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Laguna 69

Written on: Tuesday October 23rd, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Yungay, Ancash, Peru

Author: Julie


We left Ozala?s one bag lighter but 2 new friends heavier. It was mid-afternoon and Paul informed us that since there was nothing to do in Yungay we should consider spending the afternoon at a café in Huaraz before taking a collective van to Yungay. So, with that wise advice we headed to Café California near the main plaza. Part of the café is a restaurant with a long counter displaying the yummiest looking chocolate cake and the other half has comfy couches, a large selection of books and a sunroof spilling the few rays of light we?ve been lucky to see. The weather for the past few days has followed the same pattern of bright blue skies, snowcapped mountains, and hot sunrays before clouding over around 2 PM and rain starting for the evening around 3 PM. We spent the afternoon chowing down on huge pizza bagels and drinking the best Chai tea we?ve had in a long time. At around 5 PM, we caught a 1 hour collective to Yungay. We talked the whole way and soon we were in Yungay. It wasn?t an impressive city, mostly concrete again like Huaraz. The same earthquake that ravage Huaraz in 1970 also completely destroyed Yungay with part of Mount Huarascan covering the city and killing over 30,000 people. They could be excused if their little city wasn?t a colonial gem. We settled into the first hostel we saw, which was serviceable for one night stay. Our room was lilac, all of it: the walls, the bedspreads, the bathroom. Lilac! But we couldn?t complain when we were paying 20 soles a night.

We were all famished so we headed for the cleanest restaurant we could find, a chicken rotisserie with neon lights. Nothing says clean like the bright light of neon! For 20 soles each, we got a huge plate of a half chicken, fries, and salad. It was delicious and there was nothing left of the chicken once we were done. We retired early since we had an early morning to catch a taxi to the trailhead. Kevin was feeling the best he had felt in days and I was super excited to be going out on a trek in some one the most beautiful mountain scenery I had ever seen.

We woke up at 6 AM and we?re out of the hostel by 7 AM. We quickly negotiated a taxi to the trailhead an hour away and confirmed that he would pick us up 6 and ˝ hours later. The drive up was uneventful as everything was covered in clouds. Paul assured us that we were passing by beautiful lakes, stunning mountains views and sheer cliff drops but all we had was his word on it. At the park gate, we paid our 1 day entry fee of 15 soles. I took advantage of the stop to also put on my longjohns since the weather was decidedly cold and we could see our breath. I was really happy to have brought my toque and mitts.

We arrived at a non-descript parking area and got out to a valley with snowcapped mountains peaks around us. Paul assured us that it would be about 4 hours to the laguna and 2 hours back. Off we went, along a meandering meadow with cow paddies everywhere. We passed a couple of young bulls with one of them challenging Kevin in youthful exuberance but we were having none of that! On we walked, it was fairly flat and the mountains at the end of the valley grew bigger and bigger. At the valley end, we were confronted with a great waterfall to the left and a smaller one to the right. They were the melt waters of the glaciers higher up and the water was freezing cold but crystal clear. If I had been brave enough, I would have drank from it but wasn?t too confident with all the cow paddies around. The trail inclined upwards with switchback after switchback, past and over the small waterfall. The trail flattened out for 10 minutes before we were faced with a sharp incline up and over a split between two mountains. At the top, we were greeted with another rolling valley and a small laguna of moss-green water.

By this time, the weather had turned for the worse with a constant drizzle turning into rain and the wind picking up. Kevin who had been weakened by his stomach flu all week was definitely feeling the altitude and I was also getting winded. Paul and Rebecca were ahead of us, after trekking for the past month they were in shape and well-acclimatized. They were like mountain goats and were nice enough even in this miserable weather to wait for us every half-hour.

Across the valley, with even more cow poop, we climbed up a set of steep switchbacks which took our breath away literally. The day before we had left Huaraz, at 3200 masl and were now closer to 4000 and working our way up to 4600 meters. Every 10 minutes we would stop to take a break, catch our breath, and enjoy the occasional spot of sunshine that would peek out in between bouts of pounding rain, drizzle and the occasional ice pellets. Rebecca who had never touched snow had been excited at the start of the hike at the possibility of being able to make and throw a snowball. By this point she was over her excitement and couldn?t wait to get out of the cold. Up and over the rubble of the nearby mountains we scaled to get to the most beautiful lake I had ever seen. Even in this weather it was a postcard perfect blue, surrounded by sheer rock faces, with a far off glacier spilling into it. We sat down for lunch to tuna sandwiches, boiled eggs, avocadoes, and chocolate. It was one of the best lunches I?ve had in a long time. We were starved and we had earned it. While we were eating and talking, we heard the rumbling of an avalanche across the lake, it was such an inspiring moment to be there, to be able to hear it.

The hike back down was a bit faster than going up and easier since we were getting more and more oxygen. I was on a high of excitement but unfortunately Kevin had a relapse and it was probably one of the most miserable moments of his life. He couldn?t wait to get down and was unable to appreciate the splendour that was around us. As time progressed, he got worse and worse and the last half hour was probably one of the longest of his life. We finally made it back to the waiting taxi 6 ˝ hours after leaving. Kevin quickly collapsed in the car, exhausted from the trek. The ride back was amazing as the clouds had risen high enough for us to see the landscape that was shrouded to us earlier in the morning. It was everything Paul had promised it to be, but poor Kevin slept through it all.

We got to Yungay by 3:30 and on a hair-raising taxi ride back to Huaraz. This was the craziest driver we had yet on this trip. On 60 KM roads he was driving 110 KM, passing cars on curves, passing trucks in blind spots, and taking every curve like it was the Indy 500. When he dropped us off in Huaraz we looked at his tires and they were bald. Hopefully the extra grip is what kept us on the road.

We checked in at Olaza to a large room with a super-comfy queen-sized bed, lots of heavy blankets, a really hot shower and slept for 12 hours.

3 soles = 1 CAD