Days in Huaraz

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Early mornings in Huaraz, breakfast is on, porridge with banana and cinnamon, energy food, the air coming off the glaciers has a refreshing chill that reminds you that you are in the mountains, the white peaks are dappled orange with the rising sun, we have landed on our feet here, in Jo’s Place, a hostel for climbers and trekkers and cyclists, for anyone and everyone, with its tent filled garden and cosy rooms and chilled out spots, talk is of ice conditions, ridges and south faces, mini expeditions on big routes, the familiar clink clink clunk of climbing gear, all this talk is making me jealous, a mountaineer on a bike with no gear, I wish I had a month here, 6000m mountains out of reach but still, it is great to have stumbled in here and to get that feeling, that longing to climb. It will happen but for now we are cyclists and are content to do some trekking.

Jo has been over here for "ages and ages", an Englishman with a dry sense of humour, very knowledgeable about the area and a climber in his day. Now he entertains us over his morning cigarette, giving out good advice for any sort of trip you may want to undertake. It is good to be back amongst people we know, this is certainly the best place we have found since way back in Boquete, Panama.

Huaraz is the biggest town in the Cordillera and has a very definite Andean feel. The surrounding countryside is teeming with life, mainly small farmers in the fertile Rio Santa valley. There is something about this place, its hard to put a finger on it but it is easily one of my favourite places on the trip. The people are so connected to the land and to their communities, everything is done by hand, farmers in the fields planting by hand, tending crops by hand, picking by hand and sprawling stands on the streets selling all sorts of vegetable and fruit. Yes, we have seen it all before but it is different somehow.

On Jo’s advice we decided to hike up to lago 69, an azure lake high up in the mountains. It is possibly one of the best one day walks you can do, and although we are taking time to relax and acclimatize to the higher altitudes to come, we really wanted to spend a day in the hills. It is easy to get to the start of the many trails that dot the valley, a collectivo to some town followed by a car ride up some rocky road, all local transport brings you to this.

We got to our starting point at 11, not early but not too late, a few clouds swirling about the peaks, a warmth in the sun even at 4000m. The walk is 7 hours return but we are used to the heights and fit and so figured it would be straightforward and we would easily be down before the sunset. It is such a great feeling to be in the mountains, these are the high Andes, this is a wild land, a land for the adventurous.

Needless to say, the walk was spectacular.

We reached the lake in a couple of  hours. It is in a stunning location, surrounded by snow covered peaks, its blue colour coming from particles suspended in the water flowing off the glaciers.

We still have a couple of days to relax before heading towards Cusco. We got our bikes serviced with a local mechanic, really necessary the dirt and dust of the last week and I guess after the 7500kms we have cycled from Mexico. The next stretch will take 4 weeks, the path less travelled over the mountains, more dirt roads and more Andean culture.  In the meantime we are going to enjoy Huaraz. Touching the Void is on in a local cafe cinema tonight. I don’t know if you have read the book but the story is infamous in mountaineering circles and played out in this area. I love the book and have been waiting a while to see the film. Its good to chill. It is good to be here.

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