Among the Andes

In Peace Corps Perú, we have a policy in place known as 3 days/2 nights in which Volunteers can take a few days reprieve from their service to distress and recoup their mental health. Generally, Volunteers use this time to head to their regional capitals, hang out with fellow Volunteers, speak some English, and eat some tasty food (pancakes and pizza anyone?). For my first two months, I didn’t take advantage of this policy, mostly because I really enjoy my site and was too busy to find time to get away. However, last week my go-go-go lifestyle finally caught up with me, and I decided to head into Huaráz (my regional capital) for the weekend to take a break and do something I have been longing to do since I arrived in Perú; go on a hike in the Andes!

I am incredibly lucky to be a Peace Corps Perú Volunteer in the Department of Ancash because we are never in want of beautiful scenery and treks, mainly because of the famous Parque Huascarán, which is Perú’s largest national park. Oddly enough, a Peace Corps Volunteer named Curry Slaymaker was integral in the creation of the park in the 1970s when he returned to Perú after completing his 2 year Peace Corps service.   He helped to create the first delineations of the borders of the National Park, and later became the first Director of the park. Needless to say, Parque Huascarán, located in the famous Cordillera Blanca of Perú, is incredibly gorgeous, with astounding mountain vegetation, glacial lakes, and of course, the world famous nevados (snow capped peaks).

One Sunday morning, 4 other Volunteers and I started our trek into the Andes to reach Laguna Llaca, one of the many glacial lakes in Parque Huascarán. It took around 4.5 hours to get to the lake, and about 2 hours to get back out to the main road, and the entire hike was incredible. Rather than drone on with further embellishments, I’ll just let the following pictures portray the absolute beauty of my brief Andean expedition.

The "entrance" to Parque Huascarán.  Note the altitude.
The “entrance” to Parque Huascarán. Note the altitude.
The path into the Andes.  These "valleys" are called quebradas.
The path into the Andes. These “valleys” are called quebradas.
You can see the nevado in the background.  That was our target.
You can see the nevado in the background. That was our target.
Mid-hike photo shoot.
Mid-hike photo shoot.
The water here was known as Yurac Yaku, which means white water in Quechua.
The water here was known as Yurac Yaku, which means white water in Quechua.
This is a Queñual tree, found all over Parque Huascarán.
This is a Queñual tree, found all over Parque Huascarán.
Pondering the glacial lake and the immense nevado.
Pondering the glacial lake and the immense nevado.
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Still smiling despite the exhausting hike up. Altitude can be a challenge.
Group photo during the descent.  We somehow forgot to take a group photo at the lake...
Group photo during the descent. We somehow forgot to take a group photo at the lake…

Overall, my first experience in Parque Huascarán was amazing, and I’m looking forward to hiking even more in the next 2 years.  Hopefully, my next hike won’t end with us getting drenched by a rainstorm like this one.

MGB

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