Peru: Sta. Cruz Trek

Jan 29, 2020


Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

Almost a week in Huaraz and finally I’m about to do my first multi-day trek. Huaraz. One of the main reasons why I came to the continent. Less known compared to Cusco (the base for Machu Picchu) but offers some of the best trekking adventures in the Peruvian Andes.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

I was about to do the 4-day Santa Cruz Trek with Caleb Expeditions who told me that I should do it first before doing the harder and longer 8-day Huayhuash Trek. A sort of ‘training’ and getting used to a few days out in the mountains, especially since I’ve never done a multi-day camping trek before, since Nepal treks had teahouses. To prepare for it, I also did a couple of day treks – Lake Paron and Pastoruri Glacier.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

We got picked up really early on Day 1 to a nearby town where we transferred to a public van for Vaqueira. We had some time to get breakfast and pick-up last minute snacks and toiletries for the trek. Luckily, we had the whole van almost to ourselves and had more space. It remained gloomy and rainy during the 3-4 hours ride to Vaqueria. The first part of the ride passed by villages up to the park entrance where we paid for the park fee. Afterwards, vegetation started to change, we drove in the middle of a gorge passing by turquiose lakes. We went further up, gaining elevation quickly up to Portachuelo Pass at 4,767m. The rapid change in altitude made me rather sleepy despite the steep turns. Finally, we made it to Vaqueria where the donkeys that will carry our tents and other gear for the trek were. The rain stopped and we could finally see a little bit of blue sky.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

Then we started walking to our first camp and passed by villages in the Huaripampa Valley. Leading to a valley where I saw my first llamas and alpacas, and there were a lot of them, and horses too. We also saw a carcass of a horse, with a bit of flesh still left behind. Our guide said that there are mountain lions in the area. Of course, that got me a little scared. But I was assured that they only prey on animals.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

Our lunch stop was near a stream and included making friends with donkeys. It was a gradual ascent to our camp for the night at 3,870m. I had my own small tent, while Gilad and Dean shared a bigger tent. There was a medium-sized tent that served as kitchen and sleeping area for Wilder and Freddie. There was also a very small tent that served as our toilet, inside was a drop hole.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

It was a slightly rainy cold night but I was able to sleep well enough, altitude didn’t bother me that much. Not yet at least. It was nice to be back and being surrounded by big mountains again.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The next day after breakfast we slowly made our way up to the highest point of the trek. I was quite nervous then since it was going to be a 1km hike in altitude to Punta Union Pass at 4,750 m. I started chewing coca leaves early on since the highest I’ve ever been was around 4,400 m back in Nepal. Weather was still not on our side, it was drizzling, cold, and very foggy. I walked a good pace and never pressured myself to catch up to the boys, and took water breaks whenever I needed to.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

As we got closer to the pass, the trail and mood of the trek turned bleak. It was desolate. It continued to rain and was very foggy, we really couldn’t see much view. It also got a little bit harder as the trail got steeper and slippery.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

At one point, Gilad and Dean had to stop as they were starting to get headaches. We were approaching 4,700m. I gave them coca leaves to chew on. Wilder told me to go ahead since I was feeling good and doing a good pace. Wilder showed me this very, even unrecognizable, small opening on the top of the ridge. That was it, it was the pass. So I went ahead.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The last part of the trail was this narrow path, with piles of huge flat rocks serving as ‘protection’ from people falling off. As I was near that small opening, I waited a bit for the others.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

As they got nearer, I looked out and decided to literally step on the other side of the pass and gasped. It was still cloudy but the view was stunning. And on the right side was the turquoise Laguna Taullicocha, with Taulliraju towering over it.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The challenging hike to go up the pass was worth it for all of us. We went down a little bit more and found a small spot where we had lunch and took many photos. Soon after we were on our way down to the next camp Taullipampa.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

It remained cloudy, but we remained hopeful since from the campsite we were supposed to be surrounded by so many peaks. Soon enough, it cleared up for a little bit and quickly for us to take photos along with another group, some of the guys I met from Lake Paron a few days before. The night was another reggaeton singing filled night, and sharing stories with the guys.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The next day we were headed to a side trek to Laguna Arhuaycocha at 4,450m. Finally, we saw blue skies and a glorious mountain range. Dean wasn’t feeling too well and decided to wait for us at the base.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

We left our bags there too with him before going up. It was a beautiful and dreamy trail, yes dreamy. I don’t remember the name exactly of the plants and flowers that lined up the trail. We walked by mossy trees and many wild horses too. It was still foggy when we got to the lake, we waited for a bit for it to clear up to see the peaks, but the rain just got stronger, so we went down right after.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

Eventually we went down a wide dried-up river, and just followed it all the way down to campsite. Finally the sky started to clear up, and a rainbow even popped up by sunset time. We pet donkeys, at least the friendly ones and slept better as we were at lower altitude.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru
Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The last day was a long walk back to the village area. First multi-day trek done in South America, and after so many years. The last high-altitude trek was in Nepal back in 2015.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

It was amazing to be back in the mountains again. It wasn't as physically challenging as trekking in Nepal when I had to carry around 7kgs or more for 10 days, but the altitude wasn't as harsh. But in Peru, you start high and you get higher. And up there everything feels heavier. And there weren't teahouses like in Nepal. So I had no idea a guided camping tour would be comfortable too.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The first day felt like this was something new to me again. But at the end of it and the next days after you start to get the rhythm again. You know which things to put in your pocket, or the pockets of your bag. You soon get used to walking for 8 hours a day, that it felt like 4 days wasn't enough. Your bag soon feels like an extended body part.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

The solitude. The fresh, albeit thin, air. Sleeping and waking up to the sound of the river. The changing landscape and vegetation.

Santa Cruz Trek, Huascaran, Peru

It is never easy. Not all people would understand why I do this. A lot of people even wonder what a Filipina is doing here, so far away from home, just to do this. And that is fine. Because I love it ❤
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