....the last South American adventure......
15.05.2009 - 22.05.2009 17 °C
As its my turn to write the blog, and Peruvian buses seem to disagree with my tummy, this blog is written whilst sat on a stationary chair at a stationary table with no landscape twisting past us! We are hanging out in Huaraz (northern Peru) after a cracking trek in the surrounding mountains, and preparing for a repack before flying from Lima to El Salvador for the start of our Central America trip.
Highlights of Week 10
After our rather eventful bus ride to Lima, we reached Huaraz with the rest of our belongings intact, and have spent the last week based out of here. The surrounding mountains (the Cordillera Blanca) are far less visited than those around Macchu Pichu and we did a fantastic 5 day trek before returning to Huaraz for laundry, and the best breakfast since the classic scrambled eggs and bagels Sunday Brunch at Fraser Court!
We hired a camera from one of the folk that work at our hostel, so have a few photos from the trek. Still not found a replacement for our trusty Canon yet, but maybe will have more luck in El Salvador.
View up to Pucahirca Mountain
Looking back down Santa Cruz valley
Striding out in the good weather!
Huaraz is a much smaller city than Cusco, and easy to get around with one main street and lots of ice cream shops to keep your energy up on any wanders around town. It also has an excellent tourist information office where we picked up a photocopy of a hand-drawn map of the area we were going to trek. Whilst the topographical maps might have been rather more accurate/useful, they cost the equivalent of about 2 day's budget! We stayed in a small hostel which is in the process of being renovated and every day looks slightly different or offers new services – its been exciting watching it develop. It also has a kitchen which is unusual for Peru and Bolivia so it has felt quite a luxury being able to cook for ourselves. Tonight is chilli con carne....
The Santa Cruz trek
There are many routes you can do around the Cordillera Blanca but one of the more accessible is the Santa Cruz trek which runs along two valleys, crossing them at the high Punto Union pass. You have two main choices to make with this trek; firstly the direction you do it in, with one way adding at least 1,000 meters climb to the trek, and secondly whether you do it with guides and donkeys. We chose to go from left to right (or at least that was the direction on our map which didn't have a North sign to navigate from!) meaning we had the extra climb, and without guides etc. so carrying all of our own kit. Nothing like setting yourself a challenge!
Getting to the start of the trek involved a local collectivo (a small mini-bus into which an impressive number of customers get squeezed), a tuk-tuk and then a taxi which took us plus 5 other adults and a chicken up a terrifying mountain road with an unhealthy number of blind corners. But once we had completed this adventure, and paid our 'path tax', we were free to head off into the hills. Our trek took us firstly up a steep climb into the Santa Cruz valley, where we camped and got visited a lot in the night by the local donkey population who seemed to be attracted to our tent. It was good to be walking by ourselves, setting our own pace and timings, and cooking delicious camping food!
Lentil and sausage in a can dinner!
Day 2 took us along the valley floor, with the river meandering across it and some amazing views back down towards the start of the trek. We met a gang of path menders who worked furiously removing stray rocks from the path and waving machetes at bushes which looked like they might encroach onto the route. We also saw a herd of wild ponies, galloping across the river shallows, teasing some local lads who were trying to lasso them. Night 2 was spent camping below the impressive Pucahirca Mountain (6,088 meters) and which we would somehow get around at the Punta Union pass. The path wasn't very clear to us then but, looking at the photo below, we went to the right hand side, below the snowline.
The climb ahead of us...
The next day we woke to misty and damp weather, and after a hearty porridge start, made our way slowly up to 4,800 meters and the top of the Punta Union pass. As it was either raining or snowing there aren't any photos of this part of the trip, but needless to say all those Huaraz ice creams definitely caught up with me! From there it was a long descent into the Huaripampa Valley and to camp. We had planned on taking an extra day to do a side trip up one of the connecting valleys, but as the weather remained rather wet, Day 4 was spent lazing inside the tent with piles of damp and smelly kit.
Drying off in between rain showers
The weather was kind to us on our last day, so we could put the tent away in the dry and walk out with much lighter rucksacks. It was a short stint to the end of the trek, where we hitched a ride to the local town of Yungay in the back of a lorry. Once the excitement of being in the back of a lorry winding its way along Peruvian mountain roads wore off, it was quite a long and cold 3 hour bouncy ride over a snowy mountain pass. Note to fellow travellers: whilst 'back of the lorry travel' is something all should try, I recommend doing it on a short and sunny trip!
In the back of a lorry
And so, one more collectivo later, we arrived back in Huaraz and have spent a delicious day eating a breakfast of gigantic quantities, and shopping at the local market for tea. The scenery even around town is stunning, its an area that merits more time exploring.
But tomorrow, we head to Lima to catch a plane to El Salvador, marking the end of our South America adventures and the start of our time in Central America. We have thoroughly enjoyed our trip here, and already collected a long list of favorites to return to.... Can't imagine what Central America will bring next! Hope all is well with you all and thank you for your e-mails and news from home.
Next blog update will be from Central America!
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