FROM: Mompiche, Ecuador

Have I mentioned I got attacked by a pack of dogs? It must have slipped my mind.

It happened my first day in Huaraz, which was essentially the first day of this whole experience. On the recommendation of the hostel manager, I went on an acclimatization hike to Laguna Wilcacocha to get used to the altitude. Not even half a mile in, I rounded a corner and saw a local woman and her very young daughter watching a herd of sheep from the bank of a creek that crossed the trail.

As I approached, two dogs jumped up from in front of her and start barking their heads off at me. For those who haven’t been to Peru, the guide books are littered with warnings about stray dogs. They’re everywhere in the cities and apparently can get out of hand. I’d read those warnings and knew well that you’re supposed to keep them at bay by throwing rocks.

The Cordillera Negra

The Cordillera Negra

As these two got closer, I was complacent because they weren’t strays. They were clearly this lady’s dogs. I kept my pace and acted like I owned the place. It was, after all, just two loud, but not large, dogs.

Next thing I know, four more dogs come flying down the mountain-side to the left of the trail right at me. That’s when I started thinking maybe it was time for some stones. I leaned down to grab some and, as I did, saw four more hell hounds came charging up at me from the slope on the right side of the trail.

Suddenly, I was totally surrounded by ten dogs, each of which was going absolutely nuts. I figured I could handle nine but double digits seemed like a bit much. I didn’t want to be crouched over searching for stones with that many dogs surrounding me so I stood up as big as possible and tried to let them know who was boss, mostly by yelling my head off and throwing out a few swift kicks.

Next thing I knew, I felt a sharp pain in back of my calf, near the knee.

Oh, shit. I got bit. Maybe I’ve watched too much Shark Week, but it hit me that that bite could open the door to a feeding frenzy. Maybe it was time to get a little concerned.

Laguna Wilcacocha and the Cordillera Blanca

Laguna Wilcacocha and the Cordillera Blanca

Luckily, it was not to be. The lady, who’d been more interested in her sheep than me until now, did me a solid and started flinging rocks into the middle of the pack. That did the trick and I was out the other side.

Except now I was on the far side of the mountain with blood gushing down my leg and the pack of dogs between me and the trailhead. I had to decide whether to douse it with water and hand sanitizer and continue the hike or head back and clean it properly.

The decision was probably harder than it should have been, but I bagged the hike. After wading through the dogs again, this time with a fistfull of stones at the ready, I made it back to Huaraz and got cleaned up.

A more harmless pack of dogs enjoying the view.

A friendlier pack of enjoying the view after a fun hike

Of course, the next day I headed right back to Laguna Wilcacocha with reinforcements in tow. Not only were we not attacked, but we had our own 4-strong pooch escort the entire hike.

It definitely made for an auspicious start to this whole 7Trails adventure.

PS – Sorry, Mom. I figured I’d let this little story age a little before I passed it along. The foaming at the mouth has mostly died down, anyway.

A Wild Night on Chimborazo
Shrunken Heads and Spit-Roasted Guinea Pigs