I hadn’t planned to visit Pastoruri glacier during my time in Huaraz. I went because a guy from one of the tour agencies met me at the bus stop, disguised himself as staff from the hostel I wanted to stay at, and then took advantage of me not being able to think clearly after three days on buses!
Despite the questionable techniques of my new friend Marco, I’m really glad I went. It was good acclimatisation for the Santa Cruz trek, and the views were nothing short of incredible.
I dumped my bags in a hostel and ran back out to buy some snacks and a hat and gloves for the day trip. The minibus set off at 9:30. Most of the tourists spoke languages I couldn’t even attempt, but lucky for me, there were a couple of women from Israel who made a great effort to chat to me in English.
After a couple of hours, we arrived at a small cafe. We each paid S1 for a cup of mate de coca (tea infused with coca leaves). It’s meant to help you overcome the effects of altitude. We were also supposed to order dinner for later, except that I hadn’t understood this from the guide’s explanation in Spanish!
Back in the bus, we drove through increasingly remote countryside, climbing up steep mountain paths. We stopped at a place where water was bubbling up from beneath the earth. It spews geysers of boiling water up to 1 metre high depending on the phases of the moon, but unfortunately, it just boiled when we were there.
The mountains at the lower altitudes are speckled with impressive cacti, which grow to several metres in height. We all clambered out of the minibus and took it in turns to pose in front of them for photos.
Another hour’s drive later, at 1:30, we finally arrived at a car park at the base of a long footpath leading to the glacier. The effects of the altitude were obvious. We were all out of breath in seconds. So much for the coca leaves.
Some of the group paid for donkeys to take them part way towards the glacier, while I struggled alongside on foot.
On the way to the glacier there was a stunning lake, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. It was finally cold enough for me to wear my quintessential Peruvian wool hat.
Another 30 minutes of exhausting hiking uphill, we reached the glacier…
Just after we returned to the mini bus, it started to rain heavily. The drive back took 3 hours, with a half hour stop at the dinner place. As I hadn’t realised I needed to order food in the morning, I watched jealously as the others filled up on hot soup.
But, when we returned to Huaraz, I found an amazing little restaurant that served chicken and chips for just S7 (that’s less than £2!). More fool the others!
My trip cost S50, but I’m sure if you have the time to shop around the agencies, you can get a better deal. Many people acclimatise for the Santa Cruz trek with a trip to Laguna 69, but there are plenty of beautiful blue and green lagoons on the trek anyway. In my opinion, Pastoruri glacier is the better option.