Arrived in Lima and rested all day which was good. Saw the catacombs underground in the 16th century St Francis of Assisi Monastery. Many skulls staring upwards with individual bones all separated and arranged nicely in neat orderly piles.
Took bus overnight to C. Huayash – the pass was about 14,000 feet which we hit at 1am. I was in bad shape by then – arrived at 6am into town and immediately found hostel and crashed. For 2 days was bedridden, the slightest vertical movement took all the energy I could find. I was spoon fed and bottle peed. Not able to walk. The anti-bronchial and pneumonia antibiotics did wonders and without those things would have been bad.
Hotel is $4.50 per person per night, private room with bathroom, kitchen etc. Dinner next door is 3 soles (less than $1), for get this, plate of stake with potatoes, plate of spaghetti and big bowl of soup. Everything is damn cheap here.
After all these years I FINALLY got to meet Naresuan, the Thai climber well known in the climbing community. We went to his restaurant, Siam de Los Andes in Huaraz. Compared to the 3 sole restaurant, dinner for two here runs $40 to $50 us dollars per meal. The food here is fantastic, perfectly cooked, as good as any top Thai food you find in Thailand. Naresuan also shared his “being carried down the mountain story on the back of Val’s shoulders” like I experienced in Nepal! He is good friends with Val, our Bulgarian guide in Nepal and Kathleen who also made that trip.
He speaks Thai, perfect Spanish and English. He is married to a Colombian lady and they have a very cute little girl who was running around the restaurant. He comes to the Andes 3-4 months out of the year during the high tourist season and spends the rest of the time in Columbia. He and his wife and daughter live on the Caribbean side of the Darien Gap, in the gulf in the middle of the jungle on the coast. Their nearest neighbors are miles away! He showed us photos, they are surrounded by beautiful pristine primary growth jungle for as far as you can see.
The Darien Gap was publicized a few years ago when Robert Pelton Young the author of the World’s Most Dangerous Places and http://www.comebackalive.com was kidnapped by guerrillas and held hostage for several weeks.
In a few months time, he will be leading an expedition for a photographer and journalist from a well known magazine through the Darien Gap.
Naresuan is also big into sailing and showed us photos of his large sailboat. The sails are the same colors as the flag of the Kingdom of Thailand. He and his wife and daughter spend much of their time living on the boat and exploring the Caribbean. Their home has no electricity or running water and they are visited by numerous jungle animals every night. He said it is just like returning to life during his childhood in rural Thailand.
He invited us to stay with his family in Columbia and showed us how to get to a town where he would meet us and ferry us to where he lives as one can only gain entrance to his house by boat unless one knows the trails. This sounds like a great option to kick off our round the world trip next year.
We’ve been feasting on the podded Pacqai fruit and other tropical fruits that grow in the nearby valleys. The Quechan women are everywhere here with their tall brown hats and very large hooped skirts.
Finally got to do some trekking and am back now, doing one more short trek tomorrow. We trekked yesterday and went ice climbing. I was clinging precariously with my crampons and two ice axes, 70 feet up a vertical ice face on the side of a glacier among snow flurries at ***16,600*** feet WITHOUT headache, without nausea, without vomiting, without dizziness, considering 3 days prior I could not walk or feed myself – and your f/(&()&/ing damn right I was going to enjoy the moment as moments like that are so rare for me at such high elevation. In fact I was the only one in our group of 4 to climb two times all the way up the 120 foot face. There was one part about 1-2 way up that was particular challenging as the ice formed a lip and you had to haul yourself over this overhang. Syy was very tired and a bit dizzy once we reached the glacier – but I was amazed to see how fast she climbed up this wall. She climbed much faster than anyone else – she told me that she knew she could climb no problem because of all the vertical palm and other trees she climbed many times growing up in Thailand!! We were with two Israelis who kept cheering her on. We took many photos and lots of video too. The glacier formed a neat ice cave at its base as well as a large frozen lake containing chunks of ice that looked like the arctic. It was overcast all day and pouring rain once we reached town, all the way back. VERY unusual for this time of year, as this is the middle of the dry season.
Later we hit the natural steam and hot baths. These were better than any sauna I’ve been in. You have your own private cave with a bench to lay down, water dripping everywhere and about 47 C with lots of steam, just right! There were also private baths where you turn on high power faucet for the hot water. We took collectivos to get here, jammed in with many Peruvians. The last 3 clicks we were in a small hatchback with 12 people!! 3 in front, 5 in back, and 4 crammed in the hatchback part of the vehicle. Suffice to say, we were quite uncomfortable.
Today dawned 100% bright blue and we woke up to bright sunlight streaming into our window and parting the curtains revealed the other world like jagged peaks of Peru’s tallest mountain, Huascaran at about 6800 meters and the other nearby jagged pyramidal snow covered peaks behind where we are staying.
I rented a bicycle and I am biking with Naresuan up to 14,000 feet today on a beautiful single track that is his favorite trail, it leads right through the mountains with incredible views on either side. We will pass through mud constructed villages, and one section is a sheer drop on one side!! The mountain biking here is unbelievable, hint hint.
Tomorrow we are trekking to just above 15,000 feet to a aqua marine lake at the foot of a glacier – several people have told us this trek is incredible. We are leaving at 6am so we have ample time. Things just keep on getting better and better now that we have finally acclimatized and the weather is ‘%%”$%'”$%$ awesome!
We took a collectivo bus filled with old Quechua ladies all dressed in their colorful finest. The bus hit a particularly bad bump and we all were jolted into the air and their bowler style hats all popped into the air at once and fell onto the floor! These women were very helpful and friendly towards us.
We filmed a video at Laguna Churup for the travel site in which I was supposed to fake jumping into the lake at 15,000 feet but I accidentally fell in during the shoot and was covered in water and green algae!
We had to climb up almost vertical sections next to a long waterfall to reach the lake. There were a few ladders but for the most part it was pulling yourself up with hands and feet. Fortunately there was a guide hanging out in the vertical sections to help us through the worst of that area.
Naresuan had warned me about biting dogs – he has been bit 2x among the villages above Huaraz. He told me to yell and stop walking or biking and head towards the dogs aggressively. I tested this out after several dogs started running at me barking ferociously. This worked; they stopped barking, retreated and skittered away.
On the way back you would have had to seen it to believe it. I was minding my own business walking down the trail when all of the sudden a bull charged me very quickly and pinned me up against the rocky wall of the trail. I was very fortunate to have escaped injury as the horns went into my backpack as I had turned quickly so that its head and horns went into the back of me not the side (which is where my backpack was)… and if you’ve seen these bulls, their horns are sharp, long and curved. It could have been a gory situation. Syy started throwing rocks and then finally the animal let me go and started running down the trail. I yelled loudly and threw a volley of well placed rocks towards its eyes and head.