Our campsite at Yunque Corral sits at the bottom of a very deep valley surrounded by high mountain peaks. In order to save time and money, we combined the Lago 69 hike with our Santa Cruz expidition and decided to hike Santa Cruz from Vaquiera to Cashapampa. A collectivo driver knew to look for us at the corral and arrived promptly at 830am to drive us deep into the Cordiellera Blanca. Never have I been on a road such as the one to Vaqueria. Heading through the pass [a tiny notch in an otherwise impenetrable rock wall] called Portachuelo de Llanganuco pass at 4760m was like passing through a magical alpine portal. The views were astounding and the collectivo ride was so rough that the force of the bumping actually broke the frame of my sunglasses. It was a wild ride.
Although Blake was still not feeling fantastic, he reported that his energy level was 80 percent, and by 1100am we were off on the trail. Vaqueria sits on one side of a small [for Peru] valley, and the helpful folks who live at the trailhead directed us on our way. After a very steep decent down the valley we began climbing up through a very traditional Andean villiage. Homes are made of adobe with red tile roofs, while wheat, corn, and quinoa are patchworked along the hillsides. Cows and pigs lined the road and the villiage had made some efforts to welcome the many tourists passing through on the Santa Cruz trek. There were a few simple signs explaining the agricultural efforts of the town, but other than that life appeared to be very simple, fairly poor in consumer goods, and consistent to the way these people have lived for the last 100 years. Every campesino we passed, from 3 years old to 80 years old greeted us with a friendly ''Hola, como estas'' and a request that we give them a cookie. We had no cookies, and therefore only exchanged smiles. Above us soared a peak that looked exacly like the Paramount Pictures logo, and our surroundings were pleasently rural.
Every time you enter Huascararon National Park you need to register with the park service. Their office marked the end of town and the beggining of the wilderness [if the wilderness for you can include grazing horses, burros, and cows]. I found the climb through the broad Quebrada Paria [a quebrada is a river valley] to be very mild and pleasent, as far as Andean hiking is concerned. Above us soared gorgeous mountains, the day was sunny and clear, and wildflowers were abundant.
Poor Blake had a hard day. My strong husband found the hike to be very challenging, and by the time we reached the campsite at Huaripampa he declared that he could go no further and we needed to set up camp. Looking at him, I could clearly see the strain and I felt worried. He rested while I set up the tent, but by the time I cooked our ramen noodles with peas for dinner he'd already climbed into his sleeping bag and was fitfully shivering. At this point, we both assumed he was just suffering some altitude sickness, as his symptoms were general fatigue, headache, and nausea, and with a little water and rest he would be well.
Blake here. As night closed in around 6.30 I found myself shivering with fever in my sleeping bag as Annie made camp and prepared dinner. I had not been feeling well all day - my body ached and my stomach kept cramping up - however, the worst was yet to come. Around 10.30 I awoke with a sudden need to use the bathroom so I crawled out of the tent, trying not to wake my sleeping wife, and made my way down hill to the servicio higenico - a pit toilet to be exact. This happened again at 11 . . . and 11.15 . . . and 11.30 and so on for the next few hours. There was no longer any pretense that Annie was sleeping through this ordeal. When my body wasn't wracked with stomach cramps I simultaneously shivered and sweated in my sleeping bag. As the night wore on, we began to get seriously worried. The thought in both of our minds was - how will we get down to civilazation with me in this condition? FINALLY, a combination of Immodium and Cipromax seemed to atleast quiet my stomach and we managed to get some sleep. In the morning, while I convalesced, Annie rose to super-woman status as she broke camp, filtered some much needed water (I had drank most of our water throughout the night trying to stay hydrated) and packed most of the weight of our gear into her own pack as she prepared to get me down the mountain as quickly as possible less my condition worsen. We toyed with the idea of hiring a muleteero to help me down, but my manly pride, plus a dislike and slight fear of horses on my part, wouldn't hear it.
Annie shouldered her overstuffed pack and I, still feverish, carried what I could and we went back down the trail. It was a sad moment for both of us but we were glad that we were able to get out under our own power. The villagers seemed slightly confused to see us again but as soon as Annie explained that "mi esposa no siento bien' their confusion universally turned to concern and several friendly souls offered their horses to us or suggested folk remedies for stomach maladies - hot alcohol, honey, and oregano anyone? After a grueling few hours we made it back to Vaqeuria and from there is was an insanely bumpy 4-5 hour collectivo back over the mountains to Huaraz and civiliation. Two days later, while not completely 100 percent, my stomach has settled, the fever is gone, and we are looking forward to our next adventure in Cusco.