We had been looking forward to Huaraz, Peru as we’ve heard such great things – one friend even declared that she thought the hikes were more spectacular than the trail leading to Machu Picchu (hi, Yin!). We took a cheap overnight bus from Trujillo (big city near Huanchaco) to Huaraz. Matt didn’t sleep at all that night, and we arrived 3 hours ahead of schedule at 4AM. We arrived too early to contact our couchsurfing host and had nowhere to go, so we slept for 2 hours in the bus terminal. It was so cold that I slept inside my sleeping bag – not our finest moment.
When it was finally light outside, we wandered up the streets to find breakfast. Everyone in the Mercado was eating sheep soup for breakfast. Soup has proven to be a very popular breakfast item in Peru.
Matt also go a haircut for s/4 (note the hair models include Nick Carter(!?!?!) and Rob Patterson). On our way to our CouchSurfing host’s house, we stumbled across a game of volleyball! Huaraz actually had lots of volleyball and seemed even more popular than soccer.
Ivan, our host is a tour guide and was gracious to give us great recommendations and even help get the tickets to our first tours of the trip! Huaraz is surrounded by glacier-topped mountains, hidden lakes, and endless trekking opportunities.
During the dry season, Ivan has taken tourists for up to 15-day(!!) hikes through the wilderness. We arrived in the rainy season, so we opted to do several day hikes– Laguna 69, Pastoruri Glacier, and Laguna Wilhuacocha.
It was a 3-hour bus ride to Laguna 69. The hike is through a glacier-cut valley with two steep switchback ascents. There were livestock everywhere and we passed a large waterfall and several smaller lakes along the way. It was a much more aggressive 3-hour hike than we were expecting – we had spent the past few weeks at sea level and the altitude definitely had us easily winded. We passed a man carrying a 50-pound child on his back – I can’t even imagine! At the end, we were rewarded with a pristine-blue lake with a cascading waterfall from the glacier above. We enjoyed packed sandwiches at the top but a sleet storm rolled in as soon as we headed out. Luckily, the sun came out again after about 45 minutes and we were able to enjoy the rest of our return trip.
The next day, we headed to Pastoruri Glacier. The landscape of Laguna 69 was very green and lush; in contrast, the route to Pastoruri was golden grassland throughout the rolling mountains. One of the main attractions were Puya Raymondii – they grow up to 30 feet tall, bloom once in their life around 75 years and then die. The hike to the glacier was much easier than the previous day –I would recommend going to Pastoruri as a warm up to Laguna 69. The guide said that he has seen the glacier recede over 3 km over the past 20 years due to global warming.
Our last day in Huaraz we were supposed to go rock climbing with Ivan, but the gear rental guy wasn’t home so Matt and I ended up doing a short day hike to Lake Wilhuacocha. We met a girl traveling from Portland at the trailhead and walked there and back with her. She was a bird enthusiast, using her binoculars to identify the different types of birds along the way. How lucky are we to enjoy lunch at the top with this spectacular view?
Before we left Ivan’s house to take a night bus, he had us sign a guest book. He has had several hundred travelers come through his house. I was astounded by all the entries, written in different languages (I even translated a Chinese entry for his girlfriend). During our 3 nights at his place, we saw 3 other travelers at his place. We got advice from another fellow CouchSurfer from France – he had been traveling in South America for over a year and had just come from Cusco, our next destination.
Until now, we had always taken the cheapest bus available. But after hearing about 3 horrific bus accidents in Peru within one week, I felt uneasy boarding our s/30 night bus to Lima. After arriving to Lima, we decided to opt for nicer buses for our longer trips. My paranoia combined with a relentless couch and 0 leg room for Matt made our bus journey to Lima the worst one yet.