Monday, 12 May 2014

Santa Cruz Trek, Huaraz

Huaraz is a city I have visited before, back when I was 18 with a group from school on a world challenge expedition. I have great memories of the trip and also the beautiful mountain ranges, so I was really excited to head back there! 

We arrived off our night bus and headed through the crowd of taxi drivers to our hostel which wasn't too far away. It's terrible to admit it but I barely remembered the place. The city had changed from my previous visit, for one I didn't see a single person selling live guinea pigs on the street!! 

Our first mission was to find a trek... we had decided with the time we had to try to do a route called the Santa Cruz, four days through the Cordillera Blanca, all we needed was a guide and hopefully some donkeys!! After a bit of research and talking to a few company's in town we found Huascaran, who had a good reputation and a group trek leaving in a couple in days. So we signed up, yay more trekking... 

Our warm up walk and posing dogs

The hostel cat

The next day we set out on a nice little warm up walk on the Cordillera Negra with Hector, who would also be our guide for the Santa Cruz. It was a beautiful walk but quite tough (altitude is such a killer), with the added bonus of two stray dogs who adopted us and joined us for the whole 3 hours (even posing for photos along the way). I was pretty worried after this warm up walk, I wasn't feeling particularly fit and the altitude wasn't helping, but Hector assured us we would be fine! After the walk We decided to spend the remainder of our time in Huaraz preparing for the trek (basically I slept for a day and a half). 

Giant pre-trek pancakes from Cafe Andino 

On the morning of the trek I wasn't feeling massively organised, we were running a little late for our 5am start and I managed to break a lot of glass in the communal kitchen just as we were leaving... But once we arrived and were loaded onto our combi to the start point I settled down and started to get excited (well as excited as one can get about camping)!! The drive to the beginning of the trek was pretty high up and had some amazing views!! We also met the rest of our group, Kimberly, Fiona and Steve, who were all very lovely with lots of great stories!! Kimberly was in the peace core so had been living in Peru for almost two years (and spoke spanish - super helpful) and Steve her dad was visiting for a two week holiday with his girlfriend Fiona. 

Heart shaped lake on our way to Punta Union pass

At the top

The first day of the trek itself was pretty nice, mostly flat (ish), very green and lush. Towards the end of the day as we climbed a bit higher we also started seeing huge snow capped peaks. I was definitely enjoying not having to carry my big bag (thank you little donkeys) and having a chef to prepare our food, this was luxury trekking!!  

The next day was the big one, we were heading over the punta union pass at 4750m. This was an incredibly long hard day, about 9 hours in total I think with about 7 hours of uphill (some of it very steep). The last 300m up in particular was actually hell, I wasn't sure I would make it and I was breathing like someone who smokes 40 a day!! The views at the top were stunning, we were lucky with the weather and could see all the way down the valley ahead of us. Hector was also kind enough to lead us through a little ceremony to thank Pachamama (mother earth, who is very important in Peruvian culture) offering her some coca leaves and sweets.

We made it!! And look at our amazing sign
A view down the valley

Day 3 was much more relaxing, heading down the valley via a mirador (basically a mountain view point, which was unfortunately covered in cloud ), a couple of lakes and past a 'desert' created by a huge landslide a few years ago. This day was one of my favourites as the valley is gorgeous and our campsite that night had a great waterfall view.

The 'desert'

The Valley

The Photographers nightime waterfall

Tent time

Day 4 was our final day, much shorter than the rest (thank god - I was exhausted). We continued down the valley which got very dramatic with steep cliffs till we reached our end point, a nice little village where we ate our last lunch together before getting a combi all the way back to huaraz for a well deserved nap! We celebrated that evening in the Huascaran office with a couple of very tasty well deserved pisco sours!! 

The whole gang
Post trek french toast at California Cafe

The next day we had to leave Huaraz, I felt quite sad saying goodbye for a second time. On our bus journey The Photographer and I vowed to head back again one day to tackle the Cordillera Huayhuash (especially after we got some amazing views of it from our bus). 



Summary

Location: Huaraz and The Cordillera Blanca 

Hostel: Alps Huaraz, a pretty good hostel, lots of space and cute hostel cats.
Highlights: All the mountains.

Lowlights: Camping.. Though it was a bit more luxurious with our tents being put up for us and 3 course meals!

Recommended restaurants: For a wonderful taste of home and post or pre trekking treats California Cafe or Cafe Andina. 

Profile pictures: a few, from the first day before my hair got gross!! 

Epiphany's: 0

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