Peru: The breathtaking hike that is Laguna Llaca

Peru: The breathtaking hike that is Laguna Llaca

Cooking fried rice at 4.30am seemed like a good idea before my head hit the pillow the night before, but I soon realised that the smell of garlic wasn’t as appetizing before sunrise. Hiking in the rainy season means early starts, and we were up before many partygoers made it home from the night before. In fact, our small group of four watched in stitches of laughter as a group of young men went from potentially having a fight, to hugging each other and then chanting how much they loved each other. Alcohol does funny things to people.

We managed to catch a combi around 6.30am (Combi #15 for 1.50 soles one way) and made our way to Cachipampa, the start of our hike to Laguna Llaca. Denys and I sat in the front, her nephew found a seat in the back and unfortunately for the tallest in our group, Travis, all the seats were taken. I seriously considered changing places with him, with my five foot frame easily fitting inside. Luckily some passengers got off a few minutes down the road and Travis had a seat the rest of the way. Travis is an American tourist we met at an event a week before and found out that he was a keen hiker. I kept running into him throughout the week, so when we decided to do the hike, I invited him along.



Peru: Laguna Shallap - one of Ancash's hidden treasures

Peru: Laguna Shallap - one of Ancash's hidden treasures

The Ancash Region is renowned for its stunning lakes, yet the 17km return journey to Laguna Shallap gifts you endless opportunities for amazing landscape photography, even before you reach the lake. Laguna Shallap starts in Pitek, at the same place as its more famous neighbour, Laguna Churup. At 4,250m above sea level, it’s been one of the easier hikes I’ve experienced in Peru so far. If you’re a hobby hiker like me, this is a great day hike, though I highly recommend hiking it with others due to the distance and isolation.

My day started at 4.30am, because the group was supposed to meet up at 6am. That’s the eternal optimist in me, however with 15 in our group, we did have the combi to ourselves.



Peru: Hiking to the stunning Laguna Ahuac

Peru: Hiking to the stunning Laguna Ahuac

Burning muscles, cramps and even freaking diarrhoea – it may have been a beautiful Sunday, but this was no walk in the park. I’ve hiked almost 20km in a day, and even though it’s 6km one way, it’s the elevation that gets you. Luckily, I had experienced hikers with me who calmed me down when I started to doubt myself, especially as the air grew thinner. Altitude sickness comes in many stages and symptoms – the mild version makes you breathless, and at my worst so far (which isn’t that bad to be honest), I’ve had jelly legs and felt dizzy enough that I had to sit down.



Peru: Walking back in time in Waullac, Huaraz

Peru: Walking back in time in Waullac, Huaraz

The rainy season has made me claustrophobic. I’ve missed being out hiking but I’ve learned to listen to advice from those who know this area well, because when it rains in the mountains, it’s not just any rain. It’s glacial rain and it can chill you to the bone.

Liliana and I decided to check out Waullac, an archeological site in the barrio de Nicrucampa and believed to have been in use from 200 AC - 600 DC. It’s said to be linked to other sites I’ve already been to - Pumacayan (which is where I live) and Willkawain. The adobe house structures are typical of the Wari culture, though it looks more like storage houses than the ceremonial buildings in Willkawain.



Peru: A day out in Chancos, Ancash Region

Peru: A day out in Chancos, Ancash Region

I stood across from Novaplaza, waiting for the the Candioti family to pick me up. New Year’s Day streets in Huaraz were a scattering of humans either just waking up or heading home from what I can only imagine as a wild night out. My New Year’s Eve was relatively low key, and I was in bed not long after midnight - falling asleep to the lullabye of the symphonic fireworks.

The Candioti Family were heading out to Chancos for the day and Marbel, a friend of mine, had invited me out. Chancos is in the Marcará District, which is between Huaraz and Carhuaz. It’s about a 45 minute drive by car, and the views of the mountains were nothing short of breathtaking. Not that Huaraz is a big city, but there’s a different kind of freedom when you head out to the open road.



Peru: Lessons I Learned From A Wachuma Ceremony

Peru: Lessons I Learned From A Wachuma Ceremony

Many people have heard of the Ayahuasca ceremony, and the Wachuma (juice from the San Pedro cactus) will take you on a similar journey, though I have been told that the pre-ceremony preparation isn’t as strict as Ayahuasca. While some say that it’s best not to eat on the day of the ceremony, others believe that it makes no difference.

Wachuma is the Quechuan name for the San Pedro cactus. Although the use of psychedelics isn’t something I use recreationally, I make an exception in a controlled, ceremonial environment. It is said that if done with the right intentions, people can see into their past, future, and heal deep, emotional wounds. It’s best to go into the ceremony with no expectations.



Peru: Willkawain and Coca Leaf Reading Ceremony

Peru: Willkawain and Coca Leaf Reading Ceremony

Willkawain (in Quechua means grandson’s house) is an archeological site dating back to the pre-Incan era of the Wari culture. My landlady, Liliana, said that human remains have been found in one of the smaller buildings within the site itself. There are also tracks nearby which can lead to a lake and a campsite which we didn’t get to walk, but will probably explore another day.

It’s an interesting half-day out and relatively easy to get to - simply take a 1 sole colectivo and you’re dropped off by the entrance (the trip takes about 45 mins each way). Just be aware that on Sundays the colectivos don’t run as regularly later in the day. We ended up walking down the hill for 20 minutes and eventually found a taxi parked up at a soccer game.



Peru: Lake Wilcacocha In The Cordillera Negra

Peru: Lake Wilcacocha In The Cordillera Negra

In Peru, it still never ceases to amaze me where taxis will go, because in the time it took to walk most of the way up to Lake Wilcacocha (I didn’t manage to walk all the way up, read on), the same taxi must have passed us at least three or four times. Each time he would beep in the hopes I would do my lungs a favour and just hop in. The last time we saw him, he was driving a group of five (two in the front) up the pothole ridden dirt road.

It’s been over two weeks since I moved to Huaraz, and the altitude (let’s be honest I have lost a lot of my fitness these last two months) still affects me in small ways. I wake up in the morning a bit snotty, which goes away by mid-morning and doesn’t really trouble me too much. It’s most noticeable when I have joined Christina and Isobel (the Aussies) on our days out exploring Huaraz’s beautiful mountains.