Hiking & Huaraz (Peruvian Andes Part One)
I arrived in Huaraz on the night bus from Lima, my first since being back in South America but nothing had changed.
The beauty of the night bus is that you reach your next destination while you ‘sleep’ and you don’t have to pay for accommodation. The downside, well, it’s a night bus – sleep becomes a more subjective term than ever.
Huaraz is a special little town, known mostly for being the hub from which you can explore the Peruvian Andes.
It’s altitude is 3,052 metres (10,000 ft) and that’s before you start any hiking, climbing or mountaineering.
I’ve also been personally inspired by this place since we first visited and have wanted to return for some time. Namely to complete a trek on the Cordillera Huayhuash – a stunning 15 day circuit that is widely known as one of the best treks in the world.
Unfortunately my research and emails ahead had told me that I was a minimum two weeks early to begin the trek. Essentially Huaraz was still in rainy season meaning most afternoons and pretty much every night there would be a downpour.
Which isn’t that safe (or much fun in a tent for 15 days).
So I had pretty much resigned myself to not being able to hike Huayhuash while also giving myself another reason to come back to see Phil and Peru in the near future.
Still, I had given myself time in Huaraz and planned to do a good amount of trekking.
I booked myself onto two trips: a 4 day trek around Santa Cruz and a 2 day mountain summit on Vallunaraju.
A little ambitious but not beyond me – so I thought as I sat in the office of the adventure agency I was booking with.
The Santa Cruz trek left the next day and I was picked up at 6am as we had 4-5 hours of driving ahead of us to begin the trek.
I also met the group I’d be hiking with – my guide, 3 Israelis, 2 Germans, 1 Italian and a Spaniard.
Honestly, you couldn’t have put a weirder bunch together and after only a short amount of time with them I was asking myself what I’d done to deserve this.
The first day trekking was easy as it was just the afternoon. Donkeys carrying our tents, cooking equipment and supplies went ahead and we arrived late afternoon at a beautiful spot to camp.
A river ran by while we were surrounded by hills and mountains, however most striking was the huge glacier than sat above us on one side.
Yet the Israelis and the Germans found reason to complain about the smallest things. I wondered if they had realised they’d signed up for a trek, a 4 day one at that.
We ate dinner and slept before a full second day.
Day two would be 8 hours and was easily the most difficult. Not only the most difficult, it was also the most stunning.
We climb 3-4 hours to a high pass in the mountains, getting to 4,750 metres at the highest point.
The natural beauty in this area is something to marvel at and I was overjoyed to return.
After the pass we descended to the camp site, again passing mountains and glaciers.
By now the group was well spread out – some were avid hikers, others appeared to not have the ability or attitude to walk to the shops.
I spent the afternoon walking alone and loved every minute of it. When I reached the campsite, I knew instantly that it was the most beautiful campsite I’ve seen with my own eyes.
(Over dinner the Israelis complained about something insignificant again, the German girl just loves to be negative).
Still it wouldn’t affect my trip and I’d found a couple of friends in the Italian/Spanish couple.
We hiked again for 7 hours on day 3, pushing through and finishing the walk early. It was nice to relax and it meant I would get a day’s rest between my two trips.
Still we camped overnight in the national park and in the morning visited some natural hot springs that did wonders for my legs.
The Spaniard and I calculated that we walked around 45km over the 3 days. Certainly a good stretch of the legs and a good way to acclimatise for my second adventure, one which was slowly becoming more daunting the closer it came, a climb up Mount Vallunaraju.