Having got back from the Santa Cruz trek I was slightly delirious, sleep deprived and grateful to be in one piece. In the hostel, I ended up chatting to this guy from Israel who was looking for hiking partners to do a 10 day trek (Huaywash). Obviously without even batting an eye lid I agreed and before I knew it I was buying maps and head torches for the challenging trek . We spent the next 2 days preparing and buying all the essential bits. Asaf the Isreali, had been in the army for 4 years and fought in the war in Gaza. It soon transpired that he was a very intense and an aggressive guy and not exactly my cup of tea. Why I had agreed to do more hiking alone with this stranger for the next 10 days is an excellent question. Absolute idiot is why. One evening en route back to our extremely cheap hostel he pulled out a huge knife saying he didn’t trust the area and was trying to protect me. This is when I knew I needed out.
One of the days a gang of us from the hostel went to the famous Laguna 69 which is about a 5 hour round trip of walking. I was forced to do the hike in jeans because somehow once again I’ve lost a load of clothes.The lake is stunning and has the most magical blue colour. We had snow, wind, rain and sun at the top. I stupidly lost my lens cover for my camera in a cave (didn’t think I’d be back in a cave so quickly).I spent ages underneath rocks trying to route it out. I was giving up hope when I eventually found a long armed German who saved the day and rooted it out for me.
At the top I enjoyed some of my Irish chocolate (a pressie from una). It doesn’t get much better than that.
Asaf went for a dip in the Laguna and I got a full view of him in the nip as he had me fetching his clothes. This is when I decided there was no hope of me going with him the following day.
En route down from Laguna 69 I was warned that there was an aggressive cow on the path and to be careful. Having spent the past 2 nights sleeping with cows I didn’t bat an eye lid. I approached the cow and it gave me the most evil stare that I knew it he meant business. I was with a french girl who ran away ( I don’t blame her) and before I knew the cow launched at me and pinned me again the side of a cliff digging his horns into my arms. I manged to free myself by hitting him with my camera bag. For once the ridiculously heavy 2 kg camera came in handy. I then legged it as far away as I could from the crazy cow. I found out later in the day the cow attacked 5 different tourists one of which being my Israeli mate who was actually thrown off the cliff (luckily he was ok).
After this incident I had even less of a desire to go back to the mountains. This is a typical me situation where I agree to everything and it’s only afterwards I think. I felt guilty because this trek is not possible on your own. So bailing meant the lunatic wouldn’t be able to go. For once, I made the sensible decision and bailed. I pulled a sickie ‘altitude sickness’. We were due to take a 4am bus the following morning Asaf was livid with me especially when I asked could we split the food. I even went as far as spooning peanut butter into plastic bag and decanting my portion of whiskey into a plastic bottle which will definitely come in handy later.
I spent my last day in Huarez chilling out with the sound hostel owner, drinking beer, going to stunning view points and eating ceviche. All the while Asaf was in a huff!!With the volume of food I have now acquired I could feed a small army. I am subsequently carrying about 5 extra kg of food just what the bulging backpack needs! An idiot but a very relieved and happy idiot not to be on the mountain with that funny fish. Lesson learned Ro!
Huarez itself isn’t the most stunning town but is the perfect base to get to some amazing places. I can’t recommend it enough but it’s always good to move on so my next stop was Cajamarca.
This is Peru’s most famous place for cheese and dairy products (what I’m missing most from home). This was one of the main reasons for going here unfortunately the cheese did not deliver but the ceviche made up for it. While in the market I was asking where I could find the best ceviche and this strange lady called Mongolia Nelly told me to follow her to the best ceviche restaurant in the city. So off I went. Mongolia Nelly is a Peruvian who lived in Miami for 25 years and another 25 years in Venezuela a strange but intriguing lady. She was right about the ceviche it was out of this world . We shared 2 beers and Mongolia Nelly milled into a Lomo Saltado (stir fired beef and rice) another Peruvian delicacy. When it came to the bill I was footing the beers.
Afterwards we went for coffee. I just ordered an espresso and Mongolia ordered cake (3 leches a typical moist milky sponge cake here). We lapped away for another while until Mongolia had to head off. Once again when it came to the bill Mongolia left the honours to me to pay again! Lesson learned don’t ever trust anyone with the name Mongolia Nelly. V cheeky. She was obviously in it for the freebies but the ceviche was a hidden gem I would never had found that I forgive and forget!
I decided in the dairy capital of Peru that an ice cream was a must so I went traditional and bought lucuma ( a fruit similar enough to sweet potato) and maracuya (passion fruit). My best yet I could have eaten kilos of the stuff.
In Cajamarca I couched surfed with a lovely Peruvian lad called Hans. He brought me to Banos Del Inca very popular with the locals. I had no idea what this was but you basically get a private room with a natural thermal bath. So it was a little strange sharing a bath with my new mate Hans. At this point the made up boyfriend was brought up. He’s a catch, a doctor who plays football in Cork and he’s coming to visit me in Columbia for my birthday. Hans seemed very interested in him. I really have lost my mind it’s actually quite enjoyable making up idealistic boyfriends. Cajamarca is not touristy at all but is so worth a visit and is known as a small non touristy version of Cusco. After our bath feeling v relaxed we had a traditional breakfast drink of Quinoa. It’s a warm drink made of Quinoa, pineapple, cinnamon and cloves. It’s so popular here and for 20c I can see why. It’s usually eaten for breakfast with an egg or avocado roll (50c).
I was stopped 5 times that day from people looking for my photo they are not used to gringas here. Love the attention I should start charging the way the Peruvians do I would be minted.
So the bus from Cajamarca to Chachpoyas is renowned for being horrible. And true to its word it really was. It also known for being really dangerous the 13 hour overnight bus has to drive through the most narrow mountain ridges And the ‘roads’ are barely passable. There are free puke bags offered at the beginning because vomiting is a common occurrence and if anyone was going to vomit it was going to be me. I stocked up on extras. I was the lucky one who got seated next to a lovely but very obese Peruvian man. He had me suffocated for the journey. The heat the smell the entire experience was bleek, grim words don’t cover this one. I listened to the soundtrack of La La Land on repeat (forgot to download music) for the entire 13 hours. This was the only thing keeping me sane. At one point in the road there was another bus on coming so our bus man had to reverse around this cliff corner in pitch darkness. I was scared for the entire 13 hours because I was see how close we were to the cliffs edge, sleep was always going to be an impossibility.
When I arrived in Chachapoyas I tried to recover with a few coffees and some breakie. I then made my way to my couch surfing. I soon realized I had lost my mattress. You would think a difficult thing to loose but this is my second to kick the bucket. Raging!!!
I couldn’t have been luckier with this one. It was a Peruvian couple who are both tour guides. The guy was off doing a tour for the week so it was just Claudia and their Pup Tibet. There was another guy from Argentina also couch surfing and we all hit it off from the beginning. Cluadia was just back from a month’s holiday in Italy where she lived for years. She brought back with her loads of Italian olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan , chocolates and coffee. That afternoon we all made risotto laced with the most stunning cheese. I couldn’t have been any happier tasting parmesan for the first time in 6 months. I felt like I was in a dream (it’s sounds ott but that’s how much I miss cheese).
Later in the evening the 3 of us set of to the nearby canyon for the most stunning view points.
The next day the 3 of us decided to head off the Kuelap which is a walled settlement built by the Chachapoyas population. It is built on top of a mountain 3,000m high. They believe that over 30,000 habitants lived there and is thought to be bigger than Machu Picchu. We set off at 5am for the challenging climb. It’s a solid 5 hour steep uphill but so worth it at the top the scenes are breath-taking. At the beginning you see loads of trees with the Chilimoya fruit (one of my favs in South America). If your feeling lazy and have money you can also take the cable car.
On the way up I had a bit of a fall in a mud bath and got severely stuck that I couldn’t move. I had to get lifted out. The poor hiking boots have been put through the mill. The pair of us are both on our last legs.
When we reached the historic site there was only one other French guy there who was camping (great idea). For me this place was more magical than Machu Picchu. Clearly Machu Picchu is a wonder but the whole tourism behind it is so excessive. The place is wedged with people. Up to 3,000 people visit Machu Pichcu each day. Kuelap has yet to be discovered so go now. The people in Chachpoyas are predicting lots more tourism with the recent construction of the cable car (only since last year).