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Facing a challenge in Peru's mountains
By Kay Kemmet
August 8, 2012
My body ached as I hiked the last, unplanned steps up the steep mountain pass. But the pain and frustration from four days of constant walking quickly subsided once I caught my breath and looked up to see Mount Huascaran, the highest peak in the Peruvian Andes.
After 45 kilometers, three nights on the hard, cold ground and several blisters, I was ready to sit down, pout and refuse to climb an extra mile uphill while the overheating van sped away. I´m glad I didn't because the panoramic view of the Cordillera Blanca with the popular Llanganuco lagoon at the bottom made the painful parts worth it. And it wasn’t the first time.
The typical Santa Cruz trek spans four days and three nights in Huascaran National Park near Huaraz. My tourism book calls it one of the most popular in South America, and therefore it’s slightly overpriced for Peru at 140 American dollars with sleeping bag, tent and food included.
While I never went camping in my adolescent years, don’t own a sleeping bag and have no clue how to set up a tent, I’ve been dreaming of doing a several-day trek through the Andes since I arrived in Peru. So when I heard about the Santa Cruz trek through the marvelous Cordillera Blanca, which is supposed to be a fairly easy trek, I was determined to complete it.
To add to my lack of experience, I also have never hiked for more than a day in the mountains and especially not at 3,000-plus meters. But somehow my even less-experienced American boyfriend and I ended up hiking for seven hours a day, eating sub-par Peruvian food and sleeping on 2 inches of foam.
We started the trek with an early morning bus ride from Huaraz to Cashapampa. The next two and one-half days were spent climbing from 2,900 to 4,750 meters, where we arrived halfway through the third day. Despite a few flat hikes, the majority is uphill. After arriving at the trek´s high point, the trek shifts to a drastic downhill slope — which was at times worse than the incline.
Despite the difficult passages, the clear mountain lakes and stunning peaks made the trek worth it, and actually had me walking several kilometers more than necessary to see the stunning peak of Alpamayo, supposedly one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
I didn’t expect the trek to be easy and knew I was in for an interesting four days, but I don’t think I quite grasped how difficult the trip would be physically and how much stubbornness it would take to continue walking despite the pain and stiffness — as much from the hiking as from the sleeping conditions.
The trek also had the potential to put interesting strains on a relationship, and mine has been long distance for the last five months. It is a little difficult to spend every moment with a significant other for several days without going a little crazy, but the frustration of a physically straining experience and the high-altitude headaches can make tensions rise even more. However, along with finishing the trek with our sanity intact, the kilometers spent encouraging each other brought us closer.
While I don’t know if I will set off on another trek anytime soon, the Santa Cruz trek introduced me to beautiful sights I didn’t know existed. My bruises and blisters have yet to heal and I’m still reflecting on my sore body. But as I look through my pictures from the last few days, I know I must have enjoyed the trek, because I’m smiling in every one.
Total coments: 2
Commented By: NYpoodle
On: August 8, 2012. 4:31 pm
Great Story, thank you for sharing that with us
Commented By: Peruvian_gringo
On: August 10, 2012. 8:32 am
I used to backpack for years and I always wanted to backpack through the Andes. Now with my age and my health condition, I won't be able to do it and it is a shame too because I always like a good challenge when I backpacked.
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