Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Preparing for trekking

DAY 20

So exactly three weeks into the Round the World, I get to do some decent trekking! Hurrah! But first today..

Up early for breakfast, then a spot of internet. The plan today was to buy stuff I needed for trekking, but I've gradually been talked out of everything! Map? Oh you don't need one. Compass? Can't really get them here. The only thing they've actually agreed to sell me is gas for my little baby stove, and even then fairly reluctantly.

Am listening to Happiness by Monkey Rules the Universe. Fabulous, go buy from their dodgy alternative label web site!

So today I planned to do a little warm up day trek - and Paulino recommends I don't climb up to a big crucifix above the town as the area isn't safe. Okayyyy. He suggests cabbing it to El Pinar then trekking from there up to some ruins up at Willcahuain. I do this. The walk is mostly along unmade roads through very rural areas. I make a point of being friendly to everyone, partially in the hope that I won't be robbed! About three hours later am up at the site, [GPS: 09.48333S, 77.51141W]. Have forgotten altitude, but think it was about 3600m. Very uninteresting selection of pottery and a story behind the site which is not worth going into! I have a slight dull headache, but as usual you can never be sure whether it's paranoia or genuinely altitude-related, until it becomes a splitting thumping headache which almost stops you from walking, which I'm sure Will remembers fondly from our day trek in the Himalayas!

Headed back down, and got chatting to two schoolkids who were trying out their English on me. I tried out Spanish on them. Very helpful. Collectivo into town, a bit of shopping - will be taking on the trek instant noodles, maggi soupy stuff, jalapeno pringles, a couple of hershey bars and ritz biscuits. Very nutritious diet I'm sure you'll agree. There's lots of talk in the book of water coming from streams. Hmmmm! On the other hand, I'm definitely not lugging 4-5 days of water round with me, my pack weighs a tonne already. Iodine at the ready! Wonder how much gas I should take… "Propane and propane accessories…", ah the sweet memories!

Lunch at Café Andino where I also pick up a map of the Huayhuash. Have a salad - figure this is enough greens to last me a while! Got talking to a short bearded Japanese chap who has been everywhere. Seriously. He's done Nepal three times, done Kailesh, done Patagonia. He's just come off the Santa Cruz trek, and apparently the weather was pants and he saw nothing. Oh dear!

So, what am I planning to do, and why am I so excited about this stuff?

First trek, starting tomorrow, is called Santa Cruz, it's pegged at 4-5 days, but there a few day side-branches I'd like to explore. It's a trek through the Cordillera Blanca range. A quick google images search will give you the gist of it all, but here's some spiel:

Extending almost 180km from North to South and largely included within the Huascaran National Park, the Cordillera Blanca has a total of 663 glaciers (29 of them at 6,000m or higher), and includes Huascaran (6,768m), the highest peak in the Peruvian Andes, and Alpamayo, considered by many to be the most beautiful mountain in the world. Its 269 lakes and 41 rivers are an important hydrological resource and provide water to the basins of the Santa, Pativilca and Maranon rivers.

So starting tomorrow I'm walking right through the middle of that, and hopefully will head up to the South Base Camp of Alpamayo. Of course, if the weather is pants, I might as well be in Wales. So fingers crossed. It was terrible last week, with heavy rain, then a few good days, and today it's cloudy. Am heading down to the Casa del Giaz, the official Mountaineering Station place in town, in a minute, to ask them what they think, not that it makes much difference as I'm heading off anyway!

So that's all good. Only problem is it's almost all camping, which I'd rather avoid given the choice. Anyway, onwards and upwards. So don't expect any updates for the next 5 days or so (for those of you glued to your RSS feeds!).

Once that's out of the way, am heading South a bit to the Huayhuash range. This is even more juicy. Here's the spiel:

The Huayhuash lies about 50km South and slightly East of the Cordillera Blanca. The 165km circuit around the Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the most spectacular mountain treks anywhere. It normally takes 10 or more days and crosses five high passes (for high read approx. 5000m) but the rewards are great: turquoise glacial lakes, clear mountain streams, forests teeming with rare species of bird, and wide-open vistas of 6000m peaks. From a distance it can appear to be a single peak, the 6634m Yerupaja, second highest in Peru and the highest point of the Amazon watershed, but there are actually more than a dozen serrated summits along an ice-clad ridge.

So that's the biggie.. which I'm absolutely looking forward to - Santa Cruz is a warm up :) Following that it's down to Cusco and Macchu Picchu, which I have a slight suspicion will be a big disappointment after all the wonderful scenery here. Then across to Lake Titikaka and Bolivia. Rule of thumb on dates.. Is now 8th, so Santa Cruz 9th till 14th? Then Huayhuash from 15th till about 27th. Then a couple of days to get down to Cusco. A week doing that stuff, a couple of days for Nasca lines etc. Then a week for Isla del Sol. Looks like it's timed perfectly for my flight out of La Paz on the.. Err.. 16th or 17th across to Brazil for Xmas. It's all good peeps!

I should also add, and this will of course be a source of endless morbid amusement if I don't make it for any reason, that I'm feeling much more confident about doing these treks on my own based on talking to everyone else round here. It sounds like there's a good amount of traffic heading through still, and I've met several people who have in the past week or so done these treks by themselves. Famous last words, eh ;)

No comments: