Well after exploring the ruins it was time to head into the mountains of Cordillera Blanca, Perus mountain mecca. We had a rather interesting time trying to get there, which required catching a bus to nowhere in particular and changing buses several times. Most annoying. Anyhow our first change was at Chimbote.... which has the biggest fish factory in Peru and the entire city absolutely HONKS! We honestly thought we were about to be sick. On arrival in smelly central we got harrassed (even more than usual) by bus touts and all of us (Kate, Leon, Tim and I) were feeling very nervous and anxious to leave.
Eventually we managed to get on a bus to somewhere in the hope that we could catch yet another bus to the mountains. We arrived in this little town and managed to negotiate a taxi (of sorts) to take us to Huaraz. So with the four of us squashed in the back of this car off we set. The drive itself was fairly eventful as it consisted of "Chapmans Peak" tight bends and passes (for three flamin hours!).
The road was full of pot holes so our driver seemed to spend his entire time driving on the other side of the road and swerving wildly to avoid treacherous pot holes. (Nevermind the steep drop over the edge!). We also sadly collected a white hare, which went underneath our tyres. However the night sky was unbelievable as there were millions and millions of clear bright stars everywhere.
As mentioned before Huaraz is the gateway to the Cordillera Blanca, a famous mountain range in Peru. 20 mountains, 6 over 6000m, the rest between 4 and 6000m and home to Huáscaruan, Perus highest mountain. Also home to the famous book and movie "Touching the Void". (Defn worth seeing or reading...although it may put you off mountains for a while.)
We had decided to do a 4 day trek around a famous loop, Santa Cruz, that encompasses snowcapped mountains, beautiful turquoise lagonas and sparkling glaciers. Whilst sorting ourselves out for this litle adventure we somehow managed to sign ourselves up for ice climbing the Pastoruri Glacier the following day! This turned out to be a fantastic experince and complete with crampons, ice axes and ropes we set about climbing the 25m metre wall of the glacier. Tim was the star of the show, putting those long arms and legs to good use. He was the first person to make it all the way to the top on both our climbs (because he is da best yeh!!!)
The next day we set off on our four day trek. We had decided to put our mountaineering skills to the test and not do the usual route of hiring donkeys and guides. Tim and Leon had volunteered (ahem!) to be our donkeys so, loaded up with all our gear, off we set.
We started in a little town called Caraz and caught a collectivo (cab really!)to a place called Cashapampa as we had heard the beginning of the trek had a less hectic ascent! Well after several hours of intense uphill (complete with 2 full backpacks and 2 daypacks) we did wonder what we had let ourselves in for! However the specular scenery soon paid off and we were in complete awe of all we were seeing. The first night was fairly interesting as Tim and I discovered that our travel sleeping bags were far from the industrial strength needed to survive the minus 5 temps and sleeping at high altitude somehow makes sleeping difficult.
The next day we climbed higher and higher into the mountains and no guesses to imagine just how cold the next night was (except Tim thinks it was minus 8) Our campsite was situated just underneath the snowline of a glacier (Mountain Taulliraju ,Taulli is the name of the purple flower to be found here and Raju means Icecap).
We were sharing our campsite with cows who spent the night falling over our guy ropes and bumping into our tent. (Much to Tim's horror, as he was sleeping on the side closest to the tent wall.)
Up a 600m ascent the next day to the highest point on our trip, Punta Union, where the two ranges are split and you can see both the sunshine and the shade!) A long descent ,hooray, and down into the valley of Quebrada Santa Cruz. Our last night again was cattle influenced as we had accidentely overwalked that day (nine hours in which we realised that we needed somewhere to sleep). So, spotting a field we decided that would do nicely. When we woke up we discovered we were,in fact, camping in a field of the biggest, meanest looking Toros (bulls) we have ever seen. Needless to say it was the quickest "pack and go" we have managed yet.
From Vaqueria (end point) to Yunguy in another collectivo...
# :1970 the biggest earthquake in the western hemisphere measuring 7.8 on the richter dislodged a main face on Huáscaruan mountain and completely buried Yunguy and half of huaraz...nasty.
We climbed to another Punta at 5800m and saw the wonderful Huáscaran mountain (biggest in Peru)and it's surrounding range and also the remains of a bus that had gone over the edge of the precarious steep mountain only a month before. We were hurtling down. Hearts in our mouths we were told this happens fairly frequently (If Peru is this bad....I do wonder about Bolivia who supposedly has the worst roads in the world!).
A funny little note aside, whilst on the collectivo (the minibuses they cram as many people in as humanly possible) a local woman got on, complete with a sack full of live guinea pigs ready for the pot. To my horror she sat beside Tim and I, so we had live guineas crawling all over our feet while cramped into this super packed van.
Tim made me laugh so much as everytime he moved his feet the guninea pigs squeeled (we think he must have been accidently stamping on them!) Well guess it made it easier for out little indigenous lady!
Anyhow, we finished our four day experience looking forward to hot showers, clean clothes and continuing our cow influence by eating Argentinan steak and drinking red wine!
Okay....time to crack on. Today is admin day and then it's onto Lima for a couple of days.
Love Tim an Nix