The beautiful Cordilla Blanca

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Our overnight bus was suppose to arrive in Huaraz at 6am and we had arranged with the owner of the hostel to collect us from the terminal. For reasons we are unsure of the bus arrived at 8.30am; luckily the owner of the hostel had checked with the bus company and had not been waiting for 2.5 hours!

The hostel was apparently only a short walk, so we pulled on our backpacks and headed off, however, what the owner of the hostel had forgot to mention was that the last part of the walk was up a very steep hill and as Huaraz sits at a dizzying altitude of 3,100 metres, we were all gasping for breath by the time we reached the hostel.

The guy showed us to our rooms and  even though we were toldthat our room would have a bathroom we ended up in a room with a multigym and a double bed in the centre of the room with no space around it, so to get to the window you had to climb across the bed! The hostel seemed nice enough and it was cheap, only 40 soles, including breakfast, so we decided to stay. The owner even allowed us to have breakfast the day we arrived.

Huaraz itself, is quite a small village, but its main draw is the stunning mountain scenery surrounding it. On one side is the Cordilla Negro and on the other, the stunning Cordilla Blanca. The Cordilla Blanca is one of the premium hiking spots on the continent and is the highest mountain range in the world outside the Himalayas, with 22 summits over 6,000 metres.

We had read in the book that there was a beautiful 4 day trek you could do which traverses a number of the mountains in the range and some of the striking blue lagoons. Therefore on the first day we spent time speaking to a number of the tour companies about the trek, but you need a few days to acclimatize due to the altitude, particularly as on the second day of the trek you go over a pass at 4,750 metres. So we decided to think about our options and stopped off to eat at Cafe Andino, which is a funky little cafe with some tasty burritos!

In the evening while we were playing some games of jenga in the bar of the hostel we got talking to a group of Israeli's who had already booked on a tour and got it far cheaper than we had found, so the next day we signed up. Unfortunately Ed's leg looked like it had got worse not better, as his bruise had spread to his foot, so he decided it was probably more sensible for him to put his feet up for a few days in Huaraz while us three went on the trek.

We were picked up from the hostel at a very unsociable 6am and were joined by 7 other Isreali's and one guy from Wales. Still feeling very tired we attempted to sleep on the bus, but this was in vain, as we had stupidly sat at the back of the bus - Warning - do not sit on the back of a bus on rural roads! for every bump in the road (of which there were thousands) it was throwing us up, hitting our heads on the roof. The bus journey to the start of the trek was a spine killing 3 hours the journey broken up by a few short stops to look at beautiful lake and some mountains, but when we arrived we were all very greatful to have stopped driving.

The first day was a gentle 5 hour walk, ascending slightly to our camping spot at 3,870 meters. The views on the first day were spectacular, with mountains flanking both sides. By the time we got to the first camp we were all very hungry but were told dinner would be another couple of hours, so we amused ourselves and started to deplete some of the snacks we had brought for the trip. At that altitude, as soon as the sun goes it becomes incredibly cold, so we asked for a fire, but as we were in the national park we were told we couldn't as the guides get huge fines. I'm an not sure whether they decided the rangers would have finished their rounds for the day, or they just wanted to keep us amused while we waited for food, but eventually after some negotiation they agreed we could have a fire. We had previously gone searching for wood and collected a pitiful amount and our attempts of lighting the fire, well let's just say we would not have recieved our campfire badge at scouts. Luckily for us the donkey driver (not sure who came up with that name) came to the rescue and from, I do not know where, had collected a massive bundle of wood and got a roaring fire blazing in no time. We all sat round the fire eating dinner and were thankful for the warmth and deterring the midges that had already feasted on Carla's legs for their dinner. After our meal, as we were trying to keep the fire alight Rob (one of the Isreali's) was trying to avoid the smoke being generated by the fire when he stepped back and fell into the river, which must have been about 3 degrees,and even though the river was shallow he emerged completely soaked! He went to change, but left his wet clothes hanging outside the tent to dry but in the morning we awoke to see they had been frozen rock solid! That is how cold it was. Our first night sleep was bumby, the mats they give you do very little against the hard rocky floor, and in the middle of the night Aff needed the toilet, the worse thing in those sub-zero temperatures, he did mention that even though it was freezing the stars he could see at about 3 am was breath taking.

After a restless night sleep we were woken at 6am to the sound of our guide smashing the lid of a pan - not our idea of a tranquil trek! We had breakfast and were back on the way just after 7am, as this was going to be the most difficult and long day trekking. Today's trek included going over the pass at 4,750 meters, so the first 5 to 6 hours trekking we were climbing steadily uphill. At one point our guide suggested he knew a short cut, We were not convinced it was much of a short cut, but after a difficult uphill slog and then rock climbing, yes clambering up rocks for the last 20 meters at about 4,500 metres. We were rewarded with lunch next to a beautiful lagoon. After refueling with food and a sunbathe by the water we started the most difficult climb of the day towards the pass. Carla began to suffer from the affects of the altitude and started to feel unwell. The guide recommended she chew on coca leaves and then put them in the side of the gum, apparently this is what the locals use to help with the altitude. All we know is it tastes horrible and Carla's headache was still paining her. Eventually we arrived at the pass and wow, what an incredible view, as you pass through the gap in the mountains you are rewared with an awe-inspiring view of a glacier capped mountain and a stricking blue lagoon at the bottom. Carla could not celebrate for too long as the best cure for altitude sickness is to decend as quickly as possible and she was beginning to feel sick (it was very similar to a migrane), so she started to descend. The walk down was a very steep winding path back down to the camping spot at 4,200 meters. The camping spot was again magnificant, set by the river with snow covered mountains all around. Again we were not allowed a fire (and this time they stuck to their decision) but despite the fact we were at a higher altitude it felt surprisingly warmer than the first night. It was a clear night and the stars were incredible, the milky way was really clear and there were so many stars it was difficult to take it all in. Just as we were about to tuck ourselves in for the night, Aff appears at the door of the food tent exclaiming that there were animal noises; Sophie and Carla were laughing at the nervousness of his voice, but as we went to inspect the noises with the guide we found it was a pack of fighting foxes, which make the most horrendous noises when fighting - sorry Aff we take it back! Feeling a little uneasy at the thought of the foxes scavaging around our tents we headed off to bed, but surprisingly we slept better on the second night than the first, probably just through pure exhaustion.

The third day was a much easy day, in fact from here the journey was all downhill or straight - wonderful! Shortly after starting the trek however, our guide explained we needed to cross a river without our shoes, with the water coming up to our knees. Apparently the water was 10 degrees, but we are not so convinced,these are glacial rivers remember and in the end we could not feel our legs by the time we reached the other side. Luckily for us the sun was shining, so we soon dried off. We continued walking to a beautiful lagoon, with a sandy beach and rested there for a while. The lagoon was much larger then it appeared at the sandy beach and after walking for almost an hour we stopped again on the other side for lunch. The rest of the walk took us past yet more mountains and amazing scenery until we got to the final camp spot, again next to a river, but this time our tents were incredibly close to the edge - a little worrying. Shortly after we arrived a storm started brewing and before long lighting bolts shot out the sky shortly followed by the roars of thunder. We started getting a little worried as the outer edge of the tent kept sticking to the innner liner making it wet, but as quickly as the storm started it stopped. Then again we had a roaring fire under the stars.

The final day was only 2-3 hours walking, all downhill next to a gushing river. We stopped at the botttom to eat our lunch before reboarding the bus for the bumpy ride back - this time we sat in the front!

We arrived back at the hostel to find there had been a leak in the room that Ed was staying in and our bags had got wet, so all our clean clothes we were looking forward to wearing were wet along with Carla's sleeping bag, which had litterally absorbed all the water. After a little arguing with the owners of the hostel they agreed to wash our things, because as you can imagine they smelt quite horrible as they had sat wet in the bag for the last few days. You may be thinking, well if it had leaked why did Ed not move rooms and sort our stuff before, well cleverly we had put our pack-safe's on (wire cages for our bags) and tied them to the bed, so Ed could not move! We had pre-booked to go on a night bus to Lima the same night, so luckily our clothes were dry before we had to leave.
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Carla's Mum on

What spectacular photos! Just love hearing all about your travels! x

The Big D on

Impressive!! Kilamanjaro is not much higher, then there's Everest ..................

Hamsa on

MR Ahmed Robleh
Hold tight you sir on your big adventure hope you have a nice time.
I have been reading your journeys it sounds like your having a good time

Eric Githu on

hope ur enjoying the tripp looks really goood keeep the updates going

Noah on

Great entry! I'm planning to head to Huaraz in June/July 2011. Do you remember how much it costs to hire your guide/cook? Thanks!

owen on


Bill n Ted on

What!! Owen, you're a fool. That doesn't make sense!

owen on

sorry, its just insparational :L , and still travelling!

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