I was awake before my alarm went off at 4am - that’s right, yet another adventure that began before sunrise (or when people partying from the night before headed home). There was a slight drizzle when I left my apartment to wait for the van, and it’s always surprising to see the hive of activity in my neighbourhood at this hour.
Laguna 69 is the most famous and popular lake in Peru - it may surprise people that it wasn’t one of my first hikes in Peru. At 4,604m above sea level, it’s the highest so far and to be honest, it was probably the fact I’ve lived at altitude for four months that allowed me to truly enjoy the hike even more. Yes, even that steep zig zag section! I recognised the familiar glazed-eyes and fatigue in many of the hikers, and all I could offer was a smile and encouragement that the lake is worth the burning in their lungs.
I went with a tour on this adventure, mostly because I was going on my own. It cost me 35 soles for the transport (return to Huaraz) and 30 soles for the entrance to the Huascaran National Park. After almost two hours on the road, our first stop was at Llanganuco Cafe for breakfast, where I had bread with jam and a cup of coffee. I had packed plenty of snacks and didn’t need a heavy breakfast.
After breakfast, the van made its way to Laguna 67. I had been in and out of sleep on the drive from Huaraz, but believe me, you want to be awake on the drive from the cafe. The breathtaking granite cliffs with cascading waterfalls transports you to a place like no other. You forget that civilisation is only down the road, and a backwards glance gives you a glimpse of the mountains waking up from the morning mist.
The first part of the hike is a gradual ascent, and then you walk down towards a wide valley with plenty of mud and stream crossings to keep you on your toes. Luckily for me, I had invested in a pair of OnePlanet Gore-tex boots, which kept my feet dry as long as I didn’t walk through ankle deep water. Hoping between rocks to avoid the mud was more like a game of hopscotch which must have been a funny sight.
Once the trail gets really steep, you’ve reached the zig zag section that really divided the tour group. I was glad that I picked up the pace as I walked through the valleys because it allowed me to take my time on the ascent. It felt like a hard slog at times, but do take the time to look behind you because the view is stunning. The rain followed us up and it was at times frustrating not knowing if I should tough it out with the heat, or relieve myself and risk getting wet.
There’s a part of the trail that flattens out, and just around the corner, the piercing turquoise of Laguna 69 will hit you like a proverbial tonne of bricks. It’s inescapable richness of colour is like nothing I have ever seen in nature. I saw a few of the group had already reached the lake, some were sitting further up the rocky hill to take in the full panoramic glory of the lake.
Lakeside, we had respite from the rain, but after a brief lunch and taking a few photos, I decided to make my way down after less an hour. I wanted to take photos down the valley because earlier in the day the constant showers made me nervous about using my camera. So I slowly walked down and was surprised to see a lot of the group still making their way up. Many asked how much further was the lake - I smiled and encouraged them, as for many it was less than 15 minutes away. Unfortunately for some, they probably didn’t make it to the lake before the cut off time.
During the last part of the hike, I was guided to the carpark by a few cows and bulls. A cheeky young bull kept looking back at me, but none were aggressive, often moving out of the way when I finally decided to pass. They must have just found a tasty treat near the trail.
You know, if one of your biggest fears in life is failing, go hike mountains. Because it doesn’t even matter if you make it to the top or not. Each step that gets your lungs burning, it will remind you that you’re alive. It will teach you to look at life from a different perspective. It’s not about getting to the top, because often the best memories are made on your way to where you want to be.
Ronna la Exploradora is Ronna Grace Funtelar - a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and poet currently working and traveling in Peru.
A woman with a curious mind who lives for hiking mountains, outdoor adventures and eating pizza. She has a unique brand of optimism that
is a combination of her great enthusiasm for life and cups of coffee during