The main airport into Peru is at the capital Lima and this was my destination. Lima's quite a distance from the Cordillera Blanca, or the gateway town Huaraz and transport to Huaraz is either a 50minute internal flight or an 8 hour bus ride. I checked out the internal flight and there's one a day - trouble is it leaves 3 hours and fifteen minutes from our scheduled arrival, and with a 2hour check-in requirement this was looking tight - but if I caught the flight it would save a full day plus overnight in Lima waiting for the following days flight. I decided to book it and hope nothing went wrong.
I would arrive in Lima at 5.25am, with time difference it would 'feel' like 11.25am.
Tuesday 19th August - Home to Huaraz, the gateway town
Left home at 13.00 heading for Newcastle airport where I boarded the 15.50 BA flight to Heathrow. I arrived on time but my 18.10 connecting flight to Madrid left about an hour late - but seemed to get to Madrid on time. Had a quick meal in Madrid airport waiting for my departure time of 00.30 (11.30pm UK time). Got on board - flight was on time, fell asleep immediately. Woke up for first in flight meal then fell asleep again. Woke up a few hours later and cabin was in night mode, watched a movie, sleep again, then woke up 90 minutes before landing - breakfast etc.. Madrid - Lima flight was 12 hours.
Wednesday 20th August
We were due to arrive at 5.25am local time which would have been 3hrs 15minutes before the internal flight. We landed 20 minutes late but got through immigration quite quickly but I started sweating at the luggage carousel - it seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time to get our luggage off the plane. The 2 hours threshold before the internal flight took off was almost upon us when my pack finally made an appearance. I had completed the customs paperwork on the plane but my pack still needed to be x-rayed. There were no issues and I rushed round the terminal building to the departure check-in desks. There were queues everywhere - except the LCPeru desk where I was due to check-in.
I made it. The plane to Huaraz is a turbo prop which left on time at 8.30am. The weather in Lima was pretty grim, the sky was a featureless off-white and there was a haze in the air. We landed at Huaraz airport at 9.50am. The airport is small and we quickly got through it - outside there were taxis waiting a single ride into Huaraz was going to cost 65 Soles (about £14) but the taxi driver rustled up a few more passengers and charged us 40 soles each. The drive took about half an hour - longer than expected - I arrived at the Hotel San Sebastian at about 10.45am. Total time about 28 hours.
Friday 22nd August - Huaraz to the start of the trek
I gave myself a few days to acclimatise in Huaraz, which was also an opportunity to sort out food and fuel for the trek. The first night in the hotel was terrible - thick head, vomiting and generally feeling lousy - this was the sudden change in altitude, after 24 hours in Huaraz though I was feeling good again.
The start of the trek is in the small hamlet of Hualcayan, to which there's no public transport, you can get to Caraz very cheaply via the Colectivos but then its another Colectivo to Cashapampa and a long walk or taxi to Hualcayan. The guide estimates 100 soles (£20) for a taxi for the last section but I was quoted just 200 soles for the whole journey. I decided to take the taxi all the way as it was not much more and it would be quicker and less hassle.
I set off at 8.30am but didn't get dropped off till 11.30am, I hadn't reckoned with the poor quality of the road once off the main drag, the taxi driver did a great job in a vehicle not designed for it. By this time I'd realised how early it got dark and that I would struggle to make my first campsite, even if I set off straight away, it made more sense to use this to further acclimatise and I camped just outside Hualcayan before starting the trek the next day.
The trek finishes at Cashapampa and I arrived there at 1.45pm on Friday the 29th August. After a well deserved beer and chat I arranged a taxi to Caraz which left at 14.30 and arrived at the Colectivo station just after 3pm. This cost me 150 soles (about £30), the Colectivo trip from Caraz to Huaraz was an hour and a half and the cost was 6 soles (about £1.50) - something wrong there. I arrived back at the hotel at 16.45pm.
I had already decided to take the long bus ride from Huaraz back to Lima as I would at least see the countryside and I almost booked it for the following day - unsure as to whether I could get flights booked etc I decided to give my self an extra day in Huaraz to get organised.
I have monumental hassle getting a return flight booked, the key issue was my bank stopped both my credit and debit cards and required that I contact them by phone to get them reinstated. This I couldn't do because of the menu driven call handling anywhere that I rang! After getting most of my family involved my wife finally got me a flight home. I booked a Hotel in Lima and the bus.
Sunday 31st August - Huaraz to Lima
I got the lunchtime departure from Huaraz which arrived in Lima at about 8pm. To be honest the trip did not fulfill expectations, the route from the mountains to the coast was very monotonous and once we reached the coast the environment is very drab, with a dreary mist and low cloud hanging over everything it was good to arrive in the city. The guidebook will tell you to be very wary of taxi drivers in Lima - they are unregulated and its apparently not uncommon for tourists to be robbed and dropped in the middle of nowhere. I don't normally bother too much as I'm a big bloke but the manager of the Huaraz bus depot was very particular to make sure I knew which of the two stops to get off at for where I was going, and to look for taxi drivers with company identification.
On the bus I got talking to a couple who looked a bit concerned when I said I was relying on a taxi to get me from the bus station to my hotel in Lima - so I guessed the threat was real enough.
Monday 1st September - Lima to Home
The taxi ride to the airport from my Hotel in Miraflores took about an hour in the city traffic, I booked in for my flight which left on time at 13.39pm. The route was Lima - Panama - Amsterdam Schipol - Newcastle.
I arrived in Panama at 17.20in time for the flight to Amsterdam at 19.05 - due to arrive at 12.30 the next day - an ideal night flight that I would sleep through most of the time. Four hours in Schipol was a bit of a pain but at 16.30 we left for Newcastle, arriving at 16.50 local time. The journey home from my hotel in Lima had taken about 24 hours.