My only real goal for today was to get to the trail head from Huaraz. I left kinda late, but got to Caraz at about 1. There, i wandered around trying to find a cheap ride to Huancallan where I was planning on starting my trek. i finally found the taxi/ mini bus place, but the taxi drivers insisted there were no minibusses (super cheap) and that I had to take a 130 soles taxi (30 bucks). So I decided to go with the cheaper option (40 soles) and go to Cashapampa, where the Santa Cruz trail starts. I figured I would just do my original trek in reverse.
I got to Cashapampa and the trail head and since there was beer stand right there I had a couple beers and chatted with a few old indigenous ladies. They were trying to get me to marry one of their granddaughters, and when it got too awkward i started on my hike. I got a few hours up the trail and made camp. I was going to camp on this big flat rock, but some guys with donkeys passed and told me there was better spots 10 minutes up.
Today I hiked up the valley to these 2 lakes at about halfway through the whole valley. One of the lakes was more like a tiny pond with at least a hundred cows, horses, and donkeys surrounding it. The next lake was a lake, but not all that great looking, i found a hut (I later realized it was an abandoned partially constructed bathroom) on the beach and camped there for the night.
Today i hiked up to a really peaceful and sacred feeling lake. It was that beautiful turquoise color, and there were big cairns everywhere. I had some fun climbing across the outlet river on these vertical poles sticking out of the water, meditated a bit, and piled up a few cairns. Then I hiked across a short cut and made camp a ways up the valley.
Today i got up late (woops) and hiked up my first pass, Punta Union (4750 m) it was tough but not too bad until the rain started half way up. Once i got up it, it was even worse on the other side but i got down, the rain stopped for a couple minutes, and I made camp at the base of the next pass. It was a pretty mediocre night, but at least it wasnt bad!
Hiked up my second pass today. After wandering back and forth up the bottom for 2 hours, i finally found the actual path. Then once the steep part started, the pass got significantly harder, mainly because of the super hard hail storm which also began. By the time i got to the top there was about an inch of hail in some spots! I hid behind a rock for 20 minutes (no caves) and got a bit of shelter since the hail and rain was coming sideways! Once the hail slowed down a bit i started down and made it to this cliff/hill/flat spot overlooking a big lake and made camp.
This morning was great! It was sunny and a but breezy for about an hour so I got all my wet gear and clothes dried up. i walked down and then to the base of my third pass, which I climbed and proceeded down the other side. Of course it had to start hailing and pouring, so i got pretty soaked as I slowly realized I was not going the right way at all. i was to wet and angry to take out my map and phone to figure out where the hell I was, so I just kept walking till I climbed up a waterfall and luckily found a decent flat spot at the top. I quickly made camp and once I was settled I figured out where I was. Turns out I went east at the top of the pass, but I was suposed to walk along the ridge a half a km and then continue north on the other side of the mountains.
So from where I was (off my map) I had to climb northwest back up the mountains and then along the ridge even further and finally down into the valley and back on the path. I eventually made it back on track but it was an unpleasant detour. Also at this point, i was realizing that I didnt have enough food for the full 14 days i was planning on, and that I wasnt taking any rest days, so i revised my schedule and plan to be out in 10 total days (i came pretty close at 11 days).
Once I was back on track, I quickly lost the dang trail again (partially on purpose). I hiked halfway down the valley and then continued kind of straight to be sure I would hit this little town and road. I thought there might be a little market to buy cookies, some rice, and have a couple beers after a very stressful couple days. i found the town and walked up the road (which eventually turned into the trail) but only saw people starin at me and saying “hola gringo! Tiened bon bons!?” I wanted to tell them, “no, but if i did i would be eating them myself, not giving them to you!” Haha (only kinda kidding-i was craving sweets). At this point (after the town) i was walking up a different valley which at the top flattened out at the base of some towering mountains. This flat area (like most in these mountins) was waterlogged and boggy, with a river and a bunch of streams going through it. My map showed the trail going half way up and then straight through the bog. I was confused at this, so i hugged the river looking for a bridge where the map showed it. It wasnt there… In the process of walking up the river, i guarantee I made some interesting indigenous children (who were watching me walk) laugh hysterically when I stepped on a spot of grass (which is usually very hard and stable) and it felt like a water bed. i quickly realized I was screwed but it was too late. i fell through with both my legs up to my thighs in this nasty smelly red mud water stuff. It was pretty scary becuase if i didnt turn around and grab onto some somewhat solid ground as I was falling, I have no ifea how far I would have fell, maybe all the way in! Well I got the hell out of that area quickly and carefully, my legs covered in mud, And continued up on what were probably cow paths. Finally i found a bridge at the top of the river and walked all the way around the bog and met up with the actual path. Well It wasnt the actual path because I followed it up the hill and found this little hut with some decent camp spots around it. The hut door was covered with branches and stuff but I moved it cuz i was really curious, and found a bunch of random stuff, but mainly fungusy potatoes. I have no idea what was the deal, but I just camped outside surrounded by cowpies.
The morning was decent. It was nice and sunny when i woke up, so i decided to wash my all my socks. Terrible decision! Though I would have fairly clean socks for the rest of the week, they would also be slightly wet and therefore stinky. Pretty much 10 minutes after I hung my clean stuff out, the sun went away and the wind stopped. So I packed up and started out a day that was pretty much totally up hill. The thing was I couldnt find the trail again! I realized that this wasnt the actual trail, so i had to hike down a few minutes and then back up on the other side of a small ridge. I made it up and over another pass and down to the northern most point on my hike, which is where I met that guy Jesus and his son with a hurt finger. It was a decent night but it was coollld. Of course I was to tired to get water before I went to sleep, so at 2 am i woke up parched and decided to run a half of a km to the river to get water. It was miserable but worth the water!
Today was the best day of the whole trek! There wasnt too much sun into the morning but my stuff was fairly dry anyway. I climbed 2 passes over about 10/11 miles today. It was super tough, especially since I hiked a lot the day before. I met an indigenous lady and her baby on the trail and walked with her for a bit. Everything went fairly slowly, but very steadily up the hill.s. There was barely any rain on either pass which was nice. Until the end of the day when it got dark and wet, so i found a sort of flat spot and camped. The night was pretty miserable though since it poured and my sleeping bag and other stuff got soaked.
Day 10 today I got up early and hiked down a valley to get to another pass. I got lost and accidentally extended the hike an hour and a half and about 200 meters since I was heading down hill when I missed the turn.
I got over the pass and made camp because I couldn’t get to the last pass of my trip before it got dark.
Today I got up early and hiked all the way out! I hiked my last and highest pass, I saw a couple of cool lakes, and walked down a loonnngg ways to Huancallan. Once I got there, i realized I was kinda screwed because I had no idea how to get transportation back to Caraz. i wandered around in thick fog and rain for a while until I found a minimarket and asked the owner to call a taxi. It was expensive, but i was glad to be back in a city with lots of food and a real, dry bed!
(Ill try to add pictures later today!)