Day 1: DIY Santa Cruz Trek

May 19, 2016

Preparing for a multi-day hike can be quite stressful. There’s always the logistics and the physical concerns. Plus this is Santa Cruk circuit!

Given our (lack of) budget, we try to do most of our hikes independently. This allows us to move in our own pace and cut down on expenses. The downside is we are responsible for carrying and preparing our own provisions. It can be a pain in the arse but the pleasure of accomplishing such a feat is what makes it sweet and worth all the body aches.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek
Equipment and supplies for our 3-day hike to Santa Cruz. My pack weighed between 7-8kg. JC’s was heavier.

Thanks to our active mountaineering activities during our youth as well as backpacking experiences, the physical aspect is something we’re used to by now. However, hiking above 4,000m altitude is something that we never got accustomed to given that our home country’s highest peak is only at 2,954m. The altitude and freezing condition has and will always be a challenge for us but it’s something we’ve learned to adapt with or just gotten used to whether we liked it or not, because you know, survival. Lol.

So. DIY Santa Cruz trek is definitely doable. I did a thorough research before JC and I decided to push through with this trek which made all the difference.

Tip # 1: do your research well.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek
Collectivo terminal in Yungay

Our route

Santa Cruz trek is usually completed in 4 days and 3 nights but 3D/2N treks are also feasible. It just means covering more distance in a day than what is normal.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek, Parque Nacional Huascaran

Laguna Llanganuco on the way to Vaqueria
Laguna Llanganuco on the way to Vaqueria

We chose to start our trek from Vaqueria instead of Cashapampa basically to avoid, um, hiking from 2,900m to 4,250m with heavy packs on our backs. I could probably do it but I’d be quite miserable to be honest. By reversing the route, we had a better chance of making the whole circuit in 3 days.

Our route: Vaqueria – Paria – Punta Union – Taullipampa – Cashapampa.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek
All smiles at the start of our trek

We left our hostel in Huaraz at 5am to catch the 5.30am combi to Yungay (5 Soles fee per person). We were dropped off in Yungay terminal at 6:35 (it was meant to be a 1.5 travel time but the driver had no qualms stepping on the gas).

The combi driver wanted to wait for more passengers and was meant to leave at 8 but Leon, a fellow backpacker who was also doing the Santa Cruz, expressed a desire to look for another combi that would leave soon so that sped things up a little.

The 3-hour ride from Yungay to Vaqueria is not for the faint-hearted. Forget taking a nap because aside from marvelling on the vistas outside you’d be very busy hanging out for dear life as well as figuring out how to keep your bottom glued to the seat. (25 Soles fee per person)

It was chilly In Huaraz and Yungay but when we arrived in Vaqueria, it was warm enough for us to take our fleece jackets out.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek

DIY Santa Cruz Trek
Leon posing with a local farmer in Vaqueria

The starting trek from Vaqueria all the way to first camping site in Paria was moderately easy. We thought we’d make it in 4-5 hours. WRONG! We did it in 7 because we kept getting lost (twice!) and had to retrace our steps LOL. Our initial 3pm arrival turned into 5pm.

Tip #2: Don’t get lost haha.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek

We even had the galls to brush our teeth on the first hour mark of our trek only to realised we were on the wrong trail hahaha. All in all we spent 2 hours in backtracking whenever we took a wrong trail. The locals are very helpful as they always steered us to the right trails.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek

The views going to Huaripampa are really nice. Donkeys owned by locals frequently passed by us. We also walked with ladies on their way to Huaripampa cos apparently it’s a famous stop for hikers so they are able to sell their goods there.


DIY Santa Cruz Trek

DIY Santa Cruz Trek
Huaripampa Snickers break for us

By the time we left Huaripampa to continue our hike to Paria, we were mostly walking under a steady drizzle.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek

We arrived at Paria campsite a little after 5, not really drenched in rainwater but seriously desiring for warmth and dry place to cosy up. So we pitched our brand new, cheap SODIMAC-bought tent as quickly as possible while simultaneously praying to gods it would survive a wet night!

This was the view from our tent. I had no idea what peak was it but it’s super. Especially when the last rays of light illuminated it, turning the white coloured snow to golden. All feelings of coldness gone momentarily.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek

Here’s our humble abode for 2 nights in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. I’m happy to report it survived the night. And oh, I do not have a photo of it (too lazy to take, can’t feel my fingers and toes!) but the night sky was incredibly beautiful it was insane. The black sky was littered with millions of stars and an almost full moon hung out in the sky illuminating the snowcapped peaks casually standing there for thousand of millennia being all cool and chill while I gawk in silence.

Ah, mother nature. You are the best.

DIY Santa Cruz Trek
Cheap tent we bought in Sodimac Lima. We are thankful it survived the rainy first night on the mountains!

-to be continued.

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