August 21, 2007
It was a long night of rough sleeping at high altitude, but at least this time I had plenty of clothing to keep me warm. When it was finally light enough to see, I cheerfully walked out of my tent, but was surprised to see that it was being weighed down by a thick layer of frost. I wanted to get back to Huaraz as early as possible, so I started cooking breakfast and taking down my tent. It took a lot longer than usual because every time I took apart one piece of the tent, my fingers went numb and I had to return to the stove to warm them up. The sun was nowhere near emerging from behind the mountains, so I consented to packing my tent away with the majority of the frost still attached. With the freezing temperature, the lagoon was calmer than ever, but I could still hear the birds in the distance.
The walk back down to Pitek went quickly, and soon I went from freezing sweating. Yesterday I had gotten lucky getting a bus all the way to Pitek, but today there was no transport back down so I had to walk to Llupa, the main farming community on the road about halfway back to Huaraz. From there I caught a bus the rest of the way and was back in the city by noon.
I only met the guy who wanted to go with me to Huayhuash briefly last time, so I didn't even remember his name. Rich, as it turned out, stopped by my hotel later, and we discussed our plans. We both have to meet people in a few weeks, so we agreed that we could only trek for nine days. However, according to my notes, the quickest we could do the entire circuit in would be ten days. Throw in side trips and the number of days jumps up to sixteen. Still, nine days is still a really long time to trek, considering we'd be carrying all of our food with us, so we'll have to figure something out. Maybe we could get out at a town along the way or combine two days into one. However, every day of the trek will involve going up a pass, sometimes as high as 5000 meters above sea level. It's already going to be the hardest trek I've done, even without complicating matters by doing extra long days. We'll have to figure out these details tomorrow.
I'm really looking forward to going to Huayhuash. Many people consider it to be the best trek in Peru, and one of the best in the world. It's in a really remote area with few other tourists, and it circumnavigates an entire range of 6000-meter peaks. On top of that, Rich should be an interesting companion. He flew to Alaska with his bicycle and started riding south. That was three years ago. Now he's on his way to Ushuaia, on the bottom of South America. His entire trip has been drawn out (or perhaps enhanced) by long stretches on his bike. For example, he figures he'll need about ten days to get to Cusco to meet his friend. That makes my long bus rides sound like walking around the block.