Gotta love the French

Pierre bustin' out a saucisson at the pass

Researching options to climb or snowboard one of the 6,000 meter peaks while I’m in Huaraz, I got talked into a 4 day hike of Santa Cruz to help acclimate.

The price was right and it included all equipment, guide, all meals, transportation and even burros. It was my first time with burros, and let me tell you, they ROCK! Each one can carry 50 kg and with 3 burros to 4 hikers (plus guide and burro driver) we had a lot o’ goodies. They packed even more luxury stuff than I do on a kayak trip (except they were missing my trusty portable rotisserie). They carried however, a full propane tank, two serious burners, the kind you deep fry a turkey or brew 5 gallon worts of beer with, 3 crates filled with tons of food, and all our overnight gear in dry bags, leaving us with only our day packs.

The meals were great, although for the most part pretty traditional Peruvian foods. Each dinner started with a grain soup (first night was quinoa, the second wheat soup and third barley soup), main courses were white rice with potatoes (wrong, I know), and meat for first two nights, and a break from rice with pasta and a tuna bolognaise sauce for the 3rd night. We also had lunch packs made for us (I think the last time I had that was in Junior high about 30 years ago), and hot breakfasts with enough options for French, American, British, Peruvian, and Continental breakfasts combined.

While I can’t say enough about the burros and the meals, the rest of the pampering was a bit too much for me. The tents would be set up at the sites upon arrival with snacks laid out for us; our guide Geonela and our burro driver Iban (nicknamed Chato) wouldn’t let me help with cleaning the dishes or cooking or prep or setting up anything as they never stopped working to cater to us. They even brought hot coca tea to our tents at our 5:30 am wake up call.

The hike was gorgeous though the weather didn’t really corporate. We never did get a view of the cordilleras blancas as the peaks were in the clouds the whole four days. We got some sun breaks but for the most part it was overcast with a bit of rain, sleet, snow and hail every day.

Had I had more experience with hiking with burros, I would have packed a few more goodies (like a couple bottles of wine). Luckily there was a French couple, Pierre and Natasha, who knew how it’s done. They were a super fun couple with experience hiking all over the world, including an annual trip to Nepal and the Himalayas. When we crested the 4,750 meter pass (15,584’) on day two, Pierre, sporting his French beret, busts out a saucisson from his home town in the Alps. BAM! The next day it’s pate de canard at lake. …and then French chocolate at the campsite. “Pierre, did I ever tell you, you are my hero?”

I’m pretty sure I heard them talking about red wine as well, but if they did indeed have some, they wisely kept it to themselves in their tent.

Honestly, the French couple made the trek. I had a great time with them and before leaving Huaraz, they gave me all their remaining food supplies. They left me with more pate de canard, some pork rillettes, some soups, and other tasty French foods.

…and I even have an invitation to stay with them in the Alps and meet their friend who makes the sausisson. You can bet I’ll take ‘em up on the offer.

…I also made an attempt to climb a 5,783 meter peak, packing a the duck pate for a picture on the summit to send to Pierre and Natasha, but snow and warm weather stymied us on summit day, and for the second time, I failed to break the 5,000 meter mark, let alone summit one of the high Andes peaks. I’ll just have to come back during dry season.

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