Thursday, April 12, 2012

29th Birthday/Semana Santa (Holy Week)

To celebrate my 29th, I organized a camping trip to take advantage of our vacation days that are given to us for Semana Santa (Easter Week/Pass Over). It started off as a simple trip with a few of the guys, but quickly spiraled into a circus of 14 of us, most of whom had little to no backpacking experience trying to get over a 15,000ft pass. Talk about a lot of unwanted stress landing on the birthday boy.

Fortunately, I can say the trip was a success (10 of 14 campers made it out alive, that's 100% of 10... which in my book is great). In reality everyone made it out alive, but we weren't able to go over the pass. Weather, lack of preparedness and stamina, and being content at our first camp prevented me from pushing us to go over the pass. I'm sure a forced march of 2,100 more feet in elevation, would have broke most of us, and painted me a cruel task-master (significantly impacting the amount of birthday drinks bought for me later in the week... I'm always thinking of others).

I was happy with the overall trip. We made it to the town of Yanama (a spectacular drive) and hiked a solid 3 hours up to near 13,000 feet. We slept in tents in a cow pasture near two glacial lakes, and were continuously entertained by the sights and sounds of a nearby glacier calving across the valley. As always, the pictures don't do it justice, but let me try:

The Fearful Leader getting the crew from our first combi, to our next combi.

All our gear piled onto the second combi.
Jeff taking advantage of "shotgun" during our drive to Yanama. 

The crew taking a pit stop to look over the Llanganuco Valley. 

Our combi at the pitstop.
Entering Parque Huascaran
Zack chasing cows in the park.

Chris on the rocky stretch. 

L to R: Nick, Jeff, and Kyle taking a breather. 

My pack next to a gate where we rested. 

L to R: Me, Keren, Kerry, and Jeff in the tents, out of the rain. 

Our Peace Corps Peru 17 Blue Grass Band: Big Bean and the Belly Button Band. L to R: Keren, Jeff, Kyle (Big Bean), Zack, and Matt. 

Me walking through and old growth Quinal stand. 

This guy and his partner came up to cut ice off the glacier to sell for shaved ice drinks. He asked me to boil him some water, which I did and gave it to him in my water bottle... which when he returned reeked of booze. I guess you gotta stay warm some how. 

Looking down onto our camp. 

My tentmates and I; Nick (from Ohio) and Amanda (from Oregon/Idaho). 

Big Bean and the Belly Button Band gives a live concert in front of the lake. 

Looking up at the glacier... the camera has a good zoom, I wasn't this close. 

The lower lake. Hard to get to, but very pretty.

Me next to a fallen giant. 

Katie on the trail home. 

They gave me a "birthday mango" on the morning of my big day. 

Me, Ali, and Keren after they did a "naked puddle squat"... a less popular version of a naked lake jump.

Artistic shot through a window of an abandoned campo house. 

We made it!!! This is when I began to deny all responsibility. 
And when we made it back to the capital, we rightfully went out to celebrate. I've got great friends here, and they treated me like a king. As proof take a look of this video of a birthday song the Belly Button Band sang me in the bar (one of the best birthday gifts ever, and very catchy):