Pastoruri Glacier: 5050m above sea level and melting fast.

Pastoruri is the only glacier of the 700 or so glaciers in Huascaran National Park accessible by car. This coupled with the fact you only have to walk an easy 3kms to bask in it’s glory, makes for a really low impact, and cheap day tour to break up the more difficult treks. It’s also a great alternative if you are unable to hike or mountain bike but still want a taste of the Cordillera Blanca.

We booked this tour through an agency on the main street in Huaraz called “Ganesa”. You’ll find it located at the top of some stairs.
This company was recommended by another guy we met in our homestay and we found them to be OK, unfortunately there are some bad reports about these guys online (which I have only just seen) but to be honest I think all companies just throw their passengers on the same buses, especially in the low season. So it doesn’t make much difference who you book it with.

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The amazing view on the drive up to Pastoruri

 

We paid our 35 soles and were told to meet back at the agency at 9am. When we arrived we were led to another agency to collect one other guy, then led down to the main pick up point and loaded onto a bus. The bus then drove around the town, stopped at one hotel but no one came out so we did another lap and ended our wild goose chase back at the main stop, 45 minutes later, where they filled the bus with the other eager explorers.

10am we were finally on the road! 20 minutes into the drive we stopped to meet up with all of the other tour buses at a small (and rather expensive) restaurant to pre-order our lunch and have a wee cup of tea. We packed our own lunch so just milled about and went to the loo.

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Puya Raimondi

The drive into Huascaran National Park is lovely, we stopped along the way to take photos of the not wildly exciting “7 colour lake”, and the gigantic and rare Puya Raimondi. These are giant bromeliads from the pineapple family and people love to have their photos taken with them! They do look quite odd sticking out above the landscape.

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The poor old horses

Next stop was the Pastoruri Glacier, when you arrive you will have the opportunity to hire gumboots and big coats, just incase you are under prepared for the weather. You also have the option to take a horse for 15 soles, this seems crazy to me as the walk is completely paved and very easy. We saw one lazy couple go for this option, we beat them up [to the glacier] and they had to walk the last Km anyway!

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You can walk right up and touch it, and standing at the foot of it, it towers over you

Our 1st thoughts upon seeing the glacier… we were really impressed with its overbearing mass, and with the way the view only got better with each step. It’s around 8kms square in size and about 4kms long. Having been to Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in New Zealand we both felt this one had more of a wow factor.

 

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A shrinking beauty

Unfortunately Pastoruri can no longer be technically classed as a glacier, purely based on the fact that the ice doesn’t build up in the winter and melt in the summer anymore… It just melts. It’s lost 22% of its size and 15.5% of its ice mass in the last 30 years, and despite efforts to stop the shrinkage its on an irreversible path of loss.

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Sleet on my new convertible mittens

We thought Pastoruri was beautiful and well worth the drive. Unfortunately it started sleeting while we were there so we didn’t hang about too long. On the bright side, my 6 sole, alpaca convertible mittens paid for themselves!

You also get the opportunity to take a look at the bubbling water of the Pumapampa mineral springs, we did this on the way back but it was raining, and I was freezing, so I stayed in the van. I don’t feel like I missed out on much, it was a tiny little fountain bubbling through the surface of the lake.

Around 4pm you make it back to the restaurant to enjoy your overpriced lunch. Because we had already eaten we would have been waiting around for everyone else, in the freeezing cold, just to get a ride home.. Well, I was not having a bar of that! So I used my best whingey voice to convince Steve to jump in a colectivo with me and head straight back to Huaraz instead of waiting around.

This ended up being a real treat. We got to sit in the front passenger seat and went the scenic route back through Recuay which is a really pretty little town – even in the rain! We later found out it was one of the few entire villages in the Ancash region to survive the 1970 earthquake.
I shared my chocolate with the driver but still ended up at the standard paradero (bus stop) which was 2kms from our homestay. Due to the rain we splashed out and took a moto taxi for 2 soles. We have ridden in plenty of these, but in Huaraz the body kits are made of metal instead of canvas, so you feel like you are in a little toy car! Every driver has his own colourful style and the one we ended up in had lovely stickers with bible quotes in Spanish to help us with our language study.

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Porque nada hay imposible para Dios!

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