Peruvian Adventure 5/18/2006-6/28/2006
View form the communal deck at Momma Mesas
This AM, my first day in the Andes, woke at 6:30 and went upstairs to our open air deck, community kitchen and eating area and hung our with Skip and Tom, the only other current residents of Momma Meses.
Communal kitchen at Mamma Mesas
Skip is a professional guide on his 29th trip to
the Cordillera Blanca. He spent years on
the US Cycling Team and won the Tour of Peru three or four times which has a
lot to do with Huaraz being his second home.
He is from
Chris Benway stopped by and after chatting for a bit invited us for an on the house coffee at the Café Andino (Chris is the owner). Chris came to Huaraz for the same reason most people go there, to climb and hike in the high peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, but in the process and pursuit of his adventure he met a Peruvian lady, Ysabel, who he married and had a child with (approximately in that order).
The Café Andino is a slightly more rustic version of your
After a great breakfast burrito and social session it was time to hit the trail. My goal was Laguna Churup at 14,400 ft and my instructions were, “go out the front door, go three blocks south and listen for a collectivo driver calling out ‘Uba’”. I accomplished the first step very quickly and located the collectivo going to Uba. What I quickly learned that the collectivo, the main form of Peruvian public transportation, runs on only one schedule, when it is full it will go. I was the only one on board and it was already 9 AM. This made me a little nervous since the estimated time for the walk was eight hours and at this latitude the sun sets at 7 PM +/- 30 minutes all year round.
A short time later my soon to be British friends, Ian and Thomas jumped in. We introduced ourselves and sat for several more minutes until we realized this could be a long wait. With some aggressive negotiations we settled on a price of 5 sols a piece ($1.50), and even with a near empty van the driver headed off for Uba. We picked up a few more locals along the way, so the trip wasn’t a total loss for the driver. The collectivo drivers rent these vehicles for a flat $25 per day, not including gas, and then just load them up all day. It probably takes 30-40 fares to break even.
We finally got dumped off at a non-descript trail head and
the driver asked when we would return.
We said around 6 PM and he said he would be waiting. As we headed up the more than 3,000 ft climb
to the lake we had serious doubts that the driver would be sitting in this no
where spot waiting for us in 8 hours. In
spite of a thirty year age difference we all hit it off immediately. I learned that Ian and Thomas had been in
South America for nine months working in small rural villages in
The hike was spectacular with clean steep trails and even a short technical section that you free climb or get a fixed rope assist. I couldn’t help but compare the surroundings with the Garhwal Himalayas where we had trekked a year and half before. The Garhwals were spectacular, but no matter how remote you were there were always signs of humans in the form of litter. It was clear the Peruvians and their visitors put a greater value in their environment than the Indians and their visitors.
On the way up we met Jorje, a little Peruvian powerhouse who
was training to be an elite guide in the
(Left) Ian and Thomas on the trail to Churup
(Below right) Laguna Churup with Churup peak an Glacier in the back ground
Approaching the base of Churup Glacier
Now we just had to descend 4,600 ft and hopefully make it down by dark and find a ride back to Huaraz.
The sun set and with just enough light to see the trail we finally dragged ourselves on to the road back to Huaraz an hour beyond our designated pick up time. To our internal embarrassment and external relief and joy there the collectivo sat like the magic pumpkin carriage in Cinderella. Appropriately my feet felt like they had been stuffed in one size too small glass slippers for the past 9 hours.
Sunset on the trail on our way back to meet our collectivo
On the way back to town we picked up 14 more people from the villages and fields along the way. Ian, Thomas and I made plans to go to dinner, but first priority was a hot shower, the first shower I had had in nearly three days.
Back at Momma Mesas I ran in to Skip and Tommy and we shared a cup of tea on the deck before I headed to shower. There was one bathroom/shower for all of us which was no big deal since there were only three of us. I collected everything I would need to clean up, razor, soap, towel, steelwool, wire brush…I was needing a major clean up. I turned on the hot water and waited…and waited…and waited. No hot water. Bad combination, three days of travel scum and sweat, 10,000 ft elevation, no heat and no hot water. Normally I am allergic to cold water, but the need outweighed the risk and discomfort and I only had 15 minutes to meet Ian and Thomas, so I bit the bullet and became a man, a clean man at that.
I met the Brits at the Andino bar on time and from there we hit the Vagamundo and several other establishments. We polished off two large pizzas, a spaghetti with marinara, many beers and a bottle of decent cabernet before arriving home around midnight. We had a great time, but in the end I had to add another rule to the high altitude caution list, “be careful when hanging out with Brits”.