After a week of Californian ‘surf-laidback-and-relax-dude’ beach style at Huanchaco we drop down a 320km on Peru’s land map and strand in Huaraz, an area well-known by adventurers and mountain ramble lovers. Together with the two German girls and Philippe, a new member of the group, fatigued as we are at 5 o’clock in the morning after a night of bus travel, we lay our trust in the first stranger at the Huaraz bus station promising us a free ride to a cheap and good place to stay. Surprisingly, it is a cosy family house and it is as cheap as it can get and the ride is for free! It seems like Huaraz is teaching us a lesson: “Don’t lose the faith.” Because after the many months of travel it seems like we forgot to trust people… not every person out here is trying to get a dollar out of a traveller. We leave our bags in the rooms and prepare ourselves for a first good hike into the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes. Huaraz is especially known for 23 rivers flowing down and its hidden lakes in between the different peaks the area counts. Not less than 296 is the total sum of lakes to discover, some of them a few hours away, others days and weeks. We go for the Aguac Lake close to the village. First a microbus(1,3Soles a person) to Willcawain village and from there we climb bit by bit, leaving civilization behind us. The land scape is outstanding and as going higher the view each time further. The path is easy to recognize but nevertheless each time steeper. Soon Lara and Philippe start to feel the height and slow down, we follow our rhythm together with Sophia. The way is long but we stay enthusiast as we convince ourselves that the lake is behind the next rock. But even then, every turn we take we see the path loosing itself high above us between the sharp treeless ridges. Luckily another sheer-up pushes us further than our own limit as we sit down for a moment and chat with a goat shepherd. If we ask about how long before reaching the lake, we get a “Just 30 minutes more, following this trail.” And that’s just what we needed to fill our muscles with hope. We go 30 minutes, 45, one hour and yet no lake. We realize that asking a road in measurement of time to a with altitude filled veins, coke-chewing, all-day-long-chasing-goats-shepherd is just ridiculous. Height sickness starts to affect me at a slow but steady rate, Giorgia feels a bit better and Sophia of which we lost sight is jumping like a mountain goat from rock to rock as it is her very nature. But finally the effort is rewarded as we reach the lake at 4560MASL.
A crystal clear pond of water reflecting the Cordillera Blanca takes together with the height our breath away. An idyllic place for a break, a picture, a piece of chocolate and some swigs of water. The freezing airstream hits us from all sides so after a while we start the descent. On our way down we find Lara, with a slightly white face, who feels horrible but still tries step by step to get to the lake. (Compliments to Lara for not giving up!) Unfortunately we have to brief her that it still will take some hours and a bit more down we find Philippe who by now has a greenish appearance and feels miserable. Fast we descent to take the last microbus back to the centre of our mountain village. After some nightly snoring we wake up and prepare us for some relaxed bathing at the local ‘hot springs’ of Monterey (4Soles a person). Some muddy overcrowded square pools seem to be one of the highlights of Huaraz and are even used for swimming classes. But what do we care for, we are just five itinerants with broken bones, cramped muscles and creaking articulations, who really need some healing hot water therapy.
And there is much more in this small lost village to discover: a labyrinthic market to look for fruit and vegetables and delicious goat cheese, lots of street sellers to lose time in finding the cheapest and freshest bread, there is a park in the centre of the village to wander around or sit on a bank and watch passing by the daily Andean grind. At a thirty minute bus ride distance there is Willcawain, a historical site consisting of different ‘chullpas’, reminding us that Peru’s culture is so much richer than Machu Picchu and Lima. The chullpas were funerary monuments for Wari high status persons in the Callejón of Huaylas region between A.D. 600-900. The occurrence of this type of architecture is a valuable evidence of cult for the dead as shown by caches (offerings) discovered in this region. The mummies or mallquis buried in the chullpas represented the ancestors and the identity of the communities that habituated in the whole area. All signs of a rich cultural existence of a pre-Hispanic Peru and all places we want to visit to reach a better understanding of this country.
In the mean while (we know, we are a bit behind, but lots of places we visit did not have internet and for that we find it impossible to update as much as we would like. 😦 ) a new year is knocking at the front door and the hostel owner prepares for all her guests a fine new year’s eve dinner. We prepare ourselves, hairs are cut away here and there and with my new look we are ready for a outstanding night. We enjoy every fork disappearing in our mouths and after the many kisses, wishes and ‘whows’ for fireworks lighting up the sky, we end up in 13Buhos bar to finish the night in the early morning.
– Hostel Tambo is as good as it can get, a fine hostel close to the bus terminal and four blocks from the center. It offers, laundry service, hot water, WIFI, comfy beds in big rooms, there are different common areas for some social life with other travellers, a kitchen with everything you might need,… Both the price of 10Soles a person and the kindness of the owner are a present from the Gods. At: Av. Confraternidad Oeste #122 (well hidden opposite the stadium).
– Entering the ruins costs 3 Soles each ticket, they are small archeologically sites but interesting to visit and it is a beautiful walk downwards back to the village aside a narrow river
– We paid 40Soles each for the overnight bus ride from Huanchaco till Huaraz