My first night back into travelling mode was not as restful as I’d envisioned. I was so exhausted that I fell into my lower bunk bed (woohoo no ladder for me) around 9.30pm and was soundo before 10pm even with the light on. Was having a lovely sleep (with bizarre dreams), before I was rudely awakened by the Brazilian woman evidently not sleeping above me. “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU, YOU HAVE TO STOP!” In utter bewilderment I was shocked awake and had no clue who she was yelling at. Had I been snoring? (I had a blocked nose). Was I moving around a lot in my sleep and it was shaking her bed (I’m a bit of a fidget sometimes)? I checked the time, 4am, and finally concluded through the glaring light shining above me that she was on her phone and her banshee screeching was not directed at me. I had a quick look around but Abi and the Super Saiyan wannabe (if you don’t know Dragonball Z please see image below for hair style reference) were totally soundo. I tried to get back to sleep but I then heard a Darth Vader impersonation above me before the snoring began and she became a demon minion for the rest of the night. I was sorely tempted to hide her shoes but settled for going back to sleep instead.
Abi had found out about the famous Chifa cuisine in Peru. A Chinese influence combined with Peruvian heritage culminating in a fusion which is extremely popular and considered Peruvian here. We were informed it was ‘healthy’ food and went on a trek to a recommended Chifa restaurant. I felt we were off to a good start as it was packed with locals, but I’ll be blunt, it was Chinese take out. Perhaps we weren’t in the right type of restaurant and I’m being unfair..but I saw no difference to a standard London Chinese take away. Except that we were given watermelon as a dessert.
We took a bus from Lima to Huaraz – 8 hour bus ride with Oltursa which was seriously comfortable and after a sleeping pill, (which turned out to be Xanax – whoops) I slept through what Abi described as an experience similar to ‘the night bus out of Harry Potter’.
In preparation for our trek to Lake 69 Abi and I decided we didn’t have enough warm clothing with us so went on a sweater hunt. After a few of the bog standard shops and no joy I spied a random stall and found we found ourselves epic Peruvian style jumpers (mine will now be added to my Alpaca wool jumper, Alpaca wool gloves and Alapa wool socks collection from my previous visit).
On the day of our hike we were up and ready by 5am (organised for 35 soles from our hostel Akilpo which serves an amazing breakfast and has extremely helpful staff – highly recommend). Our first stop was much like my visit last year to Machu Picchu – what was meant to be a wildly stunning lake was just a big fog patch. Peru strikes again.
The hike up to lake 69 was difficult due to the altitude. Huaraz is based at 3100m, the start of the hike is 3500m and the lake is based at 4600m. Abi and I had one day to acclimatise, and I’d like to think the altitude was the main reason the last hour of the hike was so miserable, but it may have had something to do with the several rounds of Christmas dinner, chocolate and mounds of mince pies I ate before flying out.
It seemed that everyone needed a wee fairly early on, we found some ruined huts for a bit of privacy but I’d have to say it’s been the most dangerous experience of my time in Peru (including last years trip). Pants down and squat on, not only trying to avoid the nettles and mud pot holes doted around, we were then charged at by the cows who took evident umbrage to our intrusion of ‘their’ space. The popular comment of the day was ‘well if my heart wasn’t beating fast it is now’.
We were advised to bring an extra pair of socks to change into on the way home as the trek is often a wet one (we were extremely lucky with the weather and didn’t need them). There are however mine fields to pick your way through of hidden and treacherous mud holes / cow poo traps. Abi was doing a spectacular job of avoiding such traps until her foot completely disappeared, and while she quickly recovered and my heart went out to her, I couldn’t stop laughing. Joke was on me though as I did the same thing 5 min down the road.
I was getting to the point of wanting to stop, the trail that kept switching back on itself was a 213m climb, which at that altitude I found very tough. Thankfully the advice my wonderful travel pal ‘Dr.’ Steven gave me last year in regards to taking painkillers before and during a high altitude hike saved me from a certain migraine. Abi had some sort of crazy adrenaline rush and stormed the final section, and waved to indicate we were at the top. I was pretty grumpy and tired at this point, but when met with this view it was all so worth it…