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After passing through Lima and taking care of some logistics, we headed to the mountain town of Huaraz to do some hiking.  We’d already done plenty of great hikes on the trip, but had not yet done anything over 4 days. What’s more, we’d avoided guides every time and carried all our own gear and food. This time we thought we’d do an 8 day hike and treat ourselves to a guide and a mule!

We’d heard that Huayhuash was one of the better hikes in the world, made famous in part by the book/movie Touching the Void. We organised to go on an Israeli tour (cheaper, with basic service- it is weird, in South America they seem to have one price for Israelis and another for Europeans) and the group dynamic was pretty good.  There were 5 others apart from us –

Elan and Tom- two young guys (24) who’d just finished 5 years in the army and were on a long trip to celebrate. They came armed with plenty of self confidence, a fast independent hiking style, a good sense of humour, not much subtlety and a big bag of pot.

Sasha- a softly spoken intellectual guy travelling solo who seemed to live in his own strange world and was a little desperate to make friends but was certainly well meaning and considerate.

Rutem- A beautiful self absorbed girl on her way to Brasil to further her practice of Capoeira, she was also warm and friendly with a propensity to ask questions before thinking for herself.

Chitem- A pleasant waif like girl who seemed very ill-suited to such a venture. After day one she insisted on riding the horse for the rest of the hike.

Then there were our hosts-

Lucie, the guide, was absolutely brilliant. An intelligent, dynamic 28 year old Peruvian who (amazingly for South America) was still single, without kids and fiercely independent.

Semillon – sported an impressive handle bar moustache and was a lovely, warm and gentle character who acted as sous chef and mule handler.

Galem- a cheeky, knock about 15 year old with a ready grin and sideways cap who helped out with the mules, tents and odd jobs.

The campsites were usually just over 4000m and we normally hiked through a pass of about 5000m during the course of the day. Most of the campsites were idyllic locations, by a glacial lake or river and with beautiful views. Some of the days were quite tough and would have been extremely hard with proper packs- we were well acclimatised to the altitude though from our time in La Paz and it was a joy hiking with only a day -pack and cameras. We got into a routine of heading into the communal tent (partly cause it was the warmest place) in the early evening to help Lucie with the cooking. She always declined, so we just hung out with her and Semillon and chatted until the soup was served, sharing our wine on the odd occasion when we had some.

The best days were days 3 and 5. On day three we passed 3 glacial lakes and when we reached the pass we hiked up another half an hour to a lookout point where the panoramic views were spectacular. Day 5 included two passes, the second was the famous San Antonio mountain which was surrounded by coloured rock, snowy peaks and glacial lakes. It was all pretty beautiful- maybe I should just shut up and let you look at the photos.

In between those two days (which were quite tiring) we had a relaxing day which involved a 4 hour hike in the morning to a natural hot springs where we camped. We arrived at 11am and had the rest of the day relaxing between the hot springs and the tent. Elan and Tom turned the hot springs into a party zone with ipod speakers, wine and pot until they were shut down by the complaints of some more moderate hikers who (strangely enough) wished to enjoy the serenity of the setting. We made what was a very worthwhile effort to get up the next morning and enjoy the hot springs to ourselves at first light before the long day’s hike on day 5.

Day 7 was not without its dramas. Four of our group went missing and Lucie had to go in search of them on the horses. (Chitem practically had to be dragged off one horse and made to make the last few hundred metres to the top of the pass). It turned out that Elan and Tom (who had charged off ahead as usual) had gone the wrong way but ended up at the campsite via a different pass through dumb luck, hours ahead of the rest of us. Sasha and Rutem had got lost twice but Lucie rode to the rescue.

At this point we had been trying to negotiate the purchase of a lamb from some of the rural folk in the area for two days. The plan was to build a rock oven and cook it pachamanca style. Even though we offered to return the wool, we couldn’t agree on a price, despite (or perhaps because of) the famous Israeli hard bargaining method. We had even built the oven when news of the final failed negotiation filtered through to the camp and we resigned ourselves to more rice and potatoes. It would have been a fabulous finale to an excellent trip.

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2 Comments

  1. Great post. Superb photos.

  2. You certainly have hiked in some amazing places. Fantastic. I would have been riding the horse too!


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