Hiking Laguna 69 and Not Much Else in Huaraz

I arrived in the centre of Huaraz sitting at 3000m above sea level and walked to my hostel, out of breath by the time I arrived after walking up the somewhat steep hill to the door with my 15kg pack on my back. My hostel was big enough giving me space to sit on my own for the evening, still feeling antisocial and over the act of getting to know people before inevitably saying goodbye. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday trying to live normally, having online Spanish lessons in the afternoon, making shakshuka and curry for my lunches and dinners, getting some exercise done and also just taking the time to sit on the rooftop and write. I got to catch up with a few friends from home due to the good internet which was great and helped me stay social without having to actually meet anyone new.

I walked around town a fair bit, checking out the market for ingredients and almost turning vegetarian in the process. The outside wall of shops before heading into the market had hundreds of chickens for sale, skinned and raw yet completely in shape, looking like bald, yellow farmyard chickens. A turn down the wrong aisle within the market showed me some of the biggest pigs I’ve ever seen, again simply skinned and raw but otherwise looking complete – and alive. Running back to safety I found the rice that I was in search of and the vegetables I needed as well, knowing that I was saving money and helping out the independent shop owners instead of shopping at the store down the road where I wouldn’t have to look a dead pig in the eye.

The road traffic is something I’m still trying to get used to here. Waiting to cross can be a long wait and I always feel the need to check both sides even when walking across only one side, not trusting the drivers to stick to where they’re supposed to. The car honking is relentless. As far as I can tell they honk before approaching an intersection to announce ‘I’m here and I’m not going to stop so you better do it for us’. Taxi drivers honk at pedestrians, including myself, in case they want a ride and haven’t thought to stand on the side of the road signalling for a taxi. They also honk when overtaking someone to alert them of their presence which seems like a good idea for safety to me.

I liked Huaraz itself, the town was completely surrounded by mountains making my rooftop breaks a beautiful experience. It’s a town mainly for completing hikes which I finally did on Thursday, waking up way before the sun to get picked up and taken a few hours from my hostel, ready to start the hike to Laguna 69. This hike had been raved about to me, not necessarily for the walk itself but for the reward you get when you reach the lake. Thankfully it hadn’t been over-hyped and I was in awe when I reached the top, especially after a 3 hour incline above 4000m. Despite the difficulty I loved the hike as well, my stops to catch my breath giving me a chance to overlook the mountain views around me. I arrived at the top of the mountain and walked along the flat for a few minutes before seeing the bright blue water in the distance, motivating me to get to the end and admire the lake in full with its incredible clear, blue colour. The glacier behind it acted as an amazing backdrop and made the scene all the more beautiful. I went around and took as many photos as I could while enjoying the scene for myself, taking my time to eat my lunch and my obligatory chocolate treat “for energy”. After an hour it was time to head back down, a much quicker trip but a bit tough on my feet, even through the hiking boots.

The bus home felt long and I tried to sleep but would feel the need to open my eyes when I felt we were overtaking someone and discovering that it definitely wasn’t a safe time to overtake because there were cars coming our way much quicker than our driver realised. A couple of times he risked it and we veered back into our lane after overtaking the other car quickly, but a couple of times he would head out and have to brake quickly in order to get back where we started and avoid a head-on. It made for a super relaxing journey home after the 14km hike and massive day we’d had…

That night I ate dinner in town before getting ready for yet another night bus, walking to the terminal at 10pm and boarding shortly after; receiving a blanket, pillow and snack bag which was all completely unexpected. Sleeping wasn’t as easy as I hoped it would be but I think I managed to have a good 5 or 6 hours, enough to get me through my first day in Lima.