Wednesday, June 5, 2013

La Casa de Charlie, hosted by Dirk

A place with a view. I am a sucker for a place with a view. I am also a sucker for places with five star ratings on Trip Advisor.

View from our room
Mountains surrounding the lodge

Valley surrounding the lodge
La Casa de Charlie, formally know as Llanganuco Mountain Lodge was an incredible getaway about two hours north of Huaraz.  Charlie is very involved in the community and upon arrival (and throughout our stay there) many locals (taxi drivers, park officials) referred to the lodge simply as La Casa de Charlie (which we welcomed- try to say Llanganuco quickly:)).

That being said, Charlie was not there during our stay. Instead we were welcomed by Dirk, our host, originally from Amsterdam, who decided that his life and job were boring (he managed the Data Center for Deloitte & Touche) and packed his bags and landed in Peru.  He is good friends with Charlie and we were the first guests that he had on his own from beginning to end as manager of the Lodge. 

Teatime with Dirk upon arrival

One might ask how this all fits into our budget...
The amazing thing about (most of) the countries we are visiting is that it is relatively cheap to eat and stay at most places. We 'balance' this out by finding unique, special, and well reviewed places to stay for a few nights.  It is amazing how this can be pretty easily absorbed into our costs for each country. Not to mention that what you can get for $100 in Peru far supersedes that which we would be able to do in the States (please don't disagree with me here, Charles is thus far on board...). 

The lodge is quite small. There are only four rooms total and we were the only guests on our first night. On our second night we were joined by Ellen and Frank, who currently live in St. Louis though Frank is originally from Peru.  All meals are included and the lodge is situated close to the Huascaran National Park and with many hiking destinations right out the door.

Here is a quick overview of the hikes we did during our time there:

Day 1 (upon arrival): Lake and Keushu Ruins

Not 5 minutes from the lodge is this beautiful lake and ruins of an old village (and when I say old, I mean old, supposedly dating from 3000BC).  Dirk was nice enough to walk with us around the lake and show us around. And we took the lodge mascots- three huge dogs- Dino, Jack and Max.

Day 2: Llanaganuco Lake

One thing we will give to Charlie is he is an expert on directions (and you know how critical that is for us). Each hike was accompanied by 1-2 page description of directions and descriptions of any areas of interest  along the hike.  Not only that, but on the hikes close to the lodge Dirk was nice enough to walk with us for the first 30-60 minutes to make sure we stayed on track.

For the Llanaganuco Lake hike, Charlie directed (and Dirk walked) us to the ranger station.  From there the recommendation was to try to catch a taxi or collectivo up to the lake and then walk back.  The walk up to the lake was only recommended to those "well acclimated and with previous trekking experience".  Now, I was on board with this hitching a taxi thing until the first three cars we asked said 'no' (either full or private shuttles). We took a risk on Charlie's warning and walked up to the lake.  It was a 2 hour walk with little elevation gain so I am glad we didn't take Charlie's warning too seriously. Overall, one of the easiest and one of my favorite day hikes (coincidentally that hardest day hike we took was also the first- was that a test?).



Day 3: Huandoy Ice Falls

Right out the door, this hike was a bit harder than the previous day, namely because we gained a decent amount of elevation and were walking on rocky old mule trails for a good part of the hike.  The local villagers visit this site as well to scrape ice off that has fallen from the glacier to take it make ice cream (yep, that's them in the second picture- that is a lot of love for ice cream)

Yes, who doesn't want some mayo with their chips? Really?!

Day 4: Laguna 69
We had been told that this is one of the highlights or trekking in the area and indeed it was. Despite the hail we encountered as we neared the top, this was one of the nicest and most beautiful hikes of the trip.

Overall, La Casa de Dirk is a pretty incredible spot and we highly recommend it if you are looking for a beautiful place to explore and relax.  The food was great (my favorite meal in Peru on night two- squash soup, yellow curry with quinoa and bread pudding for dessert- amazing!), gracious host and company, and simply a spectacular spot.  Thanks Charlie and Dirk and Ellen and Frank!

Hoping for more great Tripadvisor finds to come soon!

And some closing sunsets from Charles...






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