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Santa Cruz Trek - Acclimatization this Time on Foot

We headed back to Huaraz for the night and then started our second day trip. Originally, we planned an aggressive day hike to Laguna Churpa that included a rock scramble. My sensible wife suggested we walk a more relaxed trail and we changed our plans to a leisurely walk around Llaca Lake. We drove to the lake along the same road as the day before and then continued farther. When we “arrived” we were dropped off far from the lake with a soft mossy field in front of us. A river snaked along the side with a tint of green that comes from its glacial source. Wildflowers were abound and accented the landscape wonderfully. Our guide spoke only Spanish and not a dumbed down version I could follow easily. As far as we could tell we were taking a different route so that we could get a bit of a hike in to help acclimatize. We climbed along a reasonable trail and gained about 200 vertical meters. We reached a perch and then our guide seemed to explain that we were going to go down and walk around the lake. It sounded good to us, a little push with a stretch of the legs and then a relaxing stroll around the lake.

Sadly, we misunderstood. We went down and then headed straight back up a very steep "non-trail." We climbed about 400 vertical meters cresting the ridge just above the lake. The lake was beautiful, with the giant glacier dropping down into the rear of the turquoise pool of tranquility. We gazed down at the other touristas arriving and being let out right at the front of the lake for their leisurely walk.

Laguna llama, Near Huaraz, PeruGiven the beauty of the spot we pulled out Jennifer’s wedding dress and took a few photos. That’s when it got really interesting. A park ranger approached us and complained that I was only allowed to use a "muy picanio" camera (aka a point and shoot) or I had to pay a fee for being a professional. I heard this was the case in Machu Picchu and was ready to pay for that, but this was ridiculous. If people cannot take high quality photos of the sites, how do they expect to increase their tourism? Luckily we were done with our shoot, but we worried for Santa Cruz.

We high tailed it back to Santa Cruz and called out trekking company to see if indeed it might be a problem. While I was on the phone we met an American now living running a climbing company in Huaraz. He was very frustrated to hear our story and called the Park Service and told us not to worry. The park ranger was just being overzealous and that if we paid any fee it wouldn’t support the park but a bureaucrat’s wallet.

The story continues...