Friday, September 02, 2005

The grey and the white: Lima and Huaraz

Valy stands on the shore of Lagoon 69


Entering Lima around noon of Saturday, a grayish climate greeted us and continued to accompany us all our stay in Lima , a total of 3 nights. Staying in Miraflores, the prestige neighborhood in this 8 million capital, we tasted some western junk food (Pizza hut, Burger King), been to a fancy night club and also bowelled a bit. I had some misfortune when we bought our tickets to Huaraz, but I was so happy to leave Lima , I didn't care too much. Arriving at Huaraz early in the morning, the sun gave us a glimpse of the great Cordillera Blanca. A week already in this little town and we had tasted both outdoor activity, and also tasted the sad taste of farewell, even if for a short time.

Lima , the grey metropolis
Arriving into Lima around 1 PM, we were not in our best moods: The grey color that accompanied us all the way from Pisco to Lima didn't left us and the sun kept playing hide and seek with us all that time. At the bus station in Lima we had to decide were to stay the couple of days we planned. We had several names, and we got into a taxi and headed for Miraflores, the best neighborhood in Lima . We saw three different hostels and finally we settled on an Israeli joint called The Witches.
With a gothic-like architecture and a wide yard, this place could have been a great place to stay, but it was so unattended and with antipathic owners, I know for sure I won't stay there the next time im in Lima . We dropped our stuff and no sooner than we glanced at the yard, Michal called to us and was all cheerful. Michal is an Israeli traveler that we met in Cusco and was about to go back home in couple of days. After we catch up with each other, we headed out of the gloomy hostel to the center of Miraflores for a quick snack. Michal was full, but Lee, Shay and Me were quite hungry so while Shay had a Burger King, Lee and Me had a little Pizza Hut, which was overly greasy.
We strolled around in Miraflores till the sun went down (most shops were closed so we couldn't do any arrangements in any case) and then Shay, Lee and me planned on going to a party,a s it was Saturday night, the best night to party. In the evening, while we had a nice sandwich in a little snack joint, we asked the waitress if she had any idea about a good place to trance ourselves. Gothica, the waitress said, is the best place to be and to enjoy trance. Cool! We finished our little dinner and headed for the supermarket to buy some good party juice: Alcohol. After debating what to buy, we chose Vodka with orange juice, a good rambler. Only, that was our first time drinking Smirnoff Vodka, which was more similar to acetone to any other alcohol compound. Amazingly, the three of us finished off the whole bottle (without diluting the damn poison with some orange juice) and by the time we left the room around midnight, Shay was a bit wobbly, Lee was giggling, which meant she was totally ready for some action, and me cool with almost no effect (well, I drank the least of them both).
Surprisingly, it took us some time to find a taxi driver that actually knew about Gothica, but at the end we found one (with a reasonable fare price) and the three of us entered the cabby. Shay was small-talking with the driver, while I preferred to peer out of the window and to check out the dark streets of the neighborhood, with their dazzling Casinos and wide sidewalks. We came to the promenade, which hosted a fancy open-air mall called Larcomar. There we looked for the club, while walking Lee which was wobbling heavily, giggling and in good spirit. Finally, approaching one section of the mall, we saw a great bustelling of young people, and we knew we had a Bingo. The area was packed with almost hundred young and shick-looking youngsters, all dressed up with the best money can buy, while the three of us were dressed like we were going for a stroll around the block. Pushing and pulling in the line (are we back in Tel-Aviv or what??), we managed to squizz in, just to realize that we could either enter after putting on the counter 40 Soles (LOTS OF MONEY!!!) or have the blue-mat couple invitation of the party sponsor, Peugeot, which promoted their 206 model. While pondering what are we gonna do, two nice people gave us two invitation, and gingerly we stand back in line for security check up (which took Lee`s Camera batteries...) and then, we moved down to club.
Well, lets say that the club was equipped with the modern latest sound and visualize equipment, a western club. The music, however, was an unknown latin dance jumper which made our face feel sore. We crashed on a white sofa, waiting for the song to change (which it didn't) and finally, Lee told us she is ready for the move. As we found the music shitty, and the chicks snobby, Me and Shay agreed and in five minutes we were out of the club. We stopped for some Ice Cream balls, and while we licked the cold cream we went up to the promenade, looking for taxi. At that time we were all quite tired, and by the time we entered the room, we were all ready for a good night sleep. Well, maybe for me, but mot for Lee, who had a bad hangover which lasted the next day too. She, by the way, didn't remember that she had any Ice Cream, and was sure we are joking with her…
The next day was another cool day, as it was Sunday and we strolled most of the time and passed the time in the internet points. We planned to do something in the evening, and Shay wanted to check out the Casinos and Black Jack tables. After labors lookout, we found finally a place which had such tables, and after several winnings, we left shay for some web surfing. Coming back after an hour, the guy was already on the roulette, loosing the dollars he earned around the Black Jack. When he was quits, he went to change back to Dollars and we went back to the hostel.
The next day was a busy one: Shay had to talk with about his flight ticket, while Lee was supposed to pick up her fixed sunglasses. I wanted to buy a lens hood, but after doing some phone calls, even the most professional equipment didn't have what I was looking for so I gave up. We met again around 12 for lunch after we all finished our business, and we met with Michal later on just before she departed for her flight back home. We thought what to do in the evening, and set our course on bowling.
The next day was the departure day, and we had to wrap our stuff, as the bus was due to departure to Huaraz around 10 PM. We did check out and went to buy the ticket in the area which is near a market. A voice in the back of my head whispered to me that I should keep my wallet in a good place, as there might be lots of thieves there. Usually my wallet is connected to my pants loops with a metal chain so it would be more complicated to shove a hand and take the wallet. So, I decided that even so it might be more safer to put the wallet in the jacket pocket with the zipper locked. Well, not exactly…

The rip-off
We took a taxi to the market and went to do some questioning in one Bus Company. We decided to look for another company, and while we started to cross the street I felt that my pocket it empty. SHIT! I passed my hand in search for my wallet in frenzy, as most people do when they realize in a millisecond that they were ripped off. I told Shay and Lee that I was ripped off and dashed back to the bus company, realizing already that I should run instead to the near phone booth. Indeed, it was a waste of time, as the wallet was no where to be seen. Pissed off over half of the world, I walked immediately to the nearest phone booth, taking out my notepad. I was lucky enough to copy all the telephone company details and my own account number already in Cusco, as those details were in my wallet (also luckily, I wrote a fake password with the other details). I picked the handle and was about to call my mom so she could talk with the credit card company, when Shay asked me where I am calling. Answering him, he replied that it would be better to call directly the credit company and he dictated for me the numbers. Good man! In five minutes I had on the line one of the customer service people which took my details and cancelled my card. Nice. The lady on the other line told me that she can order for me a card from the international center of the company, for a symbolic fee of a 150 USD. I told her thank you very much, but no thanks. I had already heard from Adi, which was ripped also, and when she received the international card, she wasn't given any PIN number, so she couldn't do with it nothing. Oh yeah, she could look for some specific banks in the whole continent that would enable her to withdraw money straight from the cashier. But, matter of fact, she couldn't find even one such bank. So, I told the lady that she can prepare for me a card in , and my mom will take it out and Fedex it to me. The lady told me there might be a problem with this approach but I told her back that I will manage what ever was coming. Yeah, right!
I finished the call, made another one to my mother so she would know what happened before the bank called her and asked her to come to the branch. Finishing all this, I joined Lee and Shay to continue the search for a bus to Huaraz. It didn't take us too much time to find a company, a bit expensive, that will take us the entire 8 hours ride with great comfort. Buying the tickets, we had a lot of time on our hands, and I had to rearrange a new wallet, with my secure chain. We went to Larcomar where I purchased a new wallet and passed the time by seeing a movie in the cinema. Coming back to the hostel, we paid our debt and took a taxi to the bus company. I am not sure it is my paranoia or what, but there were parts in this taxi ride that I had a feeling the driver will take us to a alley and rip us off. At the end, of course, we came to the bus company and boarded the double floor bus.
The bus ride was comfortable even though I almost didn't sleep a minute. We got a little dinner from the steward and half an hour into the ride we had also a movie played. Tired as hell, I could not sleep and at the end the lights blasted at 5 am, when the steward announced we are at Huaraz.

Huaraz - the peak of the outdoor activity in Peru!
Pronounced "Waraz", this little town is located at a strategically location between the "black" mountain range (Cordillera Negro) and the much higher "White" mountain range (Cordillera Blanca), and is considered to be one of the best places to hike/climb/or whatever outdoor activity you have on your mind in Peru and some say, in the whole South America continent. With over 50 snow capped peaks, it is more than any sane person can climb in his life time.
We climb down the bus and quickly found a taxi that will take us to the highly recommended El Tambo. We were surprised to find the hostel, a HI affiliated hostel, hiding behind a run down parking lot. Miguel, the guy that runs the place for the Seniora, found for us a nice three person room, with squeaky wood floor and two windows. Lee and Shay headed for their bed while I went down to the courtyard and had a simple breakfast over the book I was reading at the moment. The day passed quickly and we slowly tried to find what to do in the town and what attraction we want to experience. The next day we entered the Andean Kingdom , a favorite travel agency that arranges everything from mountain biking rental to Alpamayo peak conquering expeditions. We came with ideas about Ice climbing, mountain biking, waterfall rappelling and one day trek. We talked with the Argentinean owner about the different options and closed a deal. The next day we fixed a plan to do the waterfall rappelling, an attraction we heard about when we were already in Cusco .

Going down cliffs the water way
The next day, around 6 am we woke up and by 7 we were at the agency, having a nice breakfast and meeting with the other people that booked this tour. Aside from us, there were another two Israeli guys, Oren and Valy, and a French couple that didn't converse with nobody. Around 7:30 we took off toward the Cordillera Negra and after one hour of drive we came to a stop and everybody got down. We mounted our backpacks and walked some 20 minutes down a slippery path to a ravine where the water flowed from the mountain above us. The two guides quickly arranged the equipment and dressed us with the harnesses and helmets. Less than ten minutes later we came to the first of no less than 8 cliffs. The first one was an easy 8 meters cliff, with no water; going down was easy and enabled me to remember the rappelling technique. We continued on to the second cliff, this time, with water flowing at the center of the slippery rock. Lee, which never rappelled before, realized that rappelling is not her cup of tea, especially when water is involved in the whole business. The third one was a 15 meter flat cliff, with water splashing on top of you like a cold and strong shower. Fearing for my camera, I closed it tightly in a water proof nylon bag (with Lee`s and Shay`s cameras). That was a good thing to do, as I rappled my self down and got a strong splash of water (which didn't stop, of course) and it took me some time to find a grip for my wet sandals. Coming down the cliff, I was totally soaked with water and the wind that blew through the ravine made me shiver. At that time Lee was waiting anxiously for the finish line while me and Shay enjoyed ourselves. We kept going down, waterfall after waterfall, with changing cliffs height and difficulty till we came to the last of them. I must admit that I expected for some more strong water stream, and from a certain point it was not that exciting. Well, actually the French girl was certainly excited all the way down, moaning and groaning like being in bed with her boyfriend, especially when we had a more technical cliff, with a negative slope. We had some serious laugh on her account, as nasty as it can be (macho men, what can you expect of them?!?).
Once we finished the rappelling, we walked back to the road, going down the ravine at places we wondered why we are not rappelling them. At the end, we came to the road and after 1 hour we were back at Huaraz. Lee was tired and went straight for the hostel while Shay, Valy and me went to have some Chinese food. That was our first time that we actually talked with Valy, and found out that at the age of 28, Valy finished his Software engineering degree and embarked on a trip in South America . Just landing in Lima several days ago, he was full of ideas and as we kept doing things together, we found that we were similar in several aspects.
Returning to the hostel, we passed the time and agreed that we gonna take a day off tomorrow and wont do anymore as we were quite tired. At the evening we decided to join two girls, Nitzan and Lena , for a beer or two. Lee was not in a mood for drinking and the four of us went to the Extreme, a tourist bar, accompanied by Miguel. While Nitzan was talking with Miguel, Lena, 26, talked with me and Shay and told us that she came only for two months before she had to go back to last year studying Chemical engineering (everybody is engineering things?!). She was already two weeks in Huaraz and wanted to trek a bit and didn't find anyone to do it with, so eventually we offered her to join us with all our activities. On the way I went to grab a Hamburger in a little shop, and when I was back I saw Lena and Shay in a deep conversation over a beer. I drank mine till I felt tired and took off back to the hostel for a night sleep.

Going down hill II (Peruvian style)
I must admit, that after the death road I didn't expected to do something like this again (apart from one tour opportunity in Sorata that didn't came into reality…). But, here we all got the chance to do it again. We talked with Valy and Lena and the two agreed to join us on a trip on bikes from a 4700 high pass down to the Rio Santa Valley, 1700 meters below. The idea was quite simple: renting resilient mountain bikes for a day and then hoping with a bus ride up and crosses the Cordillera Blanca at a high pass (named Puertochuelo). From the dropping point the way back is all the way down across 46 km of zig-zagging dirt road that crosses the width of the Huascaran park, one of the most beautiful parks in whole . Converging back with the Rio SantaValley is at little town of Yungay , were busses run south east to Huaraz every 10 minutes. Sounds great, isn't it?? Well, it was sure as hell a long ride down, I can tell you that!
At 6:30 the bus was due to leave the station, but as we came late with our bikes to the niche where the busses of the local company parked, we saw that as usuall, Todo tranquilo, or everything is relaxed. We found our bus, and waited till everybody will put their luggage on the roof before we gonna load our bikes, as we were the first to depart from the bus. Around 7:30, finally, the bus engine woke up in a roar and we gladly took our bikes and delivered them to the driver assistant that was on the roof of the bus all that time, loading and tying luggage.
Going into the bus we had a surprise, as two of our reserved seats were occupied. Great! As usual, I got all pissed off and angry, how they had the HUZPA to sit in our seat. After some conversing, the husband and wife cleared the seats for us and only after they talked with the driver I realized that they had paid also for our seats…Peruvian, they will do anything to make another buck!
The bus departed and quickly we were heading North West along the Rio Santa Valley, with the Cordillera Negra on our left and the Blanca on the right, passing through villages and little towns till we came to Yungay (our biking end point), where the bus took a right turn and started its long and slow way up the the dirt road of Llanganuco valley to the pass, 1700 meters above. That was the path that we later gonna go down the bike, so subliminally I have burned some artifacts that I would later remembering seeing them on the way up.
At first, the way up was not that interesting till we got to the park boundary, where we paid a fee of 5 soles. The bus continued on, only now it passed through a gorge, boarded by massive black rocks jutting couple of hundreds of meters straight up and forming an enormous passage. It was amazing scenery as I was looking up, trying hard to see the end of it. Soon, we drove on the left side of Lake Llanganuco , a deep green lake that is the convergence point of many glaciers streams, and we all looked at the color in a total amazement. It is an amazing sight! Quickly the bus started the second ascent to the high pass, zig-zagging first on dry road and later, on mud and snow covered road. The snow line got closer and closer, and soon, we were surrounded with snow covered slopes, with vegetation bent under the weight of the snow. All white and spectacular, with the great peaks of Pisco and Chacraraju towering above us with the background of the clear-clear deep blue skies. As we ascended more and more, we got a glimpse of the double lakes of Llanganuco, shining in a green tone toward us like two Turquoise stones. Finally, around 10 am we crossed the pass and started to go down. I saw that the other passengers look at us differently and I knew this is the time to go down. We called to stop and after hundred meters down the road the bus finally came to a stop and the bikes were lowered down. We arranged ourselves, took some pictures of us with the bikes, and started the slow way up to the pass. No need to say that it was very hard at 4700 metes to paddle, and we did another stop, a mere 300 meters from the spot we were dropped, where we made some more pictures of us and of the scenery. The pass was between three high peaks, and the whole white scenery was awesome and brilliant. Soon we climbed our bikes and started our way down, while mud sprays all over our backpacks and feet. At first we went down together but quickly everyone rode down with their own pace, stopping to take pictures of the scenery, and then continuing on riding down. After an hour an half we made a stop beside a small hill and made ourselves some kind of lunch made out of Avocado and bread rolls. Soon, the blazing sun dried the road and melted the light snow at the lower parts of the slope, and riding down the zig-zagging was easier and safer. On our way we crossed glacier streams and cows wondering around freely, and around 1 PM we came to the first of the two lagoons (Llanganuco lagoons), where we stopped for a break. At that time we all already suffered from a sore ass and arms from the bumpy road, and Valy already alternate his sitting position from sitting on his ass to sitting on the side of it. The weather started to change, as usual in this area and at that time, and grey clouds started to build up all around us. That was time to move on, and Lee and Valy already made their way further down the road. As I rose, I heard a whistling sound of air coming out in pressure out of a tiny hole. DAMN, we have a flat tire! At first I was sure it was my bike, but then I realized it was Lena`s bikes (not that it made any difference). We had a fixing kit that the agency gave us, but it was in Valy`s backpack and he was already paddling down the road. Shouting was useless, as he was already quite far. The thought of paddeling all that way back again made me shrink, but without hesitating too much, I jumped on my bike and paddled fast down the road, hoping I will catch him before he will be too far. At the end, I was able to stop him a km from our resting point. I took the kit and paddled back, while he and Lee stopped and waited at that point till we fix the flat tire. Well, we were a bit optimistic I can tell you.
When I finally reached Lena and Shay, the weather started to deteriorate and it was obvious that it is a matter of ten minutes before we gonna get a shower. First, we had to find the hole, and for that we had to pump some air into the tire, only it took us almost five minutes till we actually managed to stick that damn pump correctly so it would actually pump air into the tire and not into our faces. Shay started pumping and Lena and I tried to locate the hole by hearing and water droplets. Well, amazingly, it was not easy at all, and most of the time we were laughing at our lack of ability to find that little hole. And everytime we thought it was it, it wasn't it and Shay would need to pump again and again. Finally, when we all agreed about the identity of the hole, we had to stick the stamp over it. But, we had to take the tire out of the radial frame and only then to glue the stamp on the place. Only, even though the guide at the agency told us it is not problematic to take it out, it was actually very hard and at the end, we didn't managed to take it out. As I fought to remove the tire, a 4WD was coming up the road and shay suggested Lena will hitch hike with the bike to Yungay where we gonna meet her. We hailed the driver and asked him whether he rides to Yungay. Yes, he said, I do. We explained him our situation and he agreed to take Lena`s bikes in the back cabin of his Rover jeep. Only, the bike didn't fit into the cabin and finally the driver hailed another small pickup truck that came in the other direction. The driver was willing to take Lena and her bike to Yungay and we agreed Shay will join her, just in case. The rain got stronger and started moving ass down the road while the truck jumping on the road and passes me. No sooner than one minute I found the truck stopping in the side of the road, and Lee and Valy talking with Lena and Shay. Lee was tired from the biking and wanted to join Lena in the truck. Shay debated whether to join or not and I told him that Me and Valy are equipped with rain-proof jackets while he had only a fleece. He agreed and the three mounted their bike on the back open cabin and road away, not before we agreed they gonna wait for us in Yungay. Rethinking it while I rode down the road, I grasped that it was a mistake to have that decision, as we didn't know how much time it will take us to go down the road.
Me and Valy continued on riding down the road, bumping and jumping, while making short stops for picture taking. We didn't had the luxury of spare time, as it was already 3 PM, the sun usually sets around 6:30 PM and we had 20 something km ahead of us. The sky cleared little by little and the afternoon sun shone brightly as we crossed the park barrier on our way down. This part of the ride was also a good one, as we rode down with the wind blows our hairs and the vast valley was spread below us with the soft afternoon sun painting all in warm colors. On the way we hailed "Hola!" to passing locals, which looked at us in amazement, going down the road on a 1000 USD worth bike.
After an hour we were already very tired and had sores muscles all over the body: the back, the hands, the neck…everything hurt! But I was happy, to see the sights and to feel the wind blows my face and hair, all free and going fast down the road.
Eventually, around 5:50 PM we came to the first Asphalt chunk near the center of Yungay. I sat there waiting for Valy that was riding behind me slowly due to the pains that the ride caused him. When Valy came we sat there more, resting and letting our muscles relax a bit after a straight two and half hours of riding down a bumpy dirt road. Kids started to get near (with accompanying street dogs) and Valy took out some sweet snacks and shared with the kids (after giving me one, of course). The kids wanted more but nothing was left, and quickly we rode down to the center of town, looking for the gang, but after we didn't see anything that resembled three Israeli Muchileros, we came to the assumption that they left before we came. It was a disappointing feeling, even though I understanded then why they didn't waited for us. How much time they should or can wait, all dirty and hungry?? Valy suggested that they might be in the hostel and we can check if they are there, as there was a slim chance they were waiting for us in a corner in Yungay, and we missed them. Calling the hostel, Lena answered the phone and apologized for not waiting because they had a direct ride till Huaraz. She asked when are we coming and I told her ASAP. I returned to Valy, that kept guard on the bikes, and we moved back down to the main road where we waited for a comby which will take us to Huaraz. People were looking at us with strange looks and some bad visions came into my mind, and also Valy commented that people were staring at us and at the bikes. If they knew what was the price tags of those bikes, I can't be sure that we were still left us be. Fortunately, the combi came fast and from a first glance we grasp its gonna be a hell of a ride: the whole of the roof was full of luggage and merchandise. Will we have space? We talked with the "combi conductor" and he assured us that there was space. One look into the combi got me the feeling we gonna be squeezed inside that minivan. The guy already put the bikes on the roof and we already paid (MISTAKE, MISTAKE!!!) so we didn't have to much of a choice, so we entered the combi interior.
Well, it was so stuffed inside, I could smell the stench of the people and it was hot. Behind the shadows of early evening, I could decipher the silhouettes of a grown up male with his kid, another kid and a grown up women. WHAT THE….? I started to get pissed, how the hell he planned to put the two of us in that small patch of seat, which was intended maybe for a kid, not for two grown ups (and Valy stretches for a 1.85 meter...not a midget like me). There were shouts (surprisingly, from the passengers themselves) and Valy got another place. I squeezed myself through the stuffed interior and landed heavily on the seat (and on half of the child arm, poor thing!) not before hitting her head with my biking helmet (did I say she was a poor thing??). The car sped and the ride began. That was a very hard hour of ride, with the heat suffocating us and the minimal space making our feet hurt and go numb. I fantasized about the moment I reach my bed, without the bikes and all this shit. Finally, we entered Huaraz and once we stopped, we huridly took our bikes and rolled them down the street to the agency. Up there, I was surprised to see that the bikes of Lee, Shay and Lena were not there. Weird, is it possible that somebody else took them like that, all dirty and one of them with a flat tire?? Well, at that point I didn't give a damn what was the reason, I was just happy to turn over the bikes and to rest a bit in the hostel. When we were on the way out, the guide asked were are the other bikes, and only then it hit me that they actually didn't turned over their bikes…
Coming back to the hostel, I saw the bikes and met with the gang, already showered and ready to go to agency with their bikes. After we finished our stuff there, we went to have some dinner (Chinese) and eventually, went to bed tired, exhausted but happy.

Lagoon 69 trek
We had a day off attractions, as we were tired and we wanted also to arrange the trek tomorrow to Lagoon 69. Yes, you heard right. Why 69? Well, use your imagination…
In any case, we passed another tranquil day around the plaza, wondering around in the city and resting. Our whole body hurt like hell and we rejoiced the rest we gave ourselves.
Lagoon 69 is a small deep blue lagoon, located at the base of the Pisco, the Chacraraju and the Yanpaccha peaks. This is an acclimatization trek, as it reaches a height of 4600 meters ASL, and at the same time is not considered too difficult to manage when just hitting Huaraz. It is a very popular trek and many of the tourists make it through the agency, which organizes a bus for the group that assembles. When we listed and paid at the agency, there were already 16 people listed in their sheet. 90 percent of them Israelis. At that time it didn't bothered me too much, but I should have expected the near future trek. While Valy and me fixed and paid for the transportation, Lena , Shay and Lee bought some food for the trek, planning on eating on the lake shores and even preparing some coffee. At the hostel I set the clock for 5 am as departure was scheduled to 6 am. We went to sleep early.
I was deep in a good anonymous dream when suddenly I heard Lena`s voice calling me from the distance. I woke up into the blackness of the room, and Lena informed me it was 20 minutes before 6 and we should get going. SHIT! Immediately I realized I forgot to switch on the alarm clock. I jump out of the bed and started to arrange, abandoning the thought about a nice waking shower. Shay and Lee woke up too, but Lee was not that keen about getting out of the bed. She told us she hates to rearrange under pressure and she can skip the lagoon. Meeting Lena on her way to the bathroom, Lena heard her too and offered that we will stall the bus from moving till she gets there, but Lee didn't want to stall the bus and decided she stays in the hostel. We arranged fast and we reached the agency right on time when people boarded the minibus. And they were many! Out of the total people, only 4 women were French. You can already imagine what that means. A fuckn day field, that's what it was! Fortunately, everybody were quite tired and sleepy, and they STILL didn't make to much noise and fuss. Finally, around 7 am the bus moved and sped along the semi-empty streets of Huaraz.
The road was exactly the same the bus to the high pass went through of, so the four of us were quite indifferent to the changing scenery (the lake was an exception). The ride was more or less quiet till the end of the ride, when people started waking up and a funny guy started to shoot jokes one after another in loud voice so EVERYONE in the bus would know he is a funny guy (Shay, that actually heard his stand-up, said he was excellent; Lena was less impressed). Finally, around 10 am we came to the dropping point, in the middle of a bend of the dirt road and after 20 minutes of rearrangement and taking a group photograph, the three of us started our way down the road to the valley below, with the rest of the group following us. We walked with a good pace, as shortly after departure, there was no sign of the rest of the group (which was good!) and we were left by ourselves. The valley was open before us, with the snow capped peaks towering above us and the sun shining in a her strong manner. A small glacier river flowed on our left with greenish-whitish color, humming in ears thus enhancing the tranquility and nature atmosphere that we were absorbed in. Not long after departure we reached the first of three ascends, a zig-zagging path that passed near a small and beautiful waterfall. On the other side of the valley a huge waterfall cascaded down a 200 meters of red painted rock and crashed in a low thud into the little river that we walked beside it. Close to the end of the zig-zag ascend the four of us split: Valy and I thrusted forward in a slow but constant pace while Lena and Shay walked a bit slower and with more stops on the way. The dirt path led moderately up till we reached the second zig-zag, which ended up in a small a bit dirty greenish lagoon which the two of us captured on film and them moved on. Once we went down the lagoon, a great flat area opened before us, all painted with brown and yellow. A bull had his lunch in the distance and the whole feeling was of freedom mixed with a the sense of vast nature. It was a wonderful moment for me, seeing all this with the snow capped mountains and the fact that we were almost alone...only us and nature! Amazing feeling that is the driving force for me to keep on trekking. After crossing the vast plain we came to the final, and most difficult ascend zig-zag, which lasted for almost an hour! On our way up, a guy came up behind us with great pace and after passing me asked puffing valy to move aside so he could move ahead. Me and Valy look at one another in amazement, as this guy plowed forward, almost without any difficulty. At a certain point, we noticed a break in the ascend, and I figured this must be the Lagoon. I asked Valy if this is the lagoon, but he answered in a disappointment that it is till not the lagoon. Damn, when we gonna get there?! Once we walked the planner part of the path, we increased our pace and less than a minute afterwards I saw Valy stretches his arms in a winning manner and I knew we finally reached it.
Lagoon 69 is definitely one of the most beautiful lagoons I saw thus far. With snow-capped peaks surrounding it from two directions and swimming pool-blue color and clear waters, it was a fantastic view to see after 2 and half hours of climbing. At that time a lot of clouds were already hiding the sun, and we had to wait for the sun to pop out so we could capture the beautiful sight. We were almost alone up there, with the companion of two Europeans that had their tent stretched and erect. Me and Vally took out the food we had with us (most of the food was with Shay and Lena , which were on their way up) and I took out also my gas stove and started boiling water. While Valy went down to the waterline, the four French girls reached the lagoon, and to our amazed eyes, took off their shirts and stayed with their braw, soaking up their sweat. We thought what are the chances that Israeli girls would do such a thing and we figured the chances are quite slim…
More and more people kept on coming and little by little it was starting to be a bit noisy. Shay and Lena came, with Shay complaining about massive headache. Lena told us she tried to convince him to stay down, but no dice • he was stubborn as a goat and kept on walking up. We stayed there for an additional 30 minutes for photos (I photographed Valy holding the Blazer magazine with the lagoon in his background) and then decided it is time to go down. Valy was quite fast going down and twenty minutes later and we didn't see him anymore. Somewhere in the midst of the walk rain started going down on us, and only after an additional hour or so we came to the bus. We were the first, and thus had to wait for almost an hour and a half (!) till the last of the people came. In that time the driver put on a soccer radio broadcast and we thought we are gonna get crazy. When it finally departed, the driver switch to some international music, which surprised us but also made the ride back much more pleasant. Shay had a serious nausea and only after taking a pill he felt a bit better (and it lasted only through the ride). Coming back to town, we met with Lee in the city and went to eat some Chinese. Lee asked if we want to Ice climb, and Shay gave up, telling us that the next day he will return to Lima and that he had enough of the high altitude. Lena was tired and didn't paid for the attraction so she skipped it so it was only Lee, Valy and Me that decided to go the next day for the ice climbing. We talked with the agency and went straight to bed.

Ice picking at 5000 meters
Wednesday was a busy day. In the morning we planned to go Ice climbing, and in the evening Lee, Shay and Lena were to catch a night bus back to Lima .
Around 7 am we were at the agency, having a nice breakfast and around 8 am we measured the plastic boots for the Ice climbing. We were the only three to go that day, so we were couched in a Toyota private car, when the guide was behind the wheel (and he drove damn fast!). We went south east and at a certain point the car took a left turn and headed deep into the Cordillera Blanca, where a check point had to be passed. We had to pay an entrance fee, but as I entered the office, the man asked me for what purpose do I wish to enter the park. I took a fast look at the fee list, and was amazed to see that they demanded 25 soles for climbing. Well, we are not climbing any mountain, we were just Ice climbing, right? So, I told him we were not planning to climb the mountains and they charged only 5 soles per person. Coming back to the car, the guide told me it was a bad idea to get into the office, because we DO climb, and we were suppose to pay the higher fee. You are OK, he said half laughing as he pressed the gas lever and we sped forward deeper into the park area. On the way we stopped by the field of highly unique plants called Puya Raimondii, the tallest specie of the bromeliad genus, and reaches up to 10 meters of height! Of course, we took some pictures with this weird looking plant, with a sphere like shape. After departing this field, the road ascended and a valley opened below us with snow capped mountains all around us. Finally, after 2 and half hours of driving, we came to a parking lot were we mounted the backpacks and walked 40 minutes to the glacier. The guide had stuff to arrange, so he told us to start without him. Well, after 20 minutes he was already with us, walking at a fast pace with a big backpack on his back. Around mid walking, Lee started to feel the altitude (she had a bit of nausea) and only when she slowed her pace more she felt a bit better. Finally, we came to the glacier wall, a mere 15 meter high ice wall, with wide crevices. The guide quickly set his mountaineering equipment, and without any safety measures, he climbed the Ice wall, demonstrating for us two techniques, the American (sane) and the French (insane) way. Just for your knowledge, the American techniques is a step-wise climbing, first securing your self with the two ice axes, one after another, and then securing the foot with the crampons, one leg at a time. The French method, however, is a bit different: first securing both hands with the axes and then pulling your self with your hands and pushing with the feet, jumping in the air and hitting the ice with the crampons. I am not sure I am clear, but imagine your self hanging by your hands and then making a jump while folding your leg and then smacking them into the ice. It look VERY difficult, especially at 5000 meters ASL!
After the guide was on the edge of the wall, he secured a rappelling rope and rappelled him self down. The three of us went up two times each, as it was VERY hard to climb at this altitude, even though, technically it was easier than my experience in Huayana Potosi, where the wall was smaller (around 5 meters high) but was totally vertical. A common gig here is to go upside down while the guide secure you, and we all did it for the fun of it. We took some great pictures of this attraction and then we moved back to the hostel. On the way back Lee hoped that Shay and Lena didn't buy any bus tickets as she was tired and wanted to spend more time before they depart for Lima .

Parting or just taking a short break?
Coming back, we were hailed by Shay, which had his lunch with Lena in the Chinese restaurant. They already bought the tickets, and even tough Lee tried to persuade them to postpone the ride by a day, Lena didn't want to stay anymore in town, as she was getting bored and was pressed with time (she had only 2 months and already three weeks she was in Huaraz). Eventually, Lee accepted this and went packing. The time passed slowly and finally, around 9:45 PM we all had a very emotional parting. We had such a good time all of us, and for such a long time (Shay, Lee and me) and it was hard to say goodbye, even if it was for a short time. Shay, however, planned to fly to , and the chances we gonna meet him again are quite low.
I already miss both of them, and wished we could travel more together…I have comfort in the thought that I will meet Lee again, in a month or so, back in San Pedro De Atacama, Chile…

A new and short era has started now, as Valy and me prepare our self for the Alpamayo short trek (six days) before we also depart, Valy to the south and me to the north of …

As I wrote this entry, I got an email from Shay, that just landed in Bogota...

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