Firstly our bus trip up to Hauraz- eish, seats at the front on the top of the swaying double decker bus plus 8 hours of switch back roads plus gaining 4000m from the coast– made for an eventful trip. Won’t go into too much detail but needless to say that we have booked the more expensive seats downstairs for the return bus!
We are loving our time here in Hauraz (pronounced Wa-ras). It is a popular base town for the enormous amount of treks and adventure sports in the nearby Cordillera Blanca, proved by the many North Face branded gringos. We find ourselves being totally gob smacked every now and then when you glance up and see the huge snow capped mountains peeking out from every direction. Hauraz sits at a comfortably high 3100m.
We are staying in a great hostel, MonkeyWasi and have met some great people as well as a naughty little primate, the resident monkey - Harriet. A Squirrel Monkey rescue.
Getting used to the altitude was a bit of a bia-tich. Nausea and severe headaches for the first two days kept me man down. James seemed to breeze through it! When we arrived, walking
up the short hill to the hostel, made us stop and take a breath once or twice – our lungs were burning for air! However, a few days later and we can do the same hill in half the time.
The days are beautiful – blue skies and warm weather letting us stroll around in shirt sleeves, whilst the nights drop to a chilly 4 or 5 degrees leaving.
The town is so festive and there are always people about – both during the day (don’t people work??) and late into the night. Every day has been some sort of festival or protest or party. The locals also luurve their fireworks, and apparently will let them off even first thing in the morning just to celebrate a new day - sheesh!
The food is nice and cheap and when we in town, usually grab the ‘menu economica’ for lunch – consisting of a 3 or 4 course meal for about R15 – R20. Although sometimes, we not sure what is really in the soup…mmm
Our first little excursion earlier this week, was up to a local pre Inca ruin dating around 600 AD, and then down
to the popular hot spring pools. And by ‘hot springs’, I don’t mean the crystal clear water bubbling out of a beautiful rock face, but rather a ‘public pool’ type establishment where the water is a delightful muddy brown and you can’t see more than 10cm in front of you! However we convinced ourselves that it was full of wholesome-good-for-the-body minerals – BUT I still avoided touching the floor with my toes! Overall it was a great day out.
Afterwards Miranda, a fellow traveler, showed us the local food market and showed me where to buy Coca leaves so that I could make some ‘mate de coca’ (coca tea) to help alleviate the altitude sickness symptoms. Coca leaves are commonly used all over the Andes to alleviate a bunch of medical problems and are well known to travelers for altitude sickness. The history of the coca plant makes for interesting reading – especially the origins of cocaine and the development of Coca Cola.
James is however now convinced I’m going to test positive for cocaine with all the mate de coca I’ve been drinking!
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