Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

June 22nd

Just doing a quick update as we head out to confirm our plan. 6-7 days to the Ishinca Valley to climb Urus, Ishinca, and Toclaraju. Back in a week!

Day 6 – Day hike to Laguna Churup

We had another 6am wakeup this morning. Our hotel person told us how to get to Pitec. Pretty soon we were on a collectivo destined for a settlement of farms called Lluna. The collectivo sat waiting for a while and we quickly jumped off to grab some fresh chicken empanadas for S1 ($0.33) each when a man walked by with a basket-full. When the collectivo seemed at capacity (about 12 people) we were off. Little did we know that many more people would be squeezing in.

Along the journey to Lluna we picked up 10 more passengers, bringing the total up to 22! It was unbelievable that so many people could fit. At one point a larger Ketchua lady sat on Alex’s lap. We had to squish with our legs not even close to straight in front of us until the lady was able to sit down on our bench beside us. To make matters even more interesting, we were on a gnarled dirt road the whole time and when we hit a rut Alex’s head would go hurling into the ceiling. We both lost circulation in our feet miles before we arrived at Lluna.

When we arrived, the driver said Pitec, and pointed up a a large trail/gnarled road too gnarly for a car. We understood that this was as far as we would get by collectivo and happily got out. We paid the driver S3 each ($1) and started up the trail. It was 1.5 hours walking up to the sign marking the entrance to Huascaran National Park. We passed traditionally dressed Ketchua ladies and a caballero walking a couple donkeys up the trail.

When we arrived at the park entrance, we knew that we would likely need to pay a park entrance fee. We heard from many sources that it would be S65 ($22) for 1 month, but the official wanted S5 for the day or S65 for 15 days. I was pretty outraged and spent a while complaining – showing him my Varsity Outdoor Club membership, since alpine club members are supposed to get a better deal. We later found out that without an alpine club membership, individuals are not allowed to go without a guide into some areas (most of the areas that we’ll be going).

It was 1.5 hours up to Llaguna Churup, with an elevation of 4450m. We were both feeling the altitude as we ascended – Alex’s breathing/heart rate and I had a small headache. We saw other tourists along the trail heading to the lake. We arrived at the lake at noon and took an hour siesta – laying out on a grassy patch beside the alpine lake, with a perfect sunny day. That’s what I call acclimatizing!

We headed back down all the way to Lluna and I talked with a Ketchua lady for 45 minutes or so from Pitec to Lluna. We then took off our boots to wait for a collectivo back to Huaraz. Soon a taxi came by with a couple British people and they got the taxi to stop and beckoned us in. They were from Redding and were in Huaraz for a couple weeks on vacation to do the Huayhuash circuit.

The driving in Peru really is crazy. Just walk into the street and you see cars passing each other with only centimeters to spare. Or in this case on this country road, passing big cows and other animals with hardly any margin for error. At one point when a flock of sheep was in the middle of the road, the taxi actually had to nudge a sheep with its front bumper before the sheep trotted off the road to let us by.

Back in Huaraz, we had a huge list of things to do. We have decided to not do the Santa Cruz Trek (we later found out that even alpine club members may not do the trek without a guide). This was in large part due to meeting a friendly guide a few times since our time in Huaraz (he was also on our Cruz Del Sur bus) and he said he was going into Llanganuco valley to do Pisco, Yanapacca, and Chopicalqui with his clients. He said that he would be flagging the routes and leaving the wands in. We figure that this could help with routefinding.

So we first went to the office of the Parque Nacional De Huascaran to see about permits. We were hoping to show our club memberships here and get the 1 month for S65 price. It turns out that the price got even worse. The women said that for climbers it would be S65 for 7 days. I was really frustrated and spent a lot of time arguing. I ended up talking to another more senior person downstairs. I explained that we were planning to be here for 3 months and that we were without a guide because we couldn’t afford it. How can we afford S65 every 7 days? I told him I wanted S65 for a month. He repeated what the woman told us that that was last year’s rate and it was different now. He had sympathy for us though and told us that he would give us last year’s price of S65/month. He gave us his name in case anyone gave us a hard time.

Then to dinner – something roja, which was really good. I asked for the menu and the man at the front said solo pollo. We sat down and I asked the waiter for 2 dinners. We soon each had a plate of a quarter chicken with fries and salad for 6S each ($2). What a deal! And this place was popular, so I had more faith in the food since there was high turnover.

While Alex headed to the supermarket to buy food, I began the arduous task of individually bagging 10 days worth of food. It’s 10:50pm at the moment and I still have to go finish packing. We have food for ten days and are hoping to climb Pisco, Yanapacca, and Chopicalqui. We have topo maps of the whole area, route descriptions, and gps tracks for Pisco and Chopicalqui.

Ps – I finally heard back from UBC law this evening and was accepted. I’m pretty happy. Though it doesn’t change my plan to do my master’s of economics at Queen’s.

Adios! Back in 10 days!

Day 5 – Day hike to Wilkaiwan

The bus was a big touristy looking double decker bus. We were thrilled to see such varied landscapes – countrysides, deserts, the impoverished outskirts of Lima. We weren’t so thrilled openning Alex’s bag to find that his laptop had been swapped with a Cruz Del Sur pillow. It’s a huge blow – not only is there the lost value of the laptop, but it will now be much more difficult to process and upload photos to the internet. We’ll have to find hostels with computers and we won’t be able to edit the photos since we don’t expect hostel computers to have photo editing software installed.

What happened was that a man got on the bus like everyone else and was behind us. He helped Alex get his daybag up onto the luggage racks above our heads. We sat down. Ten minutes later, we saw the man leave the bus, still in Lima. We later found out that he claimed to have forgot something important in Lima. 30 minutes later Alex went to get his bag and found that the laptop was gone and there was a Cruz Del Sur pillow in its place.

We arrived in Huaraz and there was a security guard who checked every passenger’s bag for the laptop as they disembarked. We had told the worker on the bus and he had called ahead to the bus station and reported the theft. No luck. Teo from Caroline’s lodging then picked us up and drove us to and helped translate first at the normal police department and then at the tourist police department. The policeman said that if we really wanted (as if he were really inconvenienced) that we could get a police report, but we would have to wait until the bank opened on monday to buy some sort of special official paper for S4 ($1.33). He said that he couldn’t help us further because he claims it is the responsibility of Lima’s police department. He then told us that if we were to go to Lima’s police department that they would claim it is the responsibility of Huaraz’s police department. I couldn’t believe he was saying this. I asked him, so.. “la policia de Peru no funciona?”. “si”.

We went to Caroline’s hostel and were happy to unpack our bags. I hadn’t wanted to unpack my big bag in Lima since I figured it would be near impossible to get everything back in. We then went for dinner – I had 1/4 chicken with fried rice, salad and fries and Alex had the special with some sort of noodles, rice, and meat. It was quite the test for me to have another chicken dinner (we were served chicken pasta for lunch on the bus). This was because as we were leaving Lima we saw a filthy pickup truck loaded with probably 100 chickens – dead… de-feathered… slimy.. and ready to be taken to restaurants for preparation. It tasted fine – it even came with some spicy salsa.

The next day we followed the GPS track to Wilkaiwan. As we left Huaraz at 7:30am, the people in the streets were already getting ready. We each bought 5 fresh and piping hot buns for S1 each ($0.33). It was a relativelty short hike, bringing us from Huaraz at 3100m to a high point at 3600m. Including stops, detours, and lunch at a restaurant when we got back to Huaraz it was about 6 hours. We were happy to get back and have hot showers.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go for a hike with a high point over 4000m. We may begin the Santa Cruz trek the following day (3-4 days).

Note: The following photos don’t look very good since they were imported by Picassa and were somehow “auto-enhanced”. I’m not sure what the palabra is for auto-enhance, so I’m not sure how to turn it off. I’m hoping to figure it out. It’s too bad I’m such a cheapskate and don’t want to pay more than S1 ($0.33) for internet. It’s more the principle of charging your own clients for internet when they’re already paying S35 per night.

Day 32 – To Whistler

Katie was anxious to get up early again, so that we could drive at a more leisurely speed today. So we again woke up at 6am and were on the road by 7:20am.

Lots of great scenery throughout the day, and about the same length of time driving as yesterday. We could have gone all the way to Vancouver along Highway 1, but opted instead to take the more scenic highway 99 to Whistler.

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We were fortunate to have CBC for much of the day. When the radio was silent we switched to our one CD of Fleetwood Mac with a few other assorted songs.

We arrived in Whistler around 5:30pm and are now at my parents cabin. There are no tenants at the moment, so we have the whole place to ourselves, which is nice, especially compared to our normal tent setup.

We cooked our last supper of lentils on the stove indoors and uncorked our last bottle of wine from Alaska. Tomorrow we head the final 100km home!

Day 31 – To 200km from Prince George

I surprised Katie with an early wake up of 6am. I wanted to get our money’s worth and go to the Hot Springs again. I also figured that it would be a great start to the day and that we’d probably have the place to ourselves again. We readied ourselves in record time, broke camp, and headed the 5 minutes to the pool. Just as we were arriving, a small group of seniors was leaving, and we did indeed have the pool to ourselves. We stayed until warm and pleasant and then walked back to the car for breakfast.


From the boardwalk on the way to Alpha Pool at Liard Hot Springs

We began our day’s driving at 8:30am – a great start indeed! Not much to say about the day. We drove about 9h8m, including a lunch break and a 30 minute nap where I forgot to wake Katie up to take over driving. We decided to be super efficient for lunch, by steeping and eating the soup while driving. This brought our lunch of scrambled egg sandwiches and soup down to under 20 minutes.


Enjoying a bowl of soup in the car

We ended up just south of Chetwynd at a provincial park that I don’t recall the name of. We arrived at about 5:30pm, set up camp, ate dinner, and went to bed early – prepared for our day’s driving to Whistler the following day.


Dinner at our last campsite of the trip

Day 30 – Through Whitehorse to Liard Hotsprings

We woke up at 7:30, 30 minutes later than normal because of the hour time change. We had a very efficient morning, taking only an hour from wake up to depart instead of the 2 hours we normally take.

It was 30 minutes to Whitehorse, where we are now. We went through photos, and updated the blog. We’ll now head to Superstore for blueberry muffins and then head the 646km to Liard Hot Springs. We’re sincerely hoping that it will be open when we arrive. It’s 11:30am now. Off we go!


The blueberry muffins were most tasty! We left Whitehorse, and found ourselves being stopped at a police checkpoint just before Watson Lake. They said that they were searching all vehicles and checking driver’s licenses, insurance, and registration. It was a bit of an effort searching through all the repair documents in the car pouch, but we eventually found the insurance. We couldn’t find the registration, but the officer was nice and let us go.


Signpost Forest at Watson Lake

It was a straight drive to Liard Hotsprings during which we encountered much wildlife – black bears and buffalo primarily.


A baby and grown up buffalo grazing beside the highway

When we arrived at Liard Hot Springs around 6pm the lady told us that it would be $10 for day passes for the both of us or $21 for camping which would include the hot springs. We decided to make it our first day paying for accommodation of the trip. She then told us that she only accepted cash, but we only had $10.50 CAD and $2.00 USD. We went across the street, but the rude lady of the restaurant exclaimed that she was not a bank and that we would have to purchase at least $10 worth of product. We didn’t. On going back to the Park entrance, the lady took pity and gave us the “senior’s rate”, which just so happened to be $10.50 CAD. We were most happy.

We put up camp for the first time in the rain in record time. We then drove off to the day use lot and had dinner under sheltered picnic tables. We followed the boardwalk 10 minutes to Alpha Pool, the main pool at the hot springs now since Beta Pool is permanently closed to protect the rare species of snail population.

The Hot Springs were amazing. Katie and I were the only ones in the pool for a good portion of time. The pool is mostly natural, with some wooden benches around the edges, a waterfall, and a staircase to get from one pool to the next. The water gradually went from piping hot to warm the farther away we got from the source. There was a little creek where the water exited, and it was interesting following that for a short distance.


We went to bed feeling refreshed for the following day.

Day 29 – Back to Takhini River Campground

We woke up, ready to do the exact drive we had done over a week ago, but in reverse. We made sure to pack up the tent instead of strewing it across the back seats like we sometimes do, since we would be crossing the Canadian border.

At the Canadian border, the guard was quite thorough. Though we first had to wait while the 2 cars in front of us were stopped for inspection. When we got to the window I actually forgot that I was using my British passport and was initially confused when he was confused about me saying I was a Canadian citizen. He was suspicious when we said we didn’t have any bear spray, but had spent many days hiking in the wilderness. He told us that they were doing “compliance checks” that day for all vehicles crossing the border. We were asked to leave the vehicle. Katie and I chuckled when he said in all seriousness during his inspection, “so… have you camped at all?” It was particularly funny since the entire back seat and trunk were covered in gear – the tent, poles, pegs, stove, pots, sleeping bags, thermarests, tarp, etc.

Soon we were in Canada, back on a few hundred km of particularly terrible highway. Dips, cracks, lurches, gravel. At one section we had to follow a pilot car since their were large construction vehicles slowly fixing up the road.


Shortly after we stopped as a bear grazed beside the road. I woke Katie up from her nap and also took a short video.


We eventually arrived at Takhini River campground – 50 km before Whitehorse and the same campground we had camped at before. Still no fee since the camping season is just beginning. We had white wine for our first time this trip. It was particularly nice having peggable ground.

Day 28 – Back to Porcupine Creek Campsite

We woke up at 7am as usual, and were most happy to have showers. Bill got some coffee brewing, and then we all had breakfast. Our first time not having oatmeal for breakfast in 4 weeks! We had cereal and some excellent toast of cinnamon raison bread that Bill and Mary had picked up from the farmers market in Anchorage a couple days before. They suggested we go to Flat Top (mountain) for views across Anchorage. Soon we were off, along with gifts of cinnamon raison bread, a bunch of grapes, some almonds, and some salmon burgers. A good enhancement to our routine daily diet.


We first went to Flat Top and got some great views of the city. We didn’t actually go up the mountain since the trail was still snowy and we were anxious to get going with the day.

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We then went to Earthquake Park, a memorial to the 1964 earthquake that devastated much of southern Alaska. We went for a stroll through the park, reading the various informational plaques. We then had lunch at a picnic table of the salmon burgers, cooked on the Whisperlite, as well as soup and raison bread.


Soon we were leaving Anchorage, the beginning of our journey back to Vancouver. The first stretch of road was new, as we had taken the indirect Denali Highway on the way in, but we were now taking the direct route back to Whitehorse. The road was quite scenic.


We camped at Porcupine Creek again, and were interested to see that much of the ice had melted since we were last here over a week ago. I refilled our water from a river and where I had before knelt down from shelf ice, the banks were now completely clear and rock covered. A sure sign that winter is ending and summer is coming!


Day 27 – Back to Anchorage

Morning as usual. The tarp and tent were damp from the dew so we left them to air out in the back of the car. We drove to Anchorage, occasionally getting blips of radio. We listened to 20 minutes of the Vinyl Cafe on Katie’s laptop before the battery died.


Camspite at Ptarmigan Ridge


Driving back from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage

We drove through Anchorage to a Walmart to restock with some food supplies. We also managed to get a 5-pack of blank CDs for $4. Far more expensive per unit than 2 years ago, but much better than the $30 pack we had seen in Superstore back in Whitehorse. We’ll have to choose carefully, since our stereo only accepts audio cds and not MP3 cds. That means 80 minutes x 5 cds for the next 5 days of driving.

We used the GPS to locate a park on the way back from Walmart. It told us to take an exit off the highway, which we did. It then navigated us towards what looked like a maximum security border crossing. We were some bewildered, but decided to continue following the directions of the GPS. We stopped and spoke to a strict guard who wanted to know are business, entering the military base. Katie and I were both pretty surprised, just wanting to go to the park. I had to give the guard my drivers license, then make a U-turn, and then exit the complex. We were humored by the incident and headed to the next park the GPS found instead.

We’ve now been at Starbucks for a few hours and are just about to head to Bill’s house. Tomorrow – the journey back home begins!


We arrived at Bill’s house at 5pm and met his wife Mary. It was very nice talking with them and sharing stories. They were very kind to us and made us the most excellent dinner we’ve had in weeks. They grilled up some steaks, hamburgers, salmon burgers, served along with yams, potato salad, and pasta salad. Delicious!

We also met their daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and grandson, and had yet another recommendation to go to Liard Hot Springs.

We went to sleep very happy, and our first time sleeping in a bed, as opposed to thermarests, for 4 weeks. A most pleasant luxury indeed!