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Young man and his mules retrace ancient Inca route with epic 500-day journey

By Yolanda Salazar

Río Abajo, Bolivia, 22 Nov (EFE).- Simón Vergara has been on a mission to reach Argentina since he departed from his hometown in Bogota, Colombia, on 9 January. But this is no ordinary journey; the young man is traveling on his two trusty mules, who have become more than just his mode of transport — they are his beloved companions.

The 23-year-old has already racked up 6,000 kilometers trundling along the Qhapaq Ñan, a network of roads built by the Incas between 1450 and 1530 that straddles some of the most extreme terrain on the planet and spans six countries in South America.

Since his journey began, Vergara, Cimitarra and Pluma de Oro, have crossed Colombia, Peru and Bolivia and are hoping to complete the entire journey in 500 days.

“The only way to give a road life is by walking it. This is my contribution to keeping these roads alive,” Vegrara tells Efe.

Since Vergara and his mules took off on the epic adventure they have seen jaw-dropping scenery, crossed rivers, scaled vast mountains at a treacherous altitude of 4,000 meters and met kind people along the way who have fed and helped them.

The Colombian travels with a wooden box that contains medicines for his mules, which plod along to cover around 30 kilometers a day, and a few tools.

Along the way, he has encountered difficulties at times when trying to buy food. Some locals have looked on in suspicion and thought he was a ‘guaquero’ — a looter searching for archeological treasures — while others assumed he was a geologist.

When he reached the halfway mark, the expedition, which was three years in the making, felt so insurmountable he was close to giving up.

At one point Vergara was thrown off-course when Pluma de Oro got distracted by a herd of wild horses in Peru’s Huascarán National Park and started chasing them.

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