Day 120: Huayhuash Highlights!

The feeling of travelling on your own is a bit frightening. We’ve been sharing all of our great experiences for the last 4 months. At the same time, total freedom is what we were both longing for. Moreover, we might meet pretty soon again in the United States for the burning man festival. Anyways, here’s my first real independent post!

After we got back from Machu Picchu, both Australian Tom and I decided to stick around in Cuzco to witness the Inti Raymi-festival in Cuzco. The event is held in the colossal fort of Saqsayhuaman (try to remember that name), 2 km outside Cuzco. The whole ceremony is quite lively and mainly consists of a lot of people dressed up dancing around and celebrating the once majestic Andean culture. Very interesting, but the urge to travel on was quite big.

Traditional dancing for the Inti Raymi

After a short stopover in Lima, mainly to pick up my credit cards and finally get my permanent passport (with the temporary one I am not allowed to fly into the States) I continued the trip towards Huaraz.

The only thing I wanted at this very moment was being close to mother nature again. I discovered that the hiking part of the trip has given me the most satisfaction, whereas cities somehow seem to have a numbing effect. So I decided to go for the nine day Huayhuash trek in the Cordillera Real. David already gave an extensive report on the history and specificities of the hike in the previous post on the blog, so I’ll try to stick with my personal experiences and in particular the things that made my hike special.

The cosy Churupp hostel is a perfect hangout to energize before starting one of the best hikes in South America. After having a haircut (that made several people refer to me as TinTin) Tom S. and I soon met two hiking companions, Eric and Adam. Later on, Sonia, a German girl was added to our group.

Huayhuash Hikers

Australian Tom: Besides the fact he has the smelliest feet known to man, a perfect hiking companion. Most of the time he ran up the hill with the elegancy of a kangaroo on speed and was never afraid to climb the “extra mile”. Even though this would mean ripping up his pants. Has a great taste of music. Can’t stand losing, especially whilst playing Yaniv, the Israelian game we played every evening. When Tom’s winning the game, it’s all about skill, tactics and strategy. When losing, it’s 80 percent luck.

Eric: a Proud canadian. Absolutely obsessed with camping gear, especially MEC is high-end and rock solid material according to him. The Nalgene water bottle he was carrying all the time seems to be the absolute pride of canada (Allthough it is “made in USA”). His water filter came in extremely handy though. Less useful were his nightly farts (allthough they kept us warm during the cold nights) and other weird noises during the night. Has a never disappearing smile on his face and has no clue how the whole Taylor Swift album got onto his ipod.

Adam: British guy and proud Londener with a Ricky Gervais accent. No, I am not having a laugh. Has the tendency to shoot papparazi pictures all the time. And mostly they are great quality as well. Worked as an engineer in a famous UK recording studio where he met the cream of the crop within the music industry.

Sonia: 100% German. Had tremendous trouble with the altitude during the hike. Consequently gave up the 6th day. “Schade”. Nicknamed “La Tortuga”. Complained about her walking sticks all the time. In German, forgetting that “Deutsch” is not exactly the main language in South America. So appointed me as being her official translator, great. When finally arriving on top of the hill, we would cheer her up and ask how she felt. Her reaction: “no comment”. Altitude can drive people crazy I heard. It can, I realise now…

Edgar: known for his catchphrase: “Tranquillo amigo”. Even if you would by acccident slip over a rock, cursing the whole mountain to hell. Other famous slogan: “muchos problemas”, most of the time when talking about Sonia. Next to his guiding skills an excellent cook and superb guide with an extended knowledge about any possible mountain or pass in the Cordillera Real.

Isaac: our faithfull arriero (or donkey “driver”). Catchprase: “Sjaloom”, the nickname for all Israelians doing the hike. Allthough large groups of them get over here and start hiking, most of the guides and arrieros do not seem to be very keen on them. Maybe because of the fact they are quite noisy and bargain rudely until they get “special price”. Even if this means running out of gas or food the 5th day of their hike.

From left to right: Edgar, Eric, Adam, Belgian Tom, Australian Tom

Huaylights

A summary of my personal best experiences during the trek:

– unbelievable views whilst doing the trek. When climbing towards the one after the other mountain pass, your breath gets cut off right away. Physically it is quite hard, but once reaching the top, the view makes you wanna cry, scream and immediately you forget all muscle pain and shortbreathedness. Here are a few shots:

After climbing the first real pass of the trek

Paso San Antonio

– Lots of condors flying above our heads while being at an altitude of more or less 5000m

Condors flying on top of our heads while having lunch

– Taking a dive in one of the many magnificent lagoons we encountered during our hike. The water temperature is not as freezing as in the Patagonian glacial lakes, but far from tropical.

Taking a dive in the ice cold water

– The thermal baths you get to take a plunge in on day five (or day six, clearly the altitude affected my memory) at the campsite. After having walked for several hours you enjoy the warm water source (temperatures around 38 degrees). Around you, an astonishing view, but most of all, the sensation of your muscles relaxing and the feeling of being one of the luckiest persons in the world. Waking up the next morning at 5, to get a dive in the bath before leaving for one of the hardest days on the trek is hard, but once you enter the bath, you easily forget how ridiculously early your alarm clock went of. Australian Tom and I were the only ones being able to struggle out of our warm and cosy beds.

Australian Tom taking an early morning thermal bath

Huayhuash horses/donkeys and other oddities

– For some reason I got nicknamed “the mule whisperer”. Maybe because of my compassion for the animals, carrying all tourists heavy bags up the mountains during the whole hike. The altitude and heavy carriage generally wears them out, so they only reach the age of 25. So here’s my little tribute to them.

The mule whisperer

– The altitude (the trek’s altitude varies between 4200 and 5000m) has some weird effects. While ascending you’re out of breath in no time, allthough you’re walking fairly slow. Apart from that, I had the craziest dreams. Other effects: peeing every 10 minutes and extremely cold temperatures at night.

– Whilst hiking we met with some extremely sympathic road workers. After a short chat, we learned they used to be mountain guides that climbed nearly every single pass in the cordillera Huayhuash. We all thought it should be the other way round (first doing heavy road work before guiding tourists). Absolutely amazing!

Retired mountain guides, now road workers

A short summar: once again a wonderful experience within wild nature. A lot of time to think things through, but above all to realize what a lucky bastard I really am!

Stunning view on the cordillera Huayhuash

Currently I am stationed in a town called Huanchaco where I am getting surf classes. Afterwards, I’ll travel through (coastal) Ecuador. First on the menu is the nature park Machalilla, in search for mating whales. But more on all that in a next update!

All the best to all of you and hear you later!

Tom

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3 thoughts on “Day 120: Huayhuash Highlights!

  1. David ( en Tom) ,

    Marvellous, fantastic !!!!!! Reeds lang wou ik je eens berichten, doch steeds maar weer vond ik één of andere reden om dit uit te stellen. En ja, na 120 dagen is het mij eindelijk gelukt. Wat jullie meemaken is inderdaad ‘ a once in a lifetime experience’ die echter maanden duurt. Geniet ervan met volle teugen(!). De foto’s die we te zien krijgen zijn adembenemend. Ik, die altijd denk, dat er maar één vakantieland is in de wereld, nl Frankrijk zal dringend mijn mening moeten herzien, doch onze voorbije veertiendaagse in de Drôme was ook weer een voltreffer. Dat Nederland net geen wereldkampioen werd, dat Spanje terecht wereldkampioen werd, dat Armstrong de Tour niet meer kan winnen, dat De Wever en Di Rupo België moeten redden, dat de Kerk in België en vooral in West Vlaanderen terecht in vraag worden gesteld, dat OMER. een gouden medaille behaalde op de grootste bierwedstrijd in de wereld, dat het hier tropsich warm is met de nodige regenbuien, dat vanavond mijn verlof een einde neemt, dat we met 10 vrienden de eerste week van september de Ventoux zullen bedwingen, dat Pieter volgend jaar in Wielsbeke speelt en Jan in Harelbeke, dat je ouders momenteel niet thuis zijn en op weg naar ……………… zijn wschijnlijk dagdagelijkse faits divers in het leven van een jongeman ergens in Zuid Amerika.
    David, het ga je goed, geniet ervan, neem al dit moois mee in je rugzak. Tot later eens Nonkel Pascal

    • Dag Pascal en familie,

      Sorry dat ik zo laat reageer op je schitterend bericht (was echt leuk om te lezen).

      De ervaring hier bevalt mij nog altijd enorm. Zuid-Amerika is een fenomenaal continent met schitterende mensen en plekken. Nieuws uit Belgie probeer ik nog altijd wat te volgen. Politiek is er blijkbaar nog niet veel veranderd sinds jouw bericht (maar dat viel wel te verwachten). Mooi wat Pieter en Jan doen, heb even wat info over Wielsbeke opgezocht en hij zou er toch zijn kans moeten krijgen bij die verjongde ploeg.

      Groeten aan iedereen thuis,

      David

  2. Hallo Tom & David,
    Zo te zien hebben jullie een fantastische tijd gehad in Peru en de rest van de wereld!! Wij zijn ons aan het voorbereiden voor een reis door Zuid-Amerika, met heel veel wandelingen 🙂 Zijn jullie met een bepaald agentschap geweest en waren jullie tevreden? Hartelijk bedankt voor de toffe verhalen en foto’s!

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