Next morning at 5:00 am we were picked up by the tour bus to go to the Santa Cruz Trek. Our group was quite mixed. We were people from all over the world. One guy from the United States, Italy and Corea, 3 from France, 4 Germans, a 70 year old guy from Poland and Léa from Canada. The bus brought us up to 3700m to the little village Vaqueria. After we had lunch we started walking the Santa Cruz Trek. Easily walking we all had little chats to get to know each other till the trek went up for the first time. The talking was directly over and the hard breathing and sweating began. I was happy being acclamatized already with the altitude a bit by hiking to the Laguna 69 the day before where I had a lot of problems. But this time I was also well prepared with a big bag of coca leaves I bought. I chewed them the whole time during the trek. It prevents getting sick of the altitude and the blood can absorb more oxigen.
So we walked through this beautiful landscape, had some little breaks and chatted with each other. We past by beautiful mountains, some lakes, animals, rivers and some native people, who are living in the park.
When we reached our first camp for the night, all tents were already built up. The guys with the donkeys had reached the place way earlier than us. What a service!
The next day we started hiking very early in the morning. The trek became more and more steeper and difficult. The landscape changed a lot and there was always new things to see. The higher we got the colder and rainier it got. We even had some snow. After an exhausting and stiff climb we reached the peak of the trek located at 4750m. Up there we had an amazing view on a glacier and a turquoise lake.
The next camp was waiting for us in the valley. It was located between the mountains that give "Paramount pictures" its logo and the "most beautiful mountain in the world". Even though we were on the wrong side of these mountains they were a view worth it. So after letting our stuff at the camp we almost ran to the viewpoint to catch the last good view. Clouds were arriving so we had to be quick. On our way we met a dog who followed us back to our camp. Everybody was loving him and tried to call "dibs" on him. We had a little unserious discussion about whom he will follow the next day and which name he would get. The next morning the group would split up, because Lea and me had to finish the trek alone on the 3rd day to catch our bus to Lima. Park the corean guy decided to come with us because he had too much problems with the altitude.
After the dinner we remained sitting in our communal tent for a while to have a nice last evening together. Even though it was just sitting together and talking, it was kind a special moment. I had the feeling we had grown together as a group doing that trek. On the other hand we knew we would leave the group next morning, so it was also kind of saying goodbye, probably forever. We didn't know in that moment that this wouldn't be the case for some people.
Next morning Léa, Park and me got up at 4 o'clock in the morning, ate quickly our breakfast and started the last day of the trek. We had to hike 20km on that day without a guide and we just hoped we would make it in time to catch our bus. Soon we noticed that somebody followed us. It was our dog. We won! He chose us!
In the valley the landscape turned into a dried out riverbed which made you feel walking in a dessert. On the whole trek the landscape changed so much, but this was new. Soon it turned into a swampland. Without the guide we chose a bad way so we had to jump from one little island of grass to another to avoid stepping into the wet.
Walking without the guide made it an even bigger adventure. We had to find the way back on our own. You don't walk just blind behind somebody. You have to look out for good paths. Besides, sometimes you are doubting if you are on the right one. Aggressive looking bulls are coming too close and you just think about all the things that could happen if he attacks and what to do in the middle of the wild without anybody around for kilometers. Most of the time we passed by calm animals like Llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys, dogs, ducks, birds and eagles. Once I saw just the back and tail of a big cat escaping. Maybe a lynx?!
After walking next to a river in a green landscape for a while the surrounding turned into a dessert again with a lot of cactus. The sun became hotter and hotter, but we felt that we would finish the trek soon, because the path was going down.
So we finally arrived at the end of the trek from where we took a collectivo back to Huaraz.
The Santa Cruz trek was really the most beautiful trek we did on our trip. We had a great time with all the guys who did this with us. Thank you Peru for this amazing piece of nature and thank you guys for making this trek unforgettable. Hope to see you again somewhere else in the world!
For the record: we caught our bus in time and headed to Lima where we expected Léas mum. To be continued...