September 14 – 22 2017

Middle Cordillera Blanca; specifically Parque Nacional Huascarán (Huaraz-based)

After checking in with the Hotel Real Huascarán, we drove through a separate gate around back to the pasture with four alpacas and two cows.

The herd that shares our camping site.

Which is where we were established for a few days. Upon our arrival while having lunch in the Hotel’s restaurant and de-chilling from our efforts to get up to the Punta Olímpico pass, we saw on the ever-present running tv, there was a earthquake in Manacuna which is about 180 miles south of Huaraz. We didn’t feel anything and no damage here. 

But Huaraz suffered a devastating earthquake in 1970 that destroyed 80-90% of its structures. “Combined with a resultant landslide, it was the worst catastrophic natural disaster in the history of Peru. Due to the large amounts of snow and ice included in the landslide and its estimated 66,794 to 70,000 casualties, it is also considered to be the world’s deadliest avalanche.”

(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1970_Ancash_earthquake)

On the 15th I woke up with a sore throat and aches all over so we took it easy for the day. It showered in the afternoon. 

On the 16th, we took a taxi to a Lonely Planet recommended tour company to arrange for another walk/hike up into the Andes. Visited an atm and replenished our cash and had lunch near the Plaza de Armas and returned to the camper before the rain. 

Bright and early at 7am on the 17th, Eli Morales from Peruvian Andean Adventures met us and took us on a walking tour through the outskirts of Huaraz and up the slopes to the village of Marian.

Our guide, Eli.

Eli is the son of a mountain climbing expedition leader and he and his brother also are mountaineers/expeditioners and jointly run Peruvian Andean Adventures. 

At one point while walking the trails, we met an old woman washing some clothes in the irrigation canal and after a brief discussion, realized she could use one of our hiking poles. As it turned out, we had a spare one because years ago, one had gotten pushed off a bridge over a rushing stream in the USA Glacier National Park (if I recall correctly) so when we got back to camper, we gave the spare to Eli to take back to her on his next walking tour. 

The women and men are weathered and look old but still manage to climb to and from the houses set on the steep slopes and their fields, so I asked Eli what was the life expectancy thinking that with their hard life it would be 70 or so. He said no. At least in this part of Peru, it’s mid to late 90’s. And here I’m struggling along in low 60’s. Geez!!!

Trails weren’t too steep but still had to stop and catch my breath occasionally and on this day, our trek took about 4 hours and covered 4-5 miles. 

At 7am on Sept. 18th, Eli picked us up and took us to 12,500-13,000′ through the Quillqueyhuanca valley. 

After an hour drive, We went on a three hour hike through the valley surrounded by Cerros Churup, Chinchey, Tullparaju and San Juan. Beautiful day through a long valley that was mostly flat but extremely windy. Gorgeous and stunning mountain scenery. 

We came across a gentleman while hiking in this beautiful valley. He asked our guide if we had any medication for a toothache.  I gave him my Advil stash that I was carrying with me. 

Man with a toothache.

 

Then we came back to camper and……camper key wouldn’t unlock the camper. So we ate our leftover lunch outside, cursed, fumed and tried to figure out how we were going to get into the camper.  

We first asked the hotel, whose grassy area we are parked in, for help. Of course with our limited Spanish and no English on their side it took awhile to get the problem understood and what help we needed. They tried to line up a locksmith but they don’t have mobile locksmiths here and told us to drive to their shop. Couldn’t do that because the camper tent-top was up and the switch to bring down to be able to drive was inside the locked camper. 

So I emailed Eli, our guide for help and he located someone to come over and he waited with us. The man arrived, fiddled around with it and finally got it opened. Then he took the whole component off, took it back to his shop and created two new keys for us and cleaned up the specialized camper lock. Evidently a chip had fallen off of our key and jammed in the lock.  The locksmith charged us $27 to come out, clear out and make us two new keys and re-install. 

We were so grateful to Hotel, locksmith and Eli. And it only took 5 hours. 

But we were back snug in our home away from home by 7pm. 

Then the day ended with a spectacular sunset. Highs and lows of one day. I don’t think I can take this drama. 

On Sept 21 we simply caught up on paperwork, visited the cash atm, recharged claro SIM card and had lunch at 13 Buhos. Good hamburgers – all beef. Generally the restaurants use a grain filler of some sort.

At 6am on Sept 22, Eli picked us up and drove us up the valley to Laguna Llaca and the related Ranrapalca glacier. The drive of only 27km (16.7miles) took 90 minutes. I’m so glad we were using Eli’s 4×4 truck and not the camper.

The drive took us up to 14,665′. And at that altitude, Dave and I only walked up the incline and man-made avalanche barrier to see the Laguna and the glacier. 

Small waterfall below the glacier.

As we made our way back to truck and we’re talking to the rangers, I spotted a large black bird soaring up the valley. I pointed it out to Eli and the two rangers came out with their binoculars and everyone concurred it was an Andean Condor. Yippee. It soared directly over the five of us. 

The Andean Condor is endangered like the California Condor but not as severely. 

https://www.britannica.com/animal/condor)

A return trip back to the valley took another 90 minutes. But our day was not over, Eli wanted to take us up to the Mirador (overlook) on the west side of the valley so we could see in the east, a major portion of the Cordillera Blanca around Huaraz spread out in front of us. As we drove south from Huaraz, a sign indicated that the side road was closed. So Eli picked another road further south that should have been closed. Once again I was glad it was Eli’s truck taking the punishment.  

But our arrival in the small village of Wilcacocha was so worth it. The panoramic white-capped Cordillera Blanca was laid out before us. A great way to end our time with Eli.  

This part of Peru has changed my mind about Peruvian poverty. This area has more agricultural and because of the Cordillera Blanca, has more tourism. People are well-fed, have newer vehicles, maintain their homes, streets and towns better and don’t throw out as much trash. I think the area around Piura suffered more from the severe flooding this past Spring than I previously thought and the Coast road is trashier simply because of larger urban areas and little employment. 

We left Huaraz on Friday September 22nd to head around to the east side of Cordillera Blanca. 

See next blog entry. 

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