Published: October 25th 2007October 24th 2007
After conquering Cotopaxi, Trevor and I decided we had sufficiently experienced Ecuador. We spent a couple of recovery days in Baños and Cuenca, and then spent 36 long hours on three buses to Peru. We even passed through Cañon del Pato, where our bus teetered on the edge of what could be the second most dangerous road in the world (another in Bolivia already claimed the title) and passed through 32 man-made tunnels. It wasn´t pretty, but luckily there was a deliciously tart and frothy pisco sour and the first dark cerveza of the trip waiting for us in this little mountain town of Huaraz, Peru...
One guide book about South American customs claims that foreigners are seen as ¨very special people¨ in Peru. So when three indigenous people in a row pointed at us saying ¨gringo¨ as we explored our sweet new city, we of course responded with, ¨Oh, that´s like VIP, right? Cool.¨ Turns out the Peruvians in Huaraz are warm and friendly folk and some of the indigenous outfits are the most interesting we´ve seen. They´d just like to sell the gringos (a term coined for North Americans, but used for all white people) hats, scarves, gum
drops, giant pigs in a blanket and orange juice - usually all at the same time.
When we had almost fully recovered from our crazy volcano summit, we prepped for another foray into the mountains. We got some warm, fuzzy Alpaca socks (stylishly ed in the pics) and some supplies, and set out to find the Santa Cruz Trail in the Andes. We were tired before we even got to the trail head... First we caught a colectivo as crowded as our buses. The vehicle could safely fit 13 people. With a few extra makeshift rows, crates of apples, strawberries and cilantro at our feet, and our backpacks tied to the top, we had 22 passengers plus a baby or two with squished room only. As you know, this is the usual transportation craziness that ensues all across Latin America. But for a devout seat belt-wearer like myself, I´m still just astounded.
The driver honked his horn the whole way to announce that, of course, we still had room, while a little recruiter literally shoved and shuffled more people on. If they weren´t headed our way, he tried to convince them to come with us. (Want to come
to Caraz? Come on, it´s only a couple hours away. We´re all going! It´ll be fun!) From Caraz, we crowded into another station wagon with seven other people to Cashapampa (great name), a mountain village at the end of another equally trecherous canyon road. We kicked off our trek through a mystical doorway to the mountains and hightailed it up a canyon and into the Cordillera Blanca.
It only took two hours of steep hiking through the boulder fields, across rolling pastures, and past double-barreled waterfalls before the rain kicked in and we quickly discovered that the ¨rainy season¨ does mean mid-day rain that continues into the night. Our first camp site was called Llama Corral, and there was plenty of evidence of llamas, donkeys, horses and cows. (The place should be called Poop Corral). We found a clear spot in time for a rain-free and glowing sunset, and were surprised to discover that a family lived nearby - Pepsi, beer and puppies were quite the unexpected camping treats!
Day 2 was much less taxing and included more tent relaxing, since we stopped short of the mountain pass to sleep at lower altitude. We ventured out later that
A Standard Load
We have figured out that the women work so hard here that they look much older than they are. For example this woman is only 25.
evening and discovered that the mystical door led us straight to Narnia. It snowed for most of the night and turned our trail into a river bed the next day! We had to hop from rock to rock to continue the trek, and then climbed up the mountain pass in slushy snow. We stopped just short of the summit to admire the view and then headed back because our shoes were soaked and the other side was bound to a slushy snow cone of a ride.
We enjoyed one more night of camping and Trevor was in his element the entire time. He took great care of us in the wilderness. He prepped us with everything we needed and pitched our sweet Northface Rock 22 tent in mere seconds. He manned the camping stove and made us hot chocolate and soup by day, delicious pasta dinners and hot tea by night, and even filled water bottle heaters to keep us warm until the next day. What a mountain man! We sloughed through a misty, rainy morning on our last day with just enough sun at the end to show us how far we´d been. The we were treated to
It had about 12 inches on either side for a safety margin. It didnt help that our driver was not following the nonexistent speed limit.
an equally chaotic, crowded and lengthy car ride back to town. Pack ´em in...!
There are more photos below