One of the most challenging but beautiful experiences of my life! I did this amazing trek with my family of 5 in Huaraz in June 2017. It was beautiful, hard work but a growing experience for everyone.
Santa Cruz Trek
We spent a few days around Huaraz getting acclimatized and got up to 4200 metres to test our lungs out. Thankfully none of us got a severe reactions – it just slowed us down which is normal. We drove from Huaraz City to Cashapampa to start the trek (3 hours drive maybe).
Day 1. Starting in Cashapampa 3,425 m
We started with 14 persons from UK, Taiwan, Israel, Spain , Germany and 6 aussies, 5 donkeys, a horse, cook, and donkey helper and guide. We carried daypacks with lots of water, snacks and a jacket. The donkey’s carried everyone’s gear.
We were told the first day was easy by the eager salesperson. 2-3 hours uphill starting at about 3600 meters was not EASY but thankfully the last 2-3 hours were gentle hills and flats. The hired horse helped us when we got tired. To our surprise Samuel (6) stayed with other tour members at the lead and we couldn’t catch him until we got to camp. He did amazingly and was fed and watered by the group, thankfully.
Day 2 Starting at Llamacorral 3,760
We woke early and after a quick sandwich we set of, trying to keep Samuel with us this time. We walked on semi flat (gentle rise) for about 5 hours then a steep uphill for about an hour before reaching our beautiful campsite at the basin of snow capped mountains. At 4200 meters it was even colder but we all took a cat wash in the freezing creek beside our campsite. Sleep wàs difficult and this time we found ice in the tent.
Day 3. Starting at Taullipampa 4,250 m
We all knew it would be the toughest day and despite our efforts to get up early the freezing temperatures got us. As we started the 4200 to 4700 steep climb I didn’t expect problems early on. Shallow puddles had turned to Ice overnight. It was cold. Despite double coats, beanies and gloves the 3 children started crying
because there hands were freezing. I was fine without gloves but the little ones couldn’t stop their tears. Even their I succumbed to tears of compassion. We tried to insist they keep walking to keep walking to keep warming up because we knew on the horse they’d get cold. But it got worse so we finally asked for a volunteer to ‘not get on the horse’ as only two could ride at once. Annabelle kindly volunteered and we thanked her for her maturity. She took a turn a bit later and soon bounded ahead with the guide. That left David and I taking it real slow up the mountain. We conquered but the kids were squabbling at the top over snack options. Such amazing views and such an achievement were lost over cookies. Yup… I decided to move on quickly knowing the day would be long. It turns out I had no idea how long. At the bottom of the hill we found a heart shaped lake so had lunch and dipped our feet in the freezing lake and I put bandaids on my forming blister.
Amelia struggled at first trying to avoid stepping on donkey poo and mud but thankfully relaxed at least about the mud. I repeatedly explained that we’d wash her shoes later. Annabelle on the other hand relished the mud and at this point completely washed her shoes in the lake.
Of course our guide caught up with and whipped us into action. “You have have 4 hours walking to go!”. Gulp! So we set off at a cracking pace but still lost Samuel who went ahead with the Taiwanese couple. After 2 hours of concentration on the uneven rocky steps I had had it and got a horse ride.
Then it was another two hours walking in the flat in a beautiful shaded valley. Samuel was starting to flag and 20 minutes from camp we spotted the horse handler with “our horse” and assumed Sammy could ride.
BUT no… he was on his way to find the Israele girl(and her boyfriend) was way behind us and her slowness was compounded by her fear of heights on the steep downhill… so we trudged on and finally made it to camp about 5pm (11 hours after we started).
As we waited for dinner we realised the only warm place was the kitchen tent so the kids and I squeezed in and chatted with the cook and the horse man and guide who doubled as assistant cooks. Cold temperatures forced us to bed early we squeezed into our tiny tents for the final time.
Day 4: To Vaqueira 3850M
The prospect of 4 day old bread for breakfast was unappealing so I recommended they make pancakes for breakfast. They had said no but actually did make us one each so that was a nice change. Annabelle had to wear plastic bags as socks because her shoes weren’t dry. We strolled the path by this time scattered with houses on the sides and said hello to villagers as we went (2-3 hours walking). By the final uphill my blister was excruciating so I got a lift to the final hill. I limped up in one shoe but in good spirits to have made it to the end.
The drive out was spectacular indeed! We wound around crystal lakes on rough roads, a snowy mountain on each side of the car.
The highlight was seeing Peru’s biggest peak – Huascarán (6,768 m) up close and looking down the nearby valley to the green watered lakes.
We roasted and marshmallows and made damper on at open fire at our hotel and enjoyed the snowy mountain views for the last time.
It was worth it and an experience of a lifetime. Such a beautiful trek! Photos don’t do it justice at all. It’s also a less expensive alternative to The Inca Trail though a
different region of Peru. This trek was less luxurious but more beautiful. They’re both tough walks but no horses are permitted on the Inca Trek so the kids are not ready for that yet. In terms of Parkinson’s I took some extra drugs for energy. Tough but worth it.