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Travel Story by Ian Reynolds

  In the mountains of Northern Peru
Huaraz, Peru

Stunning views of the Cordillera Blanca

Before heading north I spent a day in the capital, Lima. It doesn’t have a good reputation but there are some redeeming features such as attractive colonial architecture and interesting museums.

At Trujillo I took a day tour of the archaeological sites in the area. Nearby is the ancient Chimu capital of Chan Chan, the largest mud city in the world. The Moche pyramids of the Temples of the Sun and Moon, which date back about 1500 years, were interesting.

The first week of my Peru adventure was spent in Huaraz, home to the magnificent snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. The highlight was the Santa Cruz trek which took four days. The scenery was breathtaking with shining glaciers, sparkling streams, awesome vertical walls and lovely lakes.

This is the most popular trek in the Cordillera Blanca due to the incredible mountain scenery including snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes and beautiful meadows. The 45 km hike is not particularly difficult (rated moderate) so long as you have acclimatised for a few days in Huaraz. The altitude along the trail ranges from 2,900m to 4,750m. There are established campsites and pit toilets at regular intervals along the route. You can walk the trail in both directions - I started at Vaqueria and finished at Cashapampa.

I was too lazy to arrange buying food and renting camping gear so I just left it to the proprietors of the lodge I was staying at in Huaraz to arrange a trek for me. I went with four other trekkers and we had a guide/cook, and a donkey driver to carry our rucksacks, camping gear, and food. Transportation was also provided at both ends. For just $90 USD it was very convenient and saved a lot of time and hassle. Doing it solo would not have necessarily been much cheaper and we were a small trekking group and saw few other trekkers en route.

While in Huaraz I did a couple of days trips, one to the ruins at Chavin, and another to Pastoruri Glacier and the Puya Raimondii plants. The latter offers a great opportunity to visit and walk on a glacier. The glacier is fairly flat and you don't need any special equipment but, at 5240m in altitude, you need to be well acclimatised.

This trip is usually combined with a visit to the valley of Pachacoto, 57km to the south of Huaraz, where you can see the Puya de Raimondii plants. These strange plants, looking more like mutated cacti, are actually the largest members of the bromeliad family (relative of the pineapple). This species is considered to be one of the oldest in the world, and can be found in only a few isolated areas of the Andes. The low bushy base of the Puya Raimondii forms a large rosette of spiky, long leaves, about 1˝m across. The plant flowers just once in its life which can be up to 100 years.

Click on photo to enlarge

Taking a break on the Santa Cruz trek  Puya de Raimondii plant  Chan Chan, Trujillo

Date Submitted:
19 Nov 2006

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