We entered Peru through one of the most remote borders, located at the edge of the Amazonian forest. Here, close to Chachapoyas (our first destination), we found sub-tropical mountains, last border until the endless jungle.
In those remote lands, few people have cars. We made our first kilometers in Peru thanks to truck drivers who always found a place to carry us.
We realized that Peru is full of tiny local markets and prices were cheaper than ever… We got what we needed and went straight for our first hike.
Only a few years ago, a German explorer had discovered one of the tallest waterfall in the world (771 m). That was just on our way to Chachapoyas.
It took us a whole day to make it but the view (and the bath) was really worth it !
Still exhausted by the last months of travel, we decided, instead of going south, to head West to the ocean and have a surfing break.
In only one day, we left mountains and found a huge desert that covers most of the Peruvian coast.
Our road ended in the peaceful village of Huanchaco, home of the pre-Columbia Chimú civilization, one of the oldest of Peru.
For me, Huanchaco was also a huge surfing destination.
Locals here have been surfing before the age of surfboards with their “caballitos”.
Like usual, we decided to volunteer in a hostel to save money and meet cool people.
We found our happiness at the ATMA hostel, an amazing spot just meters away from the ocean. This is special hostel offering surf opportunities and yoga classes. We liked it straight away !
It was an easy job. We just had to help clients out and clean rooms when needed. The rest of the time was off and we could just go surf or practice yoga.
Unlike Olon, we needed wet suits to surf here. Even if Peru is close to Ecuador, water here is cold. Strong currents from Chili go all the way to Peru and cool the water.
The counterpart is a constant swell. There is surf almost 365 days here… A paradise.
As June is one of the best swell, surfers from all over the world came here. I barely made one session alone !
Anyway, the best thing about this place was the crew we had.
We were a couple of volunteers. Among them were Jakob, the yoga teacher, Carmen, another general worker and Yassine, a French traveler who was learning to surf.
Thanks to Jakob, yoga became part of our daily routine and helped us relax and recover after those rough months on the road.
However, yoga was not the main asset of Jakob. After spending months in India, he knew how to cook the most nutritious and delicious food.
We spent most of the time in the kitchen with all volunteers and shared all of our knowledge coming from South Africa, Slovenia, France, Romania…
and even the United States… (from North Carolina) !
That mix of food ended up making amazing meals…
Always shared with volunteers and guests passing by.
Time was great so we decided to spend the whole month here. We followed the same pace everyday which was mainly surfing with the volunteer team.
or just with Yassine.
We also created some strong links with local cleaners of the hostel and helped them from time to time in their house maintenance.
It was already a great time and it became even better.
My friend Adrian and his girlfriend Marine decided to take a break as well in Huanchaco and joined us.
I hadn’t seen them since Costa Rica. Just like me, they were on their way to Argentina and discovered each country step by step, 3-4 months at a time.
Therefore, they had time to chill with us and enjoy the great Huanchaco market.
Diversity of products was astonishing. From raw cacao, quinoa and coca leaves, we learnt to reinvent our food and cook old Peruvians recipes.
By the end of June, winter started to hit the coast. Temperature went down, clouds were heavier and the swell stronger.
Last sessions were a bit tougher to get in.
The payoff though was some very long and slow waves.
And no one else in the water !
It was now time to move on.
However, before leaving the ocean, I had to check one last spot.
I had heard legends about it all around the world and wanted to see if they were true. Indeed, just one hour north of Huanchaco was the world class wave Chicama, said to be the longest one in the world…
Iulia, Yassine, Carmen and me decided to check and meet Chicama for a few days.
For the first time in my trip, I had a “holiday time” where I did not have to work for a rent.
We had an easy routine. Just wake up, surf, eat, surf again and sleep.
Chicama was unlike any other surf spots I have seen so far. Just to get to the line up, we almost had to walk 45 min in a pure desert.
To finally end up in one of the most isolated beach where we could get the wave, the same way we could catch a train.
On a good day, experienced surfers could ride a single wave for several minutes ! For our part, we could “only” surf them for a good 45 sec… which is already fantastic.
We surfed all day but our favorite time was at sunset…
Once we surfed our waves, we just had to walk back to the spot and surf again…
A whole week passed…
It was the perfect way to leave the ocean and conclude our time on the coast.
Carmen left to the north. Yassine, Iulia and I decided to keep the adventure going and went to the Cordillera Blanca, a great mountain range, a couple of hours in the south.
We went to Huaraz, starting point of most trails and met my friend Adrian who was working in a hostel. He could not go hike, since he was recovering from a broken ankle.
As a welcome dish, he and his girlfriend cooked us the very famous “cuy” (guinea pigs), typical meal of the Andes.
A few days of research later, we found our perfect hike, the Huayhuash trail, a 10 days journey going through some dramatic landscapes and high glaciers.
We did not want to pay tours so we just downloaded the map of the area, bought 10 days of food and started our hike with our 20 kilos backpack.
Starting at 3300 m, we walked very slow since the oxygen was rare. We had to travel 6-7 hours each day in order to make it to the camps.
We were a group of 4 people, Yassine, Iulia, Pierre-Emmanuel (a French traveler we just met) and me.
Only after one day, we reached an altitude of 4300 m. We were not going to go any lower for the rest of the trip.
It made our moves slower and harder. However, being this high gave us an access to some of the most beautiful landscapes I had seen so far.
At night, the temperature went below 0 degree. Everything froze. We could only get out of the tent when the sun rose and started to melt everything down.
At least we had very fresh water.
After a massive oat, cacao, seeds and honey breakfast, we packed everything and started to head to the next camp.
The more we went inside the trek, the more dramatic it became.
The path was not always clear and sometimes we had to explore around to find our own way.
Those open landscapes were easy to read and we always found our way.
It was now 3 days we were alone in the mountains.
The only people we met were other hikers or locals living there. Most of them were just here to collect taxes (that we had to pay) and would not speak with us (that was a bit disappointing).
Some other locals, on the other hand, were extremely nice engaged the conversation with us easily.
One of the most interesting view of the HuayHuash trail was the 3 lagoons area.
All water here was once frozen and part of the glacier just above.
We stayed there for a while and gazed at the endless melting process. Every 10 min, a huge pack of ice fell into the lake and shook the whole mountain.
We went all the way up and reached one of the highest passes. The air was rare but so pure.
We were in the middle of the trek and even if we were tired, our bodies began to get used to that high altitude.
The tough Huayhuash trail still had some surprises for us. On our 5th night it has offered us a small break in our daily discomfort.
Amazing hot springs (40 degrees water) located in the pure wilderness ! 5 days of walking to get there… for sure there were not so many visitors.
We spent the day and the night here.
At night, the whole milky way just shining above our head while we were in our hot bath… stunning.
One might think those baths gave us an extra boost to keep on going. However, walking after a 10 hours bath was not something easy. We were just like cooked spaghetti.
It took us longer than expected to make it to the other pass that day. Just like the other morning, everything was frozen.
We reached the highest pass (5200 m), offering a stunning view on the Yerupajá glacier (6630 m), second highest mountain in Peru.
And went all the way down to 3500 m the same day …
Leaving glaciers and high altitude behind us.
Even when glaciers were far behind, we could still enjoy their fresh water. They are one of the only water sources in this dry area.
After 8 days of hiking we finally had our first real meal. We ended up in the tiny village of Auquimarca. There were no restaurants out there.
We literally had to ask people in the street where to eat and they advised us houses where we might find someone cooking for us for few soles !
Our nice cookers !
For the last 2 days, I finished the trail with Pierre as Iulia and Yassine were suffering from intense blisters and took a bus back to the city.
We gained all the elevation we had lost the day before…
And we were back in high altitude landscapes.
We had the coldest nights on the last 2 days and also few snowstorms.
We finished the trail looking one last time at the giant Yerupajá.
It was worth it even if we started to feel really tired after 10 days.
We took a last look at the glacier stunning lakes and went down for a last time.
Under another storm.
Yet, every storm always brings out the best sunsets.
Next morning, we were back to our starting point after walking more than 120 km.
We had our first beer and died in the bus back to Huaraz. Longest (and toughest) hike in the world tour, so far.
Back in the hostel, I thought I was going to relax for a few days til I figure out where to go. Indeed, Iulia was going to work a little bit in the jungle and I wanted to surf one last time. We decided to travel a little bit apart, do our own things until we met more in the south in Cuzco and kept travelling all the way to Argentina.
I was about to go when my friend Adrian, who was now in better shape, decided to take me to a last adventure in the mountains. One of its kind… A 5 day of pure solo climbing at 4500 m. DAMN…
Here are the last 3 months of travels trough Peru !