level. The road winds up past two of the three volcanoes that front Arequipa, Misti (Quechua for Señor) and Chachani. The third is called Pichu Pichu. Then it makes its way through the stark desert hills to the town of Yura (Calcite or limestone)at 2626 meters. Yura is famous for its thermal baths and its plant that produces cement.
Through the police checkpoint, I start up the route that passes along the north side of Chachani with Volcan Sabancaya (Quechua for Mischievous or Unpredictable) further to the North and on the other side of Colca Canyon. The road climbs rapidly to an altitude of between 4100 and 3900 meters and the plain of Pampa de Laguna Blanca and on to another tiny pueblo of Pampas Cañahuas (field of Cañihua).
I nearly always see Vicuñas (one of the wild versions of alpacas and llamas) in this plain. The road then turns off to the north towards Juliaca and Puno. The countryside is more verdant here with pastures filled with alpacas, llamas and sheep. A few adobe huts dot the landscape that belong to the campesinos whose animals these are.
About two hours from Arequipa I pass through the town of Imata at 4560 meters. Here we have our company velocity control so I stop and order a fried egg sandwich in the little shop next to our office. At about ten kilometers beyond the town I take the turn onto the dirt road towards the Tintaya mine and Cusco. This road is kept up to safely transport for the mine and is in good condition. Much of the road lies between 4500 and 4600 meters.
I pass through the villages of Osccollo, Occopalca, Morocaqui and Hawai (believe it or not), and pull into Condoroma 4600 meters. Condoroma (Condor head) is the largest town among them. At Condoroma I begin the climb towards Negro Mayo 4826 meters, higher than Ticlio, the highest railroad crossing in the world. I feel it in my head as a weight and a slight difficulty in my breathing. No houses here as the road rolls on towards the North. It dips down and then up to the pueblo of Machu (Old) Condoroma Which stands at an altitude of 4806 meters.
From here the road drops down towards Tintaya crossing Puente Challuta and passing through the village of Llavepata which lies at 4458 meters. The road climbs up a few meters and then drops definitively into the Altiplano and the community of Huisa Cjuluyo that sits at 4100 meters like nearly every village in this part of the world. The road can be taken to the town of Espinar here or follow on towards the Tintaya mine at, you guessed it, 4100 meters.
Passing Tintaya I follow the road around, passing through the populous commuity of Alto Huancané towards the village of Tocroyo 4100 meters again. From Tocroyo I have the option to head off to Occoruro or to take the Puno road. This barely deserves the designation of a road and in the US or Canada, it would not get it, but here, it is a veritable highway and I have to pull off into the borrow ditch to let five different trucks full of goods and people pass. The road heads pretty much directly towards the point and passes through a number of communities whose names I don’t know.
I am out here in, “Plena puna” as they say and as far as I can see there is nothing but Ichu grass, like the Great Plains. Finally the road begins to go up to the village of Jayuni at 4169 meters. I pass through the main square and up the hill towards the peak and still amazingly in the direction of the confluence point. I reach the summit above Jayuni, 4337 meters and the road winds on towards a cement marker that makes me suspect it is at the point. No such luck.
I roll on until the road makes a sharp turn into a steep descent. At the curve I overlook a lake and am at nearest point at 1.4km. It is trekking time and I set my GPS to navigation mode, lock the car and head off up the hill. The air is thin and the hike burns my lungs and a startled Perdiz nearly gives me a heart attack but it only takes me about 20 minutes.
The point sits at 4324.8 meters and an exact reading of 15.00 ‘000’’S and 71.00’ 000’’W with an error of 8 meters. In all from Arequipa the trip was 237 kilometers. From the point, I still look down on the lake and across the broad and magnificent expanse of Ichu. I am looking up at the jagged range of mountains that marks the boundary between Cusco and Puno called, “La Raya,” (The Border but also the ray).