Huaraz and The Santa Cruz Trek

Huaraz Travel Blog

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Huaraz, Peru.
I got into Huaraz at 6 am on Saturday morning, on yet another night bus from Lima (its the only way to travel!). I checked unto my hostel and decided to forgo sleep since ive learned to function properly without it, it seems. Huaraz proved itself to be an uninteresting town, but it did offer some snow capped mountain views. You can´t fault the locals for the uninteresting architecture and the bland city design; this place was mostly demolished on May 31st 1970 in a massive earthquake. Fifty percent of the population died that day.
 
I walked around a bit and found a trekking agency and booked a 4 day trek, Santa Cruz, something i have had my eye on months before leaving NYC.
Sharing candy with the kids.
This turned out to be a very good idea.

The Santa Cruz trek is amongst the most popular treks in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. It offers views of 9 peaks, sparkling lakes and lagoons, and leads you thru the Punta Union pass 4,750 meters above sea level. To offer you a point of perspective the Empire State Building of NYC stands 385 meters tall. So yeah...
 
6am the next morning finds me outside the agency, all my bags strapped to various places on my torso. I left my big travel bag at the office and took around 3 kilos worth of stuff with me in my day pack. I learned from Salkantay, when you go into high altitude take only what you REALLY need. We took a rather lengthy bus ride from Huaraz to Yungay (which as obliterated by an avalanche in a matter of minutes during the earthquake of 1970) and from there another bus winding up up up into the mountains.
Reflected beauty.
 
I was introduced to three Israelies who would be trekking with me, Dean, Natalia, and Lilach. I don't care what anyone says about Israeli tourists, every single one i've met has been SUPER cool. It´s the french you need to watch out for (just kidding). We disembarked around noon, had lunch and quickly made our way down into a valley which would carry us into the high mountain passes.
 
 A couple of hours of walking took us thru a few small hamlets where we stopped to share candies and chocolate with the local children. Two small girls approached us and asked for medecine for their mother who was suffering from fever. I gave them what i had and watched the girls bounce away. We made camp at 3,800 meters that night and it was cold.
Camp the first night.
..very cold. We took some comfort in knowing that the next night would be 500 meters higher and told ourselves we were warm as we huddled in the cook's tent and ate some of the worst food i have ever tasted. 
 
 A few notes on altitude, if I may. At 3000 meters the amount of oxygen that is available to us humans is 71% of that found at sea level. So there is about 30% less AVAILABLE oxygen. That´s not to say the the oxygen isn´t there (it is till about 85 kilometers above sea level) but with increased pressure comes a decrease in the air you can intake. At 4750 meters above sea level the available count drops to 55%. Almost half of what you get at sea level, and half of what im used to as a life long bottom feeder in NYC.
The side effects of altitude acclimatization are as follows...dizziness, headache, nausea, prolonged shortness of breath, prolonged fatigue, vomiting, insomnia (which SUCKS after a full day of hiking) and exhaustion. In extreme cases agitation, anxiety or mental confusion, lack of coordination or imbalance. It is worth noting that i experienced about...well...all of the above to some extent or another on my Salkatnay trek when we reached 4,600 meters. Which would explain why i´d go on another trek...one that was bound to take us to 4,750m, right?
 

The second day started early and we slowly gained atltitude with every step. The landscape around us changed from green trees and lakes to dusty mountain rock.The sun kept us company as we ascended into the sky.
My body felt great, i didn't feel the altitude at all (altho i kept my pace deliberatly slow), and my eyes were alight with gorgeous scenery in all directions. The spectacular Taullirau mountain, which guards the Punta Union pass slowly revealed itself to us, it's peak flanked on both sides with smaller peaks that give it the appearance of a batman logo.
 
The last hour of ascent into the pass was hard going, but we made it a little past mid day. We took a break there, ate our packed lunches and took in the scenery. Blue lagoons, blue skies, white  clouds and massive peaks almost close enough to touch...words can not do these things justice. Take a look at some of my pictures, or the videos i'll attempt to upload.
 
 After that it was all down hill.
At the pass.
A few hours later we found ourselves at the second night's camp, a grassy patch of cow turded ground at the edge of a rapidly flowing stream. Our altitude was 4,250 meters and as soon as the sun dissapeared behind the mountains in a brilliant blaze of red and purple and orange the temperature dropped below freezing. Sleep was another night of partial dozing and waking dreams. When i awoke at 6am and climbed out of my tent i had to unzip thru a layer of frost. The ground was icey and my breath materialzed before me like the ghost of warm weather past.

We ate as quickly as possible, packed up, and rushed to get back to walking, knowing we would be warmer that way.

The third day ended up being our last. We were making good time and decided to push ahead out of the mountains instead of spending another night.
We had 23 kilometers to cover, but the ground was mostly flat before a gentle decent from 4200m to 3000m. We hiked thru a gorgeous valley filled with flowers of every shade red yellow and blue, past a huge azure lagoon being supplied by a majestic waterfall, and into golden fields. The sun blessed us with its rays, the wind kissed us with fresh mountain air, and the entire hike was nothing short of amazing. I found myself regreting our decision to leave a day early, i wanted to stay in the valley, perhaps forever.

Sadly, everything has an ending, or at least a new beginning and by 4pm we were out of the wild and at the small town of Cashapampa where we caught a collectivo back to Huaraz.

Up next, my last blog entry from South America (for this trip at least).
wolfrelic says:
Thanks!
Posted on: Feb 09, 2012
Glynnes says:
Cograts on being Today's Featured Travel Blog. Enjoy!
Posted on: Feb 08, 2012
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Huaraz, Peru.
Huaraz, Peru.
Sharing candy with the kids.
Sharing candy with the kids.
Reflected beauty.
Reflected beauty.
Camp the first night.
Camp the first night.
At the pass.
At the pass.
Sunset the second night.
Sunset the second night.
Dean, Natalia, and i.
Dean, Natalia, and i.
Leaving the valley.
Leaving the valley.
Taulliraju Mountain as seen befor…
4,416 km (2,744 miles) traveled
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photo by: latino28