We have been “getting away from it all” for four months now, all the while with a fairly consistent internet connection. It wasn’t until last week that we spent one week completely off the grid with zero electronics, very few human interactions, and no input from the “outside” world.
When we shut off the outside noise, we were amazed at what we could hear from within.
After a leisurely week at the beach, we took an overnight bus to Yungay, Peru, and then another 45-minute cab ride over bumpy dirt roads to the Llanganuco Mountain Lodge that sits at the foot of two of the highest peaks in Peru in the Cordillera Blanca.
To say that this part of the earth is breathtaking would be an understatement.
Yunguy is a tiny little slice of heaven with a tragic history. In 1970, an earthquake triggered a landslide from the Nevado Huascarán, burying the town and 25,000 inhabitants under 50 million cubic meters of debris. Less than 100 people survived, and the debris is still in place after all these years as a natural memorial. The town was rebuilt a few kilometers away.
It is sobering to know all of this while hiking and trekking in this area of grand mountains, icy glaciers, ancient ruins, and cold lakes. These mountains and lakes were created over time through events just like this, and it is a good reminder that it sometimes takes a pretty big upheaval to create something worth looking at – in the world and in our own lives.
We started our week in the mountains by visiting some 4000-year-old ruins near the lodge. We wondered how they brought such huge stones to the roof of the structure on top of a hill, and the consensus of archeologists is that they built the walls, filled the insides with dirt, and moved the rocks on top before digging out. Wow.
The next day we tried hiking to the glacier Huandoy, which is about a 6-hour roundtrip hike from the lodge. We were stopped in our tracks by the swift glacier stream and had to turn back. (It pays to travel to the Cordillera Blanca during the dry season, which is June-August.) We did a little recon on our way back and figured out a way to cross the stream with less physical danger (though I’m still sporting a large bruise on my leg from this alternate route).
We took off the next day on our second attempt, and near the top I ran out of juice. It was simply too hard to go on, so Warren trudged ahead to see the “bowl” of ice from the glacier at the foot of the mountain. He didn’t come back for a while, and I started to worry, so I began trudging up to the top. He finally peeked his head around when I was too far up for my level of comfort – he had found an easier path! So I scooted down on my butt – not an easy feat on rocks and boulders – and we then made our way up to the ice bowl together.
Wow. What a spectacular site. While we were there we heard the cannon shot sound of ice breaking along with the thunder sound as is fell to the ice bowl below. Can you imagine a better place to enjoy lunch?
On the way back down Warren refilled our water with ice-cold glacier water as near to the source as we could get. Delicious!
The next day we went on a hike to Llanganuco National Park and hiked over rocks and through dense foliage to the gorgeous turquoise lakes within. Oh, and did I forget to mention the glaciers? They make the water cooooold.
We took a day off between all this activity because Warren was battling a cold. Lucky for us, the view outside our deck was gorgeous, so even by not venturing out we were still treated to a magnificent view.
For our last hike of the trip we decided to go even further into Llanganuco National Park. We walked for 30 minutes to get to the park, and then we looked for a ride. The trailhead was a 30-40 minute drive away from the main gate, and the walking roundtrip was 12 hours. Needless to say, we would rather drive to the trailhead and expend our energy on the hike, not getting to the hike.
There was a combi at the park gate (a shared van sorta like a group taxi) getting a tire change when we arrived. There were several tourists milling around, so we weren’t sure there would be room (those of you who have traveled in South America are laughing at this, I know). OF COURSE there is room! We packed into the van with 21 other people and began our slow ride up the dirt roads to the trail head. Warren held a huge bag of vegetables in his lap, and I unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), had my knee rubbing into crotch of a complete stranger the whole way up. Combis are not for hermits, people.
At the trailhead we walked down to a beautiful valley with grazing cows and waterfalls streaming down the mountains.
Over the course of a few hours we hiked our way up to another glacier, looking back in amazement at how much ground we had covered. Who are these two people who hike for fun – we barely know them! 🙂
We had another glacier-side lunch date before hiking back down to catch a ride back to the gate. We knew it was our last hike for a few weeks, and we feel like we ended things on a bang.
We enjoyed the last night at the lodge with good food and conversation with two Canadian travelers who made us laugh all week, and we set off at 6:30 a.m. for the bus that would take us to the big city of Lima – and civilization – in “just” 9 hours.
Plugging back in
How do we feel now that we are plugged in again? It is harder for us to hear our inner voices with all the input from the city and from the internet, though I won’t argue that a fully stocked grocery store, washer and dryer, and movie theater are not nice treats after several weeks in small mountain towns.
But there is something about the space and quiet in a grand and gorgeous setting like the Cordillera Blancas that gives you the freedom to dig a little deeper within yourself, think about things that don’t often come to the surface, and appreciate what a beautiful world we live in.
To view all of Warren’s great pictures from our magical week in the Cordillera Blanca, check out our Flickr page.