Huaraz, Peru: Hiking, Lagoon 69, tallest cacti and picturesque views

[004169]Huaraz is a small town north of the capital. I hadn’t heard about this place before travelling but so many people recommended it to me for hiking. If your willing to deal with the attitude, it is an magnificent place for hiking and seeing beautiful views.

A guy from the hostel picked me up from the bus terminal, then he drove to another bus terminal to wait for my friend to arrive. Her bus was later than expected so we waited for quite a while, whilst I chatted to the hostel guy. Soon enough, my friend’s bus strolled in and then we were taken to the hostel. We reserved a two bed room, which was decent enough but nothing special. The hostel was abandoned with basic interior. We wanted to pack our two days here so we searched for all the options. In the end, we opted to go to the glacier that day and the famous blue lagoon the next day.

We had no time to do anything except pay before being collected by a minibus to take us on our day trip. My stomach was groaning with hungry and in need of food  soon. As we were picking up other, I hopped out the bus to buy some bread and biscuit to satisfy my hunger. On the bus were all Peruvians so we were the only gringos, which meant that all the information was in Spanish. My Spanish is improving but I still can’t understand all of it. However, a guy on the bus spoke some English so he translated for us, which was super kind.

After a couple of hours drive outside of Huaraz, we reaching the entrance point, where we had some problem because of the predicted weather. Initially, they weren’t going to let us in but after some convincing, they did. We drove through the windy roads in the valley of Carpa. Here, it looked spectacular as the area was surrounded with desert, feeling abandoned, with these peculiar plants called Puya de Raimondi grows. I think they come from the cactus plant, where they are really thin and tall with spikes growing out of the plant stem. We stopped for a couple of photos before hitting the road again to the Pastoruri Glacier. The road climbed the mountain to over 5000m, where the peaks were full of snow, looking so picturesque.[007495]

Lots of tourists like to visit this glacier as it’s a unique experience because they can walk at 5240m without having to do a massive trek. When we reached the carpark, the air felt so thin with my lungs exploding to breath. I knew that the walk wasn’t too far but I was certainly going to die with me breathing heavily and constantly feeling out of breath.

The path to the glacier was short and not too uphill, making it comfortable to walk. However, I decided to ride a horse part of the way as I wanted to try something different. A cowboy looking guy helped me on the horse, trotting along while he walked. It was awesome, bouncing along with the horse. It took us just over half way up the path, which I wasn’t expecting as I thought it would take me the whole way for the price. Nevermind! The path was narrow with rocks either side and a magnificent view of the snow-topped mountains.

What seemed like a long time, I reached the glacier, which was beautiful with ice walls surrounding the lake. My friend and I took several selfies as well as a guy taking photos of us with our cameras. However, in normal photograph mode, there were others in the background. I just don’t understand. If I take a picture of someone else, I try to make sure there are no other people in it but I find others don’t do this. Anyway, I took some snaps.[002668]

We weren’t here that long before we had to turn around and return back to the minibus for our ride back to the town. On the way back, we took a rest in a small café, where we ordered some food as we were feeling hungry. I had papa a la huancaina, which I’ve just fallen in love with. It taste so delicious with the potatoes, cheesy sauce and eggs. The rest of the journey was uneventful with me dozing off in the back of the bus. My friend thought it was quite impressive how quickly I could fall asleep on a rock, windy road, rocking us from side to side but as a traveller you have to be good at sleeping anywhere.

When we reached Huaraz, it was chucking it down with rain, leaving us not much option but do essential things into town before heading back to the hostel. We needed to get some food and make a packed lunch for the next day so we headed to the indoor market and  bakery.

For the rest of the evening, we cooked some dinner of a vegetable pasta and chilled in our room before heading to bed as we knew we had to get up early the next day.

The following day, we rose early from our beds, chucking some clothes on and grabbing our food for the day. I was so excited about my day ahead as I had been told amazing things about Laguna 69 and it sure didn’t disappoint. At around 5.30am, we were picked up from our hostels being the first ones to enter the bus. After collecting other travellers from different location, the bus was too full of foreigners. Unlike the day before, the bus wasn’t filled with locals but rather gringos, which meant our guide also explained everything in English. Success!

[001231]For the first part of the journey I just dozed until we started swinging through the windy roads along the cliff-edge and surrounded by mountains. On the way at the entrance point of  Huascaran National Park, we paid our admission fee and continued on. We stopped on the way at the blue lake, dismounting the bus and take varies shots of the spectacular view with the bright blue lake and the snow-topped mountains. We rode a little further to the start of the Laguna 69 trek, where the landscape was just stunning. We started by climbing downhill slightly through a forest and over a river.

Then the space just opened up with greenery, cows, open spaces with mountains in the background. The first 45 minutes or so takes you through the valley bottom where there are a few stream crossings on strategically placed rocks before reaching the first set of switchbacks. After, we started the uphill track through windy, stony paths. With the high altitude, I struggled. Me and altitude  just don’t go well together. I was determined to overcome this difficulty and continue the path.  However, the route was simple to follow.

After the first steep path, it end with an open lake that led to another huge open space of grass and a river. At this point, I was feeling great again until the next set of uphill paths winding around the mountain. I took regular breaks with my friend to catch our breath before continue. I have never felt a struggle like this. Whilst huffing and puffing up those switchbacks, you can’t fail to be wowed by the stunning scenery all around. There are incredible views of snow-capped peaks, and huge contrasts in the colour and texture of the landscape as you get higher in elevation.IMG_1871

Eventually we reached the Laguna 69, which was just breath-taking which is literally hugged by snowy mountain peaks, jagged rocks and trickling waterfalls some 4,600 metres above sea level. We relaxed by the laguna taking in the view, talking to some other, taking photos and eating lunch. We were here for some time before deciding to return back to the start. Just as we were about to leave, our guide gave us some coca tea, which helps with altitude sickness. We started walking back, where we bumped into the guy who translated for us the day before. We continued along the path the way we came with ease as we were hiking downwards.

On the way back, we took a break at the other lake, chatting to two people who were also resting. While walking the rest of the road, the sky decided to open, pouring rain. I placed my waterproof on, so that I wouldn’t get as wet but I was soaked once the rain stopped. Slipping and sliding down the paths, talking to two Brazilians, we eventually made it to the start mid-afternoon. We waited here for a while for the rest of the group. Back on the bus, we were given some more coca tea before travelling the long journey back to Huaraz, where I slept most of the way.

Once we had dropped other people off, we ended in the main plaza, where we disembarked. We walked around town, going to the market and buying some food including a maracuya (passion fruit) cheesecake as well I bought a hoody to replace my stolen one.

Back at the hostel, the landlady was a little mad with us because we wanted to reheat our dinner and hang around before getting a taxi to the bus station for an overnight bus. However, we did it anyway and at the designated time, my friend and I hopped on our bus, taking us to Trujillo. Nothing much happened on the road except me sleeping.

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