I spent a couple of nights in Cajamarca and treated myself to a thermal bath in Los Banos del Inca and some of the best locally made dutch ice cream: lucuma, poro poro and sauco being the new exotic flavors I tried. The town itself has a nice colonial center and seems quite busy after the back country of the north. Here I met Anna, a New Zealand girl hanging out surfing on the coast with some guys from my village, and we spent the next couple of days together. She introduced me to a great local textile shop were we ended up drinking coffee with the owner Warren and his friend Carlos and discussing quantum physics in Spanish for hours before being allowed to shop. We than carried on to Cajabamba, which is a quaint little town with a particularly nice feel to it. But unfortunately the next day saw us on the road again to the mining town Huamachuco, which had a quite different feel to it. I didn’t particularly like the place and decided it’s time for me to see some real mountains. In Trujillo Anna’s and my way parted and I took the luxury night bus to Huaraz. I thought I should have spent some time in Trujillo, but the mountains were calling and I saved the sightseeing for a later trip….maybe a future surf trip along the coast?
I arrived 5am in Huaraz (3091m) and was greeted with some chilly air. I checked into the nice Akilpo Hostel, run by 3 super helpful, knowledgeable and nice brothers, and after a hearty breakfast in a local gringo cafe thought it was time to give the bike a workout. I took a collectivo up the Cordillera Negra to Callan Punta (4225m) and from there headed north on a dirt track with amazing views to the Cordillera Blanca. I loved riding without the weight of the panniers, on a dirt road all to myself with vistas to snowy 6000m peaks….wow!! I road along for about 15km before having to find a way down as the road on was owned by mining companies and closed for access. The downhill started of well, but got rougher as I got lower. I crossed through some tiny local villages and thoroughly enjoyed my day. The next day was spent organizing myself for the well known Santa Cruz track, which crosses some of the nicest parts of the Cordillera Blanca with some of the best views.
A 6 am a tourist bus took us straight to the start of the day track to the stunning Laguna 69. We stopped for a cup of coca tea on the way, which gave me the time to meet a nice French couple Julie and Daniel ….and we spent the next 4 days walking together. I convinced them to follow my route: from Cebolla Pampa (approx. 3900m) to the Refugio Peru (4665m) for lunch and than via a high route over 5000m down to the Laguna 69 (4600m approx.) where we camped. It’s been an amazing day with fantastic views, surrounded by 6000m peaks and not a cloud in the sky. We had the Laguna 69 to our-self as all the day tourist had left by than. We left early the next morning to catch the bus at Yurac Coral over another 5000m pass to the start of the Santa Cruz track. It was a rough ride and we were happy when we got to Vaqueria (3700m). The skies had clouded over and we made our way up the valley past some villages as it started raining. The next day we headed over the pass Punta Union (4750m) with more amazing views and some fresh snow. Down the other side we made a small detour to the mirador of the Alpamayo but didn’t quite get to see the most beautiful mountain. We camped one last night in the valley and walked out early the next morning in beautiful sunshine. A collectivo took us back down to the valley floor….the road was exiting and the car beyond repair, but the driver was an expert….Just as well!