May 20, 2016
Day two of our DIY Santa Cruz trek started at 6 in the morning. It was very cold but we made it out of our snuggly sleeping bags to prepare breakfast as well as lunch, and dinner, too lol. [I had a strong feeling we would be too tired to do any cooking in the evening and I was right.]
For breakfast we had oatmeals. I added slices of bananas and nuts from my mix trail food. Good to go na!
JC cooked the first bag of bacon we brought. Bacon is always a good idea.
After breaking camp we made our way to the general direction of Punta Union that would eventually lead us to Taullipampa, our second campsite.
Cows are a common sight along the trail. Sometimes, if you get lucky, they’d be standing right there in the middle of the trail blocking your way. They usually go away when hikers come but we’ve seen a few stubborn ones that wouldn’t budge. :)) Don’t be afraid, they’re usually harmless. Either wait it out – the cows will move on their own accord – or you go around them, your choice.
Day two of our DIY Santa Cruz trek proved to be the longest and toughest day. It’s only a 9-kilometre distance from Paria to Taullipampa but by golly it was the most difficult 9 kms of our lives! That is not an exaggeration. 😐
We had to traverse Punta Union Pass – the highest point of the Santa Cruz circuit at 4,750 metres – to get to our second campsite, Taullipampa. Paria campsite sits at 3,800 m so that’s almost 1,000m vertical ascent to the pass!
Our view while hiking towards Punta Union was nothing short of amazing that oftentimes, when I look around the snow-covered jagged peaks, I momentarily forget about the burning pain on my shoulders (backpack weight) coupled with shortness of breath due to high altitude.
The trail is stunning. Santa Cruz circuit is dotted with big and small lakes, vast valleys with endless grass for cows to graze, and imposing peaks. 😀 But the real challenge for us was conquering that damn slab of impregnable granite wall.
Here’s JC pointing at the granite wall we had to ascend. At the top is Punta Union Pass which you can’t really see. We didn’t have any idea where it could be cos the trail is not very obvious. Expect to do a little backtracking or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, create your own trail (like we did oftentimes).
As always, in every hike that we do, we just end up laughing and asking each other why the hell we do stuff like this. Subjecting ourselves to gruelling activities when we could be doing other less demanding, far easier things. But, we know the answer already. 😉
Just as we thought there’s no way we would make it in time (we gave ourselves a 4pm deadline), on our last stretch on the trail I caught a glimpse of a portal-like opening that gave way to the pass. With a sudden surge of strength that comes in every obstacle hurdled, I made my way to the top. When I saw the sign I threw my bag on the ground. Boy, I’ve never been so happy to see a sign telling us we made it!
We were both elated to have made it on time. We had a 360 degrees view of multiple mountains peaks, Mt. Taulliraju being the most imposing one and it’s equally beautiful lagoon below with unbelievable turquoise colour. It was such a humbling moment, one that I’d remember for a long, long time. To be surrounded by such magnificence was belittling. How could this beauty be sitting here for thousands of years only to be seen by few, brave enough people. At the same time it was also empowering. Just when you think you can’t put one foot forward any longer, you go conquering a pass and all your fears. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you set your mind and spirit to it.
It was JC and I’s first time to be surrounded by snow-capped mountains so we were basically dumbfounded and couldn’t stop exclaiming “ang ganda!” (it’s beautiful). It’s so beautiful all you can do is stare, smile, and sigh.
But I would be lying if I didn’t say I wished we made it to Punta Union pass in a better circumstance. We arrived at 4 in the afternoon with no sign of sun just dark clouds on the horizon. The view was fantastic but imagine if the weather had been more cooperative. Humans. They are never satisfied, eh. hehe.
If there’s one good that came out of arriving late at the pass is that we had the place all to ourselves. It was quite eerie though. Hahaha.
We stayed only 15 minutes since we still had a 2-hour descent to tackle. We wanted to arrive at campsite with enough daylight to set up our tent. The stairs were hard on the knees, make sure to not put too much stress on them.
Going down the mountains was a lot easier that we made it to Taullipampa campsite at exactly 6pm, our personal target time. There was still ample light for us to set up tent, play (mostly me) with curious burros (donkeys are the cutest!), fetch water from the river, and changed to our sleeping clothes. No one could blame us when we called it a night at 8pm, it was a long and hard day.
Stay tuned for day 3 and last day of our DIY Santa Cruz trek!