South America | Peru | Central Peru | Huaraz – Hiking up the trail instead of down…
Claudine (Swiss med studet I have been traveling with) and I had big plans to head to the Laguna Churrup, near Huaraz this morning. It is a good acclimitization hike for the altitude, and is supposed to be beautiful. However, they recommend you start early….
I didn´t sleep well in our new hostal last night (the masses of dogs that sleep during the day, and roam around fighting and barking during the night is unbelievable), so I woke up unhappy and tired. Claudine didn´t sleep well either, so we bailed on heading to Churrup and slept in until 8:30.
This meant that we could only do the hike to the Wilkawain ruins just outside of town near Monterrey. The guidebook said, catch a collectivo that says Wilkawain – Monterrey on the window. So, first what is a collectivo, you may be anxiously wondering? These are old toyota minivans outfitted with lots of unstable seats, barely bolted to the floor any longer because the plethora of gravel roads have shaken the heck out of them. They stop randomly, but you know where they are headed (eventually) by the stickers they place on the front windshield with their destination name(s). We have to walk outside of the city center to the bridge that crosses the river to catch the one we need. In short time we see one marked Monterrey and jump on board.
I turn to Claudine and say, humm, this didn´t have Wilkawain on it did it? She replies no, I didn´t know we were going there…I thought we were going to Monterrey. OK, not sure where this got confused but it did, and we get let out at the bottom of the trail. That´s right some 750 m below where we want to be, standing by the thermal baths that the guidebooks recommend to go to AFTER you finish your downhill hike. And well, the downhill part is recommended so you don´t overexert while also getting used to the altitude up in the mountains. The trail doesn´t look so bad, so we head off.
Shortly up the path, it splits, we go left. Asking a Quechan woman washing clothes outside of her house, we get clarification, that no (dumb gringo) we needed to go right. Back we head to the split and look up to a very steep path. I hide behind some bushes and take off my long underwear, as I can tell with some huffing and puffing, I am going to get hot very soon. We follow a lovely stream up the hill, and then reach a sort of clearing. At this point the trail is a challenging mixture of scrambling over rocks and steep hiking. I mutter to myself, as I start to get breathless, feeling somewhat dizzy from the altitude too.
We finally reach a small chapel and sit in a clearing behind it, when lo and behold here comes Louis and Darrell, the Spanish and British guys we met the night before at the Picollo restaurant. They were hiking down the trail, like smart people. Of course, they were surprised to see us, a) walking up the trail and b)on this particular trail since we had planned to go to L. Churrup.
We explained our not so un-ordinary night in Peru, with dogs barking their asses off at the slightest thing at an unholy hour, which gave us good reason to sleep in and forget about Churrup. A short conversation later, and we seem to have Darrell interested in joining us (good to have more than just the two of us) for our hiking trip to the Cordillera Huayhuash. We don´t have any solid plans yet, but suggest he meet us for dinner-drinks at the Picollo again at night to discuss.
The trail gets much better after our short break, and the path flows along some beautiful high fields with animals and crops. We have incredible views of the mountains in the distance, dark clouds gathering for the afternoon rains to come. We stop eventually and ask some locals how far are we from Wilkawain (and besides that detail, are we heading in the right direction, we had no clue). Confirmation recieved that we are only 1 km away, and we hike on passing through the yards of some Quechua families out milking their cows, playing with dogs, doing laundry, planting crops, etc. All very friendly to us too, saying Buenos Tardes to us and smiling big smiles. We arrive in a dirty little village up the mountain from Huaraz, and wait for the collecivo to come back down the hill on its way to Huaraz. Climbing in, we sit in the front. Not a good choice b-c this is where everyone we pick up along the road wants to sit. So instead of climbing back to the rear, more and more people climb onto our seats. Forget about personal space at this point. We laughing at ourselves the whole way back.
After warm showers (it is the small things in life that I am appreciating these days) we head to the Picollo, meet up with Darrel, allow him to exercise his Type A-ness by discussing our hiking plans (he was a director at KPMG, and has been traveling for the past two years, I suspect the Type A-ness needed some exercising). The ending resolution is that if we want Darrel joining us, because he is limited by time, we have to shorten the trip somewhat, and also, leave the next day. This is somewhat of a rush, but we have plans to meet Martin to go on a hike in the morning at 7 am. We figure we´ll break the news to him at 7, see if he can handle it and perhaps, off we will go getting supplies, etc. ready.
We have a beer to celebrate, head to get chinese food (Chifa here in Peru), have a heck of a time ordering just vegetables.
Me: Sin Carne por favor (without meat please)
Waiter: con pollo? (with chicken)….
Me: sin Carne, sin pollo, sin cuy (I will explain this one later, but in the meantime if anyone is actually reading this long journal entry, and you can find out what Cuy is, I will give you a special prize from S. America)
Waiter: ????? (look on his face is clueless)
Louis: (fluent spanish speaker stepping in at this point)spanish diatribe to follow to explain my extraordinary eating habits, basically that I am vegetariano…
Phew! Stuffed later we spoil ourselves by taking a taxi back to the hostel instead of walking back in the rain.