A not so gentle stroll in the mountains

Trip Start May 30, 2009
Trip End Jul 07, 2009

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Ahh...we are currently enjoying a very nice relaxing day in Huaraz after a very demanding but fantastic 5 days.  Since we last wrote, we have been out exploring the Cordillera Blanca mountains, and having an absolute ball.  So in essence, this blog entry is a catchup...so letīs head back in time a bit....

3rd of June: Lake Churup
So you may remember us mentioning something about a short day hike to help us "acclimatise".  Well picture this: a corolla sedan packed with 5 adults, windows down, peruvian pop music blasting out the windows, while we 4wd our way up through little villages to the start of our little hike.  At a mere 3800 metres above sea level.  And so we start hiking.  Up.  And more up.  And more and more and more up.  Actually we go straight up for the next 2 and a half hours till we reach our goal of 4450 metres.  And let me tell you that all that up is difficult at the best of times, but werenīt we huffing and puffing for our breath after only a couple steps.  Altitude really does suck when it comes to hiking. (And Iīm not quite sure how much better aclimatised we were by the end of it...small hills still took my breath away).  Oh, and Carl managed to drop his sunnies off a rock face while climbing up and makeshift tree/ladder (more of the endless up) (see dad, its not only you who canīt be left responsible for your own sunnies).  Anyway, the view at the top was absolutely gorgeous and so worth every single step we took.  Beautiful turquoise lake with a glacial mountain (Mt Churup) dipping into it...what a great scene.  (will try and put up some photos today but I donīīt like my chances...stupid slow internet).  Must add that coming down was a lot easier, though a lot more dangerous too.  But we are now safe and that is all that matters hehe. 

The only other person in our trekking group is Ken, a 58yo Canadian who just retied from teaching and left his wife and 3 kids at home to come travel Peru.  He is good company, a down-to-earth guy, but an absolute nut hiker...he puts both Carl and I to shame!

Lucky us got a flat tyre only about 1km from Huaraz on the drive back down...and I have never seen a older, rustier, wonkier car jack than what got pulled out of our boot.  Long story short, the jack collapsed (suprise suprise) and the car dropped down to the ground (I donīt think changing the tyre on a hill helped much either).  We ended up flagging down another car and borrowed their nice new hydrolic jack, though by now the car was way too low to use it, so the car was jacked up by the nuts of the actual wheel rim, while rocks were placed under the axel to actually hold the car up.  Then we dug a hole in the ground so we could actually fit the tyre on.  Hmm...not the most efficeint way to change a tyre. 

4th of June:  Day 1 of the Santa Cruz Trek
Another windy switchback road (there seems to be many of these in this country), takes us to the small vllage of Cashapampa where we are to start the trek.  While our donkeys are being loaded with all our gear, we just start walking!  Strange feeling to not need to do anything.  But we donīt complain hehe!  And just in case we hadnīt done enought of this thing called "up" yesterday, here is another 3 hours of it straight away, just to get us warmed up...argh!  The hiking really is tough (think ironmongerīs spur dad), but it is all oh so worth it as the views are spetacular!  Endless snowcapped mountains, sheer cliffs on either side, as we follow the prettiest bubbling creek with occasional rapids up this valley. 

Finally after 3 hours of hiking we stop for a break, and we are led to believe by our guideīs very poor english that this is our lunch stop (it is midday), and that we are just waiting for our donkeys to catch up with the lunch.  So naturally we donīt eat any of our snacks and just save room for lunch.  Finally what we believe to be our donkeys arrive, but then they just keep walking right on past us!  Whereīs my lunch?!  All of a sudden our guide jumps up and just starts walking again, for another 2 hours till we finally get our lunch, only 40mins short of camp!!  Wernīt we hungry by then!  But our cook had made us a nice cooked lunch that made it all worth it. 

Our camp for the night was along said creek, with sheer rock walls on either side, and a beautiful glacial mountain at the end of the valley.  Ands horses, cows and donkeys in the foreground.  A campsite from heaven!  And what made it even better was our camp was all set up for us (cook tent, dining tent, and sleeping tents), and we were served popcorn and hot tea/milo while we waited for our 3 course dinner to be cooked!  Talk about spoilt!! 

5th of June:  Day 2
An early morning wake up is made so much easier when you are handed a hot mug of tea and a tub of hot water to wash in, then fed banana pancakes for brekkie!  Then off we go a-walking, leaving camp all set up behind us!  No work for us!  (apart from our guide, we have a cook and a donkey dude, the two of which pack up camp and load the donkeys, overtake us during the day to reach the next campsite before us and have it all set up by the time we wander in!)  Today is an easier day of walking, past some gorgeous lagoons and (with a slight intended detour of switchbacks up a hill) we have clear views of more spetacular mountain ranges, including mt Alpamayo, where we can even see some crazy climbers way up there!  In the arvo we turn a corner in the valley to find our camp set up at the base of a the very majestic mt Tallipampa...picture perfect!  We lay in the arvo sun staring up at this beauty, while trying not to look at tomorrows path that heads up the pass just to the right of the mountain.  We could see that path evily zig-zagging up the dreaded pass, and I sat there wishing tomorrow would never come.

Now I donīt think Iīve mentioned anything about our guide yet...Ana has just turned 22, and only qualified as a trekking guide in May.  This is her first overnight trek (which is cool...everyone has to start somewhere and nothing wrong with being young!) but I always think that something a guide should know is where they are going.  Multiple times during the 5 days she took us along some path before sheepishly turning us back to find the right one.  One time there was even a sign pointing her in the right direction and she ignored it!  We gently suggested that we follow the signīs advice.  But luckily for us there were other tour guides around whom she could get correct directions from, otherwise we may still be out there!! 

6th of June:  Day 3 aka the dreaded climbing of the pass day
So camping at 4200metres is a tad on the cold side, and when we crawl out of our tents its still about -5degrees.  brugghh!!  Ferocious winds had whipped our tent all night long, and now sadly our beloved mtn that we are about to semi-climb is all shrouded in fog!!  Tear!!  Anyway we donīt cry too long lest our tears freeze to our face, and off we start our assent, one foot in front of the other.  Suprisingly once you get into a groove it isnīt neraly as difficult as expected, and we manage to get to the top of the pass in only a touch over 2hrs.  It never got above 0deg the whole time though, and just to remind us how cold it really was it started to snow about half way up.  So this is our situation at the top:  we are standing at 4750mtres above sea level, feeling very proud of ourselves, but it is snowing and windy (both which pick up quite a bit while we are up there), and absolutely freezing!!  Its also so foggy that we canīt see the mountain which is right next to us, so when we take the obligatory "we made it to the top of the pass" snaps, all we have in the background is a blanket of whiteness!  Bugger!  

Heading down the other side of the pass is a lot easier, and it made us feel good passing all those silly people heading up the other way (as if you would climb a hill that big! hehe).  Another camp ready and waiting for us in another meadow, but this one is also chockers with local kids out grazing their sheep and goats.  As they all slowly start to gain confidence they start bugging us to play a game of soccer with them...like we havenīt done enough exercise today!!  But we do give in, and quicky realise how good these kids are...we are huffing and puffing again very quickly!!  The field is only about 20metres long, is flanked by boggy marshes that the kids have to keep fishing the ball out of, and the goals are ever changing in their size...I swear that the one I was kicking to was only about 1metre wide at one stage!!  But jolly good fun, shame the kids never want the game to end...but before we gringos collapse in a pile on the ground, we call it quits, softening the blow for the kids with a peace offering of our precious precious lollies.  

I should also mention that I was constantly amazed at the amount of gear that constantly appears off these 4 donkeys backs...they were carrying, among other things, 6 tents, 2 tables, 6 chairs, all our clothes and sleeping gear, food for 4 days for 6 people, 2 gas bottles, lanterns, buckets, and most importantly...a bottle of vino tinto for the last night!

7th of June: Day 4 of trek...which means hot showers are in the not so distant future!
Ah, waking up dreaming of hot showers, a warm bed, a meal without potatoes (apparently there are about 600 varieties in Peru...I really donīt want to try them all, but at this rate I feel like I am going to!) and a nice cold beer!  And according to Ana, only 2 hrs of easy walking to get there!  Well let me tell you that Ana needs to improve her english a tad more, at least enough to add the words "more up" to her vocabulary!  Because at least 80% of it was straight up!  But finally at the top, in a little village called Vaqueria, and back in our minibus, our legs can have a break for a while.  And I have to say that all the effort, every single molecule of energy burnt over the past 5 days was so worth it, because the hike was absolutely gorgeous! (I think I need more adjectives to describe it properly hehe).  

In order to get back to Huaraz, we need to cross another pass (luckily this time in our minibus!), and the dirt road to cross it was some of the best switchbacks I have ever travelled.  It took us an hour just to get to the top, and then another hour to get back down the other side!

Ana was very determined over the past 5 days that we each pay our 65sole park entrance fee, so determined in fact that she would ask everyone she could, and stick her head into every semi-official looking building to try and find where we could pay!  But to no avail, until just as we were leaving the park she found someone willing to take our money, and we had to cough up.  Bugger.

Finally back in Huaraz, and a couple of well deserved beers later, we fell into an exhausted but very happy sleep :)

Today, 8th of June: Lazy Day
The word "lazy" pretty much sums up today quite nicely, and there is not much more that needs to be added.  Tomorrow we catch the bus back down to Lima, before meandering down Peruīs south coast.  Iīll have to buy a new bra when in Lima, as mine mysteriously disapeared when we got our washing done...hmmm!  Bugger too as it was a brand newey!

Anyway, I hope you are all well, we miss you heaps, but we are having a ball and at this rate will have to be dragged home kicking and screaming.

Till next time, much love, Anna and Carl xx

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zlaw on

sooooo jealous
anna and carl i am green with envy..

reading your blog is the greatest procastination i have ever found so please, keep them coming.

your photos are absolutely breathtaking and your descriptions of the trip so far have been very entertaining. i wish i could be there instead of on stuvac.

have a great remainder of a trip, i will be awaiting the next entry with anticipation.

much love xx

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