Changed buses for another 8hr journey onwards to Huaraz, stopping off for a Menu of the day at a town along the way, and arrived in the evening just in time to appreciate the amazing view from our airbnb of the surrounding mountains. It was immediately noticeable how out of breath we were just climbing the stairs (Huaraz is 3052m above sea level). We went to the supermarket to stock up on Coca tea and had an exciting potato-based dinner.
We planned a relatively slow day to acclimatize to the altitude and book a tour for the next day. Huaraz offers a lot of tours, from one day tours around lagunas and small mountains to multi-day ice pick, crampons, run out of oxygen, lose appendages to frostbite, chance of death tours up the second tallest mountain in the world (K2, 237m shorter than Everest). Unfortunately we didn’t have enough toilet paper for a multi-day trek so we booked a tour to the Laguna 69 - a lake that sits at 4600m above sea level and is bright turquoise, according to the many many photos online!
We bought Alpaca woolens and lots of snacks, and coca leaves to chew on to help the altitude, and went to bed super early as we needed to be ready for a 4.30am bus pickup the next morning.
Woke up super early and got on a minibus in the freezing cold with lots of other shivering tourists, then transferred to a bigger bus with even more shivering tourists, and drove to just outside the Huascara National Park for day break. We had breakfast (the usual bread, egg, butter, jam and coffee / tea), then travelled into the National Park and the Cordillera Blancas mountain range, stopped briefly at Chinancocha lake which is equally turquoise and bigger but somehow less impressive than the main event. At last the bus stopped and we all piled out and began our hike, which started with a misleadingly easy walk through grasslands and over rivers, with some cute cows and donkeys to pose for photos. Then the climb began, and seemed like it would never stop! The altitude made every step a struggle (for me, Chris was coping much better), and I had to stop and rest about every 20 steps (which gave Chris a lot of time to take photos!) The coca leaves helped but wow did they taste horrible, a combination of dirt, really bitter coffee and a sprinkling of grass for good measure. But we eventually made it!! And it was just as beautiful as promised and made the whole ordeal worthwhile. We rested at the laguna for an hour and ate our packed lunch. As we began the descent we walked past a couple from our bus still ascending, which although we felt sorry for them, made us feel like professional hikers! Then we had another 8hr night bus to Lima!