It was a four hour bus journey from Paracas to Lima and it flew by. We were under a blanket of grey the entire time and I was sad to find out that Lima is grey all winter. We were stuck in traffic for a long time in Lima and I took the time to work out there was a bus lane that ran the length of the city. When the bus arrived at the terminal i had a sad goodbye with Sam Na Alice who were flying to London the next day. They were staying in a hotel close to the airport and on Alice’s advice I was staying in an area called Barranco. I pushed past the guys aggressively trying to get passengers form the bus into taxis. I have a new policy which is if someone is shouting at me to get a taxi/restaurant/whatever I ignore them and go somewhere else. I was approached by another group of drivers when exiting the bus station and i overconfidently informed them I was getting the bus when I nearly tripped over. I arrived at the bus station and when asking the price a kind stranger tapped me in as I needed a card and I managed to get to my hostel for free. I was impressed.

My SIM card had stopped working a few days before so one thing I wanted to do in Lima was to fix this. The hostel directed me to the local supermarket and I was excited to find it had decent bread and all the things that I’ve not seen in other parts of Peru. Finally a decent supermarket. The Claro counter in the supermarket couldn’t help me but I was directed into Miraflores another district with a pin in my map and a description on the bus. I found the bus, found the shop, managed to explain the issue in broken Spanish and had a fixed sim. I returned to the hostel just before dark and just in time to have a goodbye dinner with Alice and Sam. This one time we decided to go to an expensive restaurant and I had several gins.

The next day I decided to take a walk into the centre of town. I went to the bus station with the intention of buying a bus card and there was an old man and his wife who now life in Mexico visiting old friends and family in Peru. They let me use their card to get on the bus and showed me how to get to the main plaza. I took a wonder around the centre of town.

Afterwards I decided to try and go to the cat park. I was told by the German girl staying in my dorm that there was a car full of cats. After walking for more than 8km I realised I’d been heading towards the wrong Kennedy park. I decided to give up and head back to Barranco as I had agreed to meet with Javier and Marina for a city tour.

I had an early night ahead of the long bus journey to Huaraz. The day before I contacted a friend who is seen had some hiking in Huaraz. I had wanted to do a trek called the Huayhuash which is an 8-12 day trek depending on how you decide to hike it. The agency that my friend had put me in touch with wasn’t doing the hike due to bad weather but they said a group was going on the Santa Cruz trek the next day. I decided to go for it and it meant I’d have a busy night ahead of me when I arrived in Hiaraz. The bus takes 10 hours and it’s a beautiful drive through the mountains. I snapped some pics on the way.

I arrived in town walked the 2km to the agency though some of the craziest Friday night streets I’ve seen in South America. Half of the main road by the bus station was blocked by a stage and crowd watching music. I soon found this was a little was out of town and the centre was hectic with so many people selling things on the streets there wasn’t really room to walk past. I arrived at the agency much later than I thought. I waited for a while and then was told there was time to check in before the briefing. Luckily my hostel was close by but despite the lovely people in my room I decided it was run by crazy people and the choice of either too hot or two cold for the showers was not to my liking.

I returned to the agency and met one of my fellow hikers who I’d share a tent with. I paid and then the rest of the group arrived. All of them were Israeli so yet again I was the odd one out. By this time it was 8pm and I’d need to get up at 4am the next day. I paid and went to a supermarket for supplies. I quickly had pizza at an Italian restaurant and then had to go through the process of repacking while chatting to the lovely people in my dorm and I managed to bed before midnight knowing I’d be up in 4 hours. Although I realised it was also now or never to book a flight to Iquitos and in the process I dropped my passport down the back of the custom made bunk bed. I was on the top bunk and he Canadian guy below me helped me retrieve it in the morning but there was a point when I worried it was stuck there.

I awoke at 4am and was picked up at 5am. I was exhausted and the day before had been crazy. In hindsight not the best way to start the hike. We drove around picking up the others and then for three hours until the breakfast point. After breakfast we drove for around another hour and made a stop off at this beautiful lake.

We returned to the minibus and proceeded to drive up the side of a mountain and over a pass. I think it’s the highest altitude I’ve climbed in a bus on a single road, well at least using switchbacks up the side of the same mountain. I hope the pictures below give some semblance of how crazy this road is. I took all the photos out he window of a moving bus. I had hoped that it would stop at the top to get photos and regretted not asking the driver to stop. Still it was a beautiful view.

Once we did reach the top and passed through into the valley the other side it was all downhill. Here we passed some crazy people cycling and stopped for a toilet break. It takes a long time to drive around these roads.

At around 11am we reached our starting point and while our guide, cook and horseman sorted things out two local girls had great fun causing trouble by taping us on the backs and running away. I do like how children here are not so scared of interacting with adults and the partners let them. I think it’s good for social skills.

Soon we were on our way and today was an easy day. A short 10km walk down and then along the valley to the first camp. And very near the start of the trail we saw some piglets.

Most of he trail was along he bottom of the valley which was grassy and sparingly like a peat bog. I hadn’t really been in a climate like this since Patagonia and the beginning of El Choro and it made for an interesting walking as I’ve been in various types of desert most of the time.

It was a pretty grey day which didn’t really help the pictures and as a result I took less. The valley was still beautiful but a blue sky always helps.

We soon reached the first camp and helped put up the tents. We were nestled in between lots of snow covered mountains but the sky conspired to stop me getting a great view of them. Some of us decided to go for an extra walk. I turned back early as I thought it would rain and when I was back at camp I managed to get the photos of he guys walking along the ridge. It got dark quickly and very cold soon after. I decided to head to bed as it had been a long day already and we were going to get 5am wakeup calla for the entire trek.

We awoke to thick fog on the second day. Had breakfast and left camp before 7am. Today was supposed to be the hardest day as we would be crossing the pass at 4700 metres. We all stuck together as a group but when the others stopped to climb on boulders I kept walking. I stopped to wait but then a group of French overtook me and not to be outdone and as it was only 2km to the pass I decided to push ahead and wait for everyone there thinking they could not be far behind. The patch turned to rock and weirdly became hard to follow. One of the other guides caught up with me and I stopped when he did before the pass as I thought my group might stop in he same place.

I was really tired and had probably pushed it too fast to reach this point as my head started hurting. I drank water and waited for my group as lots of pack donkeys passed in both directions. 20 minutes passed and nothing but the fog was starting to clear so I buddies myself and took photos.

I had been waiting for 40 minutes before the first of my group arrived. By this time I really wasn’t feeling great but the fog had mostly cleared creating some beautiful views. I accepted an altitude sickness pill and some pain killers but for me it was a little too late.i waited around as the group went first to get some shots and then headed up to the pass.

The next section was painful but it wasn’t to far so after a few stops I reached the the top and it was stunning.

I really can’t say it anymore but I love the mountains.

We waited at the top for everyone to arrive and were up there too long for me. I started feeling really sick and hasn’t felt this bad since Pico Austria. Luckily I knew the cute this time. Go down. Unluckily for me the group was going to stop for lunch first. It started snowing so we descended a little and our guide suggested I lie upside down to let the blood rush to my head. While I did this the sky cleared even more an allowed some of the pictures above and below. People tried to encourage me to eat but I felt so sick I knew it was not a good idea and I decided to start down before the rest of the group. This is probably the worst I’ve felt on a hike, excluding Pico Austria, and I had tears streaming down my face as I found the energy to fight a migraine and tried not to be sick. Surprisingly I took less photos which was a shame as this valley is up in my top 10 but I did manage to enjoy the beauty.

After a long climb down I started to feel better and eventually ended up in the second camp which is possibly the most scenic point of the hike. I had coca tea and went to lie down feeling weak but much better. I had dinner and went to bed but that’s normal for hiking. It’s freezing in the mountains and on this hike there were no lodges or communal spaces to there was no where to hang out. I’ll cover days 3 & 4 in the next post as there are a lot more pictures to come.