MONTREK, MONY AND GANESA TRAVEL
These companies managed to lose my pack within five minutes of my arrival. They put our bags into one taxi and the group members into another, and when we arrived at the bus, my pack was gone. Whether this was premeditated or just irresponsibility is unclear, but it contained over 400 dollars of clothes and equipment needed for the trek. The company then convinced me to go on the trek anyway, even though I didn´t have enough clothes for the extreme temperatures near the pass. They promised that the trip would be refunded either way, but that since the equipment and supplies were already bought, I might as well go on the trek and give them three days to look for my pack.
After the trek, I met with the owners of the company and they were dishonest and unhelpful. They kept trying to convince me that the U.S. would pay for all new equipment for me. I explained that I have no travel insurance that they were responsible for the bag, since I handed it over to them. They have no insurance, and they weren´t even willing to refund the trip, even after telling me that earlier.
The police in Huaraz were helpful and kind, but it quickly became clear that there isn´t much they can do. Even after threatening Montrek·Ganesa that I would write to all major travel guides and post this information on this blog, they claimed that they didn´t have any money to give me. Do not recommend this agency. Other tourists should use their buying power to ensure that these companies are held accountable.
make a trip over 5000 meters altitude to archeological site of Chavin, located at 109 kilometers from Huaraz in the county of Huari. Also known as "El Castillo de Chavin de Huantar", it was one of the main religious centers of the west hemisfery.
Llanganuco: 3,800 m.a.s.l (12,464 f.) - 25 Km (16 miles) northeast of Yungay (45 minutes by car)
The lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, are situated within the Huascaran National Park and are fed by the melting snows of mounts Huascaran, Huandoy, Pisco, Yanapaccha, and Chopicalqui. The Chinancocha Lake or “female lake” is practically at the foot of Mount Huascaran, and it is characterize by the intense green turquoise color of its waters and the thick queñua forests that grow on its shores. The other smaller lake, called Orconcocha or “male lake”, is located at the end of the glacier valley, and its waters are light blue.
The city of Yungay, located at 55 kilometers from Huaraz is at the foot of the Huscaran Mountain. The city was entirely rebuilt after the flood of 1.970 that burried the old city. This town is the point of departure to the Llanganuco Lagoons.
ational Park Huascaran, considered the highest snow-capped mountain of Peru. It is located at 22 kilometers from Huaraz and it has an altitude of 6.768 m.a.s.l., in an area of 340.00 hectares. This park has a varied flora and fauna.
The Huascaran Park was declared Natural Patrimony of Humanity by the UNESCO in 1985. It is characterized by its famous lagoons of intense colors; some of which are: Paron Lagoon, Llanganuco, Laca, Querococha.
Chavín de Huantar is an archaeological site built around 800 BC. It is the only large complex of ruins remaining of the Chavin culture. The site is located at an elevation of 3150 meters, between the Andean mountain ranges of the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca.
The city's location at the head waters of the Marañón River, between the coast and the jungle, is very centralised and hence, became an influential spot with strong interchangees of ideas and material goods.
At its peak, the Chavin culture influenced the other cultures in the northern region like the Cajamarca culture and the Ica and Nazca cultures in the southern region. There are many tunnels and culverts which form a labyrinth underground which channelled water from nearby rivers. However, due to earthquakes, water is no longer running in these tunnels.
I recalled that the Cajamarca culture in Cumbe Mayo and the Nazca culture both had excellent irrigation canals. I can imagine that they had shared the same influence from Chavin.
There are a series of tunnels made by massive rocks. There are obelisks and stone monuments with relief carvings depicting jaguars, caymans, and various other anthropomorphic forms. Inside a narrow criss-cross passageway, stands the famous sculpture of the Lanzón, which is assumed to be a supreme deity of Chavin de Huantar. There are also numerous carvings of heads of animals sticking out of walls.
Chavín de Huantar has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But the best Chavín reliefs from this site are displayed in the Museo de la Nación in Lima.
We reached the starting point of Pastoruri at around 1pm. We were told that we were now standing at an altitude of 5,000+m. There is a path of 2km that we had to walk to reach the glacier. I had bought some coca leaves and popped a small load in, and at the advice of the guide and the driver, I walked really slowly.
I did not know how but some of the teenagers were already well ahead. Meanwhile, there were others who had turned blue and breathless, and had taken a rest by the side benches. A handful more had thrown up and returned to the buses to die. One could ride horses to the 1km mark, but after that, you still have to walk up the remaining 1km to reach the glacier. I plodded on slowly, breathing hard, but not stopping once. It started to snow. This is perhaps my fourth time to see falling snow. Yeah! Meanwhile, I chewed and sucked the coca leaves.
After crossing the 1km mark, I gave myself a little pat on the back and pressed on. There were Peruvians who came up to ask me if I wanted to be carried to the terminal front of the glacier. What?? I could not believe my ears! You mean there are people who pay to be carried on the back? Sheesh… no, gracias.
After nearly 1 hour, I finally finally finally managed to reach out and touch the damn glacier!! Yes, I did it. I am now at 5,400m!! Gosh, this is the highest I have ever been in my entire life!!!! And yes, I have made it! Never once did I think I would not be able to do it. It is all in the mind, you CAN do it!
I tried to walk on the glacier but it was too slippery for me and after 5 or 10 minutes, I spat out the coca leaves, chewed new ones and began the easier hike back.
The excursion to Glacier Pastoruri will reach up to 5,400m above sea level. So, you need to bring along all the items that will keep you warm. Also, as it is indeed at a very high altitude indeed, you should make sure that you have already acclimatised yourself to Huaraz, at least, before you make this excursion.
We stopped by Las Aguas Gasificadas de Pumapampa which is a small pool permanently bubbling gassy mineral water. We were offered plastic cups to scoop the water with. I observed reddish sediments in the water. That would be iron. In fact, the grassy patch around the pool was stained with iron. Interesting taste. Tastes like iron.
There is also an interesting plant called La Puya Raymondi. This plant looks like a… well… phallus with a burst of leaves at the bottom. It can grow up to 12m in height and it can live to around 80 to 100 years. Once in its lifetime, it will flower for 3 months, after which it dies. But boy, does it flower… there are up to 6,000 flowers at this time. It must be a spectacular sight! But of course, now, we could not really see any of these in bloom. Apparently, this plant is near extinction now, found only in Peru and Bolivia in locations above 4,000m above sea level. Such an amazing-looking plant!
In 1970, the worst natural disaster in Peru's history happened here. There was an earthquake, followed by an avalanche from Huascaran. There used to be a town here called Yungay. But after the earthquake and the avalanche, in 3 minutes, the town ceased to exist. 25,000 people died. Yungay was reconstructed elsewhere but here in Campo Santo, was the exact spot where it all happened.
There is a little conical hill which was then a cemetery. As it was a high point, many people scrambled towards it and 92 made it there. Now, there are reconstruction of an arch and a huge cross to represent the bodies of the disappeareds who had been buried underneath the massive rubble all over town.
The other group of survivors were children from a school that happened to be located near a mountain away from the path of destruction. These 300 small children were put up for adoption all over the country later.
In the distance, there is a facade of a cathedral which is a reconstruction of the cathedral that had once stood there. When the avalanche came, the cathedral was still holding on. In fact, 4 palm trees from that time were still standing (although 3 of them are dead now) as they were protected by the cathedral and the avalanche passed right around them. Many people, upon seeing the impressive cathedral, ran INTO the cathedral to hide there. One young man tried to enter but it was full and the doors closed on him. So, he had to run up to a mountain nearby. In fact, this saved his life as he lived to tell the tale.
What happened later was that after the avalanche came a series of gigantic rocks and one massive rock hit the cathedral and utterly destroyed it. The cathedral collapsed like a pack of cards. And days and weeks after, during the excavation, they found there were many spaces around the collapsed structure. Hence, the people inside were not crushed to death, they died of asphyxiation because they could not escape. Gosh!
Meanwhile, the massive rock is still standing where it had rolled to. It is huge!
The Lagunas de Llanganuco in the Parque Nacional de Huascaran are two lakes - Chinancocha (3,850m) and Orconcocha (3,863m) nestling about 1000 m below the snow-line of Huascaran and Huandoy mountains.
To get there, we climbed up in a zig-zagged fashion along a ribbony road facing incredible-looking rocky mountains. To the right, we are supposed to see Huascaran which is the highest mountain peak here in Peru. If there are no clouds, good for you.
The lakes are beautiful emerald in colour. There are boat trips and a simple 20-minute trail among the interesting quenoal trees to the edge of the mountain for some peace and quiet. From the lakes, you can also see Huascaran.
Huaraz is a major tourist hub and it a prime destination for hikers and international climbers. There are many tourist agencies, especially along Av Luziriaga, where you can organise climbing treks, rent equipment, practise rock-climbing, etc...
I am not a climber, so I cannot give tips about climbing here.
But it is very easy to organise tours to the surrounding sights. There are 3 sights that seemed to be more promoted - Llanganuco, Chavin de Huatar and Pastoruri. If you can, go to these sights in this order as the altitude of these places increase progressively, so you will have a chance to acclimatise.
What I noticed is that all the tour agencies sell more or less the same tour packages (cheaper if you get all 3, that sort of thing). But on the day itself, everyone from various agencies seems to be bundled into standard buses and brought to the sights together. So, yep, you are all herded around like cattle, and told you have 20 minutes for this place and that. Note that during the holiday season, the tours are mainly taken up by Peruvians, so the tours are definitely conducted in Spanish. For English private tours, you may have to request for them and the prices will definitely soar.
I hate this sort of tour, but since I could not do the mountain hike by myself, this was my only chance to experience a bit of the Huaraz magic.
That was a great trip - three days on the hours through the mountains and sleeping at 4000 meter height in tents. Our guide was a great cook and cooked typical food which was delicious.
You should get to Huaraz at least one day in advance because of the height - I had only headache but my friend was sick for almost all the trip.
As an animal science major, one of my favorite parts was getting to see the farm animals in the area. Cows, pigs, chickens were very common, while fewer sheep, goats, and donkeys were around. And, like the rest of Peru, there were lots of dogs. I got very excited when I saw a Brown Swiss cow, as our common dairy breeds are Holstein and Jersey. This was very fitting, as Huaraz is known as the Peruvian Switzerland and Brown Swiss are of course from Switzerland.
The people in the mountains are poorer than the surrounding areas, but they work extremely hard working the land to clothe and feed their families.
Some other animal pictures are in the travelogue Leaving Chimbote.
This area is known for its sweets, and as the guide said, the women are sweet too, but you can only taste the food! The best part about this place is is the sweet and creamy dairy spread they make that is like nothing I've ever tasted. It's almost like caramel but not sticky and spreads like peanut butter. A must if you are in the area. You can sample the two flavors and buy a container to go for 5 soles. The women who sell the good stuff are widows whom the town rallied behind after their husbands died to help them with the business, and it is doing well. The Holstein cows in the mountains help, as they produce excellent milk. (Note my other tips about the delicious ice cream. :))
The town square is also a nice place to walk around as you take breaks between sampling the goodies in the area.
Like I mentioned in my introduction, this lake is a 4 hour bus ride from Huaraz, so plan accordingly. Also, the tourism agency doesn't open until 0900, so try to gather your information on the bus schedules the day before lest you miss the bus you would like to take. The tour we took was scheduled to leave at 0900, but if you want to spend more than an hour or so at the lake - we were only allowed 30 minutes because the tour left late - then travel on your own.
You reach the Llanganuco Lake via bus by traveling up the mountain on a windy road. I don't have an accurate time of how long it would take to trek to the Lake from the bottom of the mountain, but I would guess a day.
However you get there, Llanganuco Lake is a beautiful place. It has boats you can take on the water, but I could easily pass an afternoon sitting on the grass with a picnic and enjoying the amazing scenery.