Text by Jorge Yamamoto, photos by Mylene D’Auriol
(LIP-jl) — The hiking trails of Peru and the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains), in particular, are world-famous for their breathtaking beauty. Even amid such high standards, the hike to the Churup Lake and mountain stands out for the perfect combinations of shape and color.
We started our journey about six blocks from the Plaza de Armas in Huaraz, where we boarded a dilapidated truck, fitted with small wooden benches along the sides. Cargo was strapped onto the roof, then in the cabin, and finally on the floor between the passengers.
While it seemed to me that we could not possibly take on any on more passengers, the driver clearly had other ideas and as we began to climb the steep hills we stopped to take on more passengers (both people and live animals). During the trip I could not help but wonder about the Japanese engineers who designed the vehicle; they’d have a collapse, never mind the bloody truck!
The trip, far from being uncomfortable, was actually enjoyable in a folkloric kind of way. A trip by the sea in a convertible is pleasant, but this journey, standing in the bed of a truck in the middle of the mountains, was nothing short of spectacular.
Besides the impressive views of the Vallunaraju and Oschapalca glaciers, I was able to contemplate the complex, intricately made, and beautiful traditional clothing still worn by the women in the Callejón de Huaylas. Though different from the traditional western stereotypes, the ethnic purity is attractive. (Now I know what anthropologist Malinowski meant when he advised his fellows not to stay too long in such communities).
Just as we were beginning to settle into the ride we arrived in Llupa. After adjusting our backpacks and exchanging pleasantries with the local people, we began an easy climb with about three short, steep sections (actually the locals will insist that these are flat). After about an hour of walking at a moderate pace we reached Pitec.
From there the path begins to descend towards three beautiful gorges: Quilcayhuanca, Shallap and Rajucolta. However, we turned left and continued along the first hillcrest. There is not much in the way of civilization here except for a scattering of dwellings and a lodge run by a friendly woman, who speaks perfect English, Quechua, and Spanish.