Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Breathless in Huaraz

After loosing all our Ecuadorian high altitude adjustment on the coast in Mancora we were now forced to acclimatise as quickly as possible when we moved into the Cordilleras Blancas (the world's second largest mountain range). We saw the most spectacular dramatic scenery as glaciers creeped down the mountains. The mountains took our breath away...literally!


The dramatic mountains of the Cordilleras Blancas


The scenery on the way to Huaraz
We had a great chilled time on the beach in Mancora but I was craving a change in scenery and we could not have got a greater change than the glaciated mountains by Huaraz, in central Peru. 

We took an overnight bus with bus company Etti who seemed convinced the best option to get to Huaraz was to Casma, the nearest stop of the Panamerican highway. We paid S/70pp for so-called "cama" (bed) which just as basic as all the other coach type buses and the chairs were very uncomfortable. We left about 6.15pm (45min late of course) and the journey took 13h.

I probably had one of the worst nights sleep on that bus as they again insisted on playing horrendous movies with blood, gore and screaming! This time it was the movie "Frozen" (or Death on the Mountain in Spanish). Seriously, what's wrong with these bus companies?!

When we arrived in Casma at 7.15am we found there was no bus station, just a tiny office with a woman selling tickets she told us there was actuallty no bus to Huaraz until 11pm that night! So we had to take a collective taxi (S/25) however, we were told in Mancora that buses ran "all the time".

The views on our way to Lagoon 69
We stayed in Caroline Lodging which was a cheap and decent hostel to stay. Not the cleanest but the owner was kind enough to make us breakfast even though we had missed it. 

Huaraz was situated at 3500m so we felt the effect having just come from sea level plus was coming down with a cold so all around not feeling the best, so it probably was not the best idea to go on a hike the following morning to nearly 4700m!!

The hike was to Laguna 69 (S/50pp), a supposedly moderate day hike... if you had acclimatised!


We went with our hostel at 6am and took a 3h drive into the mountains, stopping near the top to take some pictures of some perfect aqua blue watered lakes.

The most perfect blue water in these glacial lakes


Melt-water waterfall
Just before we got off the bus we had to pay a S/5 entrance fee to the Huascaran National Park. Then the hike began. We walked for about 45mins along the valley and then we started a very gradual incline and that's when it hit me, there was very little oxygen and any form of strain got me completely out of breath. And it was just the beginning!

We had 2hrs of gradually steeper slopes which was really taking a toll on us, we needed to stop every few minutes to TRY to catch our breath. Sadly, physical fitness had nothing to do with the effects of altitude. 

Despite getting mild altitude sickness the further we climbed, it couldn't take away some of the the glorious landscape we were walking through. The towering cordilleras were the highest I have ever been in and also the closest I have ever been to glaciers.

Taking a well needed break!
So close to the glaciers you could hear them crack!
We were so grateful to get to the top of the hill, we only had 100m to go! Then the rain came in...perfect timing for our lunch stop at the lake.

The final 100m!


After one of the most difficult hikes I have ever done, we reached the lake and it was worth it! 

Crystal blue water with a mountain backdrop capped by a cracking glacier with a melt water waterfall. Couldn´t beat that! We discovered that the lake was at 4680m high, no wonder we couldn't breathe!


We had an hour at the lake which was plenty time as the rain came in heavier and it began to get pretty cold. We just had enough time to eat, take photos and appreciate our effort!
This is my llama statue, he will be travelling with us through
all important landmarks in Peru
Thankfully going down hill was a breeze in comparison. The sun started to break through when we were half way down, giving us even better views. No matter how many time I looked up, I was blown away with the views!

A glacial lake on the way down from Lagoon 69
Just as we arrived back at the bus around 3.30pm, it began to down pour (good timing!). It was a long ride back to Huaraz with us all nursing our headaches caused by the altitude sickness. 

One of the best day trips we've done, with unbeatable scenery. But I would highly recommend to acclimatise for a couple of days first!

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