Striking out from Huaraz a little later than our optimistic 6am start (ok, ok, it was 9. Happy?), Miri and I make our way across the morning chaos of downtown Huaraz to the combi stop which will take us to Yungay. A two-hour bumpy ride takes us to the bus station and a short wander around town links us up with a colectivo taxi rank that eventually pulls us up into the hills as Yungay sprawls below us. An indigenous woman with a pungent odour merrily bullshits with the driver in Quechua, leaving us both to do little more than stare out of the window into the face of the Cordillera Negra on the other side of the valley.
Dropped after a circuitous route at a junction on the way up to the national park entrance, we engage in a heated debate with our driver who has decided to increase the price of our ride. We decide to shed him a couple of kilometres short of our destination, and continue on foot as he rolls a sulky 3 point turn and bounces off down the track into town.
We’ve made a good decision; the shutter button on my camera is pushed to near melting point as we climb steadily through farmland overlooked by glacial peaks. Fragrant blue meadow-flowers wash us with their perfume and the sound of running water tickles our ears as the tidy zig-zag of irrigation ditches run through the fields above and below our path. The sun beats down on us and it feels like we are walking through a dream, a million miles away from anywhere despite leaving a bustling marker of civilization barely an hour ago.
Eventually our route winds its way to a junction at which we have no idea of the correct path, but the cogs of circumstance are running in our favour. A truck laden with wood appears shimmering in the heat and dust, shaking its way up towards the junction from the other direction. It is headed with building supplies to the very same place that we are searching for, Llanganuco Lodge, and the driver points us up the track before rattling off ahead and leaving us to lapse back into our day-dream as if nothing had happened.
The path curves and beyond the hill there’s an electric blue lake, Keushu, sitting in a baked mud hollow overlooked by swollen peaks. A quick scout of the area reveals Llaganuco Lodge, tucked behind the crest of a hill, and its amiable host Charlie Good accompanied by his gigantic and faithful hound, Shackleton. Before rushing off into town on an errand, Charlie introduces us to the surroundings and we pitch our tent behind one of the larger boulders that surround the lake. Pulling the already-tattered map from my bag, I begin flicking through pages that were emailed to me almost two months previous of climbing routes in this remote corner of Peru, eager to begin a bouldering campaign.