Peru – Cordillera Blanca – “Porque está ahí”.

“Because it’s there.” – George Mallory

6AM. Sun rises. We stroll trough an awakening Huaraz. It’s extremely busy as usual. By the time we reach Jaime’s shoe repair shop, our senses have run overtime. Colourful locals splurge on empenadas, mariscos, pollo a la brasa, chifa, papas rellenas, jugos naturales. Quechua Indians surely have heavy stomachs, even in these wee hours. Huaraz is not the most attractive city (it has been completely rebuilt after the massive landslides in the wake of the 1970 earthquake), but its bustling, Andean athmosphere with the mezmerizing backdrop of the Cordillera Blanca, will keep you hypnotized for well a while.

Gearing up at Jaime's shoe repair shop in Central Huaraz. Ancash, Peru.

Gearing up at Jaime’s shoe repair shop in Central Huaraz. Ancash, Peru.

We just came down from the Yurac Yacu community where we teached kids and adults basic computer skills, so we gasp for some adventure. We sort out all gear for a 10-day assault on some carefully, selected Peruvian peaks. The plan is plain and simple: freshen up some mountaineering skills, acclimitise on some 5000m peaks and do an attempt on 6032m Toclaraju. As reported before, the season is not as it is supposed to be (and isn’t so for a couple of years now), so we cancelled the initial plan to climb Chopicalqui, after the unfortunate dead of 2 Peruvian guides on Alpamayo early in the season and reports of avalanche danger and waist-deep snow near Chopi’s summit.

Hambre amigo? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Huaraz. Peru.

The Cordillera Blanca is a compact range of only 180km stretching north to south, forming a barrier for the Amazon moisture, causing a desert-like effect stretching towards the west (Cordillera Negra), forming the highest, glaciated, tropical range in the world (9° south of the Equator!). It has 25 peaks over 6000m (20000feet) of which Huascaran (6768m) is the highest. The range is known for its excellent climbing conditions and ease of access.

Flores de senecio on the way towards Yanapaccha basecamp. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Flores de senecio on the way towards Yanapaccha basecamp. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Jaime cooks the most delicious food in our makeshift 4900m high base camp (under our MSR Twing tarp), while Roger's hunger builds up.

Jaime cooks the most delicious food in our makeshift 4900m high base camp (under our MSR Twing tarp), while Roger’s hunger builds up.

Once again we team up with our friend and guide Roger Reyes and his brother Jaime for a perfect outing. We met Roger in our first trip in Northern Peru in 2008 and since then have climbed together and became close friends to the family. I have set up a website to connect hikers and climbers directly to the guide, as it is well known that guides are underpaid by agencies in Huaraz. So grab yourself a sustainable bargain, if you’re looking for any form of climbing or expedition support in the Blanca or Huayhuash.

Knot and rope technique rehearsels. Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Knot and rope technique rehearsels. Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Practice makes perfect. Yanapaccha (5460m) plays hide and seek in the fickle weather. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Practice makes perfect. Yanapaccha (5460m) plays hide and seek in the fickle weather. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Our first objective is Yanapaccha, at the head of the LLanganuco Valley, well-known for its twin lake and a popular day excursion from Huaraz. We leave in the lousy taxi of Señor Zorro de la Montaña (the mountain fox). It would soon become clear why. The road up to the popular lakes and Portachuelo Llanganuco Pass (our drop-off towards basecamp) is a complete disaster. In Huaraz there is a strong call for government investment in the Huascaran National Park, making it more accessible for tourism, but all money flows to the southern gringo trail, which attracts 90% of tourists in Peru.

Yanapaccha base camp makes for excellent training grounds. Ice walls on the glaciers nearby. Manageble crevasses. Boulders and rockwalls. And a technical climb to its summit for desert. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Yanapaccha base camp makes for excellent training grounds. Ice walls on the glaciers nearby. Manageble crevasses. Boulders and rockwalls. And a technical climb to its summit for desert. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Up you go. Climb that ice, baby! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Up you go. Climb that ice, baby! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Your turn, amigo! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Your turn, amigo! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Preparing crevasse rescue. Yanapaccha summit (5460m) top left.  Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Preparing crevasse rescue. Yanapaccha summit (5460m) top left. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Although the weather stays cold and lousy for the time of the year, we enjoy ourself to the fullest. We cover an array of essential skills. Mountain hazards on snowpeaks, rope team travel, climbing knot techniques, belay systems, self arrest, top rope management, vertical ice climbing, full crevasse rescue techniques. What a luxury to have Jaime cooking excellent, fresh food at this altitude. Time flies by and before we know it, we’re on Yanapaccha’s summit mushroom enjoying the Blanca’s highest peaks around us.

Hang me out to dry! Having fun in a crevasse of  Yanapaccha's glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Hang me out to dry! Having fun in a crevasse of Yanapaccha’s glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Uuuuuuuunnnnnggg. No honey you are not too heavy, but if you ask me to pull you out of the ice... Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Uuuuuuuunnnnnggg. No honey you are not too heavy, but if you ask me to pull you out of the ice… Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Well, there are less hostile places on earth to enjoy a holiday. Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Well, there are less hostile places on earth to enjoy a holiday. Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Finally out of the abyss! Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Finally out of the abyss! Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

 Thank you, good night! Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Thank you, good night! Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Around 6AM, at around 5200m,  the first rays of light makes the first 65° wall towards the summit more visible. On all fours. Up it is. Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Around 6AM, at around 5200m, the first rays of light makes the first 65° wall towards the summit more visible. On all fours. Up it is. Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The quadruple summit of Nevados Huandoy (center pyramid is 6395m) and right the popular Nevado Pisco Oeste (5752m), which we climbed in 2008. Shot from the upper slopes on Yanapaccha. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The quadruple summit of Nevados Huandoy (center pyramid is 6395m) and right the popular Nevado Pisco Oeste (5752m), which we climbed in 2008. Shot from the upper slopes on Yanapaccha. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Reaching the summit ridge of Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Reaching the summit ridge of Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

After a technical, nightly climb, we made the summit of Yanapaccha (5460m) on the morning of the 4th of July. From left to right: Chopicalqui (6354m), Huascaran Sur (6768m) and Huascaran Norte (6555m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

After a technical, nightly climb, we made the summit of Yanapaccha (5460m) on the morning of the 4th of July. From left to right: Chopicalqui (6354m), Huascaran Sur (6768m) and Huascaran Norte (6555m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The Nevados Huandoy group (left), Nevado Pisco (center right) and Nevado Piramide (5885m) to the right. Shot from under the summit ice mushroom of Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The Nevados Huandoy group (left), Nevado Pisco (center right) and Nevado Chacraraju Oeste (6112m) to the right. Shot from under the summit ice mushroom of Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Back in basecamp after  a fluent climb. Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Back in basecamp after a fluent climb. Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

All we need! Crunchy, guacamole sticks with tea and coffee. Life is good. Thanks Jaime! Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

All we need! Crunchy, guacamole sticks with tea and coffee. Life is good. Thanks Jaime! Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Huge stands of Thamnolia Vermicularis lichen, on the way down from base camp. Sampling for the Adventure & Science project. LLanganuco lakes far below. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Huge stands of Thamnolia Vermicularis lichen, on the way down from base camp. Sampling for the Adventure & Science project. LLanganuco lakes far below. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

After 4 days on Yanapaccha, we move towards Ishinca valley. We climb up Urus Este (5420m) in good weather and hope that weather will hold for an attack on 6032m Toclaraju. It’s strange, it’s mountaineering high season, and Ishinca base camp is almost empty. Not even 5 groups around us. A Slovakian team just returned from the summit of Toclaraju. They are exchausted and unhappy. Conditions were bad above 5800m, lots of snow and only clouds and wind. They achieved summit but didn’t have any views. They long for a shower and hot bed in Huaraz. As more clouds roll in, we weigh our chances and the next morning the weather is shitty. Or we climb to high camp or we cancel our bid and put our bets on another 5000m peak. Ishinca (5530) wins. Mind games. The day after. We climb Ishinca in perfect conditions while bad weather swallows Toclaraju. Back in Huaraz, we hear more bad news. Our 2 Argentine neighbours in basecamp, which I spoke to the day before on the go or no go for Tocla, choose to climb to high camp of Toclaraju. An avalanche ended their dreams on their next day bid on our intended route. Mind games. Respect them mountains. May they rest in peace.

If you’re on facebook, we have a page now where I update pictures on a regular basis.

Regrouping for part 2. Ishinca Valley. Fickleness in the weather continues. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Regrouping for part 2. Ishinca Valley. Fickleness in the weather continues. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Unusual, few teams in Ishinca basecamp (4400m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Unusual, few teams in Ishinca basecamp (4400m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Over boulder fields towards the glaciar of Urus Este(5420m). From left to right: Ishinca (5530m), Ranrapalca (6162m), Ocshapalca (5881m) and Vallunaraju (5686m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Over boulder fields towards the glaciar of Urus Este(5420m). From left to right: Ishinca (5530m), Ranrapalca (6162m), Ocshapalca (5881m) and Vallunaraju (5686m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Climbing up Urus Este (5420m), while clouds swallow our next objective Tocllaraju (6032m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Climbing up Urus Este (5420m), while clouds swallow our next objective Tocllaraju (6032m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Amigo Roger and Katrijn on the summit of Urus Este(5420m). Azure Laguna Akilpo below. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Amigo Roger and Katrijn on the summit of Urus Este(5420m). Azure Laguna Akilpo below. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpenglow on the cloudy, fluted west wall of Tocllaraju (left, 6032m). The aim was to climb to high camp the next day. Once again bad weather would set in and ruin our plans. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpenglow on the cloudy, fluted west wall of Tocllaraju (left, 6032m). The aim was to climb to high camp the next day. Once again bad weather would set in and ruin our plans. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Dark falls over Tocllaraju (6032m) and Ishinca (5530m) basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Dark falls over Tocllaraju (6032m) and Ishinca (5530m) basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpine splendisism around Ishinca high camp (5000m). Ranrapalca (6162m) north face. A 1km high mixed line of ice and granite. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpine splendisism around Ishinca high camp (5000m). Ranrapalca (6162m) north face. A 1km high mixed line of ice and granite. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Last patches of flora at 5000m altitude. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Last patches of flora at 5000m altitude. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Urus Este (5420m) as seen from Ishinca high camp.  Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Urus Este (5420m) as seen from Ishinca high camp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

“The mountains are calling and I must go” (John Muir) – Ranrapalca (6162m) and Ocshapalca (5881m) northeast faces from the upper slopes of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Avalanche gazing on the upper slopes of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Avalanche gazing on the upper slopes of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Happy descent from the summit of  Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Happy descent from the summit of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Sun on Ishinca's summit, but not on our first aim Tocclaraju (6032m). The Cordillera Blanca is a barrier between the Amazon bassin (from where all moisture comes) and the Pacific, causing big climate differences between eastern and western summits in the chain. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Sun on Ishinca’s summit, but not on our first aim Tocclaraju (6032m). The Cordillera Blanca is a barrier between the Amazon bassin (from where all moisture comes) and the Pacific, causing big climate differences between eastern and western summits in the chain. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Solid grounds after a full east to west traverse of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Solid grounds after a full east to west traverse of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Azure reflection. Rocky grounds after succesfull climb of Ishinca (5500m). Urus Este(5420m) and Urus Central(5495m) rise up behind. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Azure reflection. Rocky grounds after succesfull climb of Ishinca (5500m). Urus Este(5420m) and Urus Central(5495m) rise up behind. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Walk out via the beautiful Cojup valley. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Walk out via the beautiful Cojup valley. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Pachamanca is a traditional Peruvian dish based on the baking, with the aid of hot stones of lamb, mutton, pork, chicken or guinea pig, marinated in spices. Other Andean produce, such as potato, green lima beans or “habas”, sweet potato, occasionally cassava or yuca, and humitas (sweet treat) as well as ears of corn, tamale and chili, is included in the baking. The word is made of two Quechua roots: “pacha” earth and “manca”, meaning “earthen pot” (cooking vessel). Huaraz. Ancash. Peru.

Central market. Huaraz. Peru.

Central market. Huaraz. Peru.

Pioneer Brad Johnson wrote Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca, the holy bible for climbing the nevados.

Full photoset of our mountaineering adventure in the Cordillera Blanca.

Peru – Cordillera Blanca, un salto en el nube

[Cordillera Blanca, a jump in the cloud]

So here we are volunteering at the foot of the highest, tropical mountain range on the globe. Between preperations and the actual computer classes we got out for a two week solo trip in the remote and rugged northern part of the mesmerizing range. In for some Inca Kola?

The Yurac Yacu education centre (3650m) at the foot of the Cordillera Blanca. Our volunteering grounds of the last month. Nevado Churup (5493m) cliffs the sky.

The dry season seems not to get out of its hibernation this year. It’s cloudy, rainy and it doesn’t cool of in the night. Not even freezing at bivaouc spots at 4500m. With 2 early casualties in early season on Alpamayo, it promises not to be the Peruvian’s best Andean summer.

Flowering lupines at the foot of  Nevado Ulta (5875m). Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Flowering lupines at the foot of Nevado Ulta (5875m). Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

We don’t know what it is up here, but every freakin’ gringo we meet in Huaraz is here for hiking the Santa Cruz trail. While it has it merits, there is so much more to explore, even on short overnight trips. So many empty valleys and forgotten ridges with uninterupted breathtaking views and the lone, friendly Quechua poppin’ up. It’s extreme diverse and easy to go backpacking in the Cordillera Blanca. You’ll be treated with the most incredible alpine scenery, rivaling anything in the Himalayas. Moreover, it’s so accessible, that you’re in the wild and among neck muscle defying peaks within an hour after sipping your coffee at one of the multiple, excellent hangouts in Huaraz. Stretching north along the Callejón de Huaylas you’ll find easy acces into the different west-east carving quebradas (deep carved valleys). Hey ho, let’s go!

I tried to put the trip report into another picture rollercoaster. Enjoy!

There is more picturefun in our flickr set over here.

Sidetracked magazine improved their website and has another article where we contribute. Go have a look!

There is not a single trail build for touristic purposes in the Cordillera Blanca. All of them are Inca or pre-Colombian era and were the only way to cross the range until a couple of decades. Here we are closing in towards Punta Yanayacu pass at 4850m.  Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

There is not a single trail build for touristic purposes in the Cordillera Blanca. All of them are Inca or pre-Colombian era and were the only way to cross the range until a couple of decades. Here we are closing in towards Punta Yanayacu pass at 4850m. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Seccluded biviaouc at 4200m in the Quebrada Matara. Sharp Nevado Ulta (5875m) and ridgy, glaciated Contrahierbas (6036m) rising high above the Quebrada Ulta. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

It is said that if one tears of a leaf of the Tarqoy flower, it will rain. Too much tearing thus, this year. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

It is said that if one tears of a leaf of the Tarqoy flower, it will rain. Too much tearing thus, this year. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

A continuous roar of avalanches spill from the cliffs of Contrahierbas (6036m). Deep down in the valley lies the Andean village of Yanama. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

A continuous roar of avalanches spill from the cliffs of Contrahierbas (6036m). Deep down in the valley lies the Andean village of Yanama. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Leaving the Andean village of Yanama through farming lands towards the Quebrada Huaripampa. The acutal glaciated peaks are hidden in thick clouds, unusual for the time of the year.

Leaving the Andean village of Yanama through farming lands towards the Quebrada Huaripampa. The acutal glaciated peaks are hidden in thick clouds, unusual for the time of the year.

Massive deforestation left the Cordillera Blanca denuded before the range (above 4000m) was put in conservation  through the Huascaran National Park in 1975. Only some patches of the Queñua trees thrive in remote valleys and give the wanderer a feeling on how fairytale it must have been before mr. Human came along. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Massive deforestation left the Cordillera Blanca denuded before the range (above 4000m) was put in conservation through the Huascaran National Park in 1975. Only some patches of the Queñua trees thrive in remote valleys and give the wanderer a feeling on how fairytale it must have been before mr. Human came along. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Conservation, Peruvian style. Gringos pay 65 soles (25US$) National Park fee to the ranger (orange jacket), while locals are allowed to cut vulnerable trees just at the spot. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Conservation, Peruvian style. Gringos pay 65 soles (25US$) National Park fee to the ranger (orange jacket), while locals are allowed to cut vulnerable trees just at the spot. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Snapshot! Chacraraju (6112m) and Piramide (5885m) reveal for a 60-second marvel during breakfast. Quebrada Paria. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Snapshot! Chacraraju (6112m) and Piramide (5885m) reveal for a 60-second marvel during breakfast. Quebrada Paria. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Coming down from Alto de Pucaraju pass (4650m) with the east face of Taulliraju (5830m) touching cloud. Can you spot Katrijn? Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Coming down from Alto de Pucaraju pass (4650m) with the east face of Taulliraju (5830m) touching cloud. Can you spot Katrijn? Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Quechua people roasting a cow's head for supper purposes. Jancapampa. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Quechua people roasting a cow’s head for supper purposes. Jancapampa. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Crossing an unnamed ridge into the remote northern part of the Cordillera Blanca. The multipeak Pucajirca (6046m) absorbs all humidity from the Amazonas. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Crossing an unnamed ridge into the remote northern part of the Cordillera Blanca. The multipeak Pucajirca (6046m) absorbs all humidity from the Amazonas. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Another lonely bivaouc at Laguna Huecracocha, while the Andes awakes. How desolate these wild places are above 4000m, the flora cannot recover, because overgrazing is still a huge ecosystem corrupter, even after almost 40 years of conservation. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Another lonely bivaouc at Laguna Huecracocha, while the Andes awakes. How desolate these wild places are above 4000m, the flora cannot recover, because overgrazing is still a huge ecosystem corrupter, even after almost 40 years of conservation. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Leaving another lonely bivaouc spot at the foot of the north face of Pucajirca (6046m). Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Leaving another lonely bivaouc spot at the foot of the north face of Pucajirca (6046m). Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpine splendisism. Azure Laguna Jancarurish is fed by the massive glaciers of Alpamayo (5947m) and Quitaraju (6036m), both out of sight. Santa Cruz Grande (6241m) appears at the right. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpine splendisism. Azure Laguna Jancarurish is fed by the massive glaciers of Alpamayo (5947m) and Quitaraju (6036m), both out of sight. Santa Cruz Grande (6241m) appears at the right. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpenglow on the perfect pyramid north face of Alpamayo (5947m). The mountain was named “The Most Beautiful Mountain in the World” in 1966 after an international survey among climbers, mountaineers, exploreres and photographers. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Laguna Cullicocha reflects the complete Santa Cruz (6241m) massif. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Laguna Cullicocha reflects the complete Santa Cruz (6241m) massif. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Bivaouc high above the Callejón de Huaylas. Sun sets over the Cordillera Negra, the Blanca's icefree parallel range to the west. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Bivaouc high above the Callejón de Huaylas. Sun sets over the Cordillera Negra, the Blanca’s icefree parallel range to the west. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Dropping down the Callejón de Huaylas towards the village of Hualcayan after spending a week above 4000m. The Cordillera Negra stretching out west. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Dropping down the Callejón de Huaylas towards the village of Hualcayan after spending a week above 4000m. The Cordillera Negra stretching out west. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Anyone who traveled in Peru surely tried the Inca Kola. The gummy ball flavored soft drink. Yummie! Caraz. Ancash, Peru.

Anyone who traveled in Peru surely tried the Inca Kola. The gummy ball flavored soft drink. Yummie! Caraz. Ancash, Peru.

Colourful Quechua women come down to the valley to sell their crops. Caraz. Ancash, Peru.

Colourful Quechua women come down to the valley to sell their crops. Caraz. Ancash, Peru.

Colombia – dias flojas en el Caribe

(slack days on the Carribean)

It took quite some time to overcome the Patagonian blues during an almost-week-long bus strike which held us hostage at Bariloche. It gave us some space to prepare some ideas for things to do on the last 3 months of our gap year. Enters Colombia in the story line.

An early morning ramble on the jungle-clad beaches of the Tayrona National Park, Carribean Colombia.

An early morning ramble on the jungle-clad beaches of the Tayrona National Park, Carribean Colombia.

Impressive boulders ramble the wild Carribean coastline. Tayrona National Park. Colombia.

Impressive boulders ramble the wild Carribean coastline. Tayrona National Park. Colombia.

The mystique country at the northwestern tip of the continent, has had its share of good-news-shows to keep even the most determined tourist out of the country. Narcotic urban legend Pablo, revolutionary jungle terrorists and an enduring armed conflict, predominating the last decade’s headlines, didn’t help much on the image of the country. During the last decade, however, the government has done extreme investement to stabilize the country and improve security (the display of heavy, armed soldiers along the major roads is remarkable), hence widening the gates for tourism.

https://i2.wp.com/farm3.staticflickr.com/2851/8908277644_b681f279d9_b.jpg

Boulder-strewn, overgrown jungle coast of Carribean Colombia. That Indiana Jones kinda feeling was never far away when sweating our way towards the pre-Colombian hidden ruines of el Pueblito. Tayrona National Park. Colombia.

A parade of hard working ants. Tayrona National Park. Carribean Colombia.

A parade of hard working ants. Tayrona National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Despite the bad news, Colombia has always been a secret pearl among backpackin’ gringos in South America. Extremely helpful and friendly locals. A country of superlatives. With any possible ecosystem imaginable, it could keep you occupied for well, quite some time. Colombia is one of those megadiverse countries in biodiversity. Does it have our attention? A yes it is.

Cooling off near the village of Minca. Sierra Nevada National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Cooling off near the village of Minca. Sierra Nevada National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Cloud forrest. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Cloud forrest. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park. Carribean Colombia.

After studying the different climate zones and our first 2 week timeframe in Colombia we left for the Carribean. Beach people as we are (ahum), we were suprised by the opportunities for alternatives to beach-chillin’ up here. Once we got a bit used to the year-round humid heat, we were off exploring some of the surprising national parks and hidden villages this northern part of Colombia is rich. So we’ve been overwhelmed by such wonderfull places like the San Bernardo archipelago, the jungle beaches of Tayrona and the world’s highest coastal range of Santa Marta.

Biking through the sleepy, fishing hamlet of La Boquila near Cartagena, Carribean Colombia.

Biking through the sleepy, fishing hamlet of La Boquila near Cartagena, Carribean Colombia.

Need some avocado? Santiago de Tolú. Sucre. Colombia.

Need some avocado? Santiago de Tolú. Sucre. Colombia.

The posh Boca Grande district contrasts with the fortified, medieval walls around the historic centre of Cartagena. A Unesco World Heritage site. Carribean Colombia.

The posh Boca Grande district contrasts with the fortified, medieval walls around the historic centre of Cartagena. A Unesco World Heritage site. Carribean Colombia.

Preparing for some paddling around the mangroves of Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Preparing for some paddling around the mangroves of Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Creolen kids on the Tintipan island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo. Carribean Colombia.

Creolen kids on the Tintipan island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo. Carribean Colombia.

Fishermen's canoes. Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Fishermen’s canoes. Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

End of May. Goodbye Colombia, see you in July. Enters the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca in our schedule. We’re here for mountaineering and thru-hiking the upcoming 6-7 weeks. Huaraz. Peruvian Andean’s answer to Chamonix. Acclimatisation days before the high altitude weeks coming.

Sun sets over the southern summits of the Cordillera Blanca. Ancash, Peru.

Sun sets over the southern summits of the Cordillera Blanca. Ancash, Peru.

And then we meet Diana, who introduces us to her community development project high up in the Andes at the foot of the mezmerizing Cordillera Blanca. Before we even realize it, our planned schedule changes with the snap of a finger. We’re volunteering. It doesn’t have to be hauling a backpack up the moutains all the time. Exciting weeks coming up. There’s also hiking and mountaineering coming up. You know us…

Happy students leave the Yurac Yacu community center, where we will teach students and teachers some computing skills during the next coming weeks.

Happy students leave the Yurac Yacu community center, where we will teach students and teachers some computing skills during the next coming weeks.

Sunday afternoon gathering in the Yurac Yacu community center, where you can find us enhancing local people skills the upcoming weeks.

Sunday afternoon gathering in the Yurac Yacu community center, where you can find us enhancing local people skills the upcoming weeks.

Andean Alliance is focused on supporting “grass roots” community development planning capabilities and implementing programs that strengthen the educational and economic base of Andean communities while enhancing their social and environmental conditions.

Andean Alliance

For more pictures from our couple of weeks, please click:

Carribean Colombia
Huaraz. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

With love from the Mud Volcano de Lodo. San Antero. Carribean Colombia.

With love from the Mud Volcano de Lodo. San Antero. Carribean Colombia.