Santa Cruz Loop - 5 days trekking - again?!

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
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Trip End Jan 19, 2007


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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

DAY 1
Leaving early today we wake up to see the red glow on the mountain tops as the sun rises above. We get to Enrique tours and then get a collectivo (like a local minibus service that goes stops everywhere until its destination) to Yungay about 1 1/2 hours away with a few other tourists doing the loop the other way around. We then get another collectivo to Caraz and then a taxi with our guide, Umberto, and 2 Swiss Germans who are doing pretty much the same route as us to Cashapampa - the start of the trek.

Weather has warmed up a bit so we take off our layers and start trekking, fortunately Victor is with us looking after our 2 donkeys (called Pedro and Timotei - yes after the shampoo!!) carrying most of our stuff. We embark up the valley alongside Rio Llullen which is quite small but has the odd waterfall and is crystal clear. Although the walk is not difficult in itself it is more dificutl in the heat of the day and as we go up in height. We have lunch in the shade and try and fend off the mossies who seem to like me in particular these days. Up the valley the cliff faces become more dramatic above us while on the ground we see loads o f different plants, horses, donkeys and cows and the occasional tourist too! After about 3 1/2 hours we can see the spikes and snow top summit of Taulliraju (5830m) a fantastic sight. Half an hour more we find a clearing with a ´campsite´with the incredible view up the valley of the mountains. We make the most of it before the clouds come in, as is normal in the afternoon. We buy a beer from the ´shop´and sit by the river followed by popcorn and tea and our dinner. Its a very clear night and Dave got a great photo of it all in the dark (see pics). We get to bed early in our tent with nice warm sleeping bags (hired from the agency) and sleep well.

DAY 2
UP at 6.30 we have pancakes for breakfast and are heading up the valley before 8am. The path is pretty flat if rocky and we follow the river past small and larger lakes beautiful turquoise colours due to the glacial water. Weather is good and the sun comes out which is very lucky! Have our lunch by 11am and as we contineu we can see the peak of Caraz again covered in snow (sorry powers of description fail me but photos sort of do it justice!).

By this time my stomach was feeling a bit dodgy, possibly altitude related but we kept going and had to go up a bit of a steep bit to a good viewpoint of several amazing mountains. I arrived a bit after Umberto and Dave to see one of the most awe inspiring views I have ever seen. However my exact words were "Beautiful. But do you have the toilet paper?" The realities of travelling eh?!! After properly admiring the view we carry on a bit more past vibrant red rocks in the river, flowers coming into bloom (is now spring) and come to our next campsite overlooking another amazing view of peaks and valley feels like we are in an amphitheatre. Are also servicios hygenicos here (ie cess pits!) and also a few more tourists plus we keep bumping into Gary and Tina the Swiss Germans.

From here we can see a glacier and the pass we are aiming for tomorrow (and I am semi dreading). Are in bed by 7am trying to fend off the cold!

DAY 3
Up by 6 to get an early start up. Have our porridge and I hope that I can make the walk up today esp as stomach still a bit dodge. We start the ascent which is not very steep but quite rocky with streams coming down alongside us. There is a ghreat view of the mountain ahead and as the clouds part the skies clear completely making it picture perfect. It looks like a postcard and its hard to believe we are really here. The climb isnt too difficult but not helped by altitude as we reach the highest point of 4750, at Punta Union. I am relieved and we enjoy looking back at the valley and the lakes before crossing to the other valley which is blooming windy!

The ´new´ valley looks a lot flatter and there are loads of lagunas. We start to see people climbing up the other side many with their own backpacks and a couple said it had been hell to carry them up. We were glad we had donkeys for ours!

On our descent we stopped at a small laguna for lunch and carried on down until we reached the bottom of the flat valley and walked through the grass fields which was lovely. Loads of llamas, streams and then our legs started to hurt a bit after 7 hours of walking. We reached our site with another amazing view back at Taulliraju and the river. Had a cup of tea in the sun and drifted off for a bit! After dinner and cards we slept pretty well!

DAY 4
Up at 6.30 hoping the weather was good as it rained most of the night, thankfully no holes in the tents! Is a grey and cool day. We start our walk down the valley past the first hamlet (complete with football pitch!) where they are building a new churhc. See the kids going to school and asking for sweets. Some of the families are too poor to send their kids to school, although its free to go, many of them help out at home instead. We see some lovely grubby looking kids who I just wanted to take home with me. Kept on walking past farmers, children herding cows and then crossed the valley to go up the other side to Vaqueria. We arrived there pretty tired and cold by 9.30 and started our long wait for transportation. We knew it might take a while and when a collectivo arrived going the opposite way an hour later Umberto got on it to reserve us all seats for when it came back the other way. He estimated in about 40 mins time. We sat and waited watching the local builders nearly build half a house, wandered aimlessly, talked to other tourists until at 13.45 the collectivo arrived! Others had already gone in a taxi that had come but we all crammed in and 2 locals went on the roof. This is obviously a great idea at the best of times but esp not when you are going up a very steep pass and then down one of the windiest roads I have ever seen in my life. Anyway they clung on for dear life and we went on our way up the pass. On the way we got a flat tyre so that was changed with the aid of some rocks as a jack and we carried on at the top could see great views of lagunas llangunanco below us and their amazing colour blue. We started our windy descent past monuments to a group of Czech climbers who got killed in an avalanche and other shrines to those who were unlucky on this very windy road down. At the bottom Umberto gets out to set up camp and we continue on to the lakes to walk around them and then walk back to camp. We decide to try and be clever and walk an alternate way back and not on the road but get lost and as the light was fading we hurried back to the road hoping we could find our way home. Forunately Umberto was waiting for us on the road probably wondering why we were late for our tea. Camped by another lovely river and passed out after dinner

DAY 5

Usually this trek is 4 days but we added in another to do the llangunanco lakes and lake 69. We get up at 6.30 and then start our climb up to Laguna 69 which takes about 2 1/2 hours and is not all up hill or that difficult. However, my heart isnt in it and I think I am just a bit trekked out so reluctantly make our way up there past more small lakes and then great views of Pisco and the highest mountain Huascaran. The clouds clear again for a time and we get some more great pics! At the top we have our lunch at about 10am but feel like we need it. Laguna 69 is in at the base of the mountain and the clear turquoise water is a great contrast to the mountains, snow and the sky above. The boys have a skimming competition before we start back down again and I start to relax as our walk comes to an end and I can start to contemplate a shower. I am sure Dave will upload a very complimentary photo of my hair one morning after wearing a hat all night as I was cold. Baseball caps are a real blessing when you cant wash your hair for 5 days!

Back to the main road we then had to wait for transport again to get back to Huaraz and we were fearing another 4 hour wait. We waited over an hour watching a few vehicles come over the pass hoping we could fit in but to no avail. Dave and I started to walk down the valley when a taxi arrived which took us to Yungay and then we got a collectivo back to Huaraz. We past a fairly new looking airport and runway on the way which had cows walking all over it which was a bit odd. Back to the office we changed over our stuff and head to Monterrey to the thermal baths for a much needed relax and wash. Before back to Huaraz for a nice Thai curry which was great but might not have been the best idea for our tummies esp before a bus ride.

Def recommend the loop was great trek and amazing scenery - better than when I trekked in Nepal a few years ago and better than the Cusco trek too! Enrique expeditions and Umberto were great too so fully recommend them. For 5 days inc transport, guide, horseman, 2 donkeys(that carried pretty much everything), tents, sleeping bags, waterproofs and all food was $110 each. Great value and a lot cheaper than Cusco! Find out the equivalent heights of other mountains which are:
Ben Nevis 1344m
Mont Blanc 4808m
Everest 8848m
Which means we trekked to the equivalent height of Mont Blanc (although not from sea level!)
Then onto Movil tours to get our overnight bus to Trujillo.
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