Trek trek trek trek trek

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2015

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Flag of Peru  , Ancash,
Sunday, December 2, 2012

The santa cruz trek just outside of Huaraz is meant to be one of the most spectacular treks in the whole of Peru. This was not what we were thinking about when we had to wake up at 5:30 am to get ready in time to be leave by 6. Personally I (Tai) was thinking that it probably wasn't that great and maybe staying in the warm bed was a much better idea than trekking around the Andes for the next four days. After a lot of struggling and snoozing we did manage to get out of bed and ready for the bus at 6, which of course was 45 minutes late! When the bus finally turned up we were the last people to board and were greeted by an array of nationalities; 6 French (classic French love there trekking), a German couple, a Dutch girl, a Norwegian girl and a guy from Slovenia. Even though none of the group were native English speakers every single one could speak it perfectly, something that we have encountered many times in South America and always makes us feel a bit emmbarrassed only knowing 7 Spanish words between us. The bus (well more of a big van) drove for 1 and a half hours to the first stop of Yungay where we got some breakfast and bought a "poncho" which was basically a piece of plastic with a hole in. After this we set off on the rocky road to the start of the trek which took another hour and a half. It was so hot at the starting point that everyone in the group quickly striped down to their shorts and t shirts, looking around we realised that we were much less prepared than everyone else who were all clearly wearing proper trekking gear while we just had jeans shorts and t shirts on ( at least we looked a lot cooler than everyone else!). We started the trek at 2,900 meters and just as we set off the group had been joined by two extra members, two small dogs; one white with brown spots and the other was brown with a weird front leg which had an extra joint in it which bent the wrong way!! So we set off through a valley which looked very similar to the colca canyon on a steady incline. After about 30 minutes we saw the French (who had rushed off to the front of the group- typical) gathered around something. When we finally caught up with them we saw that it was some sort of spider about the size of my hand span! Everyone took pictures and walked around it carefully except for the dog with gammy leg which walked straight into the spider ( he didn't take any pictures as well). We were Starting to realise this dog may be a bit stupid. As we continued up over the rocks climbing higher and higher we were all beginning to feel the effects of the altitude once more. Today we would have to climb 800m up a hike of around 11km, it was only an hour or so in and we were already tired!
We reached our lunch point which was a slightly flatter point of the walk so far and found ourselves each a rock to settle on and looked down over the climb we had done so far. It always amazes us how quickly we seem to be really high in the mountains when it doesn't really feel like we've walked that far. So with the drop of the canyon beneath us to one side and a beautiful river cascading over rocks to the other we ate lunch, the dogs eagerly awaiting any scraps we may give them!
After lunch the hike flattened out and we wove away alongside the river through trees and bushes admiring the beauty of yet another stunning landscape!
After an hour or so we came to another clearing where the cliffs of the mountain towered over us some 250m tall and the river twisted and turned around the clearing. There was a grassy area and a large rock where some people tried rock climbing and we all just relaxed for a while. Soon enough though it was time to carry on again and we arrived at a large platform shape rock which was wedged in place jutting out of the valley wall. Our guide told us it was possible to climb up and in excitement and without listening to any instructions we all went running off, losing our way and ending up in the bushes with the platform looming above us. We found a little area where we scrambled up and eventually with ripped and very dusty clothes we were on the platform!
Feeling very much like mustafa from the lion king we were gutted we hadn't grabbed one of the dogs for a circle of life moment! After this we has a relatively flat walk to our camp for the first night which only took another hour and a half. The camp was in the middle of a valley surrounded by trees and grass while cows and horses walked all over. It looked like the perfect campsite, however the temperature had started to drop and the wind had picked up significantly. It turns out the donkeys and the chef etc had only just arrived and so we had to set up our own tents which turned into some kind of comedy sketch show as the wind blew the tent high in the air as we were trying to peg it down and would fly uncontrollably off to one side as we were trying to feed the poles through. In the end we had a very saggy tent, the inside drooped so much that you couldn't even sit up inside but it was a shelter from the wind and so we climbed inside! Dinner was served fairly early and to my disappointment consisted of celery soup- bleurgh! The guide told us some ghost stories about the area and the proceeded to jump on and rustle our tents to scare us later on! As always in the mountains everyone retired to bed very early!
The night was freezing- one of the sleeping bags we'd been given was awful and we spent the night awake, shivering, and curled up tightly into little balls.
We got up around 5 and we could see along the valley the low clouds and rain coming down on the path we were to be taking that day.
Tired, cold and with no wet weather gear we ate breakfast hoping it would pass.
The guide told us we needed to put on everything we could to keep us dry as it would definitely be raining up ahead. It was still freezing so we wore everything we'd brought with us and our little pack a macs and over the top of that the large plastic sheet we'd bought early from the market that would be our ponchos. Needless to say we looked pretty ridiculous but hopefully we'd stay dry as we had no other clothes!
Off we went and after an hour or so we came to what was supposed to be 2 glacier lakes but due to a landslide earlier in the year there was now only one. We could see the mountains on three sides of us and the landslide that had fallen to one side was still very prominent. Realising that enough rock and ice could fall at any minute to fill an entire lake - or even to cover an entire town was quite daunting. We took a number of group photos- apparently our guide thinks of himself as quite the photographer- and carried on walking, along side the lake with rock faces towering over us as the snow capped peaks off the mountains came into view and the clouds lifted. As the hours passed we slowly removed some of our layers, the day was brightening up and the rain we could see in the distance was disappearing. We passed lots of animals- cows in particular and came to a large sandy clearing - apparently in February there was a huge landslide here and what used to be a beautiful grassed area was now sand and rocks, we followed the tracks of the landslide and it had taken away a huge slice of the mountains in front of us.
Feeling a little nervous we crossed the area- which was huge and getting to the opposite side to our lunch point took us an hour itself. We sat on a grassy verge and ate our lunch, the dogs still darting between everyone hoping for a scrap of food. It also seems that the brown dog hates cows and whenever he sees them barks manically at them which in turn causes them to lower there heads and prepare to charge. Funnily enough at lunch we were joined by three cows and we all spent the time jumping up as they came charging towards us.
After lunch it was a steep 1.5 hour climb to a point where we could decided to trek further to get a better view of the mountains or head straight to camp. We all decided to go for the extra walk adding a further 3 hours onto our day. We walked through the middle of a huge valley and then climbed up and over a ridge to our right and were welcomed with a stunning glacier lake surrounded by snow capped mountains and glaciers. As we sat taking in the beauty around us it began to snow and we felt and heard the rumbles of avalanches falling out of our eye sight.
Me, tai and a Norwegian girl were the first to head back towards our camp and the dogs came with us. As we were walking along a little ridge on the edge of the valley we noticed a huge bird of prey- possibly an eagle or a falcon circling above us. We watched it soar through the air coming to a hover every so often as it must of seen something for dinner below, then we realised it had spotted something near us and it was getting closer and closer and points making us duck out the way as it flew over our heads. The dogs, both the size of a small fox were getting a little nervous one even hid in a bush until we were right next to it again. We realised it was sizing up the dogs for its dinner. Keeping close to them we watched the enormous bird for about 3/4 hour excited at what a great and close view of it we were getting. Having decided that the dogs may not be what it wants for dinner it flew off in search of something else.
Camp the second night wasn't far from then and as we turned a corner and saw our camp we were very grateful and very tired. The clouds had lifted even more and for the first time in a few days we saw some blue sky. The campsite was in a stunning location, right at the foot of a huge mountain and to the left of us- the paramount mountain which unfortunately was in the clouds but I guess that's how the photo is.
We were grateful our tents were set up for us and after a snack we all returned to our tents to try and relax. Tai and I spent the following couple of hours playing cards until dinner was ready.
We were camping at 4200m this night and it was freezing! We didn't sleep again and spent most of the night trying to decide how to use the one warm sleeping bag well enough to keep us warm.
The following morning we got up and were completely shattered, we forgot all about it though when we stepped outside our tent and saw to our delight the clouds had lifted and we were welcomed with pure sunshine and beautifully clear blue skies allowing us too see all the mountains in there full glory. We were speechless, wed never been anywhere as stunning as this and to camp in the middle of it was amazing. We had breakfast which was pancakes- the day was getting better and better- and headed off. Today we had to climb up and over the pass which was over 4700m and so we began our climb zig zagging our way up the mountain, every time we got to the mountain side the view got better and after an hour another glacier lake came into view. It took us three hours in total to climb up to the pass where we could see all the way back to the first lake we came to yesterday and were welcomed with a whole new set of mountains and lakes on the other side. We all climbed up onto a rock including the dogs and rested our legs. In the background we could hear the rumbling of avalanches but we were surrounded by so many mountains we had no idea where they were coming from.
What goes up must come down though and after half an hour we started our descent, we still had 6-7 hours of walking left to do that day, the clouds were coming in by the time we started going down and we passed people coming the other way feeling bad that they wouldn't get to see what we had just seen. The next 6-7 hours were really tough, we had lunch next to a lake which we shared with a number of cows that the dogs proceeded to bark at, I (Sarah) was feeling a little sick at this point so much to tais delight he got to eat my lunch too. We had an option to pay an extra 2 soles each and head to a refugio for the night, still camping but it meant a toilet and a warm place to sit for the night, the majority of us jumped at the offer. The refugio couldn't come soon enough and by the time we got there we were completely shattered. There was no rest for the boys though as they had a football match to play- locals vs gringos while the girls took our place in the warm kitchen- it all felt very stereotypical! The match was a draw and then we had dinner- more celery soup! Tired after the football game and the 10 hour walk we'd done that day we all retired to bed early.
The last day we awoke fully refreshed having slept the majority of the night at last and we had breakfast outside. With only a couple of hours to walk today we had a lacy morning and left around 9am, we walked through a village where people farmed guinea pigs and up out the other side back to the road where we had to wait for our bus and say goodbye to the dogs.
The bus journey back down was crazy we could see huascaran mountain- the highest in the range and the lakes we passed 5 days ago on our way to laguna 69 were at the bottom of a very windy road. The journey back took 6 hours in total, we said goodbye to our group before heading straight to cafe andino for some food- anything but celery soup!
We were heading off on a night bus that night so we went back to our hostel packed our things and left for the bus station, our taxi driver thought it was hilarious that emilio kissed and hugged us goodbye and chuckled to himself the whole way there.
As the bus journey was going to be around 10 hours we had decided to splash out on full cama (basically lay flat seats) seats and we settled in and crashed out almost straight away.
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