Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hiking Laguna 69

The fabled Laguna 69. Actually just a pretty lake.
Yes... there is a lake here in the Cordillera Blanca in central Peru, called Laguna 69. On questioning 3 agencies, the taxi driver and park ranger, it's just the number of the lake, nothing more. Though why lake 68 and 70 were rewarded with proper names, I don't know!

Morning views of the king of Cordillera Blanca - Cerro Huascaran (6768m). The Cordillera is the world's highest, most glaciated tropical mountain range.   
About 20minutes out of Huaraz
At 6am this morning I set off with 3 Israelis to hike up to this lake. Because the rain starts about 2/3pm, you need to get going early to take advantage of sunshine. to get there - 1 hour on pavement, then a 30 min breakfast stop at the designated surprise restaurant, then 1.5 hours on bumpy dirt road and we got up to our starting point of 3800m. The road wound it's way up through some pretty impressive slick rockfaces, and also went past a pretty lake too.

The laguna next to the starting point of the trek
Welcomed by the locals
One of the beautiful waterfalls on the way up
On arriving, the others had a smoko, and I started heading up. It's already pretty high, and i was definitely feeling the thin air already through the zig zagging inclines. The others were well behind, enjoying starting off slowly, accompanied by regular cookie breaks and chats. One thing I've noticed about Israelis of all ages - is that they are the most food focused group of people! It started with Shai, who I hiked with last year - part of his ultralight packing included a little coffee pot, ground coffee from Israel and of course, hell (cardamon). You meet a lot of Israelis in South America - most are of the 22-24 year age range, fresh out of 3-4 years in the military, over loud, over excited and sometimes over the top. But I've had great experiences with them - and part of this is because they are always trying to feed you!

Just shy of a clear view
This doesn't look so bad, but it was a climb climb climb. Up to 4400m.
First sneaky view of the Laguna
So back to the hiking... along the way I was overtaken by JD, who is volunteering here working with bees, and then played tag with 3 Canadian girls. There's always a nice comradery with other hikers on the hills. Wheezing and regularly stopping on the steep bits, and skipping and having fun on the marshy bits, I finally made it up to 4500m to be treated with the deep blue depths of the lake, and accompanied by the occasional crack of ice as the glacier above split.
Glacial rock down to the lake
Marissa and JD snacking

Hiking is a funny thing - on the way up, the rain starting to get heavier, having to stop every 10 minutes, i was like, stuff this hiking business. I started to plan my exit out of Huaraz, reasoning that it was better to spend what time I had left seeing Ecuador and Colombia, instead of hiking. After all I'm going to Nepal next so I reasoned that I'd get my fill there.
On our speedy descent. I saw also this other lake that I had missed on the way up
Then on the way down, even though we (I was walking with the others by now) descended fast and I had spells of nausea, I was back to, this is great! Of course I should take advantage of being here right now and get some more trekking in. But the wet sucks. it's ok when you can come back to a hot shower, but being sweaty from climbing and bouts of sun, then half soaked, but not enough to 'shower' before heading into a perhaps wet tent, is not all that fun.

On our drive down, suddenly this spare tire came onto our windscreen. Surprised that it didn't crack the existing oh about 20 deep cracks already there!
Tomorrow is a rest day as my big toe is recovering from the stupid sprain I game myself last Friday. Day after tomorrow, I'm pretty set to go on a 4 day hike from a lake called Churup. How sweet does that sound! Just got to take a naughty photo of the map in one of the gringo cafes here so I can have a chance of navigating the not so obvious route over the glacier/snow section...

Nearing town 
Now we're entering civilisation - complete with a electricity.

Before I sign off... The end to our hike was the bumpy, swervy, splashy and still nauseous ride back to the paved section. The road takes you through many small pueblitos (villages) on the approach to the bigger town. Houses are mud and plaster (though how this works when it rains heavily for 4 months a year) and as you near town, often feature blaring slogans of political candidates. What was special about today, was that it was Tuesday, because... each Wednesday and Sunday are the market days in Yungay. Market days begin at sunrise, and are important as this is when the campesinos (people from the country) can earn money to then buy staples such as rice. These local markets are also frequented by buyers who then take them to Lima to sell for a profit. So, in readiness for the next day, all the women and men were waiting (and trying to wave down our full taxi) for taxis to take them and their colourful bundles of wares (in this case carrots, lettuces, rocotos (spicy bell beppers), flowers, potatoes and other veggies) down to market. I wanted to get a picture of them, but feel rude snapping away from inside the car as we slid past. They are a really interesting sight - these women of the Alitplano, wearing the big colourful skirts with bowler hats, at this time covered with plastic bags for the rain. Huddled around them or strapped to their backs are children, who help carry things also - or have a great time playing in the mud.

The alive with pleasure moment? The smiles on people's faces, as they stood in mud and pouring rain as it grew dark and chatted with each other.

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