Days: 287 & 288 (8 April 2015 – 9 April 2015)
Total distance travelled: 55,167.7 kilometres (34,265.65 miles)
Tuesday night, 10:30pm we depart Trujillo at pretty close to, if not at sea level.
Wednesday morning, about eleven and a half hours later we are almost at an altitude pushing five kilometres in height.
Welcome to the slightly stupid tale of how we travelled from 0-5,000 metres in just twelve hours!
Our bus arrived at a nice early time of around 5:30am, the perfect hour to embrace the frigid mountain air that comes with a morning at 3,000 metres.
We lingered at the bus station for a while with another Australian couple, before we all made our way to the same hostel to sort ourselves out for our time in Huaraz (they were keen to do a five day trek, we were hunting day excursions).
Figuring the present to be as good a time as any to get started, we wandered directly up to the main plaza with the faint hope of finding a tour for that very same day.
Luck was perhaps stupidly with us, and it was only another hour or so before we were again to be found seated on a bus (because eight hours overnight wasn’t enough), headed on a day excursion to the Pastoruri Glacier.
It turns out the title of glacier is in fact these days an unfortunate misnomer, as this beauty sadly only sheds ice, nothing new is built up during the winter. A very sad state of affairs for what is one of the last ‘glaciers’ in the tropical regions of South America.
There were a couple of nice spots at which we stopped en-route, a natural spring that bubbled up from deep within the earth, although it was the snow-capped mountain backdrop that truly caught the eye.
I guess it’s the fact that mountains and snow still remain so foreign, not to mention incredibly beautiful to us that will do the trick every time!
A little further down the road came the second stop and this was to check out the truly impressive Puya Raimondi plant. These gargantuan flora only grow in the high Andes (from 3,200 metres in elevation and up) and can grow up to twelve metres tall!
The only catch is, they can take over a hundred years to get there…
After everyone had snapped a few pics, it was back on board the bus for the final leg to Pastoruri itself.
The car-park itself is somewhere just shy of the ultimate elevation, probably hovering around the 4,900 metre mark.
We grabbed ourselves a steaming cob of choclo (corn) to see us on our way and began the roughly hour long walk to the glacier itself.
This is where the folly of our decision came to light.
Sure, the path was undulating, at times up, other sections reasonably flat and occasionally downhill…
A gentle incline was all of a sudden leaving us breathless in the most literal sense.
It felt like each step was an effort and regular rest breaks became mandatory.
All of a sudden we began to wonder if the time we’d been allowed would be enough for us to even get a glimpse of our goal!
Thankfully, the final leg was relatively flat, so after catching our breath, it proved relatively plain sailing, and the effort, well it all of a sudden felt quite worth it!
Not having touched snow since I was about eight or nine years old, I’d secretly hope this would be my opportunity to reacquaint with that foreign substance, at least for most who live in the Australian climate.
Alas, it was not to be, the best it could offer being the rock hard ice of the glacier itself.
Still, the views were stunning.
Eventually the dull thump we’d felt in the back of our heads began to pound a little harder, a legacy of reaching such an elevation ridiculously quickly.
In fact, as we thought back, the only thing we possibly could have done worse was to get drunk as well. At least that may have helped us feel that the headaches were justified…
We didn’t let our bodies adjust to the altitude in Huaraz… we didn’t drink nearly enough water… we were getting by on only three or four hours sleep… we then committed to heading over 1,500 metres higher!
As we made the somewhat easier stroll back to the carpark and the waiting bus, we wondered was such pain (for by now our headaches were indeed horrible) truly worth it?
Take another look back at that view…
* We managed to grab ourselves a day tour to Pastoruri Glacier the very same morning we arrived in Huaraz, for $35.00 Soles per person.