Landslide causes havoc at Santa Cruz trek!

Landslide causes havoc at Santa Cruz trek!

Santa Cruz Trek cleanup expected to take months

According to Clodoaldo Figueroa Blas who represented the SERNANP – National Park Huascaran until March 23th this year, it will take at least two months to clear the damage that has been caused by a landslide destroying a lake, creating a sea of mud. The damage does not only affect the tourists, it has also made many communities uncertain about their future living in the valley. Additionally he stressed that the National Park Huarscaran is not responsible for cleaning the damage, as nearly all tourist agencies imply. “Tourist agencies are the first to point the finger at us but in all those years not one agency has contributed to the conservation of the National Park Huascaran. All they care about is money.”

On February 8th this year, torrential rainstorms caused the breakthrough of a higher lying lake resulting in the fact that the lake Artizon Bajo overflowed and filled the bigger Hatuncocha lake causing the collapse of another embankment, filling the valley of Santa Cruz with a sea of mud. Roads, bridges, farms and even two electric plants were destroyed.  There have been many meetings between local governments, worried guides,

SERNANP and others directly involved and the final outcome was that INDECI, the National Institute for Civil Defense will be one of the caretakers of reconstruction of bridges and roads. The local government of Cashapampa also claimed its responsibility. Together with EDAN (Evaluación de Daños y Análisis de Necesidades) and SERNANP this repair work should take no longer than six months.

The last to claim responsibility were the tourist agencies. Figueroa Blas had an explanation for this: “It would be ideal if all agencies would unite and help with the clearing of the damage and reconstruction of roads and bridges, unfortunately this is very unlikely because the biggest agencies didn’t show up at a briefing we held on March 12th.” The Huaraz Telegraph found that most agencies point their finger at SERNANP.Smaller agencies claimed that the bigger ones should put in more effort than the the rest because they make the most money from the Santa Cruz trek but they also suggested that their guides and donkey drivers should help. Figueroa Blas continued: “For years there has been this false perception of the fact that the SERNANP- National Park Huascaran is responsible for everything that happens in and around the National Park.” This perception has been created by the agencies for a reason. SERNANP is only responsible for the conservation of the National Park, which is why tourists pay 5 soles for a day ticket and 65 soles to spend a night or more, as can be found in their Master Plan 2010-2015. “We aren’t even responsible for the (bad) roads, the local government is. Furthermore, in the history of SERNANP, not one agency has contributed to the conservation of the National Park.”

“They make money, big money but apart from some of the guides that do care, show absolutely no interest in the park itself. Agencies don’t pay for park entrance or for use of the park but they’re the biggest benefactors”. So if the National Park is not to be blamed, nor the agencies, who is primarily responsible for financing the reconstruction of roads and bridges?

Officially the Municipality of the district of Santa Cruz is responsible, with contribution of the Regional Government of Ancash. What happened in the Valley of Santa Cruz is now called an ‘emergency project’ and with the technical support of SERNANP and the others previously mentioned, we can start working.”

“Just the construction of a road from Cashapampa to Hatuncocha Lake will cost around 40.000 soles” says Figueroa Blas. Unfortunately he could not answer the question of how much money would be approximately involved in total.

 The tourists’ opinion

Bart and Fiona are two tourists who have completed the newly transformed Santa Cruz trek and were willing to share their opinion about the hike and warned of the dangers of attempting to complete the trek without a guide or agency.

As Bart and Fiona from The Netherlands said: “We did a little investigation about the Santa Cruz trek to be honest and we quickly found out that something was not right. Luckily for us both agencies we considered told us beforehand that the original route had changed but that it would still be possible to do the trek.”

“We had to start from Vaqueria because starting in Cashapampa wasn’t possible as a landslide had occurred. Despite the fact that the Santa Cruz trek has been completely altered by a horrific landslide and we were unable to complete the original trek, we were required to pay the full price of 300 soles per person”.

 “For people doing the trek, they should expect the following – It’s a four and half hour drive to Vaqueria from Huaraz and from there around a four hour hike on the first day.” “The second day is very difficult because of a killer hike in the afternoon to reach Punta Union. Two hours after that we reached the campsite where we were told that we couldn’t progress any further”.

 “On the third day there was a small side hike of four hours to the base camp of Alpamayo and back and afterwards we climbed up and down Punta Union again.”

 “On the way to the Alpamayo base camp we met some other tourists who had tried to complete the trek unguided but they stressed it was dangerous because they got stuck in the mud up until their waist and had to be pulled out. On the fourth day we slept at the same camp as on day one. I am not sure whether the National Park should repair the damage or the agencies but our guide was without doubt, positive it was the responsibility of the Parque Nacional Huascaran.”

As Bart and Fiona continued they raised questions about the park entrance free and what it was being used for. They wondered: “We are expected to pay 65 soles a night to sleep in the park and when you reach the campsites there are no toilet facilities anywhere to be found. There had been evidence of a hut that once served the campsite but what remained was simply a hole in the ground”. Bart went on to say: “I’d rather **** leaning against a rock than bending over that hole in plain sight.”

According to the ‘Master Plan 2010-2015 for the National Park Huascaran’, more than 5.000 local villagers benefit directly from tourism in the National Park in 2009. Many of those are now facing many difficulties as their future of living in the Santa Cruz area has become uncertain.

Text: Rex Broekman


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