Wednesday 5 August

Drive up to Lake Parón

Wake just before seven. Our usual breakfast of juice, bread, and a hard-boiled egg, and we are ready by eight, which is just as well because the taxi has arrived early and come right up to the bungalows. A French couple is sharing with us, which is nice because it halves the cost.

We drive a short distance north out of Caraz, and then turn right up the same track that we walked down on Monday from Rayanpampa. We realise as we drive just what a long way we walked that day!

The road is rough though not as bad as the one up to Rayanpampa further along the valley. We pass through several villages as we wind ever higher. The sky is a vivid blue with not a cloud in sight.

(magnify) Piramide de Garcilaso behind the lake

At the park gate the warden hurriedly swings the barrier log across the road when he sees us approaching, to ensure that we pay the ten soles park entrance fee. Tickets are issued and our visit is recorded in the book with painstaking precision. Finally we are free to continue.

As we climb higher the valley narrows until we are zig-zagging up against a colossal sheer wall of black rock, probably four to five hundred metres high. I can feel the air getting colder. The canyon is not particularly narrow but the sheer height makes it feel slightly intimidating.

(magnify) Climbing the moraine

Presently we emerge onto a more open region and see a bank of moraine ahead. Soon after we pull up by Lake Parón. Despite the altitude it does not feel cold – probably the effect of the strong sun.

There are magnificent snow-capped peaks at the far end of the vivid blue lake and also to the right and left. It really is a picture postcard view. We both feel a bit breathless in the thin air – we have just after all come up from 2250 m to 4200 m. We have agreed to pay the driver an extra ten soles to make it three hours here, so we have a bit more time than we originally thought.

(magnify) On the edge of the glacier

There is a camper van here (we followed it for part of the way up) driven by a French couple who are doing a round-the-world trip in it. They have a world map painted on the back with their route filled in as they go.

The man at Los Pinos recommended climbing up the moraine, so we locate the path and start upwards. Walking with deliberate slowness to give ourselves a chance to adapt to the altitude, we zig-zag a few times until we reach the top of the moraine wall on the edge of what we presume to be the glacier, though it is completely covered with broken rock.

(magnify) Looking back towards Caraz

From there we follow the edge up a little way until we reach a perfect view of the peaks at the end of the lake. We could go further but it is a bit of a scramble and considering our lack of acclimatisation and our time constraint to be back at the taxi, we think better of it.

Nevertheless the view is spectacular and it is wonderful to be up in the mountains with the clean thin air, bright sunlight, and clear blue sky. We are so lucky – we heard from another couple that there were up here few days ago in freezing rain and fog.

(magnify) The Piramide de Garcilaso

Back down at the lake, we decide to spend the remainder of our time walking around the edge. I stride off a bit too quickly and Rachel has to remind me to go slowly. Actually, Rachel is feeling the altitude much more than me and suddenly finds she is exhausted.

We return slowly to the hut where the taxi is parked, and eat a biscuit to restore energy. On the other side of the lake is a trail seemingly cut into the vertical rock face and mercifully in the shade, so we decide to take a short walk along there before our time here is over.

(magnify) On the other side of the lake

The taxi returns us to the O’Pal Sierra shortly after 1.30 pm and we eat our packed lunch, then take a well-earned siesta.

We return to town just before dusk, stock up with bread, and then eat out at a posh looking restaurant on the corner of the plaza that had been closed on Monday, the Venezia. It is Italian themed, in all respects right down to the ambient music, except for the food. My Creole beef is more like a spicy stir fry. It is good, but not up to the standard of Monday’s meal at the Bolivar Restaurant.