Santa Cruz/ Alpamayo Trek

Day 1

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. 
Day 2. 

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.
Day 3.

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.
Day 4 

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! 
Day 5

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. 
Day 6

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. 
Day 7 

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. 

Day 8 

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!
Day 9

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. 
Day 11

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!
The end!

(Ill try to add pictures later today!) 

Lima 

I got to lima last night after an 8 hour bus ride from Huaraz. When I left the station, I saw hostels everywhere, so i thought it would be fairly easy to find a cheap one. Boy was I wrong! I walked around asking prices for an hour, and realized that they were all hook up hostels which charged by the hour.. Weird that there were soooo many of them but not one normal hostel! I finally found one whic was 50 soles (damn expensive!) and settled for it. Then I went out for a walk and had an interesting experience- I got mugged! Im totally fine though and have everything, i fought the 2 guys off (they ran away after I punched one). It was especially weird because there was plenty of people in the area and it was fairly well lit. I will admit i was kinda spacing out and clearly wandering though- not smart. 
Today I came down to Miraflores, a super gringoy area. But its much nicer than where I was last night despite the touristyness everywhere. Ill spend today and tomorrow exploring here and then head to the airport tomorrow night to fly to new york! 

Back in civilization!

I’ve been relaxing in Caraz for a couple days after coming out of the mountains. 
Ill write up my experiences over the last 2 weeks in the next few days but in short, it was an amazing! It was very challenging at many points and so beautiful and fun at most other times.

The challenging parts: 

I hiked about 70 miles (thats a guess) including about 10 very steep passes. 

I got majorly lost once, and got minority lost another time. Both were very frustrating and cost me time and energy. 

A few nights I woke up with a soaked sleeping bag because of hard rain seeping through my tent I guess. Those nights and mornings were terrible. 

I had just enough food for the whole time, but i only had snacks for half way through, so I got pretty hungry. And even when I ate at night i half cooked the lentils because i wanted to eat, so dinner was repetitive and not so tasty. 

Alot of times there was rain and clouds and fog when i got to places that should have had particularly beautiful views, but i couldnt see anything! Besides blocking views, the hail and rain storms i got caught in (often at the top of passes) were brutal and soo uncomfortable.

 

Thats alot if bad sounding stuff, but it wasnt all so bad, but all challenging.
The awesome stuff:

I found that while almost every pass was very difficult and strenuous, when i got to the top the feeling was so relieving and rewarding that the hike was well worth it!

The few clear views that I had of mountains or lakes, and even of lakes ehen it was suuper foggy, were incredible. Its hard to describe the peace I felt at these moments and places. Essentially I could have stayed there forever if I didnt have to keep moving (and if rain wasnt coming). 

It was really interesting to observe the few indigenous mountain communities and meet some of the people. Once a man and his son came up to me as I was setting up camp (on his land) and asked for a bandaid for the baby’s finger. They then just watched me set up my tent and chatted.

One of my favorite aspects if the trip was the solitude. I was completely alone and reliant on myself. This made for incredible peace, lots of time to think and reflect, and a renewed sense of individualism. 

Just the physical aspect of walking however many miles up and down, I enjoyed the work out and after all the hiking ive been doing for the last 3 mknths i feel like Im in the best physical shape since high school! 
I will upload the rest of my pictures (alot)which are on my camera when i get to a computer. 
   
    
    
    
 

Feb 16-20

So the last week ive been in the mountains. I left tuesday morning and walked out of the city up the hills and into mountains. I originally planned on going to thos lake called Churup, but once i got to the base of the mountain i decided to skip it and head another 7ish miles further up the valley to get to these othere 2 lakes. Once i actually got to the trailhead i had was pretty exhausted so i made camp next to the river that i would follow up the whole valley. Wednesday i walked up in between two huge sheer rock mountain faces and made it to the base of the lakes that were further up in the mountains. I made camp in this little rock circle thing and spent the night, waking up in pouring rain. It stopped soon though and I hiked up to the bigger lake. It was spectacular. The water was turquoise blue and the snow and glacier covered mountains rose super high above. Every so often, the mountains would crack and rumble like thunder, but im pretty sure it was the ice moving/ falling. The first big long one i was ready to grab my bag and book it because i though some ice might fall in the lame and cause a lake tsunami! I climbed a cool boulder a bunch and then headed back down to where i made camp, which was also the fork at which the other path would lead to a higher lake (4800 m). I started up the suuper steep side of the mountain on what i figured were cow trails because i definitely lost the real path. I made it up to a more terraced part when it started raining. It wasnt to bad though so i kept going until it started pouring and getting really cold. I found a flat spot and made camp real quick, and spent the evening fairly wet. But it was alright because in the morning it was perfectly clear. The sun was so strong and dried up everything in an hour or so while i had breakfast and coffee, and then i packed up and headed up the rest of the mountain (only about 700 m on the trail) and found an incredible place. Its impossible to describe how i felt at that completely pristine lake, but check out the pictures for an idea. The rest of Friday i hiked out and back to Huaraz, after getting lost a few times when i wasn’t paying attention to the fairly clear trail haha. 

Ive spent the weekend relaxing and letting my blisters heal a bit before i head out tomorrow morning for the northern mountains. Ill be out for about 2 weeks so ill update when i get back to Huaraz around march 7th.
   
I met a donkey and fed him trail mix.

    
baby horse! (His fur was still all nasty from just probably very recent birth!)

    
There were looots of cows. Also i didnt know cows (females) had horns!  I had a few close encounters with some but they were nice, they just wanted to check me out.

 

   
 
The first lake

  
The stone campsite

   
The second lake

 
I made a bunch of donkey friends

   
2nd lake.. I meditated on top of a rock looking at this for i dont even know how long but it was freakin amazing

 
Campsite before the 2nd lake

   
2nd lake 

 
1st lake from up near the 2nd lake 

 
I got bored while waiting for water to boil

 
 I found a few cow skulls and bones  

  

  A cool waterfall thing

  
The valley from above on a super steep mountsin side

Feb 16

Ive just been hanging in Huaraz the last 2 days getting some supplies together and relaxing. I finally found a good map (not the best) with topography and some trails so hopefully I’ll be able to stay on course easily. Though thats only for the north, so Im still without a real map (I have a simple tourist one for near Huaraz) for the next few days while i explore the mountains near Huaraz. I’ll be back in a few days but till then (friday or saturday) im completely out of reach!

Feb 15

Ahhh peruvian busses are the worst!So I got on my correct bus (at an incorrect location) last night just as it was leaving at 5, although it was a 530 bus. It was soooo hot, especially because I had the front top seat (right in front of the windshield with the sun blaring through)

I dealt with it (and ate lotsnof snacks for the 15 hour bus. In the morning we passed through Casma (the city I was supposed to get off at) without even stopping! So I didnt realize it was actually Casma until my phones google maps started working and i realized the bus passed it. Not feeling like hitchhiking in the barren desert, I stayed on until the next town, then waited around for a car back to Casma to get full. Since it was only 5 soles, I scrunched up in the trunk (it was a station wagon) with another dude and my bag, and then half way through the trip the other people got out, so I got a real seat for the same price. Anyway, I finally got back to Casma an hour ago, and figured out how to get a real bus (not one of the many 30 soles cars that I Would have to wait around forever in a hot car for) for 20 soles. So i have to wait around for 2 hours, but at least i could leave and find a half shady park to chill in. 

So far Peru is my least favorite country for transportation! I had expected it would be poor, but not this random! At most ‘bus stations’ (more like sides of street) there are just guys shouting and running around. Theres never any labled on the buses or where they are parked, and never any ticket checks when you get on. And then theres the cars and vans which are fast when you finally get going, but they usually take at least an hour or 2 of waiting to finally get full to leave. Plus theyre always very cramped, even if you dont have to squeeze into the trunk!

Well now that ive got a bus to Huaraz and getting one down to Lima should be easy, i hope that I am over the worst of my peruvian transportation adventures (more like debacles).

Woohoo! No more confusing situations! I got to Huaraz finally! I feel so much better now that Im secure. I got a nice room in a hotel/hostel and now Im getting dinner before I go have the first actual night’s sleep in a few days. 

Feb 13 and 14

Well i feel like an idiot!!I missed my bus because I couldnt find it! It was definitly not in the olace where the lady told me it would be. I was very confused, but Im just going to spend another night in mancora and leave in the morning. 

Also another stupid mistake was getting suuper sunburnt at the beach yesterday. It makes carrying a backpack quite uncomfortable haha. 

Woops!

This morning I woke up early after a terrible night’s sleep (I stayed at this super terrible hostel – I knew it before I got it but said whatever) and decided to get a bus straight (i have to connect in a town near it) to huaraz. It was expensive-90soles- (especially after trashing 40 soles last night) but after mancora I am pretty over the beach and just want to get back to the mountains! The bus is at 5 though so Ive been chilling in the only shady spot on the beach for a few hours trying to decide the rest of my trip. But then the shade got tiny so I went to get lunch and wifi. 

Feb 12

I’ve just been chilling in Mancora for the last couple days, walking and relaxing on the beach, eating food, and walking around town. But Im pretty bored of this little town so I booked a ticket to Trujillo today and I leave tonight. Ill check out this little beach town called Huancacho for maybe a night and then get up to the mountains in Huaraz. 

Feb 9-10: Zamora Ecuador to Mancora Peru

I made it to peru finally!

Well the border crossing was as expected extremely confusing! I got a bus to loja in te morning, chilled the whole day till 10 pm for a bus to Huaquillas, a boarder town on the Ecuador side. When we got to Huquillas, it was 330 am and there was only I and another man on the bus still. The bus driver just stopped on some random street and said he wouldnt go any further. I was expexting there to be sooome sort of bus station, but nope, so I walked towards the boarder, couldnt find an immigration booth, crossed over a bridge, and asked a Peruvian police man what to do. He told me I had to go to the actual boarder crossing, a bit away by taxi. So I went back to Ecuador, got a taxi, and went to the crossing. I was assuming that I needed to first go to the ecuador booth to get my exit stamp, then the peruvian one to get my entry stamp. So I told the guy to stop at the Ecuadorian one, where the guy told me, nope, that one is just for entry into Ecuador. So I went to the peruvian one and got my passport stamped (the Ecuadorian guy was a jerk because I woke him up from a nap haha). Yay finally I was officially in Peru! Now how do I get anywhere? I got a taxi and got him to take me to Tumbes, the nearest town, where I thought there would be a proper bus station (because he told me there was one). Nope! Just a street with a bunch of 10 seater vans with a bunch of guys screaming “Mancora!” Or “Pirua!”. The taxi driver dropped me at the mancora van and I got my bag and myself loaded onto the cramped van with 6 other people in it already. By the looks of their faces I could tell something was up. They had been waiting for atleast an hour for the driver to leave because he wanted it to be a full van. After 20 or so minutes, four of the people ran out urgently and down the street trying to catch another van that had just left for Mancora. I tried to follow but my bag was on top of the van. So the three of us left waited longer. Until finally the van was full of 9 people plus the driver and a crap ton of fruits that some guys were transporting. We were on our way about an hour (out of the 2ish hour drive down the coast) when all if a sudden the whole van started shaking along with a terrible bumping/scraping noise. Flat tire! Actually not a flat tire, a stripped tire. Somehow (I couldn’t even think of what would have done that on such a flat, paved road) the outside of the tire just peeled away. After another half hour of the driver rushing to replace the tire, and then trying to fit the warped one back on the car (eventually he just shoved it into the barely existent trunk), we were on our way to Mancora again!
I made it to Mancora! When I got here i just wandered around until I got a hostel and then passed out till 4! Then I got some food at some beach restaurant and chatted with some random dudes. Then I went for a walk on the beach and ran into some super random people. I hung out with Mark and Tabita for the night and planning to wander with them tomorrow.