Today was an extremely lazy day. After breakfast, which took even longer than usual as Maruja had to go and buy the tomatoes to put in my scrambled eggs, I pottered in my room in the morning, catching up with various things on the internet, and then caught a collectivo into town. This was relatively quiet as it was Sunday. Guilf had told me of a festival somewhere around, but I decided not to go to it as it was quite late by the time I set off.
Instead, I found a cafe for lunch and then strolled up to the plaza where I ended up sitting on a park bench for well over an hour. This is the centre of activity on a Sunday afternoon and I never feel out of place just sitting and watching as so many other people are doing exactly the same.
I was joined on my bench by 3 ladies and a small boy, who was playing with a squeaky ‘ball’. It transpired that the three were sisters and we had a very limited conversation with their small amount of English and my very small amount of Spanish! The little boy, who was 3, was quite amusing as he had obviously been watching football and was trying to do all the tricky foot moves around the ball. There were occasions when he fell over his own feet and also managed to hit me with the ball, not having honed his motor skills to the finest degree as yet!
Eventually, I took my leave and walked to the Movil tour bus depot to buy my ticket to Lima for tomorrow. After that, I decided to walk back to the Casa as it was such a beautiful evening and I needed a bit more exercise. However, the walk was fairly unpleasant as it was along a busy road so I was quite relieved to arrive back at the corner store where I bought a very large bottle of beer (there being no small ones), and some bread and adjourned to my room for consumption. When I looked out my window, the sun was reflecting off Mount Huascaran, which is the highest mountain in Peru and the second most difficult mountain in the world to climb, apparently. It was very beautiful and a fitting end to my stay in Huaraz.
The alarm went off at 4.30am and I had to think for a minute as to why this would be. I still lingered, reluctant to get up. However, there was no avoiding it, so up I got, dressed and went downstairs where breakfast was waiting. (This was the fastest breakfast I had during the whole time I stayed there!)
No sooner was that finished, than it was off to collect my bag, put on my boots and out the door to meet the bus at the end of the street. When it arrived, I discovered it was the same guide as yesterday and the bus was already full of young people, including Koreans, Germans, Canadians and Australians.
We travelled as far as Yungay before turning off onto a gravel road and driving up and up and up. After about 2 1/2 hours, we stopped for breakfast. Having had mine earlier, I decided just to have a much needed coffee, which, as usual, was instant with evaporated milk. Yum……! Half an hour later, we continued on into the Huascaran Park, where the weather slowly deteriorated.
On arrival at our start point for the walk, it was looking a little ominous. However, whilst the rain threatened all day, we actually had very little. It was just a shame that the mountain tops were obliterated by cloud most of the time.
The walk was spectacular and took us first along a flat plain and then ascended up a zig zag path, passed waterfalls, cows, flora and fauna and various small lakes. The pattern then repeated itself – flat plain, zig zag path, onwards and upwards. At one point, I couldn’t see anybody else at all and it was wonderful to be completely alone with mountains surrounding me. It was also very hard going at times, principally because of the altitude. We started walking at 3,900 metres and finished at 4,500 metres. Needless to say, I acquired a headache without too much trouble, which I kept at bay using ibuprofen. Even so, by the time I returned to the bus 7 hours later, it was throbbing.
However, the pain was worth it as, when I arrived at Laguna 69, I was impressed and, coming from NZ, I am not easily impressed, as we have so much spectacular scenery there. The lake, fed by a glacier, was a magnificent turquoise with sheer black and grey scree surrounds. It was topped by very high, snow capped mountains, which appeared, as if by magic, when the sun miraculously shone whilst I was having lunch. It was the only sun we saw all day so couldn’t have been more timely. It was impossible to capture the splendour in any photographs.
I sat for as long as I could, admiring the view. As we had all walked at our own pace, many of the young ones were starting their return to the bus when I arrived as they had got cold. I’m pleased to say, though, that I was not the slowest as some of the Korean ladies were a considerable way behind me. One or two of that nationality were also decidedly not appropriately attired, with one chap, who must have had wet feet the entire way, wearing canvas slip on shoes and another lady carrying a handbag. It was most definitely a hiking boot type of walk!
This friendly cow followed me up the track
Down on the flat land
Looking towards a glacier and down to a small lake
A bit of blue sky makes all the difference!
There were lots of different coloured mosses on the rocks
Looking back to the way we had just walked up
By the time I arrived back at the bus, it was after 3.30pm. We waited for the last of the Koreans and then set off for our return trip to Huaraz. This took a little less time than our ride out this morning but still seemed a long way and I was very relieved to arrive. Whilst being tired, it felt wonderful to have done such a long walk and actually be out in the ‘real’ mountains.
I woke up this morning, after a restless night, feeling a bit down and wanting to go for a walk in the mountains. However, I hadn’t arranged anything as I hadn’t seen Guilf last night. Consequently, when I was talking to him after breakfast, it was already too late to join a tour as they all leave very early for the day hikes. He suggested I either walk to the nearby ruins, which wouldn’t have been in the mountains, or get a taxi to the start of a track and walk up the mountain to a lake on my own. However, on thinking about the latter, I decided I wouldn’t be comfortable walking on my own so far away and high up in a remote area, so Guilf suggested a trip to the Pastoriri Glacier and Puya Ramondii instead. This trip, too, could well have already left as it was then 9.30am but Maruja rang around and found one that was just departing. This meant a mad dash to get ready and get into town. Guilf accompanied me and the whole tour group had to wait until I arrived! (This seems to be a bit of a theme of my stay in Huaraz.)
The group consisted of 3 Peruvian ladies, who kept referring to the rest of us as ‘the gringos’, a young German chap and 3 young French girls, plus the guide. Everyone spoke Spanish, except me, but today, I could pick up the gist of much of what the guide talked about, unlike yesterday. Today, he also attempted some English, which I appreciated.
We headed in the same direction as yesterday, but went further on and stopped at a cafe along the way where we could order food for later. I had a cup of coca de mate (my first) which was very like a herbal tea but with a lot of sugar. I chatted to the German boy (I should say, young man) whilst drinking it as he had translated for me on a few occasions already. He had been travelling for about 5 months and had been to three different language schools so his Spanish was infinitely better than mine.
Back on the bus, we continued along the main road for a while before turning off onto a gravel track that headed towards the Huascaran National Park. Once again, we had some very dramatic scenery, with high mountains and long stretches of pampas. Our next stop, after paying the entry fee, was at Peru’s one and only natural ‘soda’ fountain. Fizzy, cold and very clear water bubbled up from below the surface. Around it were plants that cleansed the water of impurities, of which there were many, including iron, which made the surrounding soil an extremely strong, rust colour.
We also stopped at a small lake, in a beautiful area, where the extraordinary Puyo Ramondii plants were growing in abundance. These are of the pineapple species, grow exceedingly tall and look somewhat unreal. However, it was drizzling and very cold at this point so we didn’t linger long before continuing on to the glacier.
On arrival there, all layers of clothes were donned, as well as a hat and gloves. It was extremely cold, being at 5,000 metres. One or two of the Peruvian ladies had looked unsuitably clad to me, especially their footwear, but the path was better constructed than the road so it wasn’t a problem, although they were so cold that they eventually hired horses to take them back to the bus.
I was a little breathless to start with but soon overcame that. However, by the end of the walk, which was 2.5km each way and about 45 minutes walk, I had started to get an altitude headache. Thank goodness for ibuprofen, which I now always carry with me.
It started snowing on the walk up and, together with the wind, this made walking a little unpleasant. However, it was good to get out as I have been doing far too much sitting in the last couple of days. By the time I reached the lookout, the glacier was almost invisible. There was another group or two there, including the Frenchman, and another couple I thought I had met in Trujillo. Most of our group walked down to the waters edge where we were alone, the other groups having already left. There was a fair amount of fun with the young ones, who decided to have their pictures taken jumping between a couple of icebergs. I decided not to join them as, to me, the gap between the two they were playing on looked decidedly perilous and I really didn’t want a dip in freezing water!
Once they had finished, we walked back to the van, the weather having now improved i.e. it had stopped snowing. We then drove all the way back again, passing several of the huts, in which local families live, along the way. These huts have reed roofs that come almost down to the ground, with walls built of the stone used for their farm walls. It certainly looks a very cold and bleak existence for them. Another van followed us down the mountain and this seemed to be dropping off the ladies who had had clothing and food stalls at the top.
We stopped again at the cafe. I hadn’t ordered anything so just waited for the others to finish eating. I wasn’t alone in not ordering and once we got back into town, I went with Mathias, the German boy, and Lucy, one of the French girls, in search of soup, which is what we had all decided we wanted. Lucy had very little money left, until she arrived in Lima and met her parents, so she was looking for the cheapest possible option. We found a very nice cafe that supplied us with a large bowl of excellent chicken soup for 4 pesos. My coffee cost 6! It was good talking to them as I had missed the chat where I have been staying. Maruja and Guilf are very nice and go out of their way to please, but there has been no one else staying there and it is a bit too far out of town.
Once we had eaten, I made my goodbyes and caught a taxi back (took 3 attempts tonight to find one that understood me and knew the casa). I was let in by Maruja who offered me some mate. Whilst I was waiting for it, Luis, a Venuzuelan/American, who had arrived this morning came in. Earlier, Guilf had asked me if I would be interested in doing the 3 day Santa Cruz trek, which I hadn’t considered, as Luis wanted to do it and it required a minimum of two people. I had agreed but Luis, in the meantime, had booked with another company so there was no trek for me. As I was getting desperate to do a proper hike, we both decided to do the Laguna 69 tomorrow. This meant a 5am breakfast so I had to make sure of an early night!!
On arrival in Huaraz, I took one of the many taxis that were waiting for customers in the bus station to the guest house I had booked. I was greeted by Guilf and shown to my room, which had a mountain view through the rooftops. I had selected it because all the reviews were excellent but I was already beginning to regret coming here as it was so far out of town.
However, I went down to find out about walks and was offered breakfast by Maruja. This eventually arrived and was a delicious pancake, accompanied by a couple of crusts of bread and some extremely dark coffee, which thankfully wasn’t as bitter as it looked. Maruja started explaining the hikes to me in English, so that she could practice, and I continued with my limited Spanish. Guilf came and rescued the conversation with the result that I was put in a collectivo and packed off to Chuichumba, from where I could start the walk up to Laguna Wilcacocha, which was meant to be 2 hours up and an hour back. It took a little longer!
It was a beautiful walk that zigzagged its way up the mountain, through the small village of Santa Cruz and then onwards and upwards. Once I arrived, I sat and ate the roll that I hadn’t eaten from the bus, and, as I was doing so, a Swiss girl appeared from a totally different direction. She had gone off the path and taken various tracks that petered out so she had had to find another one. Three people that had been following me up, very slowly, also appeared so there was quite a gathering.
Whilst I was talking to the Swiss girl, a boy appeared on his way home from school and plonked himself down between us and asked a few questions. The Swiss girl was fluent in Spanish, as she had been working for an NGO in Colombia, so she had quite a chat to the boy. Once he had got some food, he took off, whereupon I was persuaded to walk around the lake, which admittedly wasn’t very big.
I then left her to have her lunch and I made my way very slowly back down the mountain, stopping to chat, in so far as I could, to one or two of the older folk, who sit on the walls and watch the world go by. I was exhausted by the time I got back and with the beginnings of a headache. This got worse on the way back in the collectivo but I had to stop in town to get some money. As per usual, I was limited in the amount I could withdraw but it did mean I was solvent once again.
Next stop was the supermarket where there was a sad lack of anything I really wanted, so just bought water, the old tin of tuna standby and cheese slices. Very inspiring! I also purchased some bread rolls (very flat looking things) and, as I was so hungry, a chorro (type of doughnut) from a street vendor (and delicious it was too) whilst I hunted for a collectivo to take me back to Palermo and the Casa. I couldn’t see a number 10 so ended up getting a taxi, whose driver didn’t know Casa de Maruja (turns out it was my pronunciation) but we managed to find it anyway.
I spent some time chatting over a cup of tea with Guilf, who is a guide for climbing and trekking and then what remained of the evening in my room, having arranged to go to Chavin on a bus tour tomorrow.
Having woken at 5.30am I thought I wouldn’t go back to sleep but I must have dozed off because the next time I woke it was nearly 8.30am! It is most unusual for me to do that. I got up and had breakfast, chatted to one or two people and then got slowly packed up. For some reason, they didn’t hassle me to leave the room by 10am like they had done with a number of other guests.
I left my bags downstairs and headed into town where I visited the Casa Urquiaga, which is part of the blue Bank building in the plaza. It didn’t take very long as there wasn’t much in it but it was interesting nevertheless. I just love the old Colonial buildings.
Afterwards, I wandered down to the Avenida Los Incas to catch a ‘collectivo’ to the Huacas of the Sun and the Moon. I don’t think I could have managed to get a more decrepit van if I had tried. I ended up sitting on the ledge behind the front passenger. Their seat was tipped back and the cushion part of my ‘seat’ kept moving. I was also right next to the sliding door, which didn’t shut completely, and which the conductor appeared to be holding closed for most of the trip. There were a number of missing parts and none of the doors opened or closed properly. Needless to say, it was jam packed full, so wasn’t the most comfortable of journeys, although I was able to move to a proper seat once one lady got off.
We drove quite a way out of Trujillo and eventually arrived at Moches. The driver delivered me to the ticket office (I was the only person in the van by this stage as the conductor had also disappeared) and I bought my ticket and then had to walk all the way back to the temples in the heat and wind, which was driving the sand across the road.
I was told I had to rush and join a tour that had already started but, as the tour was in Spanish, I didn’t bother (although, strictly speaking, you are not supposed to be there without a guide.) I listened in to part of the tour and then wandered around the Temple of the Moon in my own time. There is a huge amount of renovation going on, although the site itself is not very big. The pyramids were built by the Moches, once again, the same community that belonged to the Lord of Sipan in Chiclayo.
I didn’t bother to walk the distance to the Temple of the Sun as I had had enough by that time so waited for a collectivo to return to town. Thankfully, this one was in a slightly better condition!
By now, I was starving so made my way to the plaza and La Llave cafe, where I had the set lunch. This was ok but not as good value as I had had in the restaurant of the last two days. The cafe itself was decorated with displays of some very old keys.
Once I had finished eating, I had a short wander round town and then decided to try the Museo Cafe, which I had read about, for coffee. I was very glad I did as the decor was most interesting, it being a cross between a Gentlemens’ Club and a pub. There were lots of photographs on the walls and all the furniture was very old, including the well worn leather bench seat that I parked myself on. Whilst I was there it started to rain so I didn’t rush my coffee and sat there for quite some while. I’m glad I did as, when I went to pay, I realised it was the most expensive coffee I have had in a long while but at least it was good and not made with evaporated milk!
I made my way back to the hostel where the Frenchman I had spoken to at breakfast was sitting in the common seating area. I attempted to read but he kept interrupting and I was grateful when one of his friends turned up and took his attention away. He was also going on the bus to Huaraz tonight, although with a different company.
Once he had gone, I was able to read, have some wine and then a shower and rearrange my baggage. I was just talking to the lady who had checked me in when another girl arrived and it turned out I had met her in the hostel in Quito, which is quite a coincidence, so had a chat to her as well.
The hostel lady called me a taxi at about 9pm and I arrived at the Terminal Terrestre in plenty of time for the 10.30pm Movil tours bus. I was very thankful to be leaving the hostel as I wasn’t very impressed with it. My room appeared to have been constructed in a corner of the landing. It was a most bizarre arrangement and the room was extremely stuffy as there was no real air coming in.
The bus station is very new and modern and was relatively empty. I had to check in my back pack and was then able to sit in the VIP lounge where I read whilst I was waiting. The bus was extremely comfortable with reclining seats and blankets. We were even given a roll and biscuit. I managed to sleep on and off throughout the night (once the film had finished playing above my head) and was, in fact, asleep when we arrived in Huaraz.