Biking and hiking - Huayhuash

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Nov 20, 2011

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to follow up Machu Picchu? Easy. Get out and do some more so with just enough time to grab a clean shirt and a fresh fruit juice I joined another group, hopped on a mountain bike and went exploring around Cusco. Because this area was so important to the Incas, there are plenty of archeologically interesting sites so on this trip we went to Moray and ended up at Saliendas. Moray is the site of a huge egg shaped terracing arrangement which was used for its microclimates – 0.5 degree difference between each level. This meant that the Incas could cultivate their precious coca leaves which wouldn't grow at this altitude otherwise. Saliendas is a new salt farm area which has been developed following the discovery of an underground salt lake. Pretty interesting but the company running it absolutely screws over the locals who receive around $2 a day for farming 50kg of salt. Yikes. Might be a bit more sparing with the stuff now.

The route followed ancient Inca tracks which are still used by the local farmers but in 'biker’ terms they are known as single tracks meaning that they are literally wide enough for a bike. Needless to say it was insanely fun as we egged each other to go faster and attempt bigger and better jumps with 50m drops on either side. We met a few local Quechan kids farming or shepherding, some as young as 3. It would be sad if they didn’t seem to be the happiest kids on earth particularly when we gave in to their demands of "buenos dias caramelos". Without any injuries we got back to Cusco where Katia and I had dinner with another group who had varying abilities in French, Spanish and English. What a headache but very amusing.

Thirsty for more adventure I headed North of Cusco onto Huaraz (pronounced whereas) which is known as the trekking and biking capital of Peru. Unfortunately this involved a whopping 27 hours on a bus. Yikes! But when you’re travelling first class, who’s counting? – Still waiting for the promised champagne service though!

My plan for Huaraz was to do a short trek as I’d heard from Suzanna that the scenery was spectacular. Pretty soon I overheard some Swiss guys chatting up a girl called Kimberley to do the Huayhuash trek (appropriately pronounced why wash). It turned out to be among one of the best treks to do in South America so I got involved. We were a bit unsure about these guys as they seemed a little too high on life so we signed up with a well recommended outfit instead.

At this point I thought the perfect preparation for a 10 day high altitude trek would be to do another mountain biking day. Whaaaa? So I tracked down the local biking genius Julio, a 50 year old man of rippling muscle and surprisingly tight lycra. What a guy! We set off up and up and up into the mountains. I had warned him that I was definitely on the beginner side of biking but I liked a challenge and what a challenge he had in store. He has been riding these mountains all his life and rides daily searching for the elusive ‘perfect route’. We had a solid 5 hours of extreme downhills and highly technical sections. It was brilliant! Oh except for the point where I became a little stuck between some boulders and with the elegance of a swan princess glided effortlessly in slow motion into a piece of flora I have since renamed the ‘Peruvian freaking prickly bastard of a bush’. I still carry the scars of my heroic battle.

So it was that I prepped for my epic adventure into the wilderness, sore and exhausted and as it turned out I had to share a room with the 2 Swiss guys. Sweet! They hadn’t managed to find a group to trek with so they were planning to head off alone up the mountains and were a little upset that we had shunned them. I was destined not to get any sleep that night as rustling noises got louder and louder from behind the cupboards. Eventually Benjamin got up and shouted “holy crap it’s a rat!” He kindly offered to stay in my bed just to protect me... Little did I realize there were 2 rats in the room! By the time the 4am wakeup call came around, the ‘rat’ had feasted on all of the boys’ food they had collected for the trek. Disaster!

Now, my only trekking at this point had been the 5 day Salcantay trek to Machu Picchu. The prospect of 10 days without a hot shower, sleeping in the path of freezing gusts and hiking over 120km was enough for me to stock up on ‘comida rapida’ namely buying up Huaraz’ stock of snickers bars. After a breakfast of eggs, oil and plenty of cheese we headed off up the mountains. The first event was a rather soothing 7.2 earthquake that gently encouraged our lunch of fresh trout ceviche down. Ceviche is basically pickled fish that gets a quick 10minute douse in lime juice and it’s the national dish of Peru. Delicious!

Day 2 brought us over our first mountain pass where we were surrounded by huge condors! With a wingspan of around 3meters, these are flying monsters that glide gracefully on the thermals. Day 3 and we were going well. The group had bonded nicely over card games and we were being rewarded by the most astounding views of ice capped mountains, glaciers calving and stellar blue lagunas. Something had to go wrong. And lo, a dreaded bug hit and speaking on the other side of this I can confidently confirm that 5000m high (not feet Mam) is not the place to succumb to illness. That night I made a very good friend in a stray dog that conveniently lapped up all the illness I could hurl at him. Over the following 4 days I struggled on with the help of Dominique (my fellow Chica Calienta) who plied me with antibiotics, our guide Epi who made me copious amounts of mysterious herbal remedies and also the emergency horse ‘Luis’ who dragged me up endless mountains. Half way through the trek we camped at an area that had natural hot springs, possibly the best relief from all our various complaints of body and mind. 5 days of no hot water, difficult trekking conditions and illness takes its toll to say the least.

Waking up one morning Alain pointed out “there was a sheep tied to the kitchen tent!” It dawned as he said it that this was to be our special dinner on our final night. “Tasty” as he was named was a lovely beast who sadly only discovered the freedoms of life on his last day as we trekked onto our last campsite. He did find some of the way a bit tiring and was subsequently strapped to Luis – a sight I shan’t forget for quite some time.  As the donkey men slaughtered Tasty, the ‘pachamanca’ was prepared. This is a traditional ground oven where rocks are heated and then the meat joints and various tumors and potatoes are stuffed into the heated hollow with straw and covered. It only took 45 minutes to cook this delicious meal which was washed down with our only alcohol of the trek. Oh what a relief from the soups and jelly/glup of the previous evenings!

At the end of our trek we walked to Llamac where we were greeted by a marching band that somehow got me dancing with a very old man wearing a flowery Morris men type hat. He got a little too excited and somehow managed to get a grope in while I stumbled around in a bemused, wtf manner. What’s a 10 day trek without a dance to finish it off?! To celebrate the end of the trek Epi and his brother treated us to far too many pisco sours (pisco, lime, egg white, sugar) back at the Huascaran office. Can’t recommend this tour agent highly enough! So I survived the trek and only mislaid around 5kg which I am doing my best to replace during my last couple of days in Huaraz before heading up the coast for a week of surfing and relaxing. Life is good!
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: