Santa Cruz trek reopened

You might have read in the previous editions of The Huaraz Telegraph about a landslide at the Santa Cruz Trek which destroyed the original route. We are pleased to inform our readers that most agencies are now selling packages of the complete trek as a new route has been created.

I talked with David Lazo and Marie Timmermans, owners of the Quechuandes tour operator and asked them for their opinion on the newly reopened Santa Cruz Trek. As we talked about donkeys being stuck up to their waist in mud during the original trek, I asked them if they had started to sell the new Santa Cruz trek.

We’re not ready to send people to do the trek until we’re sure the conditions are safe for everyone involved. The most worrying part is the donkeys, who is thinking of them? Tourists need to start thinking, they are not stupid but how is it possible to sell, for example the Huayhuash for S/400, pay the guides and cooks a fair wage, provide an excellent service and look after the environment while doing it? It’s not.”

Trekking agencies like this don’t care about food, about guides or the well-being of the animals used, they only care about selling. We think the other agencies are irresponsibly selling the complete trek. We haven’t sold the Santa Cruz trek since last year, we now offer the mini Huayhuash as an alternative. How is it possible to know if the trek is safe until you go there yourself? Tourists need to become better informed, agencies, i-Peru and the tourist police all have different stories to tell, none of which you can trust. The best information is gained by simply asking around, talk to other tourists, talk to the local people and they will soon discover the truth.”

I also talked with Aldo Herrera of Galaxia who was thrilled that the original trek could be completed with donkeys now but he stated that they had been selling the complete trek for around 4 weeks at the time of writing (May 21st) without the use of donkeys.

He said “The National Park has told us that it’s safe to complete the whole trek which is excellent news for the tourists and for the region of Cashapampa. Two months without the trek has damaged the region finically, the reopening of the trek can only be good news for the people of the region and their future. We have to thank them for fixing the trek as the people of Cashapampa have been working very hard to create a new path for the trekkers.” ¨We’ve talked with people who came back from the trek who were mostly all happy with the current trek. Previously some people were complaining that the full route wasn’t possible and weren’t completely satisfied finishing and starting the trek at the same place. The tourist now has the option to start wherever they want which can only be good for the tourist industry of Huaraz.”

So we’ve talked to a couple of agencies but what do the tourists think? I talked with Andrei Gear who completed the trek without the aid of any agency or guide and Craig Wakeford who completed the trek with an agency who had two very different stories to tell about their experience.

Craig Wakeford is an Australian who did the trek with 10 other people; we won’t name the agency he did the trek with because he was complaining about the lack of food and the fact that there was only one guide. He also commented on the lack of signs around the trek but mentioned that it is very doable without an agency if you want to carry your own food and equipment.

At times the new route was a little dangerous; it didn’t seem like they had done a lot of work to restore the trek but it was still a very enjoyable trek and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to do a trek that isn’t very technical. It did snow at the top of the Punta Union pass which was unfortunate for the others looking for good views but I was there for the landscape and being Australian we don’t get to see any snow so it was a nice experience for me. It was pretty awesome”.

In parts it was still quite muddy, a lot of rain and the trek could be a problem. There were markers across the mud but with rain you could expect at least four hours trotting though heavy mud.¨ (Let’s hope the rain stays away then, hopefully by the time you read this the dry season will be well under way, the month of May was terrible.)

If you decide to use an agency I would suggest checking all equipment before paying and making sure there is going to be enough food on the trek, for breakfast one morning we had only a piece of bread and a fried egg, not enough to go trekking with. My tent was fine, it was very, very cold but I would also strongly recommend checking your tent and sleeping bag before leaving.

Andrei Gear, from America, had started the trek with three others from Cashapampa on May 14th but found himself all alone shortly into day two as he outpaced his friends. Andrei waited until the next day but as 11am came and passed, there was no sign of anyone so he decided to walk on, “My friends weren’t physically fit, I didn’t want to walk back but as I was walking, I came across two options, crossing a river to the left or turn right to what seemed like a flat passage. As there were no signs, I did the logical thing and did not cross the river; I turned right but soon realized it was much more traitorous than I thought.

At times I got stuck in mud up until my knees, I was luckyly strong enough to pull myself out, and maybe others wouldn’t have been so lucky. It was like a mine field, I was poking the ground below me with a stick to test the ground trying to pass what seemed like a muddy sea. I was terrified; at times I saw dead decaying animals and red mud with a terrible smell, ‘the smell of death’ as the animals had got stuck in the mud and died.”

After completing his muddy ordeal, Andrei encountered around 100 workers from Cashapampa that were in the process of creating the new route, they gave him some soup and talked about the recent events. “Awesome people” he proclaimed, as we discussed the work they were doing and the S/. 40 per day wage they´re earning to do it.

There was one main point that Andrei repeated time and time again, the lack of signs on the trek and he warned others planning on doing the trek without the aid of a guide to do their research. He admitted that he was unprepared and unaware of the full extent of the damage the landslide had created.

I want to give a fair account of the trek, it’s a great trek but they need to put signs up to prevent other people from getting lost and stuck in the mud. Someone could die! It’s very important to sign the new route because of the hazards that could lay ahead. Information is very important as well; tourists need know about the current conditions of the trek. Hopefully with this interview, we can persuade people to think and plan very carefully before setting out on their own.”

My first question when talking with Andrei was ‘did you like the trek?’ He replied: “LOVED IT” and added later “I had an amazing time in general” and “I’m always happy, that’s life”. “If everyone found the positives in the negatives more often the world would be a much better place.”

Text: Trevor Eagleson

Read also: Santa Cruz trek still a mess

Read also: Landslide causes havoc at Santa Cruz trek

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