DAY 570 - LAGUNA 69
Day 570 - Laguna 69, Peru - 11947 km
I wouldn’t have properly visited the Cordillera Blanca, Peru’s highest mountains, if I didn’t break a personal altitude record. To recover from my stomach bug, I spend a few days in Huaraz. It rained everyday, which made me seriously doubt the plan to do a high altitude loop crossing the Cordillera Blanca twice. So I went for a shorter version: cycling down to Yungay along the main road in the valley and then up to the highest pass into the Huascaran national park, and back down again. Halfway I could squeeze in a hike towards Laguna 69, a small lake at 4600m.
The first day wasn’t much to write about, apart from a flat front tire, which was the first since Bogota. It kept spilling the white sealant which runs through the tubes. It wasn’t able to fix the puncture from within. After patching one leak, I found 4 more of the thorns, threads and glass stuck in the tire from the past 2000km.
At the end of the second day, after a long climb from Yungay, I reached the first valley at 3900m where Laguna LLanganuco shimmered brilliantly in the afternoon light. At the trailhead of Laguna 69 I set up camp on a little small campsite, tucked in between red Polylepis trees, a rugged species that only grows at high altitudes. I was the only one there. Early morning I packed before dawn and cycled up the trail. When it got too steep to cycle I dragged the bike out of sight in the bushes and continued on foot. It was a beautiful walk, after 2 hours I reached the lake. Later I met a Colombian couple who did the walk as well, but took a taxi from Yungay.
My end goal was not the lake, but the pass at 4700m, via a dirt road with many swith backs curling up the mountain. The legs were already warm and because I camped at 4000m it wasn’t all too difficult. I had found a good rhythm to make slow progress without exhausting myself. The two lagoons below looked majesticly blue against the black landscape and the white road. Just before the pass a thunderstorm was approaching, taking away the opportunity to photograph this road which you can only see in its entirety from the top of the pass. It was also 4pm and I needed to be back in the valley before dark. Luckily I had my drone which I sent up to take the photo, just before it poured down. With freezing fingers I rolled down to the valley, a drop in altitude of 2200m. A motorbike passed me which was the only traffic I’d seen on this road. Understandably, I almost forgot it was Christmas Day.