Top Trek in Peru - Tom's choice
This week Andean Trails' Tom Shearman lets us know which is and why, his favourite trek. He writes:
This is the answer to which is my favourite country in South America for trekking.
There are many reasons, but in large thanks to its sheer variety and quality of high altitude hiking.
The best trek of the multitude is without doubt the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit. (Pronounced why-wash, the wash as in rash).
It’s about me
So I was a bit apprehensive on the 5-hour drive in from Huaraz to the start, even though I’d successfully warmed up on the Santa Cruz hike.
It had been a few years since I’d trekked at high altitude for such a long distance, and the Huayhuash is a big trek.
The full circuit is around 120km in length and you clamber over eight high passes between 4,300-5,000m (14,000-16,500ft). It takes around two weeks – we had 8 days.
Our first night under canvass was a cold one but we woke – me, Manuel (cook/guide), Jorge (mule driver), Cress (travel companion) and two mules – and set off clock-wise in brilliant sunshine.
My apprehension soon slipped away as I got into the outdoor rhythm.
Mountains have always been cathartic places for me. There’s just me, the path, food and water and my thoughts. Wake early, eat, walk, see, think, breathe, eat, set up camp, walk.
Think. About nothing, or something, but in the background my mind always relaxes and, like the view and the almost tidal cleansing of thoughts, everything becomes clear.
I can feel myself becoming lighter and can see past the myriad of stresses of daily life.
It’s not about me
I don’t believe in God, but seemingly the Apus, or mountain Gods, made their presence felt on every footstep. I could feel their icy breath on the winds and their deep, earth rooting as I traversed their stones and boulders.
Cold, clear springs ran down rivets into my water bottle, sustaining me.
Every day meant two passes to cross, usually a long pull followed by a gambol down the opposite side.
The views at the passes afforded views unsurpassed and varied. You can be looking over a greenish, brown valley from which you’ve just climbed while looking ahead to dozens of ice-clad peaks, and a glacier just 20m to your right.
Stay still long enough – lunch, snack stop, final camp – and like me you may see condors and vizcachas, or hear the buzz of some humming birds in the lower reaches towards the end of the trek.
It’s about them
We experienced sun, a bit of rain and some snow throughout the trek, and passed by remote communities.
There were fees to pay to each small village as we passed through their lands, to make sure that everyone benefited from the few tourists that passed through and to maintain the basic campsites.
We bought supplies at the one shop we saw, and some drinks from a woman who walked an hour to offer us them. It was a few dollars here or there, but formed a direct and necessary contribution to the economy.
We fished for trout with some local teenagers (youths 10, tourists 0), our efforts seemingly the most entertaining show of the day.
The almost unseen people who live and tend the land in these remote, harsh and beautiful lands are the heroes of the tale.
They feature little because the meetings with them were brief, or they don’t seek contact.
They, as much as the beautiful land itself, deserve an ode to what I still hold dear as the best place I’ve been fortunate to walk.
Confirmed dates in 2017: May 31, Jul 4 & 30 Aug 20