Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Great Logistics (October 1st - 4th, 2013)

After our ordeal with Elumbus we needed to find a different way of getting to Brazil. All conventional flights for a reasonable price were booked out, so we had to improvise. Fortunately I remembered three essential facts:
  • When we were in Boliva I noticed that one-way tickets within the country cost just half of the price of the return ticket.
  • Emile Schenk told me a long time ago that flights within one country in South America are usually much cheaper than international flights.
  • Dan told us about his plans to take a direct overnight bus from La Paz to Cusco and back.
Out of this info I was able to build a crazy plan how to get to Sao Paulo: first we would take an overnight bus from Huaraz to Lima. Then we would take a cheap domestic flight to Cusco. From there we would continue with another overnight bus to La Paz and finally from La Paz we would fly to Sao Paulo.

The overnight bus to Lima was comfortable and very early in the morning we got off at Terminal Norte. Knowing that we would not have enough time to go to the city center we took a taxi directly to the airport, located not too far from Terminal Norte. The time till our flight we spent reading and watching people at the airport. Our flight to Cusco was delayed, but eventually we boarded. We were surprised by the service Peruvian Airlines provided for just 69 EUR, and really enjoyed the flight. Landing in Cusco was especially impressive as we were flying almost between very high mountains such as Salktantay.

In Cusco we immediately took a taxi to the bus terminal. There we bought a bus ticket to La Paz and deposited our luggage. With just small bags we went to the center to eat guinea pig, which we had not not managed to try before. As our bus was leaving quite late we spend some time in an internet cafe catching up on our blog.

We had missed this statue of Inca the previous time we were in Cusco

The overnight bus was quite comfortable and at around 7 A.M. we were already at the border with Bolivia. We again saw the Lake Titicaca, but this time from the opposite side. At the border, we got an Peruvian exit stamp and then changed money. To my surprise we got exactly the same exchange rate as when changing in the other direction one month and half earlier. Leaving Peru was not as straightforward as we expected, because we were selected for a random drug check. All our belongings were thoroughly inspected, but nothing suspicious was found and we could cross the bridge to Bolivia.

All these guys are just changing money

Entering Bolivia was one of our main risks. We both already had three thirty-days stamps in our passports and according to law, we were allowed to stay maximally 90 days per year in Bolivia. Fortunately, we had stayed for just 75 days. This was quite easy to explain, so we received the right to stay in the country for an additional 15 days.

We had missed you, Bolivia!

Because our luggage had been inspected, we were the last ones to board the bus. In a couple of hours we arrived in La Paz and went to the Adventure Brew B&B, located just two blocks away from the bus terminal. It was quite nice to arrive in a place and know exactly where to go. After settling down we went to Pollos Copacabana and got two of their delicious Copacabana burgers. We then spent a bit of time wandering around, calling Elumbus and resting at our hostel.

We slept quite well, but had to wake up very early to catch our plane. We took a taxi to the airport. Everything went smoothly and soon we were flying to Santa Cruz. In Santa Cruz we just got out of the plane, went through immigration and another drug search, and boarded the same plane one hour afterwards. As last time, it was raining in Santa Cruz, but we more bothered that we did not have time to say hello to our Bolivian friends Cynthia and Gonzalo, who live there. The flight to Sao Paulo was quite pleasant and in a couple of hours we started discovering Brazil. More about that in our next blog post.

Our problems with Elumbus

Now we are going to report on a somewhat of a different topic: our experience with booking a flight from Lima to Sao Paulo with Elumbus. It was a real mess and took us literally several weeks to clear up. 

Long story short: We booked a flight with Elumbus using an EasyBank credit card. A couple of days later Elumbus claimed that they had been unable to withdraw money from the credit card. This credit card had worked up to then without problems. We were told that the price of the tickets had gone up by 2x150 EUR, and instructed to buy them for the new price or pay a 2x75 EUR cancellation fee. This fee was mentioned in small letters in their very long and complicated terms and conditions. We exchanged many e-mails with different Elumbus employees and were told contradictory things. We were also threatened with even higher fees during phone calls with Elumbus. In the end we paid the 2x75 EUR fee, and in exchange were promised 2x50 EUR worth of vouchers that we would be able to use for our next purchase. A couple weeks later when we tried to use these vouchers, Elumbus claimed that they can only be used for intercontinental flights. This had never been mentioned before. A second round of arguments started and eventually we managed to convince Elumbus to at least partially apply our vouchers for the flight of our choice. In total we lost 69 EUR. Problems such as this seem common for the company: we later discovered many complaints in German, including one page dedicated only to problems with Elumbus. We also found some complaints in English (for example here and here).

Read on if you are ever thinking about booking tickets with Elumbus. It is a long story, but trust us, it is better to be reading it than living it. If you do not have time, just scroll down to the conclusions.

In order to keep privacy of the employees we use nicknames.

21st of September
Using, we searched for the cheapest tickets from Lima (Peru) to Sao Paulo (Brazil). Skyscanner redirected us to, where we were informed that they do not sell tickets for that price any more. Using we found that the original price was still available on Elumbus and on one or two more websites.

ACTION1: We decided for Elumbus and booked with them, as other sites required a high (up to 70 EUR) credit card fee. We used a credit card instead of having the money withdrawn (Lastschrift) from Laura's account. Using the credit card was more expensive, but from past experience with various German travel agents, we thought it would be a more reliable option.

Elumbus website

We were somewhat surprised that we were not redirected to a 3-D Secure page (Verified by Visa) and just received an e-mail with an invoice stating that everything is fine, we do not need to do anything and our tickets would be issued soon.

As things seemed all right, we departed for a four-day hike.

25th of September
We returned back to civilization and read an e-mail from Elumbus, dating September 23rd. It stated that they had been unable to take money from our EasyBank credit card, and hypothesized that this could have been due to a too low or used up limit on the card. They also asked that we supply them with a clarifying statement from our bank, so that they would be able to take money by the evening of September 23rd. The e-mail also mentioned a 2x75 EUR cancellation fee.

We wrote them that we do not want our tickets to be cancelled, and verified with EasyBank that more than double of the original price could have been booked on the card without reaching any limit. We also offered to wire the money instead.

We tried to call Elumbus via Skype, but were not able to pass even the language selection: it looked as though the Elumbus system was unable to recognize the language selection beep generated by the Android version of Skype. 

26th of September
We received an e-mail from Ms. Unpleasant. She told us that the price of the tickets had increased by 2x150 EUR. She also wrote that unless we book for this expensive price, we would be charged 2x75 EUR.

We replied that we are not willing to give up the original price for which we had booked. We offered that we could be flexible with our departure dates in order to keep the price.

As we still hadn't received an answer a couple of hours later and the office hours in Germany were coming to the end, we decided to call them from a telephone booth. I reached Ms. Nice. A bit of patience was needed in the beginning to explain the situation, but eventually she started looking into various options for how we could get to Sao Paulo for a decent price. During the conversation she also mentioned that perhaps we would not have to pay the cancellation fee as it may not have been our fault, but she would have to discuss this with her supervisor. While she was searching for a new flight, she even called us back to ask for more details. 

Later on we received an e-mail from Ms. Nice. Unfortunately, the e-mail was in quite complicated German even though our phone conversation had been in English only. The e-mail stated that:
  • she was unable to find any flight for the original price.
  • the cancellation fee could be reduced from 2x75 EUR to 2x25 EUR if we book another flight with them.
We asked her for more details about this reduced fee, but never got a reply.

We tried to call Elumbus again as they should have 24h call service. However, it was already quite late in Germany, and we gave up after 10 minutes of waiting on the line.

27th of September
The next morning, instead of receiving an e-mail from Ms. Nice, we again got a bit arrogant e-mail from Ms. Unpleasant. She was completely unaware about our conversation with Ms. Nice, and again demanded the 2x75 EUR.

We provided Ms. Unpleasant with information from Ms. Nice. Eventually Ms. Unpleasant replied and confirmed that if we book another flight with them, only the reduced cancellation fee would apply. She did not, however, provide information on how we should proceed.

After having a positive experience calling Ms. Nice, we decided to call Elumbus again. This time I tried to use Skype again, but from an internet cafe rather than our tablet. It was less convenient, but worked. I reached a new person who:
  • did not really explain anything
  • kept repeating that he can not do any re-booking for us
  • stated that currently there is nobody who can search for flights and talk over the phone the way that Ms. Nice had been able to
  • stated that people from the re-booking department can not receive phone calls
  • refused to connect us to his supervisor
  • refused to give neither the name nor contact information of his supervisor
  • was only able to give out the name of the CEO of Elumbus - Jörn Eble
  • kept repeating that the only way we could continue is to write an e-mail to Ms. Unpleasant as they are very busy at the call center
  • in total this call took 13 minutes and did not move us forward at all.
Thinking that this person was probably not alone at the call center, I tried calling them again. This time I reached Mr. Primary Contact. He was not very friendly, but professional. During the almost-20-minute call he explained things clearly and helped to move our communication forward. He stated that:
  • perhaps EasyBank (from Austria) did not trust this German travel agent and was not willing to release the money from our credit card.
  • Elumbus is using the latest Secured by Visa system.
  • it is not Elumbus charging the 2x75 EUR fee, but the flight companies.
  • if we do not cancel the tickets and pay the 2x75 EUR before October 2nd, we would have to pay an even higher fee, which would rise with time: 2x100, 2x125 EUR, ...
  • He mentioned their Terms and Conditions a couple of times and pointed that we were probably not able to understand them completely.
  • He also clarified the information from Ms. Nice: after paying 2x75 EUR, we would be issued 2x50 EUR vouchers which can be used for any booking with Elumbus anytime in the future.
  • Use of the vouchers would not be simple: we would first need to book through their web interface, then call them and ask for the voucher to be applied.

OBSERVATION1: Elumbus claims to be using the latest Secured by Visa system, even though we were never redirected to the Secured by Visa page.

OBSERVATION2: Elumbus claims it is the flight company charging the 2x75 EUR fee, but they would be able to give us 2x50 EUR vouchers valid for any booking with Elumbus, regardless of the flight company. The 2x75 EUR fee is also to be transferred directly to Elumbus and not to the flight company.

OBSERVATION3: Mr. Primary Contact was completely correct about the Elumbus terms and conditions being complicated. We even asked for the help of Laura's sister Marin, who spent a part of her law studies in Germany (Frankfurt am Main) and works at the Estonian Supreme Court. Even she had a hard time analyzing these terms and conditions.

In his next e-mail, Mr. Primary Contact wrote that we would be entitled for 2x50 EUR vouchers and asked for an e-mail confirmation to cancel our tickets. We confirmed under the condition of receiving vouchers with unlimited validity. We then received a confirmation of cancellation and an invoice for 2x75 EUR stating on page 2 that we do not need to do anything (the money had been taken from our credit card), but on page 3 that we need to wire the money. We clarified this with Mr. Primary Contact, and he stated that we have to follow the info from page 3, because their system is inflexible and had not allowed him to change page 2.

ACTION2: We wired 150 euros to Elumbus.

ACTION3: We made a new travel plan and bought tickets directly from the flight companies' websites (these tickets were not available on Elumbus). Both the Peruvian airlines as well as Bolivian Aerolineas redirected us to a Secured by Visa page during the payment process. Tickets were issued within minutes after clicking the Pay button on the Secured by Visa page. 

OBSERVATION4: Compared with Elumbus, these websites from Bolivia and Peru implement Secured by Visa in a way that it works properly and provides immediate feedback.

OBSERVATION5: Even though we speak much worse Spanish than German, understanding the terms and conditions of Peruvian airlines was far easier compared with those of Elumbus, as they have just one simple and clear page that we needed to agree to.

2nd of October
We noticed in the Easybank statement that Elumbus had been able to withdraw 8 EUR from the Easybank credit card on 22nd September, and the money had been returned on the same day. This means that we had definitely correctly filled in the information about the credit card.

3rd of October
We received an e-mail from Ms. Unpleasant, stating that we are not entitled to any vouchers, which completely contradicted earlier e-mails from both Mr. Primary Contact and Ms. Unpleasant. We tried to call Elumbus, but as it was a public holiday in Germany, there was nobody speaking English on the line. We agreed to contact them again. Additionally, we sent an email to Mr. Primary Contact asking him to inform Ms. Unpleasant about our agreement.

21st of October
We wanted to book a new flight within Chile. This flight was available on the Elumbus website, so I called them again, asked to be reconnected to Mr. Primary Contact and managed to reach him. Once again, I needed to remind him of the whole story. In the beginning he tried not to admit to our right to apply the 2x50 EUR vouchers, but reading from his original e-mail helped. He asked that we write him the information about the flight via e-mail. We wrote him all the details about the flight, including the price of 168.61 EUR per person, and asked him to book it for 118.61 EUR.

22nd of October
We did not get a reply from Mr. Primary Contact, so I called Elumbus again. The person on the phone was relatively nice and promised that Mr. Primary Contact would get back to us on the same day.

We received an e-mail from Mr. Primary Contact, but he quoted the price of 140 EUR per person, meaning only a 28 EUR discount per passenger.

I called Elumbus again, reaching a lady who was very insecure. She claimed that the 2x50 EUR discount could be used for intercontinental flights only, although she was unable show this in the terms and conditions. She recommended calling Mr. Teamleader, the team leader of the service department. Unfortunately, she was unable to connect me to him and asked me to call Elumbus again with selecting a different department.

I did as told and got connected to a completely new guy; the discussion was quite unfruitful and he did not explain much. He also insisted that the vouchers were only for intercontinental flights, but was unable to provide any evidence for this. He pointed us to the second page of the invoice, but when I read it to him, he also realized that there was nothing there about intercontinental flights. We had quite a long discussion during which I eventually threatened him a bit with writing to my friend who works at DTest, a Czech magazine for testing products. Suddenly, I heard a new voice saying: "Mr. Teamleader speaking".

Mr. Teamleader was a very business-oriented professional guy, and in less than 10 minutes, he managed to improve my view of Elumbus a bit. However, when I asked if the vouchers are indeed for intercontinental flights, he pointed us to a place on the Elumbus website (we needed to click on Buchung and in a new window click on Service Packete). A completely different voucher worth 20 EUR and that is indeed for intercontinental flights is mentioned there. So still, our vouchers should have been valid for any flight.

Even though we had nothing to do with the Service Standardpacket, this was the site that Mr. Teamleader pointed to for the conditions of our vouchers.

Additionally, many times he mentioned that the vouchers we received were completely from their good will and we actually had no entitlement for them. I did not elaborate that Mr. Primary Contact used the world "entitled" in his e-mail and that we explicitly conditioned the cancellation of the original flight with the right to the vouchers. Instead, as I was finally connected to a person with some rights and responsibilities, we could continue in finding the best way out of it. We had quite a good discussion where he claimed that the main reason for not applying the vouchers was the very low margin that they had on the flight we were trying to book. He offered that he could nonetheless lower the price to 128.11 EUR per person and we agreed. Also, he could apply the leftover 2x9.5 EUR on some other flight if he would have at least some margin to operate with.

Already on the phone I agreed that we would send him an e-mail confirming the price and so we did.

One hour later we received an e-mail with another error. They confirmed only one leg of the flight: from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt (we wanted to fly to Santiago de Chile). The invoice claimed that the original price of the flight to Puerto Montt was 2x140.61 EUR, and this had been reduced to 2x128.11 EUR. We checked the prices on the Elumbus website to see what is going on. The price to Puerto Montt was supposed to be 120.61 EUR and price to Santiago was still 168.61.

We immediately replied that they had booked us a wrong/incomplete flight and also called them again. I was connected to quite a pleasant and helpful lady. She realized the mistake and changed our reservation free of charge, as tickets had not yet been issued. We were even able to check the change of reservation at Unfortunately, the lady was unable to tell us a new price, as Mr. Teamleader was no longer reachable and she needed to discuss the matter with him.

OBSERVATION6: As it was a flight where the plane would land and then continue to the next destination, both flights to Puerto Montt and Santiago de Chile had the same flight number. This was probably confusing for Elumbus, as the practice is not common in Europe.

OBSERVATION7: This time it was possible to change the booking without paying any fee.

We were still concerned about how they would handle the price of the ticket, together with the change of destination. We took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires and neither of us slept much. Usually, we don't sleep well on buses anyway, but this time we were also worried that Elumbus would demand extra money from us again.

The next day, to our big and positive surprise, we received an e-mail from Mr. Primary Contact offering the full flight for the reduced price of 128.11 EUR. We were very happy! We confirmed, wired the money, and the correct tickets were issued a couple of days later.

OBSERVATION8: Elumbus started using Laura's academic title towards the end of this story and this also seemed to be the point when Elumbus began to be more positive towards us. By the way, I really enjoyed starting the phone calls with: "I am speaking on behalf of Dr. Laura Sedman" :))))

All's well that ends well. This ordeal did not end completely well: we lost a lot of time in addition to 69 EUR and calling fees. Fortunately, calling via Skype was cheap. Also, it was quite a good practice in assertiveness and negotiations. 

We have a couple of tips for those who ever need to deal with Elumbus:
  • For getting your point through, calling is generally more effective than writing e-mails.
  • Calling Elumbus from Skype costs just 2.3 cents per minute.
  • Mr. Teamleader usually leaves the office at 8 P.M. (German time) and he seemed to be the only person able to authorize special requests.
  • Try to stay as calm as possible and always read all the details of every e-mail twice.
  • From going through various complaints we found online, money transfer (Überweisung) seems to be the most reliable form of payment. For this, we found only one complaint compared with many complaints about other forms of payment.
Originally we were thinking of spending some extra time on search engine optimization for this page and for Elumbus vorsicht. As we managed to partially apply our vouchers and Mr. Teamleader seemed to be a decent guy, we decided to do a bare minimum and leave the rest up to our readers. If you believe this information should get more spread, please post a link to the article and/or Elumbus vorsicht on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, ... 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Huaraz and its surroundings (September 18th - October 1st, 2013)

We arrived in Huaraz looking forward to visiting Cordillera Blanca. We were completely amazed by tons of hiking possibilities this town has to offer, so we stayed here for quite a while.

September 18th - Arrival
After arriving by overnight bus from Lima, we had the luxury of a free pick-up by Teo from our hostel. We were recommended Caroline Lodging already in Lima and were quite surprised by Teo's business plan. He does not pay any fees to booking portals and rather invested into very nice website, which is even available in perfect Czech. Additionally, he provides just great services and we felt like at home during our almost two week stay there. The rest of day we took it easy, we just rested a bit, managed to catch up with our blog and get information on an acclimatization hike for the next day.

September 19th - Lake Churup
Immediately after breakfast we took a shared taxi to Llupa. We had to wait a bit for more people to show up: most shared taxis had gone much earlier in the morning, but we we wanted to have breakfast at the hostel, which started at 8 A.M. Anyway, soon we were in Llupa and started our hike exactly as described by the people working at Case de Guias in Huaraz. We ascended slowly as we needed to acclimatize. Eventually we arrived at Pitec, where we were supposed to pay our entrance fee. Probably because of a bit suspicious weather there was nobody collecting the fee and we freely continued with getting even better views than before.

Bit suspicious clouds, but the weather forecast was correct and we did not even need our rain jackets.
Eventually we arrived at a trickier place with a small climbing section secured by ropes. It was not the easiest but I managed quite well, but Laura took a bit of convincing to continue. In any case, it was totally worth it and we soon arrived at Lake Churup.

Lake Churup

The way down was much easier than the way up. Just getting transportation from Llupa was a bit adventurous. We did not see any colectivos, but managed to hitch a ride on a truck that was carrying road workers. Happy about our first acclimatization hike, we booked transportation to Lake 69 for the next day. In the evening we managed to go out for a dinner with Edgar and Verena whom we met at Huacachina.

September 20th - Lake 69
There was a bit of confusion about our pick-up time. We were supposed to be ready five minutes to six, but Teo was a bit hysterical about us not being ready already ten minutes before six. We did not let ourselves be surprised by this, finished brushing our teeth and boarded the bus. It was quite a long ride, but we made a stop to eat breakfast and also to buy the entrance to the National Park. Later, we made a stop at Orkoncocha lake and views there were already pretty impressive.

Lake Orkoncocha

Soon after we arrived at the start of the hike to Lake 69. We were told by our guide that all lakes in Cordillera Blanca have a name and a number; just Lake 69 is an exception as it only has a number. Already on the bus we met two nice German girls, also staying in our hostel. I found it very interesting that one of them spoke Sorbian as her mother tongue. I was not aware of this Slavic language, which is apparently spoken in a part of Germany close to border with Czech Republic and Poland. The four of us enjoyed each others company and wonderful views of Huascarán.


After couple of hours of hiking, we made it to Lake 69. The surrounding mountains were in the clouds, but we managed to see how a big piece of glacier collapsed above the lake.

The mountains around Lake 69 were not well visible

Group photo at Lake 69

We returned back quite late, but full of impressions from this gorgeous hike.

September 21st - rest day
We had a relaxing Saturday. In the morning we booked the flight from Lima to Sao Paulo. Or at least we thought that we had booked it (more on this horror story later). In the afternoon we found out that the public transportation to Vaqueria, the beginning of Santa Cruz Trek, is sold out. We ran around the town and found one travel agency that was organizing a full-inclusive tour, but still had some free space in their bus.

September 22nd - 25th - Santa Cruz Trek
Santa Cruz Trek was the highlight of our stay in the Cordillera Blanca and we have a dedicated article for it.

September 26th - 27th - rest days + Elumbus horror story
After coming back from the Santa Cruz Trek we found out that we did not have tickets to Sao Paulo after all because Elumbus had been unable to withdraw money from Laura's credit card. Thus, our horror story begin. During these two days we rested quite well physically, but we were mentally quite exhausted. As the Elumbus story was quite long, we decided to write about it in our next article.

September 28th - Laguna Wilcacocha
Being physically rested, but mentally exhausted, we decided for an easy hike in Cordillera Negra. We hiked to a small lake called Laguna Wilcacocha. The lake itself is completely boring compared to all the other lakes we visited in the area, but it had a great view of the Cordillera Blanca, because it is from the other mountain range.

Views from Laguna Wilcacocha

We met this small lamb on the way down

September 29th - The Rock Forest (Hatan Machay)
The next day we first took a colectivo to Catac and then a taxi to Hatan Machay. Hatan Machay used to be an underwater volcano that erupted and formed one of the best climbing places in South America. Unfortunately for me, Laura was not in the mood for climbing and I did not find another climbing partner.

Of course I climbed at least a bit

The place was really impressive and crazy huge. Only when we were inside we realized that it is actually one big maze and getting out would not be easy. We spent more than an hour on finding the way out but eventually we managed.

This maze was huge

After getting out of the maze we just walked a bit around it, returned to the near by refugio, which with the exception of Spanish writings looked like a typical Alpine Hut in Austria. From the refugio it was a pretty fast way down to the road and there we hitch hiked on a big bus, taking us back to Huaraz.

September 30th - Laguna Aguas
The first hike we did near Huaraz was to a lake and we decided that our last hike would be as well. We hiked to Laguna Aguas - a rather easy hike. Often, we walk in silence and just enjoy the the path and the views, but on this hike, we really talked a lot. Still, when we paused to take a rest, we managed to take some pictures.

Laura at Laguna Aguas

One of the last pictures from this wonderful stay

October 1st - rest day and departure
After all this hiking we deserved one more resting day, when we had our shoes cleaned, clothes washed, worked on this blog and planned the details of our trip to Sao Paulo in Brazil. In the evening we started on our way there by taking another overnighter to Lima.

As usually we have many more pictures and contributed to OpenStreetMap.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Santa Cruz Trek (September 22nd - 25th, 2013)

We had big expectations about the Cordillera Blanca, and the Santa Cruz trek nicely fulfilled them. It was neither too tough nor too easy, we met some nice people and the surroundings were just amazing.

The day before our departure, we ran around Huaraz a bit, trying to find transportation to Vaqueria - the start of the Santa Cruz trek. It was not simple as both bus companies going in that direction were sold out. Fortunately, we managed to find one travel agency that had a group and still some free spaces in the car, which they were happy to sell to us.

The next day we were conveniently picked at our hostel. It took almost six hours to arrive at Vaqueria, as the majority of the road was in a bad condition (gravel) and our bus needed to climb quite high. As we were going with a tourist agency, we made many stops for taking pictures. The views were just amazing.

Our second time there, and we still loved this lake

We needed to go quite high to get to Vaqueria

Beautiful mountains were all around

From Vaqueria we slowly started hiking towards our first camp site. The path was well marked and we were making decent progress. Amazing views. Just towards the end of day one, there were quite some mosquitoes annoying us and I was questioning my logic: if there are no mosquitoes at Huaraz, there should be none at higher altitude. In any case, we soon made it to Paria, where we set our camp.

At the park checkpoint I could even practice reading Russian

Nevado Pyramide reminded us of Matterhorn

Our valley with beautiful mountains at the end

Evening lights were magical

In the evening we cooked dinner. The group from the agency we used for transportation was staying at the same camp site. Their dinner was running very late, so they started a fire (we learned only later that that was prohibited). It was nice to chat next to it and look at the stars from time to time.

The next morning we cooked breakfast and as usually spent a lot of time drying the tent. We'd complained about it to the company that produced it, and even got an e-mail from Jurek's CEO, but unfortunately his advice helped only partially.

Laura observing the drying process of our tent

Mountains in morning colors

We were the last to leave because of our tent. We started hiking up towards the highest point of our trek: Punta Union. The weather was good and we were not in a hurry, as we were enjoying the surrounding views.

Some more beautiful mountains

Surprisingly, we caught up with the guide of the group. She was there with a Japanese lady who looked completely exhausted and had probably underestimated the importance of acclimatization. After some more hiking we made it to the Punta Union, where we met the rest of the group and had a rest.

Punta Union with 4750m was the highest point of the trek

One of the many views from Punta Union

The way down was straightforward and we enjoyed it in nice company. At the camp we built our tent and cooked.

The way down

Our new home

Sunset in the mountains

The next day we did not have any problem drying the tent, as it was very windy the whole night and our tent ventilated perfectly. We just had a cold breakfast, because we thought it might start to rain and we wanted to pack everything before it would get wet. Soon we departed in the direction of Alpamayo base camp. We were quite lucky, as during the only shower of this trip we were walking next to a big stone that provided us with rain protection. When the rain had eased, we still kept our raincoats on and continued. The base camp was surprisingly empty. We used the time to cook a soup and wait for clouds to form a hole, so that we could take a picture of Alpamayo.

Laura cooking soup at Alpamayo base camp


From the base camp we continued up to take a look at lake Arhuaycocha, which is directly fed by one of the glaciers.

Lake Arhuaycocha and its glacier

It was still a long hike to the next campground. The path was mainly on the bottom of a dry river, which make it especially tiring. At around 5 p.m. we made it to the camp, set up our tent and made ourselves a dinner.

Flowers we noticed when we were leaving the base camp

This valley was beautiful, but made us tired

More flowers at an unexpected place

Finally here

Laura preparing the last dinner of the trek

The next day we only had 9 km to go. There were no high mountains around, but the views were nevertheless spectacular. We made it to Cashapampa. There we had a short rest at a local shop while we waited for a colectivo to Caraz. From there we caught another colectivo, which took us back to Huaraz and soon we were taking shower at our hostel.

The end of Santa Cruz trek was mainly around this river

Cashapampa registration station

As usually, we have more pictures and contributed to OpenStreetMap. Laura also created a new Wikivoyage article about this trek. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lima (September 16th - 17th, 2013)

The capital of Peru is a city with a population somewhat larger than that of Austria. We hadn't heard many nice things about Lima, so we decided to stay there only for a short time before heading towards the majestic Cordillera Blanca. However, the time we spent in Lima was wonderful, and most probably too short.

We arrived in the early afternoon and tried to find a taxi that would take us to our hostel in the Miraflores district. Likely connected with the size of the city, the first two drivers refused, saying that they don't know the area. The third driver, as it turned out later, was also clueless. However, with the help of the tiny map on my kindle, Radek acted as our TomTom, and we eventually arrived at our destination.

After settling in, we took an hour long ride with a microbus to the historic center. We walked around and admired the colonial architecture. There were quite a lot of people about, but we didn't get the feeling that it would have been too crowded. We also wanted to see a fountain show, but to our surprise and disappointment, it was closed.

Central square

Lima in the night

The next morning, we walked around Miraflores. This is one of the wealthiest residential areas of Lima, with many parks, gardens and beaches. We liked it, despite the apparently persistent gray sky.

A beach in Miraflores

A cartoon exhibition in a park in Miraflores

Cats were introduced to the center of Miraflores as a measure against rats

In the afternoon, Sam and Zab, whom we'd met some months earlier in Bolivia, had us over for lunch. They were renting a lovely apartment in Miraflores where they were planning to stay for a total of six weeks. Sam cooked a delicious stuffed squash, and we discussed a myriad of topics for hours on end. We really enjoyed it, are really thankful to both Sam and Zab for making our stay in Lima so special!

More photos of Lima are available here.