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Published: July 18th 2012
YungayDay 274 Wednesday 11th July
Once again we have found ourselves stuck in a town a day longer than we wanted to. Our bus wasn’t departing till 9pm so we decided to sleep in and get a late breakfast and hang in our room for as long as we could. Because the hotel is being extended the tradesman came through at 7.30 and by 8 the power tools were going full blast so that was as late as we could sleep. We wandered around to the café in the mall for another great breakfast and then returned to pack. Went to have a shower and discovered we didn’t have any water but after complaining we got it. Checked out right on midday and left our bags at the hotel and took a short taxi ride to a swish new mall. We had seen all of the old town so it was great to spend time at the new end of town and do a bit of clothes shopping. We spend so much time at ancient sites and staying in the middle of old colonial centres in old colonial buildings that it is nice occasionally to see shiny new stuff like
Shelley with the groovy Llamas
marble and glass shopping malls.
We both ended up buying some shirts before getting a bite to eat and a Pisco sour at a small bar. Decided to head back to the hotel at 3 and as we approached the taxi rank we saw a lovely bright new yellow taxi standing there waiting for us…wow we only seem to get bombs, this will make a nice change. Just before we could get our hands on the door handles a guy came running past us and jumped in and they took off. Before we knew what had happened another taxi pulled in to take us and you guessed it, it was a bomb. It was our usual taxi, a twenty year old wreck that had half the dash missing, every external and internal panel bashed in, what was left of the muffler dragging on the ground and the interior filling full of smoke. But the driver was happy to talk to us and endure our Spanglish and for that the trip was rewarding.
Back at the hotel we spent some time working on our blog, before ducking out for a feed. Had worried that today was going to be
View from town plaza
a real wasted day but in the end it wasn’t too bad. On our return to the hotel at 8 we grabbed our bags and threw them into a taxi who took us the 7 kilometres to the bus terminal. We are travelling with Linea which is an upmarket bus company and so the whole check in process is well controlled and lots of ID checks. Before boarding the bus we actually had to give a finger print, and place it on a printed piece of paper alongside our seat number. Unsure what the reason for this was but the cynic in me thought maybe this was so when they had an accident it would make it easier to identify the body. This was a first for us but in Colombia we were filmed before each trip, but this was done to stop highway robberies. In Colombia guys would take the bus and once outside of town would pull a gun and hijack the bus and have it pull on to a side road where a gang would rob everyone and everything on the bus. By filming everyone prior to a journey would help identify the culprit and therefore discourage
Our bus didn’t leave till 9.15 and once underway a video came on the on board television all about Chakras and yoga stuff, which isn’t exactly what you would expect to see on a bus in Peru. Previously we have seen just about every “z” grade violent action film ever made including everything made by WWE as well as every Fast and Furious film, (we have actually seen “fast and furious 5” 5 times and know it word for Spanish word). Our documentary on the chakras ran for over 30 minutes and was highly detailed and had us puzzled but had the locals on the bus complaining to the hostess “where is Van Damme?”, “Does the fifth Chakra rip the heart out of the fourth chakra and eat it?” Traudy you would have loved it, although I am sure you know it all by heart, we didn’t mind it but once that was over we had our intelligence offended with a Jennifer Aniston film….where are the UN when you need them, innocent people held captive and tortured….the humanity.
The bus was comfortable, reasonably roomy and extremely slow, but being a night bus we were glad the
The excitement of the Parade
bus waddled along at 50km/hr. As with most buses in South America we had a digital read out of the speed and would beep loudly if the bus exceeded the limit of 90km/hr. We only got beeped about three times but generally we cruised around 45km/hr, but like I said, we were happy for it. We settled down for the night with me doing sudoku whilst listening to music whilst Shelley dozed in and out of sleep whilst listening to a Spanish Jennifer Aniston. Day 275 Thursday 12th July
We both put on our very best sleeping impersonation, and sometime before dawn we managed to grab a few short snoozes. Because we were once again ascending from the ocean to the mountains a climb of 3000 metres our trip was up a very windy steep road and so by the time daylight hit and we were on the outskirts of Huaraz Shelley had a good dose of motion sickness. Along with swapping altitude we had also gone from hot to cold so we were grateful that our bus came with blankets.
We didn’t get to Huaraz till 7.30am making it a 10 hour journey. As
we got off the bus and were trying to retrieve our luggage we had several guys badgering us for a hotel or tours, which in a sleep deprived state is as welcome as a punch to the face. Once outside the bus station there was a huge scrum of these hotel and tour touts, and they just basically block your way, shout at you and thrust flyers in your face. We started out being polite but quickly resorted to telling them to “f#^%* off” so we could get through them. We had picked a hotel which we thought was near the bus station but discovered it was in fact next door and was wedged in by another on the other side. As we walked past it had all the charm of Hitler’s Berlin bunker and so decided to walk onto another. The Los Portales hotel was only another two blocks and thankfully we snagged a room for 100 Sols ($40) a night. We were both feeling wrecked but decided to head out for a walk around town and see what the place is like.
Huaraz isn’t exactly a pretty town and in fact you could brutally say that the
place is down right ugly, but this is due to the fact that the place has been wiped out several times by massive earthquakes. In 1941 5000 people were killed when the town was hit by a tidal wave from a Lagoon that banks collapsed but this was outdone by the historic 1970 7.7 Richter scale earthquake. This quake flattened 90 percent of the town and killed 15,000 people in Huaraz, which only proves if nothing else the Peruvians are persistent in rebuilding cities in bad seismic areas. What Huaraz lacks in old colonial buildings it makes up ten fold in scenery, as it is situated in a magnificent valley wedged between two huge mountain ranges, the Western (coastal side) is the Cordillera Negra (black mountains) and on the Eastern (Andes side) is the sublime Cordillera blanca (White mountains). The black mountains are high rocky rugged mountains that receive little rain and are fairly sparse of vegetation, whilst the white mountains are snow covered and do have a reasonable levels of trees and farms. Both mountain ranges are the result of massive tectonic plate action, which of course is the reason Huaraz keeps getting flattened. From any point in town
The view from Yungay to the mountain
the massive white jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains are visible and on clear days like today it is really spectacular.
After a brief walk around town we found ourselves in the Andino Café where we were able to a great Cappuccino and pancakes for breakfast. The caffeine didn’t help us much as we just headed back to the hotel and fell asleep for a few hours. Woke up in the afternoon and discovered we not only didn’t have WiFi but we didn’t have hot water. After a bit of complaining and a 30 minute wait we got hot water but it was brown and stank like it came out of a rusty water tank, which is probably where it came from. After our shower we felt cleaner but now smelt rusty…maybe that can be the new fragrance from Chanel “Rusty No.9”.
We wanted to do a few day tours whilst here so we went out to find a tour agent to book them through. The first one we went to the woman couldn’t speak English and it all got a bit confusing and so we went looking for another and finally settled on Mirador Tours, where the
guy could speak English and talked us into a tour tomorrow to one of the high lagoons. Was going to book a couple more but thought it best to see how we go on the first one…thankfully. We walked up to the main plaza and guess what there was a parade there seems to be one everyday in Peru, but when you ask what they are for no one seems to know. In the plaza Shelley weakened and had her photo taken with two groovy llamas. Huaraz is a big magnet for mountain climbers and trekkers and therefore gets a lot of foreign tourist, which in turn means the place has plenty of restaurants and bars. So far in Peru we seem to find that the towns will either have no tourist restaurants or a dozen and likewise with the bars, it is either feast or famine. Trujillo had next to nothing so it was great to be in a place that we had choice. Had a beer in a bar that brews their own beer, and discovered that perhaps they shouldn’t bother. I guess it is personnel taste but we haven’t found too many good so called “Artisanal” handmade
Mount Huascaran towering over the remains of Yungay
beers in South America, and the problem is always compounded by the fact that they generally charge double for the crap. For dinner we went next door to a restaurant called “Chilli Heaven” where we both got an amazingly spicy feed of Indian curries. Whilst there we bumped into Charlie, a guy who runs a lodge outside of town and who also organises trekking tours. It is always great speaking to someone who lives and works in the area to get a bit of a handle on the local vibe. We could have sat there all night drinking and talking but we were starting to crash and so headed back home around 10.30. Back at the hotel we discovered that we still didn’t have WiFi and when I complained to the Hotel they tried to fob the problem on to me claiming it was my computer that was the problem. Should have gone ballistic on this one but was too tired to fight and so crashed in bed. Day 276 Friday 13th July
Up early and down for breakfast at 7 and discovered we actually had a choice and got pancakes with honey and banana, wow.
Remains of the church
We started the day with an air of confusion when the woman at reception who cannot speak English wanted a confirmation off us as to when we might be checking out. Easy enough question when you understand Spanish and you know what day it is, but for some reason we lacked the necessary facts to give a proper answer. Being away for so long we are now really losing track of time and it wasn’t till we got to Mirador Tours and we asked the guy there “what day is it?” that we knew where we were. The guy rightly sort of looked at us strange when we asked the question but at least it solved that problem for us. We had to wait a further 15 minutes before we were able to board the minivan for the tour. We were then driven all over town collecting others for the tour so our 9am tour didn’t actually leave Huaraz until 10am, which seems to be the usual thing for Peruvian tours. Our guide couldn’t remember where one of the groups were and we drove around for ages looking for them till we just stumbled upon them waiting in a park…not
a good start to the day.
We drove North up the valley with the Cordillera Negra on one side and the Cordillera Blanca on the other stopping for photo opportunities as well as at a small town for an ice cream. We had been led to believe that this town had great Ice Cream but discovered that you shouldn’t believe the hype. Around 11.30 we reached our first site of the day which was the site of the former town of Yungay. The earthquake of May 31st
1970 that flattened Huaraz loosened 15 million cubic metres of granite and ice from the western wall of the Huascaran Norte which is a 6500 metre high mountain that towers over the town. The resulting Aluvion (avalanche) sped 3 kilometres down the face of the mountain and 14 kilometres down a valley and buried the town of Yungay along with nearly everyone of its 18,000 inhabitants in 8 to 12 metres of rock and ice. The site was left in state and as a memorial to its inhabitants and a new town was built 2 kilometres away, which again proves the persistence of the Peruvians. Today a large cemetery mound dominates the
Yungay to Lagunas Llanganucho
Lunch stop - cuy on the Barbie
site along with a long garden path with a few fragments of that horrible day. A smashed up bus along with the ruins of the church are the main signs but they have recently erected some other memorials as well as a reconstruction of the church façade. The huge debris field of boulders is also littered with graves and family memorials. It is sort of hard to believe you are walking across a town and graveyard for 18,000 people, although the impact of the place was lost on some people who would do “sexy poses” for photographs at the cemetery and on the memorials….I guess for some people it is now ancient history.
From here we drove for an hour up a steep dirt road up into the Cordillera Blanca, till we stopped for lunch at an overpriced restaurant. As stated before we generally avoid eating at these places but today we weakened and had a feed, and for our sins we were given an average feed. With lunch over we pushed on up a narrow valley sided by steep granite walls and topped with many snow peaked mountains. The Cordillera Blanca mountain range is 20km wide and 180km
long and not only has Peru’s highest peak (Huascarin 6768m) but has over 50 mountains higher than 5700m. In contrast North America only has 3 mountains higher than 5700m and Europe has none. Along with all these high broken peaks are a plethora of beautiful lagoons, and the main reason for today’s trip was the Lagunas Llanganuco. The lagoon sits at 3800m and is surrounded by Huascaran (6768m Peru’s highest), Chopicalqui (6354m), Chacaraju (6112m) and Huandoy (6395m). Because we got here late in the afternoon the lagoon is situated in a deep valley we were getting the last rays of sunlight but where it hit the lake it turned the waters into a beautiful emerald turquoise colour. We had an hour to spend here so we took a leisurely stroll around the lake whilst others took a row boat across. It was an amazing spot and sort of had us thinking about doing a hike through the range, which we believe is probably the best way to see this great place. Probably should have done our homework better and we may have opted for a multi-day hike although I believe you can only camp your way round and need to
Mountains surrounding the Lagoon
cart all your own supplies….seems like too much hard work.
Anyway after our hour of peace and tranquillity we once again had to board our van for the long drive back, but of course we couldn’t just go back home, we had to do all those things on a tour that you don’t necessarily want to do, starting with a long detour to another town where you could go buy caramel. We weren’t interested but the local Peruvians on the tour bought up big so I guess they were happy with the detour. Finally at 7.00, when we were still 30 minutes from the town we had to stop at a craft store to see some pottery. Shelley was feeling sick from the long drive and I wanted a beer so this further delay was not welcomed. The sites today had been great but it was a long way to go in cramped conditions and that sort of took away from the experience. The guide only spoke Spanish which we expected but he came across really arrogant and because we couldn’t speak Spanish he basically dismissed us and didn’t even give us a glance all day.
Mountain over the Lagoon
to town sometime after 7.30 and jumped out of the van at the first opportunity, blocks from our hotel but happy to be on our feet. Stopped at the Andonio Café for dinner before heading home, where we discovered that we finally had internet. Day 277 Saturday 14th July
Started the day with some guy barging into our room at 7am, think he was the cleaner but maybe not. Over breakfast we overheard someone else complaining that they had the same experience but at 6am, tomorrow I’m going to be waiting for him with a bucket of water. Today was the day to get chores done and spend some time in town. Started the day with breakfast in the hotel and bumped in to a large contingent of American missionaries who are about to embark on a trek into the mountains to convert the locals to their own brand of Christianity. They seemed like nice people it is just a shame that they can’t leave people to their own beliefs and feel obliged to prey on the poor in undeveloped countries. Maybe they would be best to stand out the front of Starbucks in New York
Beautiful water of the Lagoon
handing out flyers.
First on the agenda today was looking into doing a tour out to the ancient site of Chavin De Huantar, which is a city built by the long lost Chavin culture about 1200BC. After the tour yesterday where we only had a Spanish speaking guide, but it didn’t matter, we really wanted an English speaking guide for this tour to a historic site, where it did matter. We tried several tour agencies around town and none of them could give us anything other than a Spanish speaking guide. One agent did offer to supply someone (possibly a relative) to accompany us as translator but we had to pay for his/her seat on the tour as well as buy them lunch plus 100 sols…a nice offer but no. We had both really wanted to see this site but again it was a long journey starting at 9am and finishing at 8pm and without an English speaking guide the site would be meaningless. Decided to scratch this tour and to Bail on the town early and so went looking for bus tickets. Unfortunately Peru seems to only want to offer night buses but with persistence we got tickets
Road back to Huaraz
Sunset on Huascaran
for the 11am bus to Lima on Sunday.
We then dropped in at Café Andino for another great cappuccino and a chance to soak in the views from their terrace. Went for a walk around town looking in at all the crafts stores where Shelley picked up some ear rings. Went back to the hotel hoping to get some work done on the internet only to discover that once again it wasn’t working. Shelley went to have a shower only to discover no hot water or even towels and so once again we had to complain to the staff. 30 minutes later and still no towels or hot water, off she went again…waiting, waiting and after another 30 minutes towels, but no hot water or WiFi.
It was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted a beer so we decided to drag yesterday’s stink into the night and headed out for a drink without a shower. Nothing like an anger to bring on a thirst an so we settled into a bar in town for a few before moving onto “Chilli Heaven” where we both had a great feed of Vindaloo, which was as hot as anything you would get in India or Australia. Whilst there we were able to exchange a couple of books so we now had further reading. The guy running the restaurant was a great guy and we sat around discussing the merits and pitfalls of travelling Peru and India, which are sort of similar.
Back at the hotel we discovered that we still didn’t have internet and as we wanted to pre book accommodation in our next destination of Lima, I was really annoyed. I finally stormed out and complained explaining that it was not our computer it was them, the first for this trip (serious - I hardly complain). By the time management came back to me I was ready to tear someone head off. After a conversation, surprise, surprise the woman was able to push a button and we had internet. John Cleese once said of England that the only way you could get anything done was that you had to complain till you were blue in the face, well I am getting the feeling that the same could be said for Peru. The night did end with multiple wins, internet, booking our Lima hotel and hot water…..wonders never cease.
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