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John and Mandi

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Reaching New Heights, Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Aug 17, 2018
by John
in: Peru

There are places we remember due to the sights, others due to the people, a few due to both. We always knew the Cordillera Blanca was a special place and one we would probably enjoy immensely. What we will forever remember, in addition to the unrivaled beauty, is our new friends that made it even more wonderful. Something as simple as learning how to make Rosti, one of our Swiss favorites, will always remind us of our time spent embraced by dear friends and white capped mountains. Maybe we are overly sentimental, why shouldn't we be?

What We Did

Cañón del Pato

The drive from Huanchaco/Trujillo to Caraz includes a section of 35 one lane tunnels situated in a canyon where the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra converge. It is quite famous among overlanders and is a very easy drive, just a few pot holes in some of the tunnels. It took us 6.5 hours from campground to campground, smaller rigs could do it in closer to 5. While most of the Cañón del Pato is single lane, even though it is a two way highway, it's normal for Peru. We recorded our drive and sped it up to 1500%.

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz

We had expected to spend a week in Caraz, ultimately staying for a collective 36 days out of the 49 we spent in the Cordillera Blanca. Camping Guadalupe is very comfortable, having pretty much everything we look for in a campground. It made for an easy spot to regroup after each of our forays into the surrounding area and was the perfect base camp while Mandi pursued her new passion for climbing with Chris & Nicole, I tagged along of course. At 30S per night, $9.17, it's a great deal for the amenities. Electricity, WiFi, hot showers, potable water, onsite laundry machine (20S per load), dish washing station, great hosts, and the sweetest camp dog of all time. Town is a short walk away and a cheap tuk tuk ride back, 2S or $0.61. We left and returned on 4 separate occasions, twice driving back from east of Huaraz!

Camping Guadalupe is also a revolving door of overlanders. We reunited with road friends and made many new ones from around the world. Big dinners, potlucks, and social gatherings were common as were evenings with everyone huddled in their respective rigs. We, of course, didn't take many photos but we did manage to snap a few during one of our stays. It was great fun and a place we refer to as what an overlander campground should be like. Many times we have seen the question on Facebook, what should an overlander place entail? Our answer, Camping Guadalupe. In order of appearance but not everyone (sorry):

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

Look, a real camping site

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

The one we almost stole

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

Climbing camp

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

See, we do have friends on bikes

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

Even more proof

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

Always so chillaxed

Camping Guadalupe, Caraz, Peru

4x4 Sprinters do exist

Laguna Paron

Probably the most recommended lake to visit by vehicle in the Cordillera Blanca, rightfully so. The 30+km drive would have taken us 2.5 hours but our fridge decided to jump out of its mount and slam into the aluminum boxes opposing it. We were on the rough park road and in a hairpin so Mandi wrestled it to the floor and sat cradling it until I could find a suitable pulloff on a true single track road. We laugh now, shit ourselves then, but heed the lesson to do the things we have been talking about like check the mounting bolts for the fridge. Seriously, we have been talking about it for a year but have never gotten around to it. Of course the only bolt to work itself out was the one for the foot that fits into the slide lock, the reason the fridge was able to hop out of the mount. We found the bolt, tightened everything, re-mounted the fridge, took a sigh of relief when it turned back on, snapped a photo of the view from our roadside repair location (first picture below), then finished the drive to the lake. By pure accident, we had driven the road in between the round trip runs made by the tour vans. They drive up in the mornings and start heading back down around 2 PM. Since the park road is very narrow and riddled with hairpins, staying within the flow of traffic is advised.

The only cost for visiting the lake was 5S per person, $3.06 for the two of us. Camping was free and the onsite bathroom had a charge of 1S but they only charged us once, we're not sure why. Steffi & Daniel were also visiting the lake so we all made plans to hike to Artesoncocha Lake the following day. While the little lake wasn't all that impressive, the hike around Paron was. It was a great time hanging with Steffi & Daniel, swapping cameras to finally get a newer photo of ourselves. The following day was perfectly clear so we hiked to the nearby lookout to get a better view of the lake and Mount Artesonraju. Steffi & Daniel decided to hike up a little later, we hugged our goodbyes not far from the lookout as we were heading down. After two nights we decided to return to Camping Guadalupe, they spent another to remain at high altitude, the camping is at 4,200 meters (13,780 feet).

Laguna Paron, Peru

That's a river, not a lake

Laguna Paron, Peru

Is there more?

Laguna Paron, Peru

Put that on a postcard and smoke it

Laguna Paron, Peru

Number 1 Glamour Shots backdrop

Laguna Paron, Peru

Almost all bipeds can do that

Laguna Paron, Peru

Take that selfie freaks

Laguna Paron, Peru

Her Kung Fu is confusing

Laguna Paron, Peru

Cold it is, more clothing you must

Laguna Paron, Peru

Miss these two

Laguna Paron, Peru

Not the Paramount mountain

Laguna Paron, Peru

Windy, you think?

Laguna Paron, Peru

Inspiration: get off your ass

Punta Olimpica - Olympic Pass

We had heard that Punta Olimpica, Olympic Pass - AN-107, was a beautiful drive in the Huascaran National Park so it became the start of our park loop. Many of the camping options within the park were at really high altitudes so we decided to spend a night just outside the park at a free spot on a river at 3,600 meters. While driving in I had a feeling I had seen the spot before. It looked a lot like the place in the Expedition Overland video where they had a late night visit by the authorities. In the video they also make a claim that a family was robbed of all of their possessions by locals. We checked iOverlander again, seeing no comments regarding problems, so we stayed put. It was a wonderfully peaceful night. The following morning we drank our coffee while wandering along the river. It was quite the stunning free spot and one we discussed visiting again.

Once our coffees were empty we drove the few kilometers to the park and payed the rather expensive entrance fee of 30S per person, $18.35 for the two of us. Punta Olimpica is a very beautiful drive and is paved all the way through the tunnel at the 4,732 meter pass. Driving the AN-105, the road we chose to create the back section of our Huascaran loop and our route to Chavin, was rough and lacking in breathtaking scenery. Doing over we'd just turn around where the pavement ends and drive the AN-107 back to the PE-3N then over and up the AN-110 to Chavin. The result would be a savings in almost 100 kilometers of rough dirt and more than likely a decent amount of time. Our drive on the AN-107 and AN-105 had us entering the park at around 9AM and parking in Chavin just before 6PM. It was a very long day, unnecessary in our opinion.

So what about that free spot? Days later we re-watched the Expedition Overland video that covered the Cordillera Blanca, taking note of the GPS coordinates they provided for the spot they had their run in with the police. Sure as shit it was the same spot we stayed at just outside Huascaran National Park. Now, we don't recommend their videos or the style of overlanding they portray, but knowing about a potential problem site does play in where we choose to stay. We reached out to them through their website asking for clarification regarding the robbery they mentioned in their video and have never heard back, that was well over a month ago. We know they used iOverlander, they mention it by name frequently in their videos, but why they didn't add an update is beyond us. We were going to add our own update but didn't know what to say. Right now we have no knowledge or evidence, just someone's obscure video and an unsubstantiated claim. Hopefully it is just a bit of trickery to add an unnecessary bit of entertainment and shock. It would be sad if something happens to someone else.

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Seems fine to us

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Nature's sound machine

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Not a bad start

Punta Olimpica, Peru

Does it count as summitting if we drive over it?

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Come on mountain, this is for Instagram

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Does our camera have a cloud filter?

Huascaran National Park, Peru

It does have a copper tone

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Now that's location, location, location

Huascaran National Park, Peru

High grade beef

Chavin de Huantar

We spent the night parked in front of the Buongiorno restaurant after having a pretty decent dinner there, $19.88 for the two of us - I had the filet. The ruins of Chavin were within walking distance so we spent most of the following morning checking them out, including wandering through the tunnels, before driving to the museum which is also included in the ticket. The cost was 15S per person, $9.17 for the two of us, and is worth a visit. The interpretation center, located on the opposite side of the building housing the bathrooms at the ruins, is one of the best we have seen. The details and explanations are bar none.

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Did they know anything about symmetry?

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

It contains the secret to super humanity

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Obviously they used drugs

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

I don't have Mario moves

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

One helluva place to party

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Just giving you a heads up

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

They knew it, why don't you?

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

See how artistic hallucinogens make you?

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Give that man a Kleenex

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Clear signs of nepotism

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Cooties were clearly a problem back then

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Who doesn't like a nice booty

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Why are the faces always kinda creepy

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

All serious at this get down

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Blow me

Kahuish Pass

Completing our loop through the park on the AN-110 included the Kahuish tunnel at 4,516 meters. The drive was beautiful with most of the Cordillera Blanca as the backdrop to small towns. Since we prefer unadulterated nature, we didn't take many photos.

Kahuish Pass, Peru

And no toilet paper!

Kahuish Pass, Peru

Is that all

Kahuish Pass, Peru

So overt it's covert

Kahuish Pass, Peru

It doesn't get much better than this

Shupluy

Chris & Nicole had arrived in Caraz and invited Mandi to a nearby climbing spot. We all caught a 40 minute collectivo to Yungay then hiked through the small town of Shupluy to reach a pretty sweet wall right on a river. Mount Huascaran just happened to be behind us. We ended up tagging along on three separate occasions, giving Mandi the chance to deep seat her new love for climbing. It was great fun and we both really appreciate Chris & Nicole taking Mandi under their wings. They were the ones that took her on her very first climb in Ecuador! After hard days of climbing we'd head into Caraz for Broccoli Saltado at Cocoroco, great times. Mandi became so serious about climbing we all took a collectivo into Huaraz one day to buy her climbing gear. Unfortunately I became sick, blowing chunks while everyone else was munching on burgers, the ride back to Caraz was a fun one.

Shupluy, Peru

Can we go someplace else, it's too distracting here

Shupluy, Peru

Stop staring at my wife's ass

Shupluy, Peru

Team Broccoli Saltado

Shupluy, Peru

Are we there yet

Hatun Machay

On our way to another climbing spot, Hatun Machay, we first stopped in Huaraz for a night. I wanted a chance at getting to eat one of those burgers and we also decided to pick up a climbing rope. Huascarán Hotel was chosen as our camping spot, 15S per person or $9.17 for the two of us. It was sufficient and one of the best options in town. The burgers at Trivio are pretty good and everyone swears by the craft beer. Fully stocked we left town fat and happy.

Hatun Machay is at 4,300 meters (14,108 feet) making reaching the climbing spots a difficult hike. The site is known as a rock forest, is quite beautiful, and is set in the Cordillera Negra. It is also used to graze livestock so normally sheep, cows, or pigs were around. We parked next to the refugio, spending 5 nights at the site for a total of 140S ($42.81). Our total included the daily access fee to the climbing site and we were given a small discount due to the length of our stay. We think the normal rate is 10S per person to access the climbing area and 10S per person to camp. The climbing was harder, especially at altitude, but Mandi kept giving it her best. Chris & Nicole were climbing machines and also taught me how to safely belay Mandi. We both got a lot of practice. There are also pictographs within the site, adding a little archeology to the mix. We were planning on visiting the site anyway, getting to spend more time with great friends and Mandi climbing just made it so much more.

Hatun Machay, Peru

Every place here has a view

Hatun Machay, Peru

It's a gentle slope

Hatun Machay, Peru

Pod parking

Hatun Machay, Peru

We're not supposed to have a dog

Hatun Machay, Peru

Yup, forest of rocks

Hatun Machay, Peru

Do we have enough rope?

Hatun Machay, Peru

Should be named Seahorse ridge

Hatun Machay, Peru

Chris getting chossy with it

Hatun Machay, Peru

Nicole throwing crack attack

Hatun Machay, Peru

That makes me the horse's ass

Hatun Machay, Peru

Gilligan wishes his hut was as cool

Hatun Machay, Peru

Perfect place for art class

Hatun Machay, Peru

Christians, acting like shit was their own

Hatun Machay, Peru

Angry giant chicken herds alpacas?

Hatun Machay, Peru

It says, stop...in the name of love

We recorded our drive out from Hatun Machay since it was towards the Cordillera Blanca. We left in the morning so there are sun spots in the video, sorry. We still think it is a good representation of what driving around in the area is like.

PE-3N

The weather had finally caught up to us, rain and snow were in the forecast, so we decided to leave the Cordillera Blanca. There were many other places we wanted to visit but our time was well spent. We had successfully camped above 4,200 meters repeatedly, Mandi had officially become a climber, and we were ushered to so many places by the gleaming white mountain tops. On our way out, over one more pass, we were given one last look. While not as dramatic, its impression was still the same.

PE-3N, Peru

You will be missed

PE-3N, Peru

Good evening sunshine, the earth says hello


Say what? (4)
Angie Norris
Aug 17, 2018 at 06:17 PM
Absolutely stunning! Adding Peru to the list 😊
Happy belated birthday Mandi - looks like you had a good one! 😘
Aug 21, 2018 at 05:32 PM
Thanks Angie! Peru is a very beautiful country. Mandi had a good time but is still not accepting the number change ; )
George Penick
Aug 17, 2018 at 08:21 PM
Peru looked wonderful. How safe/wild is it compared to say some of the more chancy central American states you visited? Assuming the cold w/be severe- must this place be visited in summer?
Aug 21, 2018 at 05:40 PM
Hey George! Peru is like every country, the big cities are usually where the trouble is. Everyone has been very friendly and the landscape is wonderful. We happen to be driving through during the South American winter but we expect the high Andes to be cold year round. Right now it is the dry season so traveling is easier. Many of the places in this post were over 4,000 meters, 13,123 feet...at that altitude it's almost always cold.
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