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Published: February 22nd 2012
After the heat of the jungle, it was time to head to the mountains for some cooler weather. This was a fine plan, except your correspondent had forgotten that he had not been at high altitude for quite a while and suffered accordingly when he got off the bus in Huancayo. Why, am sure you are wondering, has he suddenly mentioned this town in the Andes. The answer is simple – we were to stay here.
Our accommodation was to say the least, quirky. Instead of spiders and mosquitos, this time we shared it with a dog, a cat and two parrots. One of the parrots would shout “hola” anytime the phone rang. Wendy looked on in astonishment as I tried to have a conversation with him, as did the parrot. He was obviously confused by this crazed gringo. The other parrot kept his distance.
After sleeping in over sixty beds on our travels we finally found the most uncomfortable. The mattress was thinner than something very thin and the bed boards were not just hard but had angles that jutted into every part of the body. This led your correspondent to drink beer and rum just to get
a few hours sleep.
We had two outings from Huancayo. The first was to a town called Juaja which was an hour by bus – it cost 80p each. There was a carnival going on and we followed various bands around town before finding one in a small sunken amphitheatre where locals were dancing. Your correspondent was very happy as local drunks came up and offered him beer. A charming town.
The next day consisted of a walk high in the Andes and through a fertile valley – past fields of artichokes – and down via a river until we arrived in a small village that had a restaurant that sold ceviche – happy days!!!!
After Huancayo we aimed towards Huancavelica. Despite allowing plenty of time to get to the bus station, our taxi was late arriving to pick us up. For a few moments, there was concern that we would miss the bus, but these doubts were quickly dispelled by the cabbie’s prowess at driving at 100 mph through busy streets. Needless to say we made it in plenty of time.
It is difficult to go on a bus journey through The Andes without failing
to be stunned by the view on offer. Around every corner there seems to be another amazing vista better than the previous one. We have followed the Andes all the way from the southern point of Argentina through Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador – will miss them when we leave.
Huancavelica is a small town with a river running through it. Two weeks after we left, there was severe flooding and the town was declared a disaster zone. While we were there however, the only danger we faced was not being able to breathe as we decided to take a stroll up the side of a mountain to a church at the top. ‘Twas a bright, sunny day and before long we had decided that perhaps we should only walk three quarters of the way up as we were sure you could get just as good a view from there. In the end we made it about half way up (after many stops for rest) and turned round and walked back down.
We were definitely the only gringos in town and drew the appropriate stares and whispers from the locals. One little girl stared at W, pointed and
shouted “ Mama una gringa!!!!” The highlight of our stay here was a meal out that nearly bankrupted us. It consisted of a bowl of soup each followed by fried trout with rice and potatoes and a mug of tea. Total cost - £1.77!!!! Your correspondent graciously gave the waitress the equivalent of a 60p tip, which she tried to return as it was far too much. I insisted she kept it and we watched as she walked to the back of the café to show her colleagues the riches bestowed by travelling gringo!!
An overnight bus journey took us to Ayacucho where we planned to stay a couple of days – we ended up staying eight days!!!! It is the capital city of the Andean province and is famous for having 33 churches, apparently one for each year of Jesus’s life, although your correspondent thinks there is more coincidence than fact in that matter.
Readers may remember our statement of intent to move to Sucre in Bolivia. Well, Sucre now has a very serious rival. Ayacucho is quite simply, a wonderful place. Beautiful architecture, the best plaza we have found on our travels, cobbled streets, great restaurants
and bars (one in particular where W consistently hammered your correspondent at cards and dominoes and once at cribbage!!), bustling markets, great walks and a lovely safe and relaxed feel.
Here there are two seasons to the year. The dry season and the rainy season. When we went out the first night, we looked up at the clear blue sky, felt the warmth of the sun, so ventured out just in shorts, t-shirts and sandals. By the time we had sat down in the bar ten minutes later the skies were pitch black. “mmmm” I mused “ I wonder if it may rain ?” Rain is not an apt word for what happened next. The streets became rivers, traffic brought to a standstill, the busy plazas emptied instantly and this went on for several hours. Your correspondent had a plan that he would stay in the bar long enough for it to stop, and believe me I tried to drink enough beer for that to happen, but sadly we had to walk home in the deluge without umbrella or coats. A drowned rat would have looked drier than we did. Thankfully the rains usually were at night, so there
was plenty of time for walks and day trips to the surrounding areas.
One such trip took us to Quinua – an hour away from town. It was here that the Battle of Ayacucho was fought. “What battle was this?” I hear you ask, Why, dear readers, it was the battle that sealed the independence of Peru and is considered the battle that ended Spanish control in South America. To commemorate such an achievement, a huge white obelisk has been erected on the site of the battle which can be seen from over 50 km away in most directions.
While we were walking around several enterprising children tried to earn money by offering to tell us the history of the battle and one even offered to sing to us for money so he could buy food. Your correspondent showed immense compassion for them and turned down all offers!!
In the village of Quinua, it is the custom to build small, ceramic churches on the roofs of houses. I have no idea why they do this, it must be a Peruvian thing.
We spent nearly three weeks travelling through the mountains and have to say that we
enjoyed every single minute.
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