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|
|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.