Huaraz, a few hours north of Lima has supposedly some of the best hiking in Peru, certainly in terms of scenery so I decided to check it out. A dainty wee town nestled within the mountains, we decided to to a bit of a mammoth trek here and incorporate a day trek to Lake 69, 4 days on the Santa Cruz trek followed by a visit to the old Wilcahauain ruins.
My first day at the start of the Santa Cruz trek was not overly delightful. I had rented boots from the operator, nice big chunky heavy leather boots. Within about 3 hours I could feel the blisters starting on each ankle. Secondly, I had stomach cramps, that had started gently the night before but were now increasing to something troublesome I knew it. Marcuses charcoal tablets only offered a quick fix solution. Frequently... err.. stops were required and I can count on both hands the number of times I had to do an emergency pit stop behind a random rock. Although a weird feelinga, there is somethinga extrememly exhilerating about squatting behind a rocka with a brisk mountain breeze and sensational scenery at your forefront! Weather was also poor, with rain a constant threat. Camping on the first night wasnt pretty with heavy rain causing everything to be wet, clothes, ground and tents. Things can only get better from here surely. The second day was the big one where we aimed to hit Punto Union pass at 4750 m high. That was tough. The mist was bad throughout the day showing none of the delightful landscape we had hoped to envisage. The trek was manageable although the last hour was really hard, on slippery bare rock, zig-zagging step after step. Below is a quick video of me singing on top of that pass at 4750 m.
There was two hiking tips that I learned on that trip;
(1) Rain Gear - "There is no such thing as bad weather only bad gear". Seriously invest in decent gear for this kind of multiple day treks, it will reduce your misery by 50%. A good light waterproof pair of worn in boots and some light quick fitting rain jacket/panse or very long poncho.
(2) - Hiking Rhythm - For the noob, it is very easy to just aimlessy walk the paths stopping for pictures and biscuits! All hikers know it is important to find a steady rhythm that balances with your heartbeat particularly at higher altitudes. Once you find this trance like state your body will go on autopilto and will cruise longer distance more efficiently. Wow I sound like an expert!
Once we crossed the high point of Punta Union, the trek just got a whole lot better. The sky opened up to reveal some of the most beautiful scenery in Peru. The snow capped mountain tops, the lagoons, the valleys with almost desert/Mongolian-esque landscape and the final walk down to pick up was really enjoyable. Following the gushing valley river and navigating through boulders, trees and mountain side paths. Its also worth noting this set of mountain ranges holds the mountains you can see in Paramount Pictures, just before the start of the movie! Lucky I had an awesome crew of people on this trip,Holla all!
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