Wednesday morning at 6:30 am we met with Benoit and Ophelie, our new French (from Lyon), friends we met earlier, who were also taking the same trekking tour than us, in Caraz in front of the Pony Expeditions Touring Company. We had packed stuff for 4 days of camping, which had to go in a duffle bag supplied by the Touring Company, because it had to fit on one of the donkeys, which would carry our luggage. Yes, we all did not have to carry all our supplies, just a day backpack, with water, rain jacket etc… The tour also included 4 days of hiking, 3 days of sleeping in a tent, a tour guide, a cook with cooking tent and supplies, an eating tent for us with table and chairs and our “donkey driver”…and not to forget our toilet tent, which basically meant a small tall tent covering a whole in the ground. The plan was to meet in Yungay, because we were a group of 12 people with the other 8 coming from Huaraz. Then another bus was to take us to Vaqueria, a small town in the mountains. From there we were to start our 40km hike for the next 4 days.
So we 4 took a “collectivo”(cab, which takes individual passengers, who then pay individually) to Yungay, a small town about 15 Min. away. There we met with our other companions: Roman(French from Orleans), Christoph (French, from Aix-on-Provence),Susan (Dutch, from Den Haag), Manon (Dutch, from Amsterdam), Bhai (I think was her name, from Thailand) and I’m sorry that I didn’t remember their names, a brother and sister with her friend from Taiwan.
We all got into a bus/extended van for a about 4 hour ride to this mountain town. About half way our bus all of a sudden had a flat tire. So we all had to get out and the driver changed the tire. We were all horrified by the condition of the spare tire: barely any thread left and the wire showing in some places! Great, hopefully we would make it without another flat!!
We did, and we had passed already beautiful mountains, like Mount Huascaran, with 6768m the highest of Peru and Laguna Llanganuco, an emerald Lake at the foot of the mountains. By around noon, we reached Vaqueria, had some lunch, while the donkeys were packed. These poor buggers were fully packed on both sides of their backs, and the ropes were pulled tightly around their bellies and underneath their tails.
There was another group sitting there, who were already done with the same tour. They had a dog following them the whole time and now they wanted to send the dog with us, but he was very reluctant. Later that day he indeed caught up with us and was hiking with us the whole time. He also slept in front of our tent and had leftovers and scraps of food from us. Heinz named him Carlos, since he followed him most of the time.
So for the first day we hiked about 5 hours, we past little mountain villages, with little kids greeting us, the indigenous women sitting in front of their houses, talking, spinning wool or knitting, or others tending to their animals (pigs, cows, sheep, donkeys…) very peaceful!
In Cachinapampa (elevation 3750m) we reached our campsite. The donkeys were already there, freely grazing around the campsite and Daniel, our donkey driver (We call him Sherpa) was already setting up the tents. We had supper around 7:30 pm (you guessed it…chicken and rice!) but at that point we were all hungry anyway!
Next day we had the big 7 hour hike in front of us. We were very lucky with the weather: beautiful sunshine, only a couple of clouds. We made it to 4750m altitude around lunchtime and, believe me, I had an awful trouble with the altitude, was barely getting any air into me, so I was thankful that we could go downhill again! Heinz though had no trouble at all.
The view was simply breathtaking. All the high mountains right in front of you, even the Artesonraju (6025m) the mountain famous for the Paramount Picture sign at the beginning of their Movies. All you heard was the waterfalls in the distance. We all could have stayed there forever! Oh yeah and I even saw a Condor making his round!
Our campsite for the second night was still at 4250m altitude and you could tell, because it was pretty darn cold. Late in the afternoon we heard a stampede and all of a sudden a bunch of wild horses came galloping by. That was pretty amazing!
The third day we all decided to go all the way to Cashapampa (2900m), and skipped the original third day campsite, which meant another 7 hour hike instead of a split up into 5 hours that day and 2 hours the next day. Some of our group (the four French and the two Dutch girls) had only booked a 3 day tour, so they were leaving on that day. The rest of us stayed behind and went to the hot springs in Santa Cruz the next day .With a sad heart we had to leave our friend Carlos in Cashapampa, but there were a lot of other dogs, who kept him company.
So to sum it up, we had a wonderful, challenging time, really enjoyed the mountains, all the scenery, had fun with all the others in our group, had lots of laughs and certainly enjoyed the company of Carlos our new dog friend. After our time in the hot spring, we were brought back to Caraz and Heinz and I took a tuk-tuk from the main plaza to our Hostal. There we re-packed all our stuff, for we wanted to leave the next day. After much discussion we wanted to drive the loop through the mountains, again from Yungay to Carhuaz, which was basically partially the way we took with the bus a couple of days ago, but back from the mountains per paved road.
But on Sunday the weather didn’t look too promising. Deep clouds all through the mountains and rainy. There was no sense in driving through the mountains full of clouds and we wouldn’t see much anyway. It did clear up a bit but just when we were at the beginning of the road into the mountains I passed a cab, the driver rolled down his window and told me not to go that road because it was flooded. Well, we turned around then, changed plans and stuck to the main road. Eventually we wanted to get to Huanuco. So through Huaraz we went to Huallanca, which was a really nice and scenic drive as well. We had to go over a pass of 4680m, where it actually just had snowed. The road was clear but the sides were white and again it was pretty darn cold!
Huallanca is a small village at 3450m altitude were we found a decent hotel- unfortunately with no WiFi- and settled in for the night. I was still struggling with shortness of breath, which followed me all through the night.
Our next destination was Huanuco, for we contacted Toby and Sara, an American couple living there, who also host Motorcycle Riders in their home and operate a motorcycle repair shop and an adventure riding tour company.Toby had asked if we come on Tuesday. So on Monday we left Huallanca and thought we would find a Hostel on the way to stay for one more night. Nothing really decent showed up so we decided to go to Huanuco right away and Toby was nice enough and didn’t mind that we showed up one day too early. His wife Sara is still in Lima but will probably be back in the next couple of days.