Trip Report: Lares Valley Trek (Day 2): Lakes, Waterfalls and Hot Springs

I awoke to the sound of our cook staff offering “Café. Coca tea?” to the others in my group. When they reached my tent I opted for tea. I’m not much of an instant coffee gal. I sipped it in my sleeping bag while I mustered up the courage to bare the bite of morning Andean air. It was only day two of the Lares Valley trek and already I was worshiping the sun.

Tip: Sleeping with tomorrow’s clothes in your bag makes the morning change much more pleasant.

I loaded up my daypack and headed to the dining tent to refill my mug, leaving my empty tent for our crew to take down. The mornings are when I realized just how luxurious trekking with an outfitter is … someone to put up and take down my tent, no heavy loads, waking up to a warm beverage and hot water to wash with, breakfast waiting… I could get use this!

Breakfast consisted of fruit, yogurt and cornflakes. My favorite!  Our guide also brought his own instant oatmeal to share.  To me, the breakfasts were filling. But if you’re used to mowing down in the morning – like our guide, who was our very own leftovers disposal, you might consider bringing your own instant something. Hot water is always available.

Views of Pitusiray snowcapped in the distance

Our day unfolded to sunny, clear skies and full views of Pitusiray snowcapped in the distance. Away from the road, we said goodbye to the small village of Quishuarani, and headed onward towards today’s looming 4450 m pass. We had the support of 2 horses – one for some of the extra day gear and another free for the weary.

In all it took us 6 hours to make it to lunch. Horse # 2 got some good action from Ann – a 68-year-old horse-lover at heart who was still feeling the altitude. The hike typically takes around 4 hours. But for 2 in their late 60’s and early 70’s I thought we cruised along at a nice steady pace. The glacial blue lakes and small waterfalls also made the hike pass by.

Part of what makes this trek so stunning are the sweeping views of the valley. The barren landscape hides nothing.  As we climbed, John explained that the valley used to have plenty of Polyepolis trees, but many of the local communities used up all the trees for firewood, wiping out most of the native trees and bird species that inhabited them.  As we climbed over the pass we spot a cluster of young trees and learn that Amazonas Explorer has been teaming up with the NGO Ecoan Peru for the past few years to bring back the native trees.  The trees we see are from their efforts. I later learned that they’ve planted over 64,000 trees as of 2010.

Lunch was on another futbol field next to the brightly colored school in the small village of Cuncani. Locals again greeted us with a display of their handcrafts. We took a short siesta out in the open where we could bask in the sun and let the murmur of the nearby creek wash over the morning’s journey.

Daylight was of the essence, so we opted to take the van down to camp (though often you will have option to hike this portion).  After camp was set up, we piled in the van and headed to the Lares Hot Springs for a well-deserved evening soak.

Dinner was ready by the time we got back into camp. Everyone retreated to their tents not long after. Sleep came quickly and with the exception of a mid-night dog fight, I slept soundly until morning.