As we quickly realised that our initial plan of going from Colombia through Ecuador to Peru would not make sense considering the time we had at our disposal, we decided to fly from Colombia’s northern coast straight to Lima. A few hours after landing in Peru we hopped on a night bus for Huaraz, a town north or Lima in the middle of the Cordillera Blanca, 3100m above sea level.
We gave ourselves a day to adapt to the altitude, shop some gears, visit the local market and sample some food. Interestingly, Peru is famous for its Chifa restaurants that offer a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian food. “Chifan” means “meal” in Chinese (yes, one of the few words we remember from China), so that all made sense to us and we were happy to eat “Asian” food in South America without feeling guilty. In the market, we had lunch with the locals and portions were huge! After receiving an enormous soup, we had some grilled chicken and sampled a famous Peruvian dish: lomo saltado, sautéed meat with a slightly sweet vinegar sauce served with rice, reminding us of an Asian stir-fry.
Done talking about food (sigh), we came all the way up here to see the natural wonders surrounding Huaraz. We did three daily excursions, starting easy because of the altitude. First, we went to the Laguna Parón, 4200m. We actually drove all the way to the Laguna and did a little hike to a view point. Easy, but we could already feel the lack of oxygen. The Laguna itself was absolutely stunning and the snowy peaks in the background were simply majestic. Back to Huaraz that evening, Quentin got a big slap of altitude sickness in the face and wasn’t laughing much anymore.
Then, we took a tour to the Pastoruri Glacier, 5200m high. We stopped on the way to admire some sparkling water coming out of the ground as well as the famous Puya Raymondi cacti, that first look like a cool giant spike ball before growing to look like a giant p…Cailler chocolate bar with a ballet tutu.
We were dropped close to the glacier but had to walk up for an hour before reaching it. This time, at 5200m, we could really feel the lack of oxygen and had to walk very slowly, our legs feeling heavy. We took our time, which was apparently a good idea because we did encounter some people sitting on the side of the path, holding their heads, some crying and even some puking. The glacier itself was nice and the landscape surrounding it even more impressive. We felt a bit sad to know that it is one of the fastest retreating glacier in the world, and will probably be mostly gone within the next 15 years…
Third and last, we hiked up to the Laguna 69, one of the most popular spots in Huaraz. Although the laguna “only” lays at 4600 meters above sea level, there’s a 700m ascent from the altitude of 3900m up to the Laguna, which was pretty harsh considering we had a time limit to get the bus back to Huaraz. The trek started in a beautiful valley surrounded by several white peaks, the most impressive being the Huascaran, Peru’s highest mountain with its 6768 meters. Three hours later walking up we arrived at the Laguna which took away the last bit of breath we had left. Pictures speak for themselves, although it would be impossible to translate the immense beauty of that panorama in a single camera click. A few (or rather several) hours later we were back in Huaraz and took our night bus to Lima. We had even grabbed a discount tickets for a VIP sleeper, so it was a nice ride for once!