So here it is: I went through this past week expecting to clense myself of the city (Lima) by having some time to refresh in the mountains outside of Huaraz, Peru. I couldn´t have been more mistaken. Although it was wonderful to remove myself from the cityscape and all of its craziness, I am in far worse shape than I was before: swollen feet (with blisters to match), altitude sickness (unable to process any sort of food that enters my body), and general fatigue (last night on the 9 hour night bus to Trujillo, where I am now, there was a chorus of men snorring, making it impossible to sleep) are providing a devastating combination and alot for one man to handle.  So, as you may be able to tell, its been an engaging week – with my present suffering a token of the immense amount of effort and strain that was required of me to survive. I´m pretty beat up, so I will be keeping this short and then heading to catch up on some rest.

I have one piece of advice for anyone who goes hiking: Always bring your own shoes. I happen to have chosen otherwise before my trek into the Parque Nacional Huascaran (nearby mountain range outside the city limits of Huaraz), and I paid dearly for such a foolish decision. It may seem obvious, that when one hikes one is also meant to have shoes, but in my case it was a bit different: As I am traveling on budget, the opportunity to ¨rent¨ shoes seemed alot more cost effective than the hassle of having to spend some U$D 150 of well needed money to purchase a pair of my own that I probably won´t use enough to justify the money spent. My logic being sound in terms money saved, I went with the hiking boots that the agency offered the day I sat down in their office. A temporary short term loan, I thought, one that will pay dividends over the next few days while I need them, much more worthwhile than the expense I would have to incur to purchase my own. It may be impossible to be any more incorrect than I was at that moment.  By the end of the first day (of which there were four), after trekking up some 500 m and over 10km, my left ankle was rotting away, slowly yet surely loosing all of the skin that protected the bone underneath. There was so much friction between it and the coarse material on the inside of the shoe, each step began to send a jolt of pain up and down my body unparrelled to anything I felt before (best analogy: like your ankle had been twisted, but pins and needles are stuffed in your shoes and your only option is to keep walking). In a feeble attempt to remedy the situation, I adjusted my walking style and began using the front side of my foot more than the back as support for each step. Absolutely fruitless, as the change to my walking regiment resulted in the formation of blisters on parts I never knew possible. To have this problem expose itself only 4 hours into the 7 hour hike of the first day, you could imagine how excited I was to have signed up for the ¨rental shoes¨ and the four day journey once I realized the severity of the predicament I was in. A rookie mistake, no doubt, one that I will never repeat in the future and one that caused me to pay dearly (not in financial terms, of course).

Enough complaining. The trip, in itself, was phenomenal.  It was long, tiring, but fully enjoyable and worth the difficulties involved. I figure it´s like this: Sometimes you have to suffer in order to get where you need to be. More than confidently, I can say I learned this lesson over the past week. Let´s consider it one of those ¨building¨experiences that you always hear about. I became more focused than ever before, seeing as every step required the utmost percision and care in order to prevent further pain from spreading. I took life ¨one step at a time¨. More mental strength was demanded than usual, for I am a firm believer in this sort of pain being something that can be controlled mentally with enough will power and effort. I followed the ¨mind over matter¨principle.  I pushed myself to new limits and heights, 5000m percisely and some 50-60km of distance covered in a four day period. This, I guess, is something along the lines of ¨Go places where you have never gone before¨. I was happy, and relieved, to get through it all without the necessity of amputation (which was offered, jokingly, by the two German doctors in my group, yet something I considered, seriously, before declining) or retreat.

For the good stuff: Huaraz is a little village (technically a city) further north of Lima but a little bit more inland that is much wider than it is tall.  This place is well known and highly regarded for having the best hiking in all of Peru, complimented by the world´s most beautiful mountain (apparently someone votes on this sort of thing, and I only managed to see the back of it), and the world´s most uncomfortable hiking boots for rent.  The Cordilleras Blanca and Negro are striking, and quite unlike anything I have ever seen. These two being the mountain ranges within the Parque Huascaran, I managed to see nearly all they had to offer during our trek. Standing side by side, each leaves the viewer with a startling sensation: The Blancas (meaning white) are snow-tipped, glacial high risers that are lined with sleek silver and ice, appearing to glow in the daylight when the sun is reflecting off its cold face, the Negras (meaning black) slowly climb out of the deep, verdant valleys below, and are made up of coarse black rock that has become gnarled over time, appearing as if it were either melting away or originally infused with the tint of highlighter orange that lies just beneath its dark, intimidating face. Each one beautiful, each one impressive, both providing more than enough eye candy for the duration of any trek and visual stimulation for a lifetime.

Part of me finds it difficult to capture the entire experience in words, the other part knows that it´s something that will need to be sat down and spoken of to friends once I return home. Of course, a large portion of the trip was me suffering, but there was so much out there to see, to experience that it made the pain worthwhile. The white, hot rock that lined the paths we were taking, resembling something from Wizard of Oz and the yellow brick road when it was hit with the high noon sun, as the mountain fresh air pierced the lungs and elevated your mind and body to obscene heights. The flourescent green river, with a touch of blue and crystal clear consistancy, that snaked through the valley down below, past the marroon and coral rock tables that jutted out of the side  of Cordilleras Negras. The presence of life from the minute to the most grand: bees suckling on the violet plant life that speckled the river bed, moving back and forth to gather pollen and continue the chain of life, chickens scavenging the ground for feed, picking off any potentially nutritious bits and pieces that lie in the dirt in order to survive, birds diving and dipping above, singing praises and melodies for pure enjoyment as we casually walk by the roaring river bed, dense forest and greenary surrounding each side, entrapping our group in a world that none of knew existed before nor could have ever imagined, while the dark, ashy mountains lie in front of the arching white peeks far off in the distance, leaving one staring on wonder of how something so beautiful could ever be created.

Nighttime, however, has been and will always be my favorite. Nestled deep within the National Park, far from civilization and its pollution, the stars glow with such ferocity that one has no other option than to be impressed. Each twinkles in the nightlight, representing the abundent life and possibilities that exist outside of our world, but there being too many to count or even conceptualize your only option is to sit back, relax, and try to take it all in. They are so far away, yet seem closer than ever before, that you are tempted to reach out and touch them even though you know such efforts are futile. All of this is being done while the wind whispers in your ear, distracting the mind further, like an enchanting melody that allows you to loose sense of self and become one with the sublime.

There are only slight descriptions, hardly being adequate enough to capture the entire experience. I have more, but I will refrain from going into too much details. Plus, hopefully photos will help out and fill in the rest. The trip, as mentioned before, was four days and full of these sorts of experiences. It is something I recommend highly to anyone, with or without the use of rental hiking boots (you´re probably better off buying your own). From Huaraz I headed further north to a place called Trujillo. I spent the morning looking for a bus to Ecuador, but it turns out that they only run in the evening time and, as I was fatigued from my mountain excursions, decided to rest for a night here. It was a good decision. Of the nearby places, I chose a little village called Huanchaco, which if you are a surfer is a pretty big deal and a place you should probably check out. Apparently, if you time it right with the seasons and what not, you can catch a wave that is 6-7ft high and lasts for 2km – the world´s longest left hand point break. Standing from the shore, out into the ocean, you can definitely see what all the hype is about: wave after wave pummels the beach with serious surf rats taking advantage (this also coming from someone who knows nothing of surfing). The plan from here is to get to Ecuador, most importantly the Galapagos, as fast as possible. I will be leaving tonight, ideally arriving the day after next. Wish me luck.