Published: July 20th 2012July 17th 2012
Our first impressions of Peru along the bleak barren coast were now a ten hour overnight bus ride behind us. And what a contrast. Where as a dusty desert defined our last few days, now snowy spiraling peaks and picturesque mountain villages predominated our new Peru. Arriving in Huaraz at 4:00 A.M., we hopped a taxi to the Casablanca Hostel ($15 a night including continental breakfast ) and were surprisingly given early morning check in at no extra cost. We promptly crashed.
Huaraz is the place to go for trekking and serious mountain climbers. Just outside town are many towering peaks poking the sky at 20,000 feet and higher. These granite gifts from God seduce you to get outdoors, sign up for treks and spend time wondering how insignificant man is beneath these behemoths. Wasting no time, Amei and I signed up for the four day Santa Cruz Trek at about $40 a day which included three donkeys, a horse, equipment, cook, wrangler and a guide as well as ten other trekkers. Picked up at our hostel at six, we drove past Incan villages already bustling with commercial activity. After an hour we left the paved highway and
began a steep two hour ascent to the entrance of Huascaran National Park. We were introduced to the pack animals, paid our $25 park fees and off we set with Juan our guide leading the way. The trail rises quickly from 10,000 feet, immediately informing your lungs and legs that nature knows no wussies. Being the oldest trekker at 52, I worry about trailing the pack and being an embarrassment to all us middle agers. I also think fifteen years at a desk job just maybe has set me up for a massive coronary high up in the Andes. No helicopters to the rescue around these parts. I push pessimism aside and just settle in to an adequate pace. Amei delightfully reminds me that our trek is 26 miles long, that on day three will reach Punta Union Pass at 15,500 feet and did I remember to email the kids to tell them where will be. I think maybe six feet under by day four. Anything else honey!
The Santa Cruz trek is really really worth it. For a bit of sore thighs, altitude headaches, sleeping bag backaches, horrible hygiene, your given the opportunity to gape, marvel,
and basically revel in natures massive and sublime creations. Highlighting some of the peaks are Alpamayo (19,500 feet) considered the most beautiful mountain in the world and Artesonraju (19,800 feet) the mountain used by Paramount Pictures as their logo before movies. And always in the distance looms Huascaran (22,200 feet), remembered for when a 1970 earthquake dislodged its glacier smothering the town of Yungay and instantly killing its 25,000 residents. Amongst these giants are gorgeous glacial lakes, long waterfalls, and remnants of massive landslides. Simply nature at its best. And as a bonus, our Peruvian guide, cook, and wrangler made the trek enjoyable by displaying warmth, kindness, good humor and genuine hospitality. However and to be honest, by day four I was ready for a shower, a bed and sit down restaurant. That would surly come, for Huaraz offers weary trekkers comfortable lodgings, good eats especially the street food and coca leaves if need be to soothe tired torsos. Next stop Lima.
There are more photos below