Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region and best access point into Huascaran National Park and the Cordillera Blanca. It is our last stop of this South America trip and only National Park we visited in Peru sadly (there are more national reserves than parks in this country). The city is bigger than I anticipated and nothing special. The reason for visiting though is for the national park and the archaeological site, Chavin de Huantar.
We arrived into Huaraz around 5am after our eight hour bus ride from Trujillo. We took a bus leaving at 9pm from the Linea company and it cost us 35 soles. When we arrived we got a taxi to our hostel, Caroline Lodging Hostel, it was really cheap, had a kitchen and decent location. We paid 35 soles a night for the two of us to have a private room. We also decided to book a tour with them to Laguna 69.
To visit Huascaran National Park and hike the various areas you can do it on your own but it is far more difficult because the entrance to many areas of the park are still a 2-3 hour drive from Huaraz. We paid 40 soles each for transportation and a "guide" plus an additional 10 soles for the park entrance fee, so overall a bit costly. The guide was useless and supplied no information, so that was a bummer.
I mentioned Laguna 69, which is the day hike we did and I admit it was the toughest hike I've ever done and it kicked my ass. I have come to the conclusion that altitude has a big affect on me and even before the hike I wasn't feeling well. There are far more difficult hikes out there but if you aren't in shape or feeling well then this will be a challenging hike. We started at about
3,700 meters and ended at roughly 4,600 meters, which is about 15,000 feet. The hike took me three hours to climb up and I was one of the last ones in our group. There were about 25 people in this group, which was disappointing and ridiculous, and maybe five people were behind me. The entire hike up I was having trouble breathing, I had a ferocious head ache and I was basically just feeling weak but determined to finish the hike and see the lake.
On the drive up we passed by a beautiful aquamarine colored lake and later on the hike we passed by a smaller lake. Throughout the hike you are climbing up, passing by waterfalls, pasteurizing cows, and looking up at massive snow covered mountains. Also maybe due to the time of the year the weather was nice and warm mostly and the landscape was very green. Honestly the scenery was truly beautiful. Alas after three hours I made it to Laguna 69.
I was unable to find out why it is called that and it was beautiful but our group spent too much time there. This lake is also a beautiful aquamarine color and at the base of fantastic snow covered peaks but it is not a very large lake and nothing there to do besides regain energy and look around. I spent about an hour there (Michelle was there for an hour and a half) and we had our fill of the lake, so we decided to head back on our own. I am a good downhill hiker, for some people it's difficult because of their knees but for me it's easy. The hike down took me only about an hour and a half and I'm glad we left when we did. Throughout the hike you cross several small streams and half of the hike has running water going down, but it is mild. Yet when we left the largest crossing had gotten higher so that was a bit difficult to cross.
By this time it was about 2:00 and rain clouds were starting to roll in. I was so exhausted and my head was hurting so bad that I felt like I ran down that mountain in order to be done. Once we were back we waited for a bit until the rest of the group made their way back as well and then another two and half hour bus ride back to Huaraz.
I was planning on visiting Chavin de Huantar the next day on my own but I didn't have the strength or want to be on a bus for another six hours on top of the seven we were doing later that night. So we left Huaraz feeling accomplished and ready to be on our way to Lima to get back home. This will be my final blog with the exception of an overall South America blog I have saved for last. To all my friends, family and any other readers I thank you for following my stories and I can't wait to see all my loved ones.