If you had asked me three weeks ago whether I wanted to go trekking in the Andes, I’d have answered “absolutely not!” I don’t particularly like walking up hills, never mind carrying all my bags up the mountains with me. However, as Ellen and I have been hitchhiking through the Sierra in Peru, everybody has been asking us whether we’re travelling on foot. When we explain that we’re hitchhiking, the locals look at us blankly. There are no cars here, they insist. We must be walking. End of story.

A stunning viewpoint that we might have missed from inside a bus or car

A stunning viewpoint that we might have missed from inside a bus or car

After a few days arguing with the locals about whether hitchhiking is possible, Ellen and I have just started walking out of town rather than searching for rides. Here in the Sierra, there really aren’t many cars. We could wait by the side of the road for hours and not have a single vehicle bigger than a motorbike or a mule pass us by. If we pass the time trekking rather than standing still, we have the chance to see the countryside and meet more people. We’re not going very quickly – neither of us is in good enough shape to be speedwalking up the Andean hillsides with all our gear – but at least we’re getting somewhere. Our progress is also slowed by stopping to chat to the locals. On the road, we get people stopping us every ten minutes. Some want photographs with us, others want to know where we’re from, and many give us food (fruit, bread, and water) or advice (most of it conflicting) about where to go from here. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Peruvians are ridiculously nice!

World class hikers, right here! Stopped by locals to take our picture, yet again

World class hikers, right here! Stopped by locals to take our picture, yet again

Some days we’ll walk for several hours before a car passes us, whereas other times we won’t even make it out of town. Here in the highlands, though, almost every car that drives by stops, and even the ones going the other way pause to apologize for not stopping. In the past few days, Ellen and I haven’t had a car refuse to pick us up. The drivers and passengers are eager to be part of our journey and to give us a good impression of their country. They don’t get many travellers in these mountain villages, but that we should be here, hiking to the next town, is taken as perfectly reasonable.

A winding mountain road that the locals assume we can trek with ease

A winding mountain road that the locals assume we can trek with ease

We’ve taken to telling people that we’re walking to Bolivia, little by little. “That’s a long way to go on foot,” they’ll say. “Yes,” we say, “but we’ll take rides in cars when we can.” The locals nod seriously. “Oh yes, that’s good. But there are no cars here on Mondays.” “Then I guess we’d better start hiking,” we say, and Ellen and I smile at each other. We’d never have expected to be in Peru trekking in the Andes, but now that we’re here, we’re loving every minute of it.

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