Cordillera Blanca

Pretty much the final destination on my year of travel was to be one of the most stunning. I guess you should save the best for last and the Cordillera Blanca range in the Peruvian Andes was truly magnificent. I took a long bus journey from Lima through hours and hours of arid landscape. Absorbed in my book or podcast, not that I remember now, I zoned out the scenery until I happened to glance up and was stunned by the views that, to me, appeared out of nowhere; huge white peaks rose up impressively from the plain. It was a challenge to snap a decent pic out of a bumpy, moving bus in fading light at full zoom but I’m pleased that I got something that captured that special moment when I saw the Cordillera Blanca for the first time (cover photo).

 

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Doing the Santa Cruz Trek was number one in my to-do list (and many other people’s too!) The 4 day trek started with an early and very long drive in a minibus high into the mountains. In this picture, apart from showing those ridiculously windy roads, you’ll see Huascaran, the southern peak (the one on the left) being the highest mountain in Peru at 6768 m
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We had to drive up all that road with all those hairpin bends (well sit, enjoy the view and take photos) which took a long time but there was still hours to go until we could start our trek at the village of Vaquería. Here there are 4 peaks over 6000 m and a couple over 5000 m. Incredible
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The altitude of these peaks is impressive but mostly their topology is simply just stunning. How on earth is it so pointy? This is Chacraraju East (6001 m)
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This is Taulliraju (5830 m) which we’d be passing underneath in the following days
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Second day, heading toward Taulliraju
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Often a trek is as good as the people on it, this was a fantastic trek with fantastic people
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As soon as I saw this rock it just screamed “new Facebook profile picture” at me. Photo credit: Georgina Barlow
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At Punta Union, the highest point of the trek at 4750 m. Everything just everything is high in the Andes. Also what else but incredible views and beautiful glacial lakes
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Coming through the pass. Poor donkeys had to do it as well but with extra gear. Thanks donkeys!
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Side trek to a lake, it was longer than I expected but oh my god was it worth it

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Couldn’t resist a dip, It was cold, you can literally see the glacier flowing into it at the far end
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I swam out a little. I’m glad I didn’t swim out any further as probably my frozen corpse would still be at the bottom. It was no more than 30 seconds but when I was swimming back I felt like my skin was on fire and my body and muscles didn’t want to work well. Still, worth it to say I’ve swam in a glacial lake in the Andes at 4420 m above sea level
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Fun fact: the mountain on the right in the distance is Artesonraju (6025 m) which is the mountain you can see on the classic Paramount pictures title credits at the start of movies
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Watching the last of the day’s light on the summit of Taulliraju
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It is a really immense slab of rock
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The sun might go down but that doesn’t mean that the show is over. In fact it’s only just begun
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Our campsite for the night at 4250 m. The high altitude, lack of pollution, including that of the light variety and zero cloud coverage made for the best viewing of the night sky I think I’ve ever had and certainly the best pictures
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“The Milky Way arcs across the sky…
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“…our galaxy of over 100 billion stars, probably billions of which have planets orbiting them. Yet our galaxy, our home, is only one of as many as 100 billion in the entire universe…”
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“…and we think that we’re important, that our choice of car, smartphone, country, religion or whatever, actually matters when in reality we are the most tiny of insignificant specks in a vast, cold, dark, uncaring, unfathomable, virtually eternal existence…”
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…but our existence does matter, it matters to ourselves and those around us, for we are each the centre of our own individual and unique universes…and that’s special”….is what I would have thought if I hadn’t been so friggin’ cold! My fingers were numb but I had to keep taking pictures
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Next day was a stroll downwards along the valley which started to close in around us
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Alpamayo (5947 m) once voted as “The Most Beautiful Mountain in the World”…but from the other side. This side is not bad either
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Final campsite and a great location. We tried getting to the waterfall but it wasn’t possible. The last day was a quick walk down to a village where we could catch our bus back to the town of Huaraz. We got out just as the rain arrived, lucky us!
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After a rest I took a day trip to Chavín de Huantar, one of Peru’s oldest and most important archaeological sites. Of course the views on the way there were ridiculously beautiful, what else did you expect?
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The site dates from around 1200 BC and includes a maze of underground tunnels and rooms. Unfortunately the guide only spoke Spanish so I didn’t learn an awful lot, only what was in the guidebook
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Chavín de Huantar is famous for the carved stone heads
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As well as other detailed craving depicting various things to do with their culture, practices and religion
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The journey back was long but the sunset we had the good fortune of seeing was spectacular and colourful
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I was sitting at the back of the bus and I managed to spin around and snap as we sped away from the sunset (and not towards as you might at first think when viewing this image). It seems like a fitting end and metaphor for the end of my travels; this is the road that took me away from heaven. My final photo must be one of the best

 

The end.

 

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