My travel to Huaraz in Peru is kind of a blur. Which is totally fine, because it was an 8 hours bus ride, and I had only slept 90 minutes the “night” before, Thanks Lima! The one reason I was taking that Lima – Huaraz bus was for the epic trekking Huaraz offered, and the top reason many adventure travellers go to Peru at all. And now I can tell you, that Huaraz really is one of the best places to hike in Peru!
Day Activities from Huaraz Peru
Once the bus arrived in Huaraz, a city near the Cordillera Blanca region of the Peruvian Andes mountains at about 3,000m elevation, I met up with Denitza, a lovely friend of a friend, whose house I was staying at. At this moment, the altitude wasn’t getting to me, so I was glad about that, though oddly enough, walking uphill became a bit harder…
The next day I woke up early and went off on my first of many Peru treks, just a little day hike to Laguna Charup, maybe about 5 hours. ‘An intro to the Cordillera Blanca’. Right.
Trekking to Laguna Charup
First off, I got lost getting to the actual trailhead for the Laguna Charup trail, minus point Emily. I knew something was wrong when the trail I was walking to the trailhead ended abruptly. I then decided to go up. Which I did, and happened upon a donkey pasture in a small family farm. Then I tripped through a llama pasture, where llamas were getting milked. I did not stop to help.
Right after the milking llamas, I found the trail head. Easy peasy, turn left at the llamas!!
I started up the trail, and wow that altitude thing is real. Like, for real. The trail started at 3700m, and ended at 4,300m. You do the math. About half way up I met two sisters from England, Claire and Helen, who were also breathing heavily and asked if I had sunscreen. I did not. We were all in trouble.
From then on, I hiked with them and a beautiful friendship was henceforth created. By the time we got to the top of the trail, the amazing Laguna Charup, we were basically bff’s. Sunburnt and exhausted bff’s.
Laguna Charup is a beautiful lake on the edge of the Cordillera Blanca Andes range. Right behind the lake, is the peak for Mt. Charup, which we did not summit. 4,300m was high enough. We hung out at the lake for quite some time, basking in the glory of having huffed it up to the top and enjoying the view of the peak itself. Also basking in, you guessed it, the sun. Which was 4,300m closer than our pasty bodies were all used to. You see where this is all heading right?
By the time the three of us started heading down, we had decided to do more trekking in Peru together and started a game plan. We made it to the trailhead just peachy, and then promptly got lost getting back to the road. Again with the wandering through bucolic pastoral scenes. Travel Peru could sponsor some signs…
Finally we asked a farmer where we were going and he pointed to a path and said follow it. We didn’t see a path, apparently we were standing on it, so we just went in the direction he pointed until we did see it. Or imagined it. We did get back to the closest village where we could get picked up, and Helen’s Spanish came in super handy, because this Canadian girl had to use el banio.
Canyonning in Huaraz Peru
Despite nasty sunburns, we still went out cannoning the next day, which for the record is “just like rappelling”. That was how the tour guide explained it anyways, while I was standing 45 degrees tilted off the top of a gushing waterfall. Awkwardly.
I had rappelled before, but maybe I’m just getting older, or maybe I should not do such things when my knee pits ache, or maybe its being doused with a waterfall, but canyonning, not so much my cuppa tea. After one such experience, I felt done with canyonning in Peru, so I climbed back up the side of the cliff. Not a great idea as I ended up with two hands and about 700 prickles in them. When one smites the Canyon Gods, they smite back.
Where to Stay in Huaraz Peru
Trekking a Hidden Gem of Peru: the Qhilcayhuanca Valley Trail
When trekking Peru, many people who come to Huaraz to hike the Huayhuash Trek, but we hadn’t planned well enough for that, nor did I have the time. So with a local Huaraz tour company, we took off at about 6am to go on a two-day overnight hike in the Cordillera Blanca, the Qhilcayhuanca Valley hike, in the Huascaran National Park. Which sounds like a nice, valley hike. Right…
Clair, Helen and I got on famously. Despite confusion and irritation at our situation, we hung out, for 9 hours, in a tent, and had a blast together. We actually forgot that we were angry with the agency, and really did make lemonade. Actually we made mate de coca, which I’ll talk about later.
The phenomenal scenery of the Peruvian Andes over the two days was phenomenal; more snow capped mountains than I thought you could be surrounded by, dramatic peaks, mountain lakes and rivers, cows. Just amazing. It may have been the most amazingly gorgeous hike I have ever been on, and that’s actually saying something. It was definitely also the hardest and most dangerous (imagine me gripping onto the side of a mountain of loose rock and gravel thinking about the 1996 Everest expedition. Yah, awesome mental clarity Emily).
But without getting into it, all three of us made it to the summit of the trail and the scene of the surrounding Cordillera Blanca range was breathtaking. We had incredible 360 views and it was really enough to forget about the last 4 hours of my life. It was also really cold. It’s windy and cold at 5,300 meters, did you know that? Ironically, despite all the wind and cold air, there is seemingly very little air to actually breathe. Now I know why it takes people 3 months to acclimatize enough to climb Everest, and no, I never want to climb it myself. Esta bien.
Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca
Coming back down the other side, I took some more pictures and a couple of videos of the somewhat scenic vista. And then it got dark. Yes, another point to ponder on my scathing Trip advisor lambasting. I very rarely raise my voice to people, sober, maybe the only person I have ever really yelled at is my brother, who, lets face it, deserves it like all the time.
But when the guide kept asking me if I was ok, in Spanish, I finally blew and very loudly and firmly said, in English, “No, I’m not fucking ok, I’m hiking in the dark. Do you know how dangerous this is!?!?”
For some reason he stopped asking me after that, apparently he understood at least one of those English words. Also, an interesting fact; when I am angry and try to speak Spanish, I just speak French. I was doing this, and Helen, who does speak Spanish, elbowed me and said “Dude that’s French”. Whomp whomp.
The good news is my French really comes out in a clinch.
When we made it back to Huaraz, and after a thorough tearing apart of the dude at the agency, we all ran to get our night bus back to Lima that was leaving very shortly. No, there was no time to shower. After a two-day hike that took us 25km and up and down 2,300 metres, we didn’t shower before getting on an 8 hour night bus. And we each had people who had to sit next to us. Showering is overrated.
A Day in Lima Peru
After arriving in Lima, I bid farewell to my young travel protégés who were heading off in a different direction, and I nestled into Lima for the day awaiting my night bus to Arequipa.
Of note, I managed to talk a hostel into letting me use their facilities to wash my body of the mountain debris as well as sit on their couch for a while reading. People are nice to you when you look pitiful.
For the rest of the day I wandered around a few neighbourhoods in this Peruvian capital. I checked out a museum, and inadvertently got into a queue of people eagerly awaiting the release of a new coin into circulation from the Peruvian Mint. For the first time in my life I was the coolest person around. The dirtiest, but the coolest.
I went through a few massive cathedrals, a touristy habit which always leaves me with the question: How do people make it through full masses with absolutely no heat in there?!?!?
Instead of wandering aimlessly, I really wish I had have known about a day trip to the Palomino Islands to swim with the sea lions in Lima! How cool! Next time…
I also wandered through the market, which is another touristy habit I have. Don’t ask me why, but I find the meat section of developing country markets fascinating!!! And disgusting, obviously. Fascinatingly disgusting. It is normally also the only part of any shopping exploit where people don’t attack you to buy their wares. Those butchers take one look at me and know I have zero idea of what to do with that entire dead goose they have swinging above them. And by entire, I mean, entire.
Driving through Lima is terrifying. I got into a taxi, with what looked to be a calm, elderly gentleman who needed glasses to look at the spot on the map. He then took off like he was Vin Diesal in the next car movie. I thought I was going to die, after escaping that windy mountain slope, in the hands of an old man in a tin box on a Lima street.
Lima is infamous for being somewhat dangerous. Apparently people are mugged there, just like in every other Latin American city, all the time. Having walked around all day, I could attest that I did sometimes feel like I was going to get mugged, but I think my leprosy and the bright blue touristy rain jacket kept all would-be-villains at bay.
Peru Travel Blog – Hiking in the Andes edition
My first time buying coca, the root of cocaine, was rather uneventful. I simply picked a bag out of a bin and gave the lady selling it $.25. Of course, the form I bought it in was the coca leaf, which can either be chewed directly, or steeped into a coca tea that really helps with altitude sickness. And I believe it, I never really got sick; just unable to breathe. Which I guess is a kind of sick.
Since I have now been at 5,300m, it is officially the highest I have ever been. The deepest I have been under the water is 50 meters. Air sure is far more forgiving than water.
In speaking the not so fluent Spanish that I do, I don’t always know what I am saying yes to. This can lead to interesting menu choices. But, waste not want not, if it is free or I already paid it, I’m eating that shit! The most ironic meal choices this far came n the form of mushroom soup, which I ate on a hike and downed like it was my job, and even said ” This tastes amazing” mainly because it was warm. You can ask my Mom and Dad about my adamant distaste for mushrooms and all things mushroom related. Devils fungus.
Bus Travel in Peru
My second ironic food serving was on a bus, when I ate a sandwich and for dessert…rice pudding. My mom adores rice pudding and makes a damn good version of it, or so she says. I have never really taken to it. I am sure she would be dismayed that the rice pudding that I finally ate came in a plastic container on a bus in Peru instead of her homemade delicacy. Sorry Sue!
I discovered how awesome travel on Peruvian Cruz del Sur buses is. A very welcome discovery. The seats are basically Laz-Y Boys, and the food? Great! How about the BINGO game??? Bingo? You ask, yes, BINGO. After lunch we all were handed out BINGO cards and the ‘bus attendant’ (I don’t know if that’s what we would call them, they are like flight attendants but on wheel) started calling out numbers. I unfortunately did not win, but it did make me practice listening to numbers in Spanish, which is always welcome. My lack of Spanish means that only do I not always know what I have ordered in restaurants but I also don’t always know how much I’m paying for things. So despite not getting the numbers, I still won.
My Peruvian Chemical Peel
By the time I made it to Lima, my sunburn had morphed, and I had what appeared to be a bottom lip riddled with leprosy. I had joked earlier with my best friend Lindsay about it being mouth herpes (which was a classic story from our time in Thailand. Disclaimer, neither of us had then, nor do we have now, mouth herpes), but really, this lip thing was gnarly. I also had a chin that was wasting away due to sunburn, along with scratches on my face from rogue bushes. It was just a hot mess, in the least hot way it could be. There will definitely not be any love connections in Peru.