A Weekend in the Andes at Llanganuco Lodge Peru
Part 2 of our weekend escape travel article on the Cordillera Blanca: read part 1 of our Llanganuco Lodge stay.
Traveler Tales: Gathering for dinner
Shortly after the sun had set over the Cordillera Negra, the amazing moon emerged over the opposite snow covered peaks, slowly creeping into the dark sky and illuminating the valley. Light pollution is relatively unknown to this remote area, and this gave us an unencumbered view of the celestial bodies that dominated the night sky. We convened in the candlelit lodge, joining our fellow guests, who gathered around the communal dining table or snuggled into the couches enjoying some locally brewed craft beers and sharing conversations about the day’s adventures, the forces that brought us to the lodge, and bits and pieces about our individual lives. When Lucho “rang the dinner bell,” we gathered together to enjoy yet another beer, some wine, and indulged ourselves in the delicious three-course meal that had been prepared with fresh and seasonal ingredients from the area. This nightly ritual was both an excellent way to unwind after our adventures and brought us closer to the people who shared our same magnetic draw to this particular spot in the Andes.
Meeting fellow hikers
We got to know many different types of people during such evenings, confirming all of the positive reviews speaking to Llanganuco Lodge’s variety of opportunities to adventure. During our first evening, we met the actual owners of the massive German tanker, a friendly middle-aged couple from Belgium who had taken over a year and half off from work to explore South America via their decked-out vehicle. After five years of planning their route and several years of outfitting their ex-military vehicle with a full kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, they transported themselves and their ride on board a large shipping vessel. Then there was the quirky, ovopescatarian couple from LA who were taking time off from their strenuous lives working in TV production to trek throughout Machu Picchu and the Andes. Advanced in wordly trekking knowledge and as former extreme hiking enthusiasts who conquered numerous peaks in Himalayas, the LA couple was looking to take on this new landscape at a more leisurely pace (although their definition of “leisurely” was not one that we would agree upon!). We also met a group of three lively women (who came equipped with their own deep supply of wine and pisco) to enjoy a weekend outside of Lima taking in the views of the mountains, the sunshine, and of course their beverages. These fashionably dressed novice hikers spent their days visiting the beautiful lakes, choosing taxi transportation for the bulk of each trip and casually strolling through the less strenuous trails. In the evenings, they graciously invited all of the other guests to share in their revelries and certainly added colorful and funny stories to our conversations.
We also spent a significant amount of time with a sweet lawyer couple named Wendy and Jorge, who returned to Llanganuco Lodge to rid themselves of the impurities that city life often carries. From previous experience at the lodge, they knew that Charlie would give them the extra push they needed to cleanse their bodies, and Charlie was more than happy to accommodate. With specially prepared meals, a planned trekking schedule, and a whole lot of support, Wendy and Jorge were in great hands throughout their trip. They also happened to be our hiking partners (along with Stef) for two of the three treks, and their positive attitudes and motivation were contagious. From working together to find a new path when the original was flooded to laughing and admitting that our entire group needed a break, we enjoyed each trek as a unit yet respected one another’s individual paces.
And then there were the former (and we emphasize former) athletes who recently relocated to Lima from the US. Novice hikers with youth on their side, and a snazzy new pair of hiking boots and backpacking bags to help transition into the trekking scene, they were anxious to explore outside the city and were recommended to Charlie’s Llanganuco lodge Peru as a perfect spot off the beaten path to embrace some of the natural wonders that Peru has to offer. Their most recent hike through the Appalachian Mountains topped out at a whopping 380 meter above sea level, and needless to say, their hiking experience would expand 4 times over with a matter of 4 days.
Preparing for hiking
Charlie plotted out a three-day plan for us the first evening following dinner and had us write down our order for our packed lunch the following day. In the morning, our routine consisted of a hearty plate of eggs and toast (with delicious strawberry jam on the side!), mate de coca, and some brief “stretching” in preparation for the journey that lay ahead. We would then fill up our massive water bottles, grab our hats and sunglasses (no, your tender skin with SPF 5 sunscreen will not withstand the harsh rays up here), pack our lunches into our bags, and rally up the troops, with Charlie and his faithful stallions leading the pack. Charlie escorted our group every day, giving us fascinating history and details of the flora around us, and departing when he felt confident that we would be able continue on our own.
Read about the best Cordillera Blanca day hikes with a five day itinerary staying at Llanganuco Lodge
Huascaran National Park
The first day, we departed from the lodge heading towards Huascaran National Park. We ventured along a manmade stream, channeling water into the farms and homes below, until we reached the gated entrance to the park. We paid the miniscule fee, got our tickets, and headed down a narrow, woody path that snaked down through the pass, dwarfed by the massive cliffs of the mountain range that flanked us. One by one, we made our way along this ancient trail, ascending upwards with a stream flowing alongside our path, lined with gnarly polylepis trees with their flaky, red bark scattered about. We stopped several times to admire the rapids and waterfalls as we traversed the stone steps, wondering about the people who placed them there and fascinated by the thought that we were taking part in a centuries old journey. Four hours of trekking and a final steep climb later, we emerged from the forest. We forgot about our fatigued legs, the visiting tourists, and the chill of the mountain air as we stood taking in the beautiful scene before us; the pristine aquamarine hue of the lake against the mountain range and snow-covered peaks was like something out of a blissful dream.
Ice of Huandoy
We embarked on our second trek with Wendy, Jorge, and Stef, leaving the lodge and passing the nearby lake on our journey towards the infamous ice of Huandoy. We were warned of the potential danger of getting too close to the glacier, as years prior, several men had been crushed from huge slabs of falling ice. Well aware of the risk, we journeyed onwards and upwards, again following a strongly flowing stream and distracted by the amount of giant hummingbirds zipping and swooping across the path. Their chirping was relentless, and each time we attempted to snap a quick photo of one, it disappeared, remaining elusive to our camera again and again. Further up the trail, a massive bird (which we initially believed was a condor, but were later informed otherwise) soared through the air above us, diving towards the treeline and swooping majestically upwards again in what appeared to be a private performance. As we ventured closer to the ice, our bodies were becoming tired, and we were faced with choosing which of the unlimited number of trail options we would take. Each taking what we believed to be the least strenuous route, we pushed on, only to turn and find a group of local men effortlessly maneuvering up the steep incline and loose stones to the ice, where they cut out huge slabs, wrapped them up, and began their descent all before we even reached the top. It was time for a snack. As one would naturally expect, the weather was much chillier closer to the ice, and shortly after we reached some large flat stones (directly below the frozen lake), we bundled up and enjoyed our lunches. Our rocky perch gave us incredible panoramic views of the icy peaks directly above and a tumbling waterfall that flowed through the jagged rock face. We decided to begin our descent as storm clouds rolled in, and halfway through our journey back, we were faced with the task of finding a new path when we discovered our original one had flooded. Tired in both body and mind, we were eager to return to the lodge, some hoping for a hot shower, others for a nap in a hammock, and others still for a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice. Our day held one more wonderful surprise: as we approached the ridgeline leading down to lodge, we were rewarded with a unique overhead view of the Keushu Lake.
We woke up on our final morning in Llanganuco Lodge Peru, sore from our treks and fatigued from the altitude. Having to catch a bus later that evening, we contemplating hanging around the lodge all-day, relaxing in the hammocks and basking in as much sunlight as possible before returning to winter cloudy of Lima. Our hiking partners the past two days bailed on our plans to visit Laguna 69, and this was a common sentiment. However, Charlie wouldn’t allow this to be our decision as well and insisted we must visit the breathtaking lake before our departure. The couple from LA also lent some motivation, telling us it was the highlight of their entire Peruvian trip. With this in mind, we decided to suck it up and head out on what would prove to be our most difficult and rewarding trip thus far. We hopped in a cab that brought us back into the Huascaran National Park and up a long, winding, and bumpy road beyond the lake we trekked to on our first day before reaching our drop-off point. From there we would begin our 3+ hour journey to the glacial lake, along with the bus full of tourists who despite their old age and what appeared to be a lack of physical fitness, made it to the lake and back before we could. Our journey was easily the toughest trekking that we had ever experienced (comparisons to college soccer pre-season training often came to mind), although the terrain was the most multifaceted and captivating to say the least. We eased into the trek meandering through a nearly-flat valley, where we encountered mangled trees, large grassy clearings and even more giant hummingbirds. As we approached the mountain face, cascading waterfalls flowed on either side, and we began the first challenging part of our journey. The trail wound back and forth across the steep face, which was thick with brush and fluffy grazing cows popping up from beneath the trees and grass. Again we faced fatigue, but we clambered on.
People passed us along the way, but one man in particular approached us directly, perhaps for our obvious Laguna 69 “newbies” status. He instructed us that we were just about halfway, and if we continued at a steady pace, we would make it before 1:00 PM. Skeptical, our eyes immediately shot to his wrist, where a large, digital watch was strapped, a symbol of his trustworthiness. (Charlie had warned us from Day One to not trust the advice of anyone – especially a local – without a timepiece, as they often do not know how long it took to climb to the top, and if they do actually know, the adaptation of their lungs and legs may very well far exceed your own.) With a thank you, a wave, and a newfound hope in our hearts, we rallied on.
Arriving at the glacial lake
We reached a small pond and a large clearing completely surrounded by the majestic mountain peaks. Small groups were scattered throughout the grass, taking time to rest their legs, but we noticed the signpost pointing the way and proceeded onward. The final challenge on our trip was the longest, steepest stretch of trail, and it was intimidating to say the least. Our calves burned and our legs screamed for a break, and we granted them often, stopping to catch our breath and to provide words of encouragement. As we looked down through to the valley, we realized that we had overlooked the ancient stone building that lay in the grass and made a note not to make the same mistake twice when we headed back. Just about 45 minutes after we began this final climb, we reached a flat rocky trail that lead to what appeared to be the base of the peak. As we got closer, all of the exhaustion melted away…we had reached Laguna 69.
Review of Llanganuco Lodge Peru
Despite the mental and physical difficulty of the treks, our time at Llanganuco Lodge and in its “backyard” was among the coolest and most unique vacations we had ever experienced together. We must give credit where credit is due, and Charlie’s personality and the atmosphere that he has created in this amazing mountain getaway deserves to be recognized, and more importantly, experienced. It is a rare occurrence to find someone who lives and breathes his or her work, and Charlie’s dedication and passion are reflected in his lodge and how he treats his guests, making the mantra “come as a guest leave as a friend” truer than ever. We highly recommend taking time to visit the Cordillera Blanca, especially the Llanganuco Lodge during a visit to Peru. Despite its location off the beaten path and with many other more popular options in Peru, Llanganuco Lodge is perfect for adventurers of all types looking for a unique and personalized experience in the Andes.
Best Lodges in the Cordillera Blanca
Interested in Llanganuco Mountain Lodge? You might also want to consider Churup Mountain Lodge or Lazy Dog Inn for cozy lodges to base yourself for day hikes. Cuesta Serena is a more comfortable alternative, though we prefer the location of the likes of Llanganuco Lodge Peru.
Cordiller Blanca Itinerary
Check out Aracari’s five day / four night Cordillera Blanca trekking itinerary staying at Llanganuco Mountain Lodge and taking day hikes in the region.
Interested in staying at Llanganuco Mountain Lodge or trekking in the Cordillera Blanca? Contact us today to speak to an expert travel consultant for travel advice and information.