Every time I travel, I feel as though I almost don’t put enough thought into it. The itinerary is always more than a little hazy and everyone else always seems like they know exactly where they’re going, what they’re going to do and how they’re to do it. When I arrived in Peru just over two weeks ago, the only things I had planned was a weeks worth of Spanish lessons (read about it here!) and a trek to Macchu Picchu. Everything in between was more than a little bit open to suggestion, and it wasn’t until I opened my Lonely Planet on the plane that I even knew of any other places that may tickle my fancy.
It was on the plane and in aforementioned trusted guide that I discovered Huaraz – a mountain town about an eight hour drive (if you’re lucky!) away from Peru’s capital city. Listed as a top 10 highlights to anyone’s visit to the country, my interest was piqued… If not mixed with a little apprehension. I mean, I
hate detest just following the top travel guides recommendations, and never discovering anything for yourself. It’s a tricky one. Popularity doesn’t necessarily equal a lack of authenticity, but dims a little of the adventure.
So, a little more research later – and by this I mean a helluva lot of Instagram stalking, Wikipedia and Google Image searches – I discovered that Huaraz is actually home to the second largest mountain range in the world. Teamed with endless amounts of crazy beautiful images of icy blue lagoons and happy looking hikers, I was sold.
We booked an overnight bus, and were on our merry way ($15 one way from lima on a bus with uber reclining seats) . Driving through the night so we could make the most of a relatively short weekend there, we arrived at our hostel early in the morning. As soon as we arrived, the scenery was mind blowingly spectacular. After a quick breakfast of mountain bread and eggs, we attempted to make our way to our first 3,000 meter + hike.
Shivering in the crisp air of the town, we passed an array of people, all of which seemed very intrigued at the oddly dressed hiker trio before them. Eventually, we managed to flag down what we thought was the right collective taxi. Screeching to a halt beside us, the door flung open to reveal about a million people crammed into a space made for 12. We looked from the lifesize sardine tin, to each other, then back to said sardine tin. Before I had time to think, I was being pushed and pulled on board, clinging on to the ceiling as the vehicle sped away with the doors still wide open.
Several minutes passed before we mustered the courage to ask in embarrassingly broken Spanish where exactly we should get off to embark upon our hike up to… Umm…!? And then we realized that we didn’t even know the name of the lake we were going to. Knowing only the first few letters of the lake and with the help of everyone on the bus, we were finally told that we were on the wrong bus. Heading in the complete opposite direction to which we should have been heading. Of course.
30 minutes, another crazy bus journey and a lot of confusion later, and we were at the base of our mountain. Those shivers we felt back in the town were immediately replaced with intense and unforgiving heat. It was now boiling hot and my skin tight hikîng attire has never been more unwelcome.
Five minutes in, and we were all sweating and out of breath. We’d been in Huaraz for less than three hours, so obviously had not left any time to acclimatise… and i guess the endless supply of debauchery in Lima had not helped either. Now, I’m not a hiking virgin. I like the outdoors, i like hills, I like walking. BUT THIS HIKE WAS INSANE. There really wasn’t one moment in which was easy… unless you count the several moments we took to recover on an endless amount of well deserved breaks. It was steep, the sun was glaring, and the altitude made it so goddamn hard to breathe.
To the onlookers – of which were pretty abundant – we were all a mess. As much as I would like to say this was not the reality, it was. We were a mess. Totally unprepared for what we thought was a mere stroll up a big hill, it took all of my willpower to persevere for the next two and a half hours. At the top, sadly, I can’t even say it was worth it. The lagoon we were promised was nothing more than a pond. A bloody pond. We had nèarly killed ourselves for a pond. To top it all off’ we had about five minutes to relax before the torrential rain and hailstones started hurling themselves at us.
Regardless of the difficulty though, our first trek in Huaraz was actually amazing. The scenery en route was pretty incredible, and it felt good (at least afterwards!) to actually really physically challenge myself for once. The next day we trekked even further… but thats another story for another day.