My alarm went off too damn early. Some say waking up at 4:00am is a good way to start the day, but that does not apply when one walks a horse down a mountain the day before – right? By the time I had climbed down from the bunk bed and taken my fifth step, I knew something was seriously wrong with my knees [insert inappropriate knee jokes here]. I had decided it was probably due to my new age. I paid little attention to the pain once we started getting around for our Day Tour to the Huascarán National Park & Laguna 69!
Our first stop on the tour was a shack somewhere in the mountains. They had the most delicious coffee and Coca tea to help out the altitude sickness. My knees had started throbbing in pain again, but my stubbornness overrode the pain and went on with the day. By 9:00am, we had officially entered the Huascarán National Park. The tour guide let us out for a quick photo-op by this magnificent turquoise lake that looked not at all real. I am still convinced that the Peruvian government dropped permanent turquoise ink into the water. I mean, just look at this lake…
Our tour guide promised us we’ll come back for more photos later and herded us back in the bus. The drive continually took my breath away. I was once again snap, snap, snapping away on my iPhone.
Some half an hour later, we arrived at the start of Laguna 69 trail. Due to a number of tours starting the hike, we were free to go at our own pace and meet back within four hours. The hike was about 4-4.5hrs long. Depending on the hiker, of course. We couldn’t have hoped for better weather as we started the hike. The 360-degree view left me breathless. Literally. I was starting to feel the altitude with each step, and so were my knees.
At some point, I was too distracted photos that when I actually looked around, I was all alone. With altitude increasing with each step, I tried my best to keep up the New York-pace, but I was failing miserably. Approximately half a mile into my hike, the knee pain had become unbearable. Since this was only the second week into our five-week trip, I didn’t want to risk hurting my knees any further. With my guide’s consultant, I decided to turn back around. Luckily, I was not alone.
My new Canadian friend and I started backtracking. We failed to notice the bull that had come out of the blue and stood in our path fifteen feet ahead of us while we were deep in our conversation. From its stance and the look in his eyes, we knew we were in trouble. After several minutes of the stare down, our best option was to move into the bushes and climb up on the tree. As we slowly started to walk away, the bull charged. We sprinted into the bushes and climbed up. Luckily, the thick bushes and rocks prevented him from coming closer. We must have stayed there for fifteen minutes before the bull moved on. With no one in sight, we decided it would be a good idea to hang out there for another fifteen minutes before moving on.
After some time, we arrived back at the starting point of our hike. Our bus and taxi drivers relaxing near a shack. Thanks to my new friend’s ability to speak Spanish, one of the drivers suggested that he could take us up on the mountain top for 30 sol…each. A hefty price for a drive up the mountain but since we had nothing to do and four hours to kill, we took him up on the offer. On our way back to the parking area, we were able to take a different trail and boy was I a happy kid. I could not stop taking photos…
The drive up the mountain was simply incredible. We were surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks, distant glittering turquoise lakes, and the cold… I know, I complain too much.
After taking basic photos of me staring into the distance, dreaming about beaches of Ecuador, we made our way back down. Three hours and twenty more minutes until we regroup. While we could not hike up 15,000ft to Laguna 69, my new Canadian friend, my old-worn out-knees thought it would be a good idea to walk back to Lake Llanganuco. Our bus driver assured us it was a safe and a very flat four-mile walk.
At mile two, we came across yet another bull. We must have worn “Bulls R Us” sweaters that day. This time around, there were no bushes nearby to hide into. After a long stare down, this one chose to mind us humans and went back to the green grass in front of him. My Canadian friend and I continued on our path.
The tourist center for Lake Llanganuco was tourist-free. It was late in the afternoon, and the Sun was behind the mountains. We took advantage of the empty place and took one too many basic photos to kill time. We had another hour to kill.
After taking photos, interacting with remaining vendors, the lazy llamas, and with each other, we had killed all of forty-five minutes. We figured it would be best to hang by the main entrance so our bus could spot us easily. It was getting darker, and colder. Another hour went by, and we still hadn’t seen any sign of our tour group. Each minute after that had made us nervous. Just when we had decided to give up, our tour bus came into view.
We were ecstatic to be rescued. Ha! It turned out, someone had fallen behind on the hike…very behind, and they could not leave without everyone on board. Our tour guide decided to let the group have some time to take photos before heading back to Huaraz. All in all, I had an amazing day of exploring a new place and making new friends (bulls included ;)).
Tips for the park….
- Acclimate yourself, especially if you plan on hiking Laguna 69.
- Wear layers – the weather changes a bit once the sun is out so you’ll experience hot and cold temps.
- Get plenty of rest the night before.
- Keep extra cash in case of emergency (or when you need to pay random taxi drivers to take you up the mountain).
- Bring healthy snacks such a granola bars, almonds, bananas, etc.
- If you have to turn around, do mini hikes around the area or walk back to the main entrance of the lake like we did.
- Extra batteries for your camera and portable charger for you phone because you will constantly be taking photographs.
- But do put down the camera every once in a while to take in the view, relax, and breath.