Huanchaco & Mancora, Peru & Banos, Ecuador - Hiked out, we travelled to the coast for a bit of down-time and first visited a little fishing town called Huanchaco, where we surfed and ate ceviche. The curious objects in the pictures are Caballitos (traditional fishing boats made of reed). Mancora was our last stop in Peru, where we tried SUP on the nice and easy break in town. We also went humpback whale watching, where we saw several whales which head to the warmer waters this time of year to mate and give birth. Unfortunately I didn’t get many pictures - my camera zoom is dead - so I’ll leave the nature pics to the pros. From Mancora, we travelled into Ecuador where our first stop was the lovely town Cuenca and then moved on to Banos. We relaxed in the hot springs and did a bike ride around the area to see some of the many waterfalls. En route we found my new favourite drink - orange and carrot juice and some of the biggest carrots we’ve ever seen…
Huayhuash, Peru - Days 9-10 - Day 9 was a long climb up the valley to our camp at Gashpapampa at 4,550m. The weather was more changeable than Scotland with sun one minute and snow the next. On day 10, we climbed to Llaucha punta pass (4,850m) where we had views of the Cordillera Huayhuash, Yerupaja and Siula Grande’s West face (which Simpson and Yates climbed before the accident on the descent of Touching the Void). We camped for our last night at Incahuain where we had beautiful views of Nevada Jirishanca (~6,100m & pic 6) and were able to buy a beer! The following day we hiked out to Llamac and returned to Huaraz where we had a well deserved shower, ate steak, and drank celebratory beers!
Huayhuash, Peru - Day 5-8 - We had several easier days to the aguas thermales on day 5 for a bit of relaxing, and on to the bottom of the San Antonio / Santa Rosa pass on day 6. Day 7 was the steep climb up the Santa Rosa pass (~5,000m) from where we had a great view of the Nevados Jurau glacier and down to the campsite at Cutatambo. Conny and I continued on up a different valley to get a look at the Laguna Sarapocha and the surrounding peaks Yerupaja (~6,600m) and Siula Grande (~6,300m). The view also allowed us to check out the scene of Touching the Void, where Joe Simpson had dragged himself across the Yerupaja glacier after his partner cut the rope and left him in a crevasse with a broken leg. Day 8 we hiked down the valley to Huayllapa (~3,500m).
Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru - We travelled to Huaraz in the north of Peru to meet up with our fellow trekkers Matt & Ellie for the Huayhuash trek. Deciding to do the trek independently except for a mule driver and his 5 mules, we began preparations for the 10 day trek around 2 days before our departure which meant some serious shopping in Huaraz’s market (including 180 bread rolls, 14 tins of tuna, 4kg of pasta and 3.5kg of oats). Here are the pictures for days 1-4. Day 1, we travelled by car to Llamac where there was a fiesta with dancing in the streets lined with cow heads. We escaped to our campsite (~4,200m) just in time to miss the bull-fighting. On day 2 we climbed to a pass at ~4,700m and down to our campsite at Laguna Mitucocha to face a night of rain at our camp. Day 3 began with frost and wonderful views of the mountains (pic 4). Our alternative route took us up a very sketchy scree slope. The way down to our camp at Laguna Carhuaca (~4,100m) was much more pleasant, and we bumped into a mother and super cute daughter Bridgit. From the lake, we had views of Yerupaja glacier and our route for day 4. Day 4 was very scenic, passing the Yerupaja and Siula glaciers and three lakes (Gangrajanca, Siula and Quesillococha) on the route up to the pass. Beautiful!
Chinchero, Peru - On our way back to Cusco from Macchu Picchu, we made a very quick stop at Chinchero. We stopped at a textile museum, where they showed us the traditional process of dying the wool using natural dyes. Then we made a very quick visit to the church and the ruins. Following the terrible light at Macchu Picchu, something wonderful happened with the evening light in Chinchero, the clouds lifted but left a mist in the valley, and we got some really nice pictures.
Macchu Picchu, Peru - To see the sunrise over Macchu Picchu, we left our hotel at 4:20am, to climb up to the entry gate before the buses of tourists arrived. It was a tough climb up the Inca steps in the dark, but we felt exhilarated to beat the young’uns and be among the first in the queue. Once in the gates, we took a few photos in the dawn light and made our way to the sun gate for a panoramic view and a coffee from the thermos. Then the clouds came in and it started raining and just didn’t stop! So we had a day of making the most of Macchu Picchu in the rain, dressed in some awesome ponchos we found in an Inca house. The clouds gave the place an almost eerie feeling, and the rain let us see the Inca’s amazing drainage system in action. Despite the rain, we were amazed at the Inca’s attention to detail and architecture mirroring nature. What a fascinating place!
Salkantay trek, Peru - Since we began planning this trip, we had wanted to do one of the alternative Inca trails independently, avoiding the classic as it is just too busy (>500 people per day) and too expensive. We opted instead for the Salkantay trek, a three day trek with a high (4,600m) pass, named by National Geographic as one of the world’s 5 best treks. What we didn’t realise is how many people would be doing the trek as a supported group (i.e. mules, cooks etc) and the profile of the trek (day 2 descent of almost 2,000m). We had an enjoyable day 1 where we didn’t see many other people, but on day 2, an 8am start for us meant we were behind the 60+ people and 30 mules on the way to the pass. The pass itself had incredible views of the mountains and glaciers. However, then we began the descent of 2,000m of terrible trails into the cloudforest, and quelle surprise, the blisters arrived! Day 3 started nicely through through the forest and along the river, where we were able to buy heaps of grenadillas (similar to passion fruits) and bananas fresh from the farmers. After lunch, we arrived in Santa Teresa and booked into a hotel before the thunderstorm arrived. The following day, we went zip-lining across the valley, which was a blast - especially when we did a head-down “spiderman” position. All-in-all Salkantay was a ok trek, but (to National Geographic) I’m confident I can name more than 5 better treks!
Chachani (6,078m), Peru - From Arequipa, we decided to climb one of the nearby peaks and opted for Chachani rather than the impressive looking Misti volcano, so we could hit a 6,000m peak (Misti is 5,822m). We made our base camp at 5,400m, and woke up at ~2am to start hiking in the dark. The sun rose at around 6am, so this meant 3-4 hours hiking in the dark. I found it wasn’t so much the altitude that affected me, but the cold. My toes were numb within an hour of starting out. The guide set the pace, probably slower than we have ever walked before (!), but this pace made sure we made it to the top despite the altitude and thin air. We reached the summit at 10am, and then after some photos, we had a short 2 hour slide down the scree back to base camp.
Arequipa & Colca Canyon, Peru - From Arequipa, we explored the surrounding area - whitewater rafting on the Chili river and trekking into the Colca canyon (the world’s second deepest canyon - almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona). From Cabanaconde, we climbed down ~1,000m to an oasis where we spent the night. Our hike back up the next day started at 5am, and Conny & I raced up to the top in under 2 hours (setting the new gringo record).
Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca - Our departure point from Bolivia was via Lake Titicaca and into Peru. Our base was at Copacabana on the Bolivian side, where there was a festival on at the time - the Virgen de Copacabana. This meant that the whole town was mobbed, full of street vendors selling all the usual Bolivian things (see last pic of llama foetuses). So we were keen to escape the mayhem, and headed to Isla del Sol for a day of hiking. The island was beautifully warmed up by the sun despite the altitude, and we hiked through Inca ruins to the south of the island, where we enjoed a beautiful sunset and stayed the night. From Copacabana, we moved into Peru via Puno, vowing to start moving faster. Chao Bolivia!
Camino del Muerte, Bolivia - The gringo trail sucked us right in and we caved in to bike down the “world’s most dangerous road” from the wind-swept pass at la Cumbre (4,700m) near La Paz down to the tropical yungas in Yolosa / Coroico (1,100m). Although the biking was not quite to 7 stanes standards, the views were spectacular and there were some hairpin bends with big trucks to keep the adrenalin pumping. However, the best part of the death road was staying at Coroico for a few days, where we hiked through coca plantations to waterfalls and generally enjoyed the scenery and climate. We also visited a coffee grower to find out all about our favourite drink.