Many people have asked about ‘Puppy’ so I will put your minds at rest. At the end of the trek some local people took him on. He did try to escape and come with us so they had to cling onto him until we were well into the distance. They knew where he had come from and would return him, however, I don’t think they were in any hurry to. Last seen tickling him behind his ears and feeding him a hearty meal. It was tempting to take him with us but the responsibility of a hamster weighed greatly on us so I think a dog might just be beyond our capabilities. At the end of that trek we had a conversation that went along these lines: ‘I think the Huayhuash trek would be too much. I’m hurting after 5 days and one pass. That trek is 12 days and 8 or 9 passes. The cycling body is just not ready for it.’ ‘I agree. Would be nice to do another trek though. How about the Santa Cruz one? It’s 4 days and one pass.’ ‘Sounds great. Yep, let’s do that one.’ So it is with great bewilderment that we find ourselves embarking on a 10 day self supported trek, with 8 passes over 4000m, linking the Santa Cruz trek with the Alpamayo trek. Who came up with this idea? Finger pointing at each other. Noone prepared to take the blame. Yet again, in the Hyne household, the enthusiasm is high and the ability is low. Gets us into trouble every time. So, what does 10 days worth of food, that you will have to carry on your back, look like:
After being used to propelling ourselves by bicycle it was quite a change to be taking local transport. Our journey would involve 2 collectivos and a tuk-tuk to get us to the start of the trek. The first collectivo was the usual type of Hiace van that you see buzzing around the valley. They wait until they fill up with people and then depart. People then hop on and off along the way. Always packed full and always driven at breakneck speed. Was it a good sign that the driver crossed himself before we set off? This took us from Huaraz to Caraz. To get to the next collectivo spot we needed to take a tuk-tuk across town. Not quite sure its engine was beefy enough for us and our heavy packs. The final collectivo was a Toyota Corolla (standard vehicle here) to take us up the steep dirt road to Cashapampa. Given how we have seen plenty of Corollas still alive and functioning after being tested over the dirt roads here, Badge now has a new respect for them (expect to see one parked outside Ivy Cottages on our return!). Motorized transport survived, we headed off up the valley and were treated to a stunning camping spot right in the heart of some 6000m peaks….
…. with a beautiful alpenglow evening….
..and a frosty start the following day.
The first pass was Punta Union. This is the only pass tackled on the Santa Cruz trek. This trek is very popular and many backpackers include it in their itineraries. Therefore, we saw several groups on this section and there were even signposts.
Most of these groups are not self supported. They have a guide, a cook, a donkey driver and several ‘burros’. With heavy packs and cycling conditioned bodies we looked enviously on but our stingy cycle touring ways would not allow the expense (got legs, use them!) and it just, somehow, didn’t seem right. We concluded it might be something we could think about on our 60th birthday years (or could we stretch it to our 70ths?!). We were, therefore, surprised to see that the majority of the people using the burros were in their 20s. Time to toughen up, youth!
Pass number one tackled, we moved on to pass number 2. A steep climb upwards, with a path that was so hidden you couldn’t see it unless you were on it.
Small woodlands clinged to the sides of the mountains.
At over 4000m, when the life seemed to start slowly seeping out of me, it was thriving all around us:
It may appear that Badge is making a Winston Churchill V sign in reference to Remembrance Day, however, he is also celebrating summiting Pass number 2.
We were treated to a condor sighting on this pass which just completed the climb perfectly. From now on we saw no more gringos (tourists) for 5 days. It was just us, the wildlife and some shepherds.
Before we knew it we were over Pass number 3 and the bad hair/headware was setting in.
Perilous river crossings were teetered across…
…and beautiful camping spots were found. It was at this sunny spot that I realised, when Badge stripped off for a wash in the river, that he had become more hair than man. His head hair had become so out of proportion with his skinny body that I thought he may topple over.
We trekked up some beautiful hidden valleys, full of woodlands, pastures, waterfalls and flowers. At the end of each valley there was always a pass to climb. Each one was different in difficulty, geology and landscape.
Pass number 4 took us close to the glaciers.
Several times we awoke to a frosty start. Much thought is given to tent pitching in the evening with reference to the likelihood of the morning sun. We fully understand the worshipping of the sun gods.
Badge had some serious competition from the locals when it came to hairiness.
This sunny early start rewarded us with a lovely view of Alpamayo ‘the world’s most beautiful mountain’. Can’t disagree with that claim.
We were fortunate to keep the sun for a while and it stayed with us for Pass number 5. However, this was a ‘double pass day’ so we had to head onwards and upwards.
The sun did not stick around. Everything looked, well it looked rather Scottish to me. Or am I starting to miss home…
No time to stop and play games on this interesting pond feature,
we had to tackle Pass number 6. Bit chilly on the top.
The scenery was stunning when we crested the top. We were surrounded by 6000m peaks.
We were heading down into the Alpamayo valley and hoping for another glimpse of the mighty pinnacle.
You could almost touch the glaciers.
The mountain goddesses were kind and let us have one more sighting of Alpamayo before we left the valley…..
…. to climb over our final two passes of the trek. These last two were big ones, another ‘double pass day’. The packs were weighing less but the fatigue was kicking in. It can’t be easy carrying all that weight on your chin….
Pass number 7 was greeted with joy. We were nearly to the end of the climbs. There were signs that people had travelled this way before.
We had one final pass to conquer and it certainly kept us on our toes. There were at least 4 false horizons. It tested us and found us wanting.
However, somehow we managed it and were delighted to be at the top of Pass number 8. Chocolate and toffees may have something to do with it.
Then it was down into the murk. Everything looked, well it looked rather Dartmoor-like to me. Or am I starting to miss home…
November is the start of the rainy season here and it has begun in earnest now. We have been lucky enough to not be too effected by it so far but there seems to be no escaping it now so we shall be heading southwards very soon.
We dropped out of the murk and into the patchwork fields of Hualcayan. Back into civilisation and the promise of chicken and chips for tea. We managed to catch a lift with the bus that goes to Caraz with the Hualcayan teachers in it. Unfortunately, a few other villagers wanted to as well. This did not seem to be a problem as 16 people can fit in a 12 seater van no problem……
So, back into Huaraz for Badge’s birthday. How does a newly 45 year old celebrate his birthday……. beer, curry, cake……and……a……..hair/beard cut!
*WARNING: the following images may offend some poeple*
I appreciate the beard had quite a following and some of you may be devastated at this news. Tough! You didn’t have to sit opposite him at every meal and be followed by small children pointing at his chin! Have no fear, there’s another 6 months growth on its way….