While most people think of white sand beaches as their dream vacation getaway, we tend to see white mountain peaks as ours. It’s no surprise then that the Cordillera Blanca was front and center on our must see list in Peru. We arrived smack in the middle the rainy season, which lasts generally January through March. Generally mornings are dry, but evenings are rainy and the clouds are thick most of the day. In spite of the bad timing, we enjoyed this region and got to do some great hiking too!
Laguna Paron is a stunning blue lake surrounded by impressive peaks. We spent the night at the lake at woke up to a fantastic cloudless view. We quickly got ready and went for a hike to the other end of the lake and another small lake above it. This was our first hike above 4000m in some time so we were left breathless for two reasons! It was the highlight of the whole region for us.
Our next stop was the popular Laguna 69. Even in the off season, quite a few buses bring hikers in from nearby Huaraz for the hike. We started early to avoid the crowds and got to enjoy the lake to ourselves. It was a great hike, but we were more excited by the beer container just outside the park entrance. A local microbrewery set up a tap room in a shipping container and they let overlanders stay for free. What more could we need?
We found an easy hike within the National Park but off the beaten track. That meant no steep entrance fees and we had the trail to ourselves! Well, except for the cows. The many, many cows and the corresponding cow patties.
Our last final stop in the Cordillera Blanca was Glacier Pastoruri. First we drove past Puya Raimondii plants, which can grow up the 15m talls and looks like strange alien plants. Then to the rapidly melting glacier, which will probably disappear completely in 5 years. The walk up takes you past signs marking where the glacier was in the 70s, 80s, 90s, early 2000s… and at each sign we couldn’t see any bit of the glacier. It’s really disheartening to realize how quickly this glacier has receded just in our lifetimes!
Change of Plans
Until this point, we’ve not really had a plan. If we like a place, we stay. If we don’t like it, we leave. Then we arrived to the rainy season in Peru. Large chunks of the altiplano we want to see of southern Peru and Bolivia is flooded. Ben looked at a weather map and said, somewhat jokingly: Let’s just go to Chile. And then Rachel thought about it, made a provisional itinerary (our first on this trip) and said: Let’s go! Our original “plan” is out the window and we are booking it to Patagonia! We want to make it for the last of summer and beginning of fall, then will slowly head back north to explore Chile and Argentina in depth, then visit the rest of Peru and Bolivia when the weather is better. Just a few days after admiring Glacier Pastoruri, we find ourselves on the coast near the Chilean border. We stopped at Huacachina to enjoy the dunes and a swim up bar. We saw the Nazca Lines from a viewing tower and spent a night at beautiful Puerto Inka. We visited a Pre-Inca Necropolis, an area with over 800 graves with mummified people, all in fetal position, heading east, ready to rise with the sun! We also met a very nice german family in a MAN truck, Rachel’s dream overlanding vehicle 😉
And we saw lots of desert. I mean, lots. But like we said, we love mountains, and Patagonia is on every mountain lovers bucket list. Wish us luck as we make a very long drive south. May our sanity and the Landy arrive in one piece.
And our route: