Once again...Once again, this is me getting on a bus to the Ecuadorian – Peruvian border. Just can’t believe it!, but I really feel so lucky of being here, ready to live life and new adventures again in one of the most beautiful countries in South America.
On my way to PeruMarch 17
My trip started at night. The bus left from Quito at 9 pm. It rained as soon as we exited the city, very hard. I love looking outside by the window, the lights, the trees, the mountain’s shadowed contour and the moon.
The bus made its way south through the Avenue of the Volcanoes for about an hour, but quickly it changed its direction and rode towards the Coast. Four hours later the bus stopped… the breaks stopped working, and all passengers in the bus wondered, about how we were able to get down from the Andean range to the Coastal planes in such conditions?. It took at least another extra hour for the bus driver and his helper to fix the problem, and we all were on our way to the Peruvian border again.
Crossing the borderMarch 18
Finally I got to the EC/PE border. I got my ID stamped at the Ecuadorian Migration office, and then I crossed the bridge over the river that separates both countries and took a taxi to Tumbes (30 min.). The Huaquillas/Aguas Verdes is considered the most dangerous border crossings in the whole South America; it’s easy to tell why.
Whoa! I’m in Peru now. I purchased a bus ticket to Lima right away in a very comfortable bus. I love riding in these buses, they always do their best in order to give the customers a good service (they try).
Dinner was served in the bus at soon as the sun went down. I feel like enjoying my vacations every time I can see that beautiful sunset by the window, I can’t stop looking fixedly at the sun setting in the horizon, far away.. behind the Pacific Ocean.. it’s just a gift to my eyes.
Got to Lima at 11 am. It was a hot day. I tried to clean/wash myself up a little bit in the Bus Terminal’s restroom (Cruz del Sur Terrapuerto). I purchased another ticket to Arequipa for 6:30 pm. I saw I had enough time to take a long walk to Miraflores and Larco Mar (I always visit this place when I’m in Lima).
I left my heavy big backpack at the bus company and got out to the streets. The traffic was endless. I walked by the main avenue (Javier Prado Avenue) for about 30 minutes, then I took the long Avenida Arequipa and walk on the pedestrian/bike path which ends up right in the Miraflores overlook. The view from up there is spectacular, the ocean, and the western side of the city. I walked around the neighborhood, visited Larco Mar Mall, have some Chinese food and hiked down to the beach. I really was feeling pretty tired after the long 33-hour bus ride from Ecuador, so I just laid on the beach.
It felt so great to be relaxing on the beach, to touch the mild water with my feet and to look at the people having fun while swimming, surfing or just walking by the beachfront.
I forgot about everything, including about my bus to Arequipa which departure was scheduled for 6:30 pm. I remembered it just one hour before departure time, and it concerned me a lot cause it took me two and a half hours to get from the bus terminal to the beach. I started jogging right away to the bus terminal. The few last blocks I took a taxi, but it was useless because of a bad traffic jam. Luckily I got to the bus terminal at 6:40 pm and the bus had not left yet. So I got in the bus completely sweaty but happy of not missing it.
I spent the next hours staring once again at that beautiful Peruvian sunset. I fell asleep as soon as the day faded away.
I woke up in the bus at 7 am. The bus was making its way through a long orange color desert which looks surreal. I could see a couple of snowcapped mountains towering up far in the distance. I wondered if those would be the mountains I’ll be climbing up in the following days.
As the bus kept riding southeast, I could identify the perfect cone-shaped volcano of El Misti. It looks still far away, at least 3 hours away from the last coastal town we are passing by (Camana).
The bus arrived to Arequipa at 11 am. It’s the fourth time I visit Peru’s second-largest city. Personally, Arequipa along with Cuzco is one of the most beautiful large cities in Peru. Its grand colonial buildings, its narrow streets and the weather are just perfect. There’s nothing better than looking at El Misti rising majestically behind the cathedral on the Plaza de Armas.
I got a room in a nice hotel located just a block away from Plaza de Armas. Raquel, the girl at the front desk is always kind to me and makes sure I get always one of the best rooms in the building.
First thing I did after getting into my room, organizing my stuff and taking a shower was to visit the dentist. I lost the filling of my tooth cavity while I was on the bus from Lima to Arequipa. I wouldn’t like to have a toothache while climbing. Two hours later my tooth looked like new again.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and night hanging out around Plaza de Armas. I visited the travel agencies near the area and tried to get some information about the mountains, transportation and mountain conditions. All of them tried to sell full tours to the mountains, mountain guide included. Finally I found one that can arrange only 4WD transportation for me.
Army Parade (day off)March 21
Today is my off day. I arranged transportation for El Misti and bought some supplies for the climb. I eager to start climbing right away, but I must wait till next day. Meanwhile I could enjoy of the parade that the Peruvian Army runs every Sunday in Plaza de Armas.
On the way to El MistiMarch 22
Edward picked me up at the hotel at 8:30 am in his beige Land Cruiser along with another friend that’ll be climbing too. We crossed the whole city till getting to an old highway known as “Jesus”. We drove on it for an hour. The views of the city, El Misti and Pichu Pichu were great. The day was bright and clear with a cloudless sky.
We passed by the old Grau route which was shut for maintenance and 20 minutes later we got to the trailhead at Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca (3,415 m / 11,200 ft). Edward is very friendly and a terrific driver, besides leaving me at the trailhead safely he also pointed at the way I should climb.
I grabbed my backpack and started hiking up towards the volcano by a narrow desert trail which it widens up as it gains altitude. I got to Campamento Piramide and stopped there for a few minutes, then I continued hiking up towards Campamento Piramide Alto (4,610 m / 15,121 ft).
The whole mountain got cloudy for a while, the low lands view was stealing under the endless sea of clouds and the last sun rays turned the upper slopes of El Misti into orange color.
At night the stars lit up the dark sky. I could see the full moon right above me, Mars reddish orange color surface not too far from the moon and the four bright stars that form the Southern Cross which always tells me which direction is the south and helps me to get orientated at night.
I passed out as soon as I got in my sleeping bag. It was a cold night and I regretted not bringing my warm sleeping bag with me. Anyway, I had a relaxing night.
The ClimbMarch 23
My alarm went off at 2 am. It was a starlit night. I slept with my inner clothes on trying to avoid feeling cold inside my extra thin sleeping bag (+ 15 C), so it just took me five minutes to get ready. I had a couple of big scoops of Nuttela, drank some juice and headed out of the tent.
The trail fainted a bit as I was gained altitude... sometimes I had to make my own route up, but actually I could see the footprints of a team that was climbing a couple hundred meters ahead of me.. so I just followed them up.
Three hours later I found myself lost!... (just kidding).. I found myself just hundred meters below the crater rim. It was damn cold and what I regretted by then was being wearing my hiking boots instead of my warm mountaineering ones. Even though they were covered with my old over boots I still could feel the chill penetrating my bones.
Sunrise came slowly and touched the upper part of the volcano. I eager to be there and to warm myself up a bit, but I couldn’t feel my toes at all, so I saw myself forced to stop for a few minutes and to give them a nice hand massage. They recovered pretty quickly and I was ready to climb the mountain to the top once again.
I hiked by a long traverse on soft snow for a few minutes, it ended up right at the crater rim. I could see the summit cross from up there, far in the distance. So I continued climbing the last hundred meters to the top. The sun was burning me now, but I kept all the layers on me, I didn’t want to waste a minute, I really wanted to run for the summit.
The last two traverses were on soft and hard snow. It had passed 30 minutes since I left the rim and there I was… just ten steps away from the summit. As always tears filled my eyes, the happiness, and the emotion. I feel so grateful to life for letting me be up there. I raised my hands up to the sky and I dropped myself down to the ground. I just couldn’t believe it.. I made it!
All the happiness I found up there… I found myself up there, I opened my heart… my feelings flew like the wind and I could express them so easily. I found the sense of life. Once again, that was me alone at the summit with the entire world below. I thought about my love ones, my family, my good friends, and my girlfriend. A couple prayers… yes!... I met with my inner self up there, and I didn’t want to loose it again on the way down.
I snapped a few pictures with GT (my climbing partner) at the summit cross. Wow.. the views were stunning!.. I could see the Chachani group to the northeast, Pichu Pichu far in the distance as well as the snowcapped mountains of Cordillera Real in Bolivia miles away.
I spent at least 20 minutes at the summit... then it was time to head down again. It took me just 10 minutes to get back to the rim, and another 30 more minutes to get back to Campamento Piramides Alto. The scree-covered slope below the rim (actually ash field) took me straight down to the camping spot without passing by the rocky ridge I climbed up during the night.
Once at the tent I picked my stuff up right away and continued heading down to the trailhead. I got picked up at 11 am by Edward. One hour later I could see El Misti from the hotel terrace, up in the distance.. It was hard to believe I was up there a few hours ago.
I spent the rest of the night relaxing and hanging out in the city as well as the following days. It wasn’t easy to leave this beautiful city. But I knew I need to go back home again.
Adventures on my way back homeMarch 24 - 27 Arequipa and quick visit to the Chachani area.
March 28 Arequipa – Lima.
March 29 Lima. Visited Miraflores and Larco Mar again. Bus to Mancora beach.
March 30 Mancora. Spent the day at the beach. Found a dead whale on the beach. Forty minutes were enough to sunburn my whole body. I couldn’t even move or sleep at night because of the pain. It got worst with time.
March 31 Left Mancora at 7 am. Took a small van (colectivo) along with a Peruvian girl, an American girl and a Swiss guy to the city of Tumbes. Took a moto taxi to the EC/PE border. What a relief!. Walked the border, got to Huaquillas and took a bus to Quito.
April 01 Got home at 3:45 totally tired.
Warning!.. Peruvian Corrupt Police OfficersNot all was great on this short trip. As I was riding on a moto taxi from Tumbes to Aguas Verdes (EC/PE border) we got intercepted by the Peruvian Police. They searched my backpack and belongings. They took a couple plastic bags with t-shirts I was taking back to my country for my family along with USD.180,00 I kept in one of them. I was treated like a criminal, pushed against the police patrol and search all over.
I was about to be taken to the police station under unknown charges. I had to hand them USD. 10,00 in order to be set free.
Minutes later I found out, they usually do that to tourists in order to get some easy money from us. The motorcycle driver told me they can even sneak some drugs in travelers backpacks in order to cause them trouble. Beware of them.