I arrived in Huaraz at 5.30am, in the pitch dark, only to be accosted by two other travellers (Dutch Sabina and Israeli Elad) asking where I was staying, so I very kindly offered them to join me at my remote mountain lodge. We arrived at the mountain lodge to hidden eye-rolling from the British owner, not just because we woke her up but because she didn’t want to take on any more reservations. The reason given was that they were closing for spring cleaning but closer to the truth is that her and her business partner and father of her child were breaking up and I can only imagine they were fighting over who gets the lodge.
Despite the initial awkwardness, we settled into the cave (a dorm built in a cave), admired the down duvets (which Elad called ‘flappy blankets’) and got comfy on the sofa with a cup of tea. Now I should describe Elad before I go any further, as he is the kind of chap who, well, requires an explanation. He is a 27-year-old Israeli who thinks Costa Rica is in Peru. He also has an excess of excess energy. The morning we arrived he danced around the garden, jumping on the wall and shouting about how great he felt. Then he promptly went hiking with Sabina. Now Sabina has been in Cusco for several days (3,310m altitude) so was fully acclimatised to the lodge’s 3,700m altitude. Elad arrived in sea-level Lima three days before. But not being a man of the world, he threw himself into an all-day, 1,000m-climb trek. Then promptly threw up the contents of his stomach all over the polished wooden floors of the lodge. I spent the night (he had chosen the bunk above me in an empty 11-bed dorm) wide awake with the fear he would puke on me. The next morning I moved to a bed on an entirely different floor. Elad is the kind of person who amuses you and annoys you in equal measure, which I didn’t know what to do with. He certainly provided entertainment at the lodge, anyway.
All of us guests (me, Elad and an English couple Sophie and Andy) took yoga classes with Deva, a volunteer there, which was pretty amusing for me. I got the giggles a lot and when a couple of French guys joined us I laughed even more. It was the long chant at the beginning of every session that got me the most though – collectively we sounded like an out-of-tune school assembly. Elad provided quite a bit of entertainment too – he mastered the bridge pose beautifully, except he was up on his toes instead of flat feet, so we all start shouting “heels down, heels down” until he finally said “ok, what is heels?” Then we were doing the move where you hold one foot out in front of you by your big toe. Elad promptly lost his balance, and still holding onto his big toe with his leg outstretched in front of him, tipped backwards and landed on the grass, still gripping the toe. Possibly entertaining but not on purpose, the best kind.
Throughout our stay I was Elad’s Spanish teacher, but we really only got as far as ‘Tengo 27 onions’ instead of ‘anos’ and how to barter on a room price. The rest of the time he sat around the lodge reciting words from ‘Learn Spanish In a Hurry’ only for them to drop straight out of his head.
Anyway, I spent most of my days lying around eating scones, rock cakes, brownies and apple crumble, drinking tea out of huge mugs, doing yoga, taking hot showers, sitting in the sauna, lying on the sofa in front of the fire, enjoying the spring-like weather and flushing toilet paper down the loo.
I was also stupidly excited about eating fresh, well-cooked broccoli and roast potatoes. Plus, I caught and killed my own trout on the last night, who was very delicious. The food at the lodge was incredible the whole time – breakfast of pancakes and fruit or eggs and toast was included in the £6.50 room rate (although I often added crispy bacon and homemade syrup to my pancakes, much to the obvious disgust of the cook), then they made us awesome sandwiches and soup for lunch, and we all sat down together every evening for a £6.50 three-course meal full of vegetables, and with homemade hot sauce, followed by freshly baked brownies on the first night, chocolate mousse on the second night, fruit salad on the third night and banana cake drizzled in melted chocolate and a hot chocolate on the fourth night.
I was really sad to say goodbye to the lodge and the awesome girls volunteering there. It had been such an amazing four days, hanging out in a lodge in the middle of snow-topped mountains, views of farms and glaciers in the same eyeline and the best food I’ve had in an long time, plus fresh mountain air (although lacking somewhat in oxygen) and the sound of birdsong all day.
Back in Hauraz, the mountain town half an hour away from the lodge and the base for all adventure activities, I met up with Hannes again, as well as an English girl who volunteers with local kids, playing with them, teaching them English and giving them basic skills for life. When she offered me and Hannes to join them I couldn’t say no, and put my Laguna 69 trek off by a couple of days. I have now been working with the kids for just two days but already it has been one of the best moments of my travels. The kids run up to you as you approach the meeting spot, give you a kiss on the cheek and say hola. They were so delightful and rewarding to spend time with it almost trivialises the experience to put it into words. Photos will have to make do. One thing I will say is kneeling in poo and having cactus juice thrown at me from above were not my greatest moments. Beats a day in front of a computer in Camden though.