Snow and Sickness
Date: 14th August – 23rd August 2012
Where: Caraz – Yungay – Yurac Corral camp – Yungay – Huaraz – Lima – Cusco
Distance: 4440 to 4518 miles
Excited by the snowyness of the mountains and inspired by bicycle folklore of insanely beautiful loops over high passes we decided on our most challenging side-trip yet. The route would take us in a loop over the Cordillera Blanca and back to the Rio Santa valley over the course of 5-6days, crossing two passes over 4700m in the process! We were as ready as we could have hoped to be and armed with lots of sachet mashed potato we set off for the bottom of the first pass. That day we ascended over 1500m (1 and 1/2 Snwdns) on a generally well-graded track (The Spanish term is ‘ripio’) through some of the most amazing scenery we could hope to see, a real geography A-level class on glacier terrain. We felt strong as we reached the camp-spot at 3pm and 3900m, enjoying the last rays of sun before it hid behind the high-sided U-shaped valley we now found ourselves in. Things started to go wrong when we realised the bike lock had fallen off Sarah’s bike on the road. Geoff then hitched back down the mountain and up again, taking 1 and 1/2 hours in the process (didn’t find it!)…little did we know that this didn’t do much good for the stomach bug lingering in his stomach. Come the morning sulphurus burps and parps were followed by awful stomach cramps. Finally at about 11am it all came out, and instantly feeling better we retreated back to Yungay. The word ‘disappointed’ doesn’t do justice to how we felt.
Geoff spent the afternoon in bed and feeling a little better we agreed that if all was well(ish) in the morning we would cycle 30miles to the next big town called Huaraz and recover properly there. It was a tough day, but humbling as we cycled through the towns and villages still recovering from the 1970 earthquake which wiped out almost the entire town of Yungay amongst others.
The time in Huaraz gave us a chance to build up strength again and do one or two odd jobs, such as making a new (more stable) stand for Sarah’s coke stove that also had the advantage of folding flat. The views from our hostal were fantastic and we wished we could stay longer and do some trekking. After a relaxing couple of days we were ready to go and woke up early, but it wasn’t to be. Geoff felt like death again and a trip to the doctor’s yielded a long shopping list of drugs. Wanting to arrive in Bolivia before it rains at the start of October we both quickly decided in the pharmacy that the best option for us was to get the bus to Cusco. In doing so we would miss the majority of Peru, but it hasn’t really enamored us as a country for reasons mentioned in other posts.
As Geoff lay in bed drinking gatorade and eating ‘Kraps’ (salty plain biscuits), Sarah took the opportunity to touch ice for the first time. The tourist trip up to the Pastoruri glacier proved well worth the money with stunning vistas and a chance to experience what it is like at 5000m (tough!).
That night we got the bus to Lima, exploring it for the morning before catching the 20 hour bus to Cusco in the afternoon. Getting off in Cusco, it soon became apparent that one part of Peru is the same as another: the buses had emptied their toilets in the bust station so our bags were unloaded into a load of piss. Stinky place. We’re not giving up though, maybe all the tourists in Cusco will result in a better experience in the main town, plus we now have time to visit Machu Picchu 🙂