Published: June 3rd 2011May 17th 2011
We had extended out time in Lima due to my bout of the flu and though I still wasn’t feeling great we decided it was time to move on. A spur of the moment decision had us booking a day bus for the eight hour trip north to the region of Peru which is home to 22 mountains over 6000 meters making it the highest mountain range in the world outside of the Himalayas. The region is known as the Cordilleras and includes Mt Huascaran at 6768 meters which is Peru’s highest point. It was a very scenic trip - first it followed the coastal highway - not particularly scenic as it was a sand desert, but interesting all the same. We passed many sad villages - hundreds of tiny shacks, without running water or electricity, which we later found were full of mountain people hoping for a better life closer to Lima. A decision I’m sure many grew to regret. We also passed rows of rush huts which were chicken farms - Peruvians eat a lot of chicken and most of it comes from this region.
From there we wound through the mountains until we eventually reached the valley between
the Cordillera Blanca (white -snow capped range) and the Cordillera Negro (black range which protects the snow capped peaks from the warm winds from the Pacific Ocean). It was absolutely spectacular - the road passed turquoise lakes and followed a shallow blue glacier fed river all the way to Huaraz, the largest town in the region.
After out wonderful lodge experience in Costa Rica at the base of Arenal Volcano we had reserved a room at another mountain lodge - the Lazy Dog Inn - 8 klms from Huaraz. They had organised for a taxi to collect us as they said that the lodge was a little hard to find. They weren’t exaggerating! It took nearly an hour for the taxi to drive the 8klms and it was over one of the roughest roads we’ve ever been on. Jerry really doubted that the taxi was make it - it wasn’t even 4 wheel drive.
It was dark before we arrived - we did get there in the end - and it was a beautiful stone lodge, very comfortable with a welcome blazing fire and dinner waiting. We had the lodge to ourselves most of the time - the Canadian couple
who own it support local schools and actually operate a small school on their grounds so the young girl working as a volunteer school teacher shared the dining table with us. The food was great - all cooked in turn by a trio of local ladies in traditional dress - the felt hats were never removed. I was having a few problems breathing properly as chest infections and altitude (3650 meters) don’t really mix well.
When we woke next morning we realised just our stunning the countryside around the lodge was - we could see many snow capped peaks on one side and an endless patchwork of multi coloured fields on the other. We decided to hire a taxi to take us up to a nearby glacier and Lake Llaca. Our poor taxi driver from the night before turned up an hour later - the lodge owners use him to transport their guests all the time so he was very used to the rough roads - and we set off with a lovely packed lunch to eat at the lakeside. One and a half hours later the battered old Camry reached the lake at 4500 meters. Leaving the taxi driver
sipping tea with the national park ranger we walked up towards the glacier and lake. It was so beautiful, very peaceful as there were only a couple of other people there (they were preparing to camp on the snow mountain overnight) and we spent a few hours there just soaking up the view. There were wildflowers everywhere - lots of purple and yellow ones, plus dozens of small red and white daisy like flowers flat against the ground. We arranged with our driver to drive further down and we would walk down and meet him. I was pleased to see him an hour later - my chest infection wasn’t making walking even down hill at that altitude easy.
An evening reading in front of a blazing fire before waking up to yet another glorious sunny day. Jerry and I collected another picnic lunch and set off to spend the day walking slowly in the fields surrounding the lodge. We were passed by groups of brightly dressed women looking after grazing flocks of sheep, spent some time watching a family plough a field with a bullock and had a long chat to a man and his wife who were harvesting their
potato crops. A lovely man who spoke good English as when he’s not farming he’s is a guide taking tourists into the mountains. Another wonderful day! Sadly next day was our last in the area - we hired our friendly taxi driver again for a tour along the valley. He was going to drop us at the bus station in Huaraz at the end of the day as we had booked an overnight bus back to Lima from where we were hoping to go straight to the airport to catch a flight south to Arequipa. We had tried booking online but weren’t able to have our Aussie credit cards accepted to finalise the booking.
We drove down to Huaraz past a couple of little villages, mud brick houses all with ornate metal crosses on their roofs. From there we were heading to Yungay further up the valley. That little town has a tragic history has in 1970 it was totally destroyed by an earthquake when a large block of ice was dislodged from the side of Mt Huascaran (the highest mountain in Peru) which caused a mud avalanche which buried the town of Yungay, killing 18,000 people instantly. That particular
earthquake caused 80,000 deaths in the region. It is very easy to see the scoop shape which fell from the mountain when you look at it. During our drive along the valley it was in constant view. We were actually going to visit the twin lakes called Llanganuco at 3800 meters which lay between Mt Huascaran and another mountain. Once again a really scenic drive, constantly with views of snow capped mountains and deep valleys and multi coloured fields as we climbed higher towards the lakes. Once again the scenery was breathtaking - the lakes were turquoise and a smoky blue in colour. Around the edges of the lakes were some fascinating trees (arrayanes trees) - they had orange trunks and branches which felt and looked liked peels of filo pastry. They certainly made a wonderful contrast to the blues of the lakes. We walked down from the lakes through a cloud forest for a couple of hours and met our driver at the bottom. There were hundreds of flowering bromeliads growing along the path, which followed a fast flowing stream most of the time. On the way back to Huaraz we stopped at the memorial to the people who
died in the earthquake at Yungay - very moving as you could still see the spire of the church plus some trunks of palm trees (no fronds) sticking up - all that was left of the town. The gardens were planted with thousands of roses - there certainly would have been a flower for everyone who died that sad day.
The taxi dropped us back in Huaraz as the sun was setting - we were so pleased we didn’t stay in the town - it was incredibly busy. We found a friendly café and filled in the next couple of hours before we caught the overnight bus to Lima. We were travelling on a tourist bus - Cruz del Sur - which has a good safety record (there is a bus crash every day in Peru). This company (we used them to get to Huaraz) change drivers every four hours and stay well within the speed limit. We were very sad to leave the area - a spur of the moment decision that I’m so glad we made! We can highly recommend the lodge - lovely food, hosts and surroundings.
There are more photos below