The pain of a suspected broken rib has forced me to get an X-ray, which reveals nothing. The radiographers speak no English and I’m not wanting to expend further funds, concluding it can’t be too bad if I can still breath and walk.
Huaraz wasn’t initially on the list of places I wanted to visit whilst in Peru… until recently, I was oblivious to its existence and was under the impression Cusco was the trekking capital of Peru… BOY, was I wrong… it’s Huaraz, for sure. The amount of hikes on offer here easily rival Cusco! Treks like Huayhuash (8-12 days) and Santa Cruz (3-4 days) are popular, as well as a long list of day hikes to glacier fed lagoons throughout the Huascaran National Park and Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
This place is the Patagonia of Peru (comparing the photos I’ve seen of Patagonia).
Today I do the Churup Lake circuit with a crew from the hostel. The crew consists of two British girls, Shir (outgoing Isreali born Canadian lawyer with 5 languages under her belt), Hallen (soft spoken Isreali girl, ex military), Jettie (curly haired Bio Physicist from Netherlands who enjoys cycling and who introduced me to Stroopwafel – a delicious ginger biscuit from Netherlands) & Tanner (super active/ outdoorsy Hawaii guy with a baby man bun, a lovely temperament and a gluten intolerance. He’s 2 years deep travelling and about a week off of commencing an Ayahuasca retreat). Together, we all get a collectivo from Huaraz and drive about an hour along a narrow, winding road, to the tiny town of Pitec.
We pay 30 soles for the National Park entry and begin to slowly chip away at Churup. It’s a steep slog in altitude to 4450m. In two of the steeper sections of the track are ropes fixed into the rocks, to pull yourself up. Reaching the top, Churup Lake is stunning! Surrounded by rocky mountains, cliffs and glaciers, it’s well worth the time and trouble.
Sitting down on a rock overlooking the beauty bestowed on us, Shir opens a pack of cookies, looks at Tanner and says, “Cookie? – oh you can’t”. Lol. Tanner is in preparation for an upcoming auyuasca retreat, meaning no meat, no sex, no spices, no sugar, limited screen/ electronics, no masturbation, no sex, no drugs (unsure about rock n roll tho 🤘🏾)
Along the narrow sealed road to and from the base of the Churup hike, there is only room for one car… so the freshly overturned car in ditch we saw on the way home was no shock. I did see a goose harassing a dog… that was shocking.
In town Tanner, Shir and I go for an all you can eat Indian place. Plot twist, they cook one dish of the day and you don’t know what it is til it comes out. To entertain ourselves, we look up our names on Urban Dictionary and read out the results… fits of laughter, followed by food comas.
4:30am and I’m still in bed when Sheenie wakes me to ask if I’m going to Laguna 69 today… Sheenie describes herself as a “one hike type of girl”, even renting a hiking pole/ pimp stick for the occasion.
A few hours of uphill hiking, taking in mountain views of Chacraraju, Pisco, Huascaran and Yanapacha, at 4600 mt, the grandest of visual gifts is bestowed upon me. Glistening white glacier, shining like the inside of a toasted marshmallow and the ever aqua alpine waters of Laguna 69. Parts of glacier feeding into the Laguna break away as I fill my empty water bottle with its plentiful icy cold supply. Fresh is best. The colour of the lake changes with the sun and makes for pleasant viewing.
I was first of our bus to reach the top, (despite my slow start) and first back to the bus at 2:20pm… Mainly bc I was impatient and ran a portion of the downhill… gotta get that adrenaline hit.
Today was incredible.
The downhill running yesterday made me miss running… made me miss oxygen… I felt alive again. I want more of that. Altitude sure has some magnificent and grand perks, yet it’s time to get to lower ground. Keen to get North and closer to Ecuador, I’m moving onto Máncora. It’s the next logical step. An Aussie couple in our dorm, Shinae and Toby, are leaving for Trujillo onto Máncora too. No ticket booked, I sway Sheenie to come with (aka carry her off the top bunk as she injured her knee/ankle… such a gentleman)… pack my bag and head to the bus station, where we see Josh, who I’d previously met in Copacabana, and who happens to be friends with Sheenie too. Small world. Tickets are purchased, bags checked in, now to get food. That was a mistake. The bus left the station whilst I was off hunting for agua y manzana’s. Fuck. So…. I resorted to chasing my bus, in a taxi. The conversation with the taxi driver consisting mainly of “rapido, catch linea autobus, necessito, aios mio”. Good Spanish Lena. Jumping out of the taxi, backpack and cowboy hat on, running down the street towards a red double decker bus, flailing my arms, yelling, “waitttttt”, as the doors of the bus door closes. A bus officer see’s me, re opens the door, checks my ticket and says, “vaminos”. Phew. Piling into my seat, I look around for the others. Sheenie is at the back of the bus and says, “did you just get on? Lucky we’re running late and haven’t left yet”… completely oblivious the bus very much left the station.
Onward to Trujillo to catch the night bus.