Days 3,4, and 5: easy trail and gorgeous sights on the Huayahuash Circuit

In retrospect, days 3-5 could be called the ‘smooth sailing’ section of the Huayahuash Circuit trek. Not to say the trekking itself is especially easy- there are still plenty of ups and downs at high altitudes- but the trail is well-defined and (although never marked…ever) easy to follow. To firm up our confidence that our map was functional and our novice navigational skills in check, we would meet up with larger, guided groups each evening at camp. And we would have enough day light left in the equatorial days (sun up at 7, down at 6) to envy their cozy looking dining tents and the smell of their guide prepared meals waiting for them while we wrestled with a tangled tent and rain fly.
The ease of the trodden trail let my eyes and mind wander far and wide over the incredible sweeping views of the sky high peaks and abruptly carved glacial valleys, and I found an easy rhythm to hike for hours. Each day started cold and frosty while we made the standard breakfast of coffee and porridge, and instantly warmed to t-shirt weather when the sun finally made it over the last peak standing between us and its fiery rays. When camp was packed and our backpacks loaded on we would begin the steady walk that each day defied the last in the scope of the beauty we were seeing. On day 3 our trail alongside a turquoise glacial lake perfectly reflecting the peaks on the horizon took us to a crew of farmers digging potatoes from their freshly tilled soil. Inspired by a complete lack of enthusiasm for the giant bag of white rice (and if you spend more than a month or so in Peru you will also share a lack of enthusiasm for the ubiquitous white rice), we bought a kilo of the fresh red spuds for 2 soles. That trailside booty made 3 fantastic meals of gourmet camp cooking hodge podgery , and it was a nice reminder that we were hiking in a place where families could still subsist on their own labor – even when the landscape seemed so wild and harsh. Each day ended also roughly ended in the cold – as soon as the sun dipped behind the peaks the temperature noticeably dropped until we were wrapped in our sleeping bags trying to make out the few constellations we could recognize before surrendering to the relative warmth of the tent.
Day 5 wins hands down for providing the lush life experience. Our trail that day was an easy peasy 5 hours of walking on relatively flat terrain and lead to a campsite right next to a hot spring. Yes, a hot spring in the midst of some of the most amazing glacial peak scenery imaginable…and there’s even a smaller pool where you’re allowed to soap up and wash 5 days of trail grime off while your aching muscles unfurl. I can guarantee you that if you make this trek you will be absolutely lost on what you could otherwise be doing at that moment that could even rival the beauty of sitting in that hot water feeling so free and grateful. I can also guarantee that you will have a harder time than you imagine getting out of those hot pools after the temperature makes its nightly plunge. Remember to bring some warm clothes to bundle up in (and save that precious heat) for the walk back to your tent.
Yes, the good life was easy to come by on these days – Peru’s wild beauty had seemingly almost transformed into a backpacker’s resort and we were temporarily hoodwinked into thinking this would be a 10 day leisure cruise of a trek. And we were about to be humbled.