Horsing Around in the Cordillera Blanca

Horsing Around in the Cordillera Blanca

Frost, leftover from the cold, clear night still covers the ground in light layers, The sun is slowly rising over the top of Huamashraju , bringing warmth to the fields at the base of the Quebradas. The air is fresh and everyone is excited about the day trip to come. It is the first trip of the year after a long rainy season.

We have horses assigned and have been given a short, helpful talk about horse psychology, mannerisms and riding hints. Now we clean them, brush, saddle and adjustment the tack.. Lunches and extra equipment is stored in the saddle bags and off we go.

After the first 3 km we enter into the canyon leading to the Quebrada Cojup. The rushing river flows below us while the 5000 meters rock walls encase the windy road. We are met at the entrance by “Luis “,the gate keeper, with the key to let us in. He smiles his biggest toothless grin, and asks when he can come too! He comments on how big the horses are and compares them to the small ones of the area.

The trail hugs right of the river and slowly climbs up with occasional hints of the glaciers to come. An hour has passed and we are at the top of a small knoll and finally get a great view of the Nevado Palcaraju ahead and Nevado Ranrapalca towering on the left They are immense and rise over 6000 meters. They appear deceptively close but are actually still hours away.

The trail meanders downhill to the river valley and we need to find a crossing as the bridge is unsafe after the rain. No sooner than we cross over when we are surrounded by a herd of thin, seemingly wild horses, those that are used only 3 months of the year for the harvest. They are agitated but curious and the head stallion (missing parts of his ears, having been bitten in fights) takes small charges at us. Our guide and lead horse make a small display as if to chase him away and soon he backs off but watches us from a distance.

Lunch time comes and we stop and take off the tack, letting the horses graze and roll happily in the dirt, while we clamber up a rocky outcrop and catch the breathtaking view of Nevado Pucaranra on the right. Scrambling quietly, quickly below us are individual Viscachas (the rabbit / squirrel like creatures), finding the crumbs from the sandwiches. Off in the distance some in the group say they saw condors flying from the high cliff wall, however we are told that you normally see condors here at sunrise.

A small group of Campasinos pass by and we share our food with them… They have been looking for a lost calf and they tell us about a small group of Andean Deer they saw by the lake. They also warn us of a coming change in weather and that rain is likely within the next few hours. We decide to pack up and start the ride back leaving the distant glaciers for another day.

Energized, the horses canter over the grassy sections, surefooted and careful to not trip on the rocks that start to protrude from everywhere. The horses, Peruvian Pasos, are smooth to ride and one feels as if on air. This time we take a series of small trails, crossing streams back and forth, protecting our heads and bodies from getting caught in the overhanging branches. The sky is getting darker and the sun has gone behind the foreboding clouds, a crack of thunder in the air and still a ways to go.

Soon we can see the Cordillera Negra in the distance, letting us know that we are reaching the gate. Luis, lets us out and tells us to go quickly. As we leave the rain starts and we gallop the good stretches, the wind at our backs and arrive with moments to spare before the skies open up. Our sturdy steeds are cleaned and thanked and let out to pasture while we retreat for a sauna and a cold beer. It has been a great day!

For more information on horse rides
Diana Morris