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: Lake Churup in the Huascaran National Park

Peru: Lake Churup in the Huascaran National Park

Lake Churup (Laguna Churup) is a beautiful glacial lake 4,450m above sea level. I’ve been in Huaraz a week, and it just wasn’t long enough for my lungs to adjust to the altitude. A month of relative inactivity has also left me in a less than ideal physical condition – both those factors combined made the hike more challenging to say the least.

The morning began with our landlady, Liliana, helping us catch a taxi and negotiated a price of 10 soles each (NZ$4.50) one way, with the drive taking an hour to Pitek (the start of the track). You can also catch a combi, but you may have to wait until it gets full before they head off. On the drive, we picked up Karina, a German backpacker who just happened to be doing the hike that day too.

It costs 30 soles (NZ$13.50) for entry into the Huascaran National Park, and you can pay that at the start of the track. We paid our driver and he said he would be back at 3pm.



Peru: 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Time In Peru

Peru: 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Time In Peru

You’ve booked your ticket and you have a fair idea where you want to go and what you want to see in Peru – exciting! Whether you plan to do a mad dash of the highlights or spend a few months soaking in the culture and stunning landscapes, check out these five ways to help you to make the most of your time in Peru.



Peru: Huaca del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon)

Peru: Huaca del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon)

I had been in two minds whether to go by public transport or pay the extra and just catch a taxi. If you are stretched for time then I recommend going on a tour - it will save you the hassle and stress of trying to get there. However, if like me and you are up for an adventure, then have your coins handy and go by combi. If you don’t want to book a tour online, head to Plaza de Armas and walk around looking for “tours” signs on the buildings. They may seem hidden at first because signage in Peru is more subtle, but there are plenty around.

My guest house, D’Barrig, was in the barrio of Monserrate, in the old part of Trujillo. It was a street away from Avenida Costa Rica which turns into Los Incas, one of the major streets that takes you to the historic centre of Trujillo, Plaza de Armas. There are some street signs in Trujillo being a small city, which helped me to get my bearings. I did find this post by Unpaved South America handy.

The van dropped us off at the entrance of Huacas de Moche, the museum and ticket booth. Entrance to Huaca de la Luna is 10 soles and 5 soles for the museum - although I was only charged 3 soles because either I looked like a University student or Peruvian. It’s worth visiting the museum before going to the temples as it does have English translations and a brief history of the people and the site.



Peru: A Month in Zorritos, Tumbes (Week Four)

Peru: A Month in Zorritos, Tumbes (Week Four)

It’s Saturday and my last day in Zorritos - tomorrow I’m heading to Máncora for the night to finally have my date with steak. My TEFL Zorritos course has taken up most of my time and mental space this month, so for those who wait with bated breath to hear about a Latin lover in the mix will be sadly disappointed. Cramming 120 hours of study, including 10 hours of real teaching experience in one month has been an intense, mentally demanding task - yet now that we’ve all come through the other side, I say it’s been worth it.

Four of us have taken placements in various parts of Peru - Oliver heads to Chachapoyas at the edge of the Amazon, Jess and Amelia (who met and formed a great friendship during the course) will continue their adventure together in Arequipa. Today Kassie is heading home to the US as she is planning to teach online, and on Monday I will soon be making my way south to my placement in Huaraz. Before then, I hope to check out the archeological sites in Trujillo for a few days, a city which is about halfway between Zorritos and Huaraz.



Peru: A Month in Zorritos, Tumbes (Week Three)

Peru: A Month in Zorritos, Tumbes (Week Three)

The hotel pool is peaceful at this time of the morning - there’s panpipe music in the background, and apart from the staff and I, it feels like the world is still asleep. A double-decker bus just pulled in, I guess they’re having breakfast here. Sometimes they stay a few nights, sometimes we hear the music and laughter from our rooms and by the time I come out, it’s quiet again.

I just heard the word “promociones”, which is a bit like an end of year school camp. There must be at least 70 people in the restaurant, inside and out - even the hotel manager, Cindy, is in the white Pinamar t-shirt. Feeding people is serious business in Peru. Maybe I should have had breakfast earlier!

Yesterday marked my third week in Zorritos - and I have slowly ventured away from the hotel to try some of the locals’ hangouts. I tried a new restaurant called Pollo de Anthony which serves pollo a la brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken) - I ordered 1/8th chicken, which was served with fries and salad for 9 soles (NZ$4). The pineapple juice pushed my meal to 13 soles (NZ$5.85). After dinner, I walked to a nearby bakery, ordered a few sweet treats to take back and share with the teachers. It was essentially someone’s house with a display cabinet at the front. The woman was so nice and patient with me, speaking clearly to explain the cost and the different portion sizes. I walked away with slices of chocolate cake and local biscuits.