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Santa Cruz Trek - Acclimatization

After completing A Journey Along the World’s Great Treks, I hadn’t any plans to head back to the trail quickly. In fact, we had booked a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. However, when the opportunity came to become The Arthritis Society of Canada’s National Trekking Trainer, how could I refuse. The Arthritis Society’s Joints In Motion program trains fund raisers to trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. As their trainer, I designed their training program and accompanied them on the trip. Since I’d already hiked the trail before, I decided to go early with my wife Jennifer and friend Ben and trek a trail in the north, the Santa Cruz Trail.

The Santa Cruz trek isn’t difficult with regards to distance or absolute elevation gain, but is a challenge in overall elevation. Peaking at 15,708 (4,760m) the Punta Union pass is not for those easily susceptible to high altitude or those not acclimatized. Neither Jennifer nor Ben had trekked anywhere near that high and we wanted to be conservative. Therefore after flying to Lima we took a small plane to Huaraz, the access town for the Santa Cruz Trail. Given the small size of the plane there were weight limits on what we could carry and were significantly charged for going over the 10 kg checked luggage and 5kg carry on limit.

The plane landed in an airport 45 minutes out of town, but it was a simple taxi ride to reach our chic little hostel Olaza’s. The staff couldn’t be friendlier, the rooms were large and very clean, and the outdoor rooftop terrace was a treat. It was without a doubt the best hostel I’ve stayed in on any of the treks. Huaraz itself was a mixed bag. While a large segment of town was dedicated to tourism, there was little charm (to many of the buildings). Instead, it was a city under transition. Lots of construction could be seen everywhere. The people however were full of enthusiasm, energy and warm, welcoming smiles.  Like all towns there were tourist oriented restaurants, but also many accessible local eateries for those a little braver (and with some Spanish language skills.)

Jennifer's Birthday Cake - Huaraz, PeruWe met the owner of our tour company (Peruvian Andes Adventures), Hisao. He was a very kind and soft spoken man. We went over our itinerary and planned our day trips. In addition to being Jennifer’s birthday, it was also Huaraz’s anniversary and the town was full of activity, parades and all. We found a great place for lunch and then dinner. We over ordered terribly and felt guilty, stuffed to the hilt and unable to finish dinner we wobbled home, tummies full of Peruvian delicacies. When we arrived at our room, Jennifer walked in first and shrieked. My heart sunk as I expected to find a room in disarray or at best a large spider. Instead, we found an enormous birthday cake for Jennifer from Peruvian Andes Adventures. What a welcome surprise. We gathered as many people as we could for a make shift birthday party on the rooftop terrace.

The story continues...