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Published: August 18th 2011
First view of Huascaran
Our departure from Huanchaco was bittersweet. The saying of goodbyes and the anticipation of arriving to a place we had waited a year and a half to see. We missed out last year due to missing the season, The wet season is said to be pretty miserable so we gave it a miss.........until now.
The journey was uneventful as we took a night bus electing to no longer arrive in any town after dark after hearing too many stories of unfortunate souls running into trouble.
Taking the night bus meant we would miss the oncoming views (as dawn was still a ways off) as we entered the Cordillera Blanca y Negra mountain range as we speed forth to the city of Huaraz.
Emerging bleary eyed from the bus the first thing that hit me was the dewy cool morning, oh so sweet smelling air, the sun was just coming up and as we speed through light morning traffic towards our pre-booked hostal that magic view came into focus. At first the snow capped peaks look as though they have been superimposed behind the city range, enormous and majestic they scattered on the skyline, the white snow sparkling and glistening in the
The church of 13 crosses
early morning sun. We had arrived.
Not being quite awake yet we got our hostal and after a bit of confusion we were given a room in a new annex, A new annex behind the main hostal which the sun never reaches therefore although clean and secure it was bloody Baltic. We had pre-booked for 3 days knowing Huaraz was celebrating it 154 year of independence (Fiestas de Patrias) as well as it being the same weekend of the newly elected President of Peru Ollanta Humalas’ inauguration, town was booked out so we had no choice but to bundle up in fleeces and stay put.
The town square still recovering from the huge earthquake of 1970 as is the whole city. This infamous event is still clear in the minds of those who are old enough to remember. Huaraz lost 20,000 citizens while the nearby town of Yungay lost a further 20,000 in a massive mud and ice slide caused by the quake, In Yungay few survived to tell the tale and the site now sits abandoned but for a memorial remembering those entombed beneath. The quake was estimated to have caused 66,000 fatalities and directly affected a quarter of
a million people in the area.
As a result the town of Huaraz itself is a ramshackle mix of buildings somewhat thrown together, I suppose rebuilding the town to re-home the then destitute was a matter of urgency and planning and safety was not a priority. Having said that Huaraz is trying really hard to be a major player on the Peruvian tourist map. Municipal buildings are being built, the church is still being built in the main plaza, there are pretty parks and play areas and the town is clean compared to some places in Peru. I think it has it’s own certain charm made sweeter by the welcoming nature of it’s residents.
This is a climbers and trekkers paradise and the numerous outlets and tours agencies are well established. There is an official guide organization in which one must be trained and licensed to guide tours. Since this range is one of the toughest in the world it’s nice to know that the mountains although magnificent, also harbour hidden dangers and threats to those who are not prepared or experienced.
Yet this weekend was all about festivities, military parades, Little kids as young as 3 or 4 marched
Good clothe drying weather
keeping perfect time with their drums and dances, as their teachers ushered them along, little faces looked on bewildered but did a great job. Then came the big guns, a massive exhibition of Peruvian military in full regalia from officers to special forces carrying huge artillery and wearing the somber faces of military forces throughout the world. Along with this came fireworks, bunting, and general joviality with no shortage of street food and a fair amount of beer. It is also a family affair when the weekend neared a close with the streets empty as loved ones united at home over food.
The weather here at this time of the year is perfect, Blue cloudless skies from morning until dusk and cold fresh starry nights. The elevation is roughly 3000m so the sun is a cruel mistress as I was to find out in a week or so.
There is liveliness about Huaraz. The market area is a maze of streets and a huge covered area where one can purchase anything. The food in the market stalls is truly the real Mc coy with Chicharones and deep fried cuy, mote, and hot sauce, mmmmm.
In the meantime we moved to
another hostal run by 3 brothers who could not have been more helpful but since they seemed to only cater for large groups who were noisy and complained constantly to these helpful gentlemen about everything, we soon got tired of their constant battles and decided to move again. This time we found a great little place with everything we could need including peace and quiet and a large bouldering wall to boot.
Having settled in we were ready, acclimatized and ready to rock. Mountains here we come.
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