Apart from the fun of getting there, and the donkey thing in the morning, day 1 of the Santa Cruz hike was basically just a lot of walking. Most of it gentle uphill, through the Santa Cruz river valley. Most of it alone — although I had company here and there. And most of it very scenic, and very beautiful indeed (fine weather was a blessing as well).
View of the start of the Santa Cruz river valley.
Had lunch by the river, at a little grassy spot, with some Dutch people.
Further into the valley, towards the afternoon.
Llamacorral, the first night’s campsite.
The first day of a hike is always a bit hard, because you're getting back into it and you're feeling lazy. For me, it was very much like this today, because of my heavy backpack, and because of the constant (even if mainly gentle) uphill climbing through the valley. So it felt pretty good when I made it to Llamacorral, the first campsite of the expedition, by about 4pm. I had a very pleasant surprise, when I found a tiny shop set up at Llamacorral, where I was able to buy a bottle of Coke. I was feeling hot, sweaty, and extremely tired: so a sugar-filled, caffeine-rich, ice-cold Coke was about as close to paradise as anything I could have found right then!
It’s not much, but it’s home: my little dark, blue-green tent.
Didn't have too many nasty surprises when I set up camp this evening — but there were a few. Firstly, it turns out that my tent doesn't have any pegs! Stupid Sechin Tours people forgot to put them in the bag. So I'm going to have to put heavy rocks in the corners of the tent, to stop it from blowing away each night. And secondly, I realised that my little hired pot doesn't have a lid; and that there's no way I can boil ice-cold river water — in these cold and high-altitude conditions — without one. Fortunately, my special plastic-resin bowl fits perfectly over the top of the pot, so that will do fine as a lid.
Got my camp set up nice and early this evening, and then got into the task of cooking dinner. For my first night, I feasted on some boiled pasta, mixed with canned peas and a packet of mix-in chili sauce. Using the river water for cooking seemed to be fine — I think it's relatively clean anyway, being mountain water, and 10 minutes of boiling should have killed off any and all bugs in it — and the river was also extremely handy for washing-up, and for teeth-brushing.
Also, piece of advice for anyone going camping: make sure you bring Zip-lock plastic bags. They're a life saver! I've already started using them for anything and everything, and I have a feeling that they're going to come in extremely handy, each and every day of this expedition. Bringing candles was a good idea as well: once it gets dark, you need to make your own light; and it's better to conserve ye 'ol head-torch battery whenever possible, as the light from the head-torch is something way too useful to be wasted unnecessarily.
Anyway, there wasn't much to keep me entertained, once it was evening and I'd finished dinner — what with it being dark, and cold, and all — so I hopped into the tent, and went to sleep, at the ridiculously early hour of 8pm. And slept like a log, until the sun woke me up the next morning. Great start to the trip: hope the rest is just as good!