Disclaimer: this post is about a week late due to our insane travel schedule…
Alli and I know only one speed- and that’s full speed ahead.
We landed in Lima on Tuesday night 10/27, crashed in the hostel- where we were welcomed and treated like queens. We hadn’t heard great things about Lima, so we decided to skip town the next day and took off into the mountains. We took an 8-hour bus ride to Huaraz, (a mountain town north of Lima in the heart of the Peruvian Andes) on Wednesday 10/28. On Thursday we went on a day trip from Huaraz to see Pastoruri Glacier at 16,465ft above sea level (the highest Alli and I have ever been… Quite literally)!
After hashing things out with our mysterious/sketch helper Marcos, we agreed to embark on the 3-day Santa Cruz trek thru el Parque Nacional Huascaran.
We embarked early Friday morning along with 13 soon-to-be amazing friends from numerous countries. This is when things got interesting (and painful). The first day we hiked from Vaqueria to Paria campsite (12,628ft). This was the single most difficult physical activity I have ever done in my entire life. Despite taking acetazolamide, stuffing coca leaves in my cheeks (the Peruvian cure for altitude sickness), and drowning myself in coca tea… I nearly died.
Ok, classic exaggeration, but it sucked… I’ll spare you the details, but my body was in full revolt. Thanks to Alli and our Swiss friend Jeannine, our guide was able to make me a magical Peruvian potion to cure my altitude sickness. Lemme tell ya- it worked like a charm. Still don’t know the exact ingredients… but something worked.
On the second day of the trek we hiked to the highest point of Santa Cruz, Punta Union at 15,580ft. I finished dead last of all 15 hikers (and a very far last place), but it was well worth it with its stunning views of snow capped mountains and bright blue lagunas. The rest of the day was downhill to our camp. Some in our group took advantage of the ice cold glacier stream to bathe in, and we played a fun card game of “President and Asshole” with the Frenchies.
The 3rd and final day was mostly downhill… But a long and steep 10 miles downhill (rough on the feetsies). The group we were with (including Alli) was a bit… INTENSE. They didn’t stop for as many photos, so I was put even further behind. (Worth it to capture such breathtaking scenery!) Despite still feeling half human at such high altitude… we arrived at our final destination, and of course I was dead last. I was used to it at this point. I think it was good for me in a way… I don’t think I’ve ever worked THAT hard and still lost so sorely. I’m only human.
Once we exited the park, we took a combi (cheap taxi in which they pile as many humans as can possibly fit into a car) back to Huaraz. We crammed 8 people into what should have been a 5 person car, swerving around dirt roads with cliffs a mile high, with no guard rails. Don’t worry mom and dad- it was suuuuper safe.
We arrived safely in Lima, despite a terrifying night bus ride in which our driver also loved swerving around cliff edges. Despite being exhausted after walking a total of 44 miles up and down mountains in high altitude, Alli and I had a rough time sleeping on that bus!
So… Things we’ve learned this past week:
– We’ll make friends from all over the world (Even the French can be cool!!)
– Although I believe I am/should be the exception to most rules… I am not an exception to getting severe altitude sickness.
– “Ass is ace” in French.
– “Suiza” is the name of Switzerland in Spanish… Not another Spanish word for shit.
– Offering cookies can have a deeper meaning than the cookie itself.
– As long term and frugal travelers, we’ve learned a few things about each other. Alli will pay the equivalent of $1.50 to shower after an intense 4 day hike thru the Peruvian Andes, whereas Elizabeth refuses. Elizabeth happily will pay $1.50 for a hot breakfast, while Alli refuses. Instead, she’ll eat the stale water crackers for breakfast.
– America MUST switch to the metric system. We’re sick of being the only ones who don’t really get how high a mountain is, or how much things measure out to. (How many cm tall are you? Who the heck knows that?)
– When you feel like you’re dying, the mysterious Peruvian potion can and should be trusted immediately.
– It’s probably not the best idea to hand 640 soles ($215) to a random man you’ve met on the street, even if this man promises you a 4-day trek in the Peruvian Andes. (Thank Jesus this man was -mostly- honest and came through!)
– After one week of navigating Peruvian cities, we’ve realized that collectivos are 100% the way to go. (Collectivos are the size of a mini van that will pack humans to 3X it’s actual capacity)
Until the next post!! Please keep praying for us- it’s working!!!