Above: Laguna Churup near Huaráz, Perú. Nice, huh? Scroll down for more photos!
Huanchaco to Huaráz: first impressions.
The bus ride really wasn’t so bad – I initially got to sleep pretty quickly. But later, as we climbed into the mountains, I woke up and felt nauseous and couldn’t sleep. It eventually passed, thank goodness! I got back to sleep and we arrived in Huaraz two hours earlier than we thought.
At 5:45 or so, the sun rose on the far side of the Cordillera Blanca. The craggy, jagged peaks looked razor sharp in silhouette, but we couldn’t make out any colors or features, just vampire teeth against a crisp cloudless sky.
We got off the bus and it was cold! I’d guess low 40s. I had my hat, gloves, and down jacket handy and I’m SOOO glad I did! By the time we went into the station, used the restroom, pulled out the address of our hostel, the ambient half-light of dawn had cast the valley in various shades of blues. We could make out the stark whiteness of the peaks towering over darker, earth-colored summits that take their root right in the valley floor.
Our taxi got us to Jo’s Place in about five minutes. We knew we were early, and despite our fatigue we fully expected to have to wait until noon or 1pm for our room to be ready. But Melina didn’t make us wait. She led us up three flights of narrow stairs. I huffed and puffed my way to the top. The altitude said hello.
Melina explained that if we waited on the balcony she’d clean our room then and there. I was too breathless to even say thank you. Thankfully, Adam kept his wits about him and she went about busily cleaning our room.
Our balcony. If I was breathless from the climb, the view left me awe-struck and breathless for a different reason. The sun hadn’t yet made it over the Cordillera Blanca, but its rays of light spangled out from its apex that looked like Heaven itself was about to burst forth from the east. And to our North, a massive glacier-domed series of sparkling peaks caught the dawn’s golden light. Compared to everything else we could see (which was pretty nice) it was hard to tear our eyes from this wondrous beauty. Nibbling cashew nuts, and some of Paul’s homemade bread, I suddenly felt awash in what can only be called joie de vivre. It was like that time on the high páramo of Ecuador when Volcan Antisana suddenly burst forth into view and my emotional bottom fell out. It happened again: I just felt so lucky, so blessed to be here, to be alive, to be able to experience this moment, and add to that the excitement of soon going out to explore it.
So Melina finished our room, and it’s probably the best room in the hostel. With 180-degree window views of the valley and surrounding mountains, our own private balcony, and a super warm, cosy, multi-blanket laden bed. I’m in heaven. But I also had this blasted cold, so the first thing I did was rinse off the bus (oh sweet goodness HOT WATER!!), put on clean, warm clothes, crawl under the covers, and vow never to come out until I was well.
Well, while dozing into a stupor of thankfulness for a warm, clean bed, the sun made its way over the mountains and positively flooded our room with warm, golden light. Adam went right to breakfast, but I decided to nibble more bread, drink water, and sleep until maybe next week.
I felt like a cat sleeping in a sunny window… utter bliss… until I realized that that sunlight is probably not good for my skin beaming in directly on my forehead as it was, so I drew the curtain right over the bed and let sleep take me…
…until Adam roused me at 10:00. (Only 10??? Golly, we DID get in early; it felt like I’d been sleeping for hours!!) He encouraged me to get up and go for a walk with him, and I resisted. The bed was snug and warm and didn’t I vow never to leave it? But then I noticed that our stores of water were diminishing and it was literally for that reason alone that I got up, (thirst!) layered up, sun-screened up, and walked out onto our balcony…
…just to realize how unbelievably HOT it was!! What?!?!? The temperature must have been 70 degrees. Okay, layers off, fanny pack secured, roll of toilet paper for my nose at the ready, LET’S GO!
We’ve heard a lot of people say Huaráz is not a “pretty city.” Well, it’s not. But we’ve been in Peru long enough to see past exposed mortar and brick, unfinished levels, and uneven side-walks. Fact is, the place (or at least where we are) is clean and well-maintained. In contrast with many places we’ve been, we were not approached by tour operators or people trying to corral us into their restaurants. We walked into a store and nobody got into our personal space to sell us what was inside. In fact, I think most people didn’t look at us twice.
We like that.
We’re a 15-minute walk from the center of town, and we can already see that this city has everything you need. Loads (well, relatively) of hiking/trekking stores and outfitters, a diversity of cafes and restaurants, and guess what? The whole city of about 100,000 runs on hydroelectric power! On Sundays, they apparently close down a portion of the city to cars so that cyclists and pedestrians can get out and about; there’s several microbreweries around; there’s some good ice cream shops; there’s a place where you can get Belgian Waffles all day. It’s a trekker’s mecca.What’s not to love?
We went to a juice shop/cafe where I had a delicious mango/grenadilla/guanabana smoothie. Then we got lunch and chowed down on chicken, sweet potatoes, crazy-lookin’ beans, choclo, some kinda oaty/yummy soup and rice pudding. Then more coffee!!!
Back at the hostel, Adam got to work. I washed some clothes in the sink, did yoga, and wrote in my journal. This is what we live for. This is what we travel for: new places, new food, new scenery, and new experiences that set our hearts on fire.
We were really excited get up into those mountains, though. Unfortunately, I had a cold that needed to pass, and we also both experienced a bit of the ol’ backpackers’ malady. However, after nearly a week, we were finally ready for a hike. We started with something “easy:” a day hike to Laguna Churup.
Hiking to Laguna Churup is easy to arrange on your own. There’s plenty of advice on TripAdvisor about how, when, where, and how much. We took a 7am colectivo to the trail head for S/10 per person. The hike there and back was a mere four hours. We were back in time for four o’clock tea!
At the trailhead, you have to register and pay for a day pass (S./5), or, if you’re planning on doing some longer trekking in the Parque Nacional Huascaran, go ahead and pay for an unlimited pass for a month. It’s S./65.
It was two hours of constant uphill climb. It’s not easy if you’re not acclimatized, but the views get better and better the farther you go.
The lagoon is nestled right at the base of Churup Mountain. A series of ropes helps you up an almost vertical ascent near the top to the left of the waterfall.
So happy to be there!