Day 1 – Pocpa to Quartelhuain
4AM: Jake and I checked out of our hostel in Huaraz and walked to the bus station to catch our first ride of the day to a tiny town called Chiquián. Even though our ticket purchase reserved our seats, the bus stopped for anyone and everyone needing a ride along the way. For others, the bus served as a transport for goods. I enjoyed watching the community helping one another out.
Once in Chiquián, we got off the bus to purchase our last bus ticket to Llamac. We had about 30 minutes to explore the town square in Chiquián. The people were very friendly; saying good morning to us with a smile.
The bus ride to Llamac was an adventure. The route took 2 hours, on bumpy dirt road, traveling from 11,000ft, down to the bottom of a Grand Canyon. We hugged the mountainside, turning sharply around switchbacks, with steep drop offs. Some of the sharp turns had to be taken at a snails pace if we were going to make it. On the bus with us were three other Peruvians and piles of goods to be delivered. Goods included live chickens, potatoes, harvested greens, large containers of cooking oil and a birthday cake for someone special.
From Llamac, our driver agreed to give us a lift further up the mountain to a village called Pocpa – our final destination for the Huayhuash circuit. There was an elderly couple on the bus visiting family for their granddaughters birthday. When they got off the bus in Pocpa, their granddaughter lit up seeing her cake! Another woman, (we assumed was the daughter), greeted her family with a crying baby on one hip and a baby goat on the other. It was a warm feeling to get off a bus in the middle of nowhere to embracing family.
Our trek started with a 7.5 mile hike along a dirt road. The road climbed up through a canyon passing through a mine site where men were hard at work. The canyon eventually opened up to jagged, swirling rocks, green cliffs, roaming cattle and lots and lots of sheep! The snow capped peaks finally showed their face as we reached our first campsite of the trek – Quartelhuain.
We set up our tent quickly as a thunderstorm pushed in with the strong, cold winds. Right after we set up, a Peruvian woman came down the mountain past our tent corralling her sheep. Her yelps and barks corralled the hundreds of sheep exactly where she wanted them to go. It was amazing to watch! A stray pup wandered by our tent before bed and decided to curl up with us for the night. He was such a sweetheart. I wish we could have taken him home.. His little body kept my head warm during a cold first night.