Laguna 69 & Eco Lodge Stay: 3 days trekking in Huaraz, Peru

15 Mar 2020

The most famous trek in Peru is the Inca Trail; it's the one that connects Cuzco to Machu Picchu. But few people know it's part of a massive, ancient, Inca road system that joins many countries. One of the towns on this Andrean highway is Huaraz.

Huaraz is on the Cordiellra Blanca, a mountain range in Peru. It's home to the Huascaran National Park, and it's an idyllic location to visit as it has some of the best treks in Peru. Nestled between snow-capped mountains and gentle pastoral farmlands is the Llanganuco Mountain Lodge.

Arriving at the Lodge

Two big bounding doggies emerge out of a squat brick house to greet us. Charlie, the owner, follows behind and greets us with a warm smile.

His lodge is a labour of love. He had a vision for an off-the-grid, self-sustainable lodge and he has been building it with the help of locals. What he has acheived is a feat. The double room has a little wood fire burner, soft carpet and sheets. Charlie opens the balcony doors on one end of the room, these open up to the most amazing view of the valley.

Over a cup of Mate de Coca Charlie gives us maps and recomendations. We're about 2,500 metres above sea level, so he explains which treks are easy ones - the ones we could start with.

A Walk to Acclimatise: Atma Hill Trek

Charlie gives us a packed lunch of sandwiches, nuts and fruit. We fill our water bottles, then we set off on a walk around the Atma hills.

At the gate we pass two resident llamas with fluffy hair and protuding bottom teeth. They stare at us as we head off. Just behind the lodge we get our first glimpse of a lake.

As the soft landscape undulates and we get to each peak, we discover new views. We walk alongside farmland with small holdings and wandering animals. Pigs, goats, donkeys and cows all roam here. We stop for a sit down when it's deserved, which is often.

We get back way before sunset, about 3 hours after we set off. We grab dinner and cold cans of Cusqueña beer.

At night the stars come out, all of them! There is no light polution here and we're high up, so the night sky is ablaze with stars and galaxies. We start playing with long exposure photography before going to bed.

Ice of Huandoy

The next morning Charlie brings long tables covered in colourful Peruvian tablecloths out to the lawn. We eat a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bread, fruit and coffee outside in the cool morning air.

We take a path at the back of the lodge and up into the mountain range behind it. The route follows a river all the way to the top. It goes from a dusty path, to gravel, to shale then to rock before reaching the glacier at the summit. During the last stretch we start to get short of breath and have to start taking frequent breaks.

At one point an elderly gentleman with a big wirey cotton bag full of ice passes us. A strap that stretches across his forehead supports it, and the bag rests on his back. He must have got the ice from the glacier.

We exchange impressed glances.

- 'Where are you going?'

- 'The football tournament,' he replies bounding down the hill away from us without losing pace.

We exchange confused glances.

We reach the glacier and relax for longer than we need to, enjoying the views and recovering. We don't see anyone up here the whole time.

At the bottom we find the football tournament. There, women sell cooked meats, sweetcorn, chicha morada and all sorts of peruvian snacks. The steam from their ovens drifts up into the mountains.

There's a football tournament in the middle. Players range from young, athletic 20 year olds to pot-bellied 50 or 60-somethings, defying the laws of age, gravity and physics. When the men's tournament is over, the women's starts. It's as vigorous, their long plaited pigtails swinging in the air.

We fail to notice when the football's ended and the dancing's started. The footballers cool off slumped on the floor or against a buddy, whilst the kids start their own tournament. After a while people drift off like clouds into the hills, and the sun goes down.

Trekking Laguna 69

It's the third day and we're trekking to Lake 69, one of the most famous treks in the area, without a guide. We take a taxi to the start of the trail and make our way following a river up into the mountain.

Having a big mountain in front of you can be decieving as it always looks close and far at the same time. The ascent gets more and more steep and more and more difficult as you go up and combat the gradient and thinner air.

At one point as the greenery dissipates and the path turns to rock we come across a bull in the middle of the path. We stop, it looks at us, we look at it. Who moves in this situation? Luckily, it did, and we made our way up.

Finally at the top, we find the infamous lake and it is astounding. That hue of blue... you wouldn't think it was natural. This trek has been pretty long and pretty hard but rewarding.

There aren't many places left on earth where you feel so close to nature and distant from the modern world. Huaraz is one of them. We hope it can stay like that.

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