Corderllia Blanca & the Huayhuash Trail
14.05.2011 - 30.05.2011
It was during the Huayhuash trek that we coined the phrase - there are always more ups - as each corner we turned, each hill we got to the top of always had another up hill. It also appealed to us metaphorically - in terms of there is always a better time..... you become very D&M after walking for 12 days in the Andes!
Day 109 14 May, 2011
The weight loss programme starts today. (W - C’s does anyway…)
We were up early and for the bus by 8:00. It was the usual mini van/bus, but we chose very bad seats with no leg room at all. The journey stared off with the bus driver ducking in and out of traffic, no change from yesterday. It took an hour to actually get out of Lima and onto the highway.
The highway is an interesting setup. It is right beside the beach and the dunes border right up to edge, it is very disconcerting when the dunes are towering over you.
The bus travelled up the coast for about 200km and then you turn right. The road then cuts across the mountains, at one point up to 4100m above sea level. We passed a town that seemed to be celebrating something and sold a lot of ‘cueso’ (cheese).
After about 10hrs we arrived in Huarez (pronounced Warez) and our hotel is about 15km just outside the city. The hotel is better then we expected. It is an old house that has been converted. It is a nice mix of colonial and rustic.
Dinner took ages to come even though we had pre-booked, then we went off to bed.
Day 110 15 May, 2011
We were supposed to have a sleep in today. C managed to hold out till 7:30. I was up at 6:30. After breakfast we dusted off our trekking gear and headed off up the hill. Everyone soon learnt the effects of altitude - heaving for breath after only 30m. It was hard going up hill but we managed. There is a big mix of ages in the group – between 25-73. So far it seems like a good bunch with lots of different kinds of experiences.
We walked to the top of one hill then around two more, through fields and between mud brick buildings. There are cows, dogs and pigs everywhere which means there is lots of poop to avoid.
After about 3.5 hours we made it to the ruins which is where we were to have lunch. It was a nice spot under a few gum trees.
After lunch and going through the museum we met the bus and made our way back to the hotel. After a quick change we went up the street to the hot springs. They were a lot different to those in Colca Canyon – the water was muddy and even though we went in the ‘over 25’ pool there were lots of kids splashing around. Still, it is supposed to have cured our rumatisim, muscle pains and ‘gripe’ (interpret that as you will).
We headed into Huarez for last minute shopping and then had a group dinner. At our end of the table we entertained ourselves by working out a few different plots for one of the guys’(a filmmaker) movie that he was going to make during the hike.
Day 111 16 May, 2011
We were up early and after a long wait for the delivery of lunches we set off toward Cordillera Blanca. We drove past a town was completely wiped out in the 70s after an earthquake caused a lake to break its banks and flood the valley.
After about 3 hours we stopped at the national park gate, then bumped along a treacherous road for another 30 mins. Once off the bus we started walking through a field past a few cattle men setting up their camp. After a while we reached the bottom of the range and then the endless switchbacks started and didn’t stop till we reached lake 68.
We stopped for lunch and had some interesting looks from the cows. After lunch we set off up and up and up the side of the mountain which was really steep. Eventually we made it to lake 69 which was amazingly beautiful (another one of those ‘oh wow’ moments). There were quite a few other hikers there – some were getting their gear off so C called them the sirens of lake 69….
It took forever to get back to the bus then it was a long and uncomfortable ride home. Some really badly dubbed videos were shown on the bus.
Day 112 17 May, 2011
Today was taken up by a really long bus ride further into the mountains. We stopped in a small town for last minute provisions and after lunch we got some great views of the Huayhuash (pronounced whywash) range.
We made it into camp at about 5pm and met the horsemen and the rest of the crew. Later that night we realised out how cold it was going to be!
Day 113 18 May, 2011
We survived the night (barely in the cold) only to wake up to a freezing morning. As we had breaky our camp was packed up and put onto the donkeys. We set off at about 8:45 and made it to Cacanampunta Pass (4,700) within about 3.5 hours.
We thought it was pretty hard going – until the donkeys and horsemen all caught up with us and were running along the track.
We descended into the valley and had lunch near a memorial for a polish explorer who died while trying to find the Amazon River headwaters.
After lunch we walked for another 2.5hours through lush green fields and got to the Janca camp at about 2pm. It was an amazing view of the mountains from the tents.
Later that arvo we went for a walk to a lake which was closer to the mountains, then we had to get back to camp through a very swampy field.
It was slightly warmer than last night but I (W) got a hot water bottle which helped. The wind during the night kept us awake.
Day 114 19 May, 2011
Today we walked to the Carhuachoa lake via the Carhuac Pass. It was an easier start but still a very long up hill for about 2.5 hours.
The view of the lake was phenomenal and our camp was perched high up on the side of the lake. C did the domestic duties – washing- with a brilliant backdrop.
We played a few games of a French racing car card game before bed. C opted for a hot water bottle as well tonight.
Day 115 20 May, 2011
We were up a bit earlier today. It seems to be getting easier to get up, re-pack and get moving.
We got down to the lake, crossed a stream (some not so well) and then walked along the edge of a valley for about an hour and a half.
Then the up hill began…
dodging donkeys, horses and cows, slipping on the gravel, it seemed to go on forever. But once at the top we then had a 4km trek along a gradual uphill bit until the last few hills before the pass. Finally we got to Carnessaro (the butcher) pass (4,600).
It was another long 3km up and down to camp.
Day 116 21 May, 2011
Today we left by 8:00am and went up for 2hrs. Each day I think we get fitter, but the cumulative fatigue is evident. We hit the pass (4,700) and while waited for everyone else we made plans to heli ski down some of the mountains from a different range called the sleeping lion.
We had lunch and a siesta a bit further down the range, passing Lake Viconga, and after another hour we could see camp from the top of a mountain (a long way away). Our guide had to pay some people to unlock a gate – the land we walk on isn’t national park, but community land so we have to pay the locals the camping fee each time we go into a different area.
Once we were settled into camp we set off to find the hot springs. It was a neat set up – two pools - one for ‘washing’ and one for swimming. The swimming one, however was way too hot to stay in so after dunking ourselves we wen to the washing one. Eventually we got back into the swimming one which was a lot cleaner.
We had a few games of ‘banana grams’ which is like scrabble before dinner. What kind of word is quar…
Day 117 22 May, 2011
IT SNOWED LAST NIGHT!!!!
We woke up (and heard it throughout most of the night) to a white wonderland which was beautiful, but cold.
I’ve managed to develop a good cough so combining it with walking up hill in altitude breathing is all the more harder. Part of the way into the walk today, I was really struggling to breath – and had a bit of a panic attack. Lots of people came to the rescue though and after some ventalin and sweet coca tea everything was ok.
We reached the Cuvoc Pass (5,050m) after about 3 hours.
It was quite cold at the top so we sheltered behind a rock. It was hard to manage getting down on really slippery skree but once we did we were welcomed to our lunch spot with hot tea. After another 2hour walk we got to our camp at Hcancapatay
Day 118 23 May, 2011
Our guide had offered to change the itinerary of the trek a bit so we could get to do an extra pass called San Antonio Pass. Today was the day so we left camp a bit early setting off up a very steep track – along some pretty hairy drop offs, before trekking the last few kms in snow (yes, it bought back not so welcome memories of Kili).
But the view and the elation at the top was worth every step.
We had some fun!!!
The view we got of Sula Grand was phenomenal. We also saw what has been named ’Simpson’s Rock’ because it was where one of the guys from the Touching the Void storey were found.
The descent from the pass was also pretty nasty and we traipsed along the side of the mountain before finding the lunch spot.
It was a very long walk down the valley to camp and C managed to fall and give his ankle a bit of a sprain – it didn’t turn out to be too bad but it was a worry so he ‘iced’ it in a stream for 20 mins.
We enjoyed a few drinks that night and really slept well!
Day 119 24 May, 2011
After packing up we walked further down the valley into the town of Huayllapa. This town is pretty amazing as there are no cars – just horses and donkeys. We got a few provisions from a very basic shop before going back up the hill to the track.
It was a long, hard up hill walk through a valley to lunch. The donkeys became a bit friendly after lunch – looking for leftovers. We made it to camp Huatia about an hour after lunch and C and I set about doing some washing in a freezing stream. The view from the toilet tents was pretty amazing.
Day 120 25 May, 2011
We had yet another early rise today and we set off up hill to a plateau. After about three hours we made it to Tapush Pass (4,800) passing a mining company base and the start of the road to Huayllapa. We got great views of Diablo mudo (the mute devil) from the pass.
We got into camp reasonably early and some of the group went up various mountains while C and another guy commentated.
The horsemen bought a sheep from a local farmer and it was prepared for our Andean bbq in a few days. It was another very cold night.
Day 121 26 May, 2011
We walked down and around into the valley then climbed and climbed to Yarcha pass. Although this was the ‘last pass’ it was by no means easy. The last hour involved climbing along skree which I (W) seem to have gotten better at.
Once at the top a few of us went up to a look out and had a brilliant view of the Hyayhyash range.
We made our way down and down and down along the side of the mountains passing beautiful wildflower bushes and made it to another alfresco hot lunch amongst the cows. It still amazes us how the chef manages to cook for so many people with barely any tools.
The walk after lunch seemed like it would never end. We had to go down about another 700m on a slippery gravel path. In some parts C had to go first to give me something to fall onto.
We made it into camp in the afternoon and had a great vew of the lake, mountains and glaciers (ABG!). We had a few beers that night to celebrate the ‘last pass’.
Day 122 27 May, 2011
Today was the only day that it wasn’t sunny but it didn’t matter too much as it was our rest day. Notwithstanding we still went for a walk around the side of the lake, avoiding the muddy patches, and up a hill to get a closer view of the glacier and mountain lake. It was another spectacular view. We tried to get some rocks into the lake until our guide told us that it’s what the locals do to upset the mountain gods to make it rain….. (it did rain a lot that afternoon).
Once back in camp we spent the arvo/evening hiding in our tents and playing cards.
Day 123 28 May, 2011
When someone tells you that ít’s an easy walk down by the via duct” you assume that it will be an easy walk…. Not a 5 hour terrifying (for me) walk along a cliff with a 100 m drop and scrambling in some parts!!!! That being said it was a beautiful walk down the valley and C and I got some time to ourselves to ponder the meaning of life (as if we haven’t had enough time already).
We were amazed at the engineering of the water pipe- but also seeing sheep grazing on the hill side.
The walk seemed to take forever and the downhill was endless, but we eventually got into the town of Llamac, and found our way to the soccer ground to where we were camping. We picked up a few beers along the way and got into enjoying our last afternoon in the andes.
The final of the fifa soccer finals were on so our guide managed to get a local store owner to let us come and watch it on her TV. Not that we’re into soccer – but it was just entertaining to sit in a dingy little room on wooden stools with all the horsemen and listen to them.
After the football we were taken to a local’s place to watch the ‘Patchamanca” which is a traditional Peruvian bbq where they heat up rocks then bury the meat in the ground to cook it. Yes, C took photos and we’ll probably have one of these in our yard within the next months. The lamb (sheep) was beautifully cooked.
Before dinner we had the tipping ceremony and C and I bought one of the horsemen’s ponchos (it really smells like horse).
Day 124 29 May, 2011
We were up a bit later than planned as our crew had had a big night and didn’t wake us up at the arranged time. Anyway we were packed up and on the road by about 7:30am.
The road out was terrifying (for me) as it was only one lane (total) so each time a car came the other way one of us had to reverse until there was enough room to pass. I also didn’t cope too well with the windy road.
After too many hours we made it back to Lima, going over the very scary sand dune highway again. We cleaned up, kind of re-packed and went off for dinner with the group. It was a fairly ritzy, but quite nice restaurant near some inca ruins.
Day 125 30 May, 2011
Our transfer picked us up at 9:00 and we were dropped into the chaos of Lima airport. There was some issues with our ticket, but eventually we were given our boarding passes, trudged through security and immigration and were whisked off toward Ecuador.
The length of time we’ve had in Peru has really given us an insight into the people and the culture. We’re still a bit peeved that we didn’t get to do the inca trail, but it leaves something to do in the future.
We landed on time in Quito, butt were the last off the plane, the last through immigration and our bags were sitting beside the carousel – but at least there was a man with a sign there to pick us up.
The hotel we’re in reflects the cost of the tour! It is quite old, but recently refurbished – in a very nice part of town. The people on our transfer were surprised that it was us getting off at this hotel!
We went in search of the supermarket for some provisions and found a cool restaurant that C claims has the best bbq sauce ever.