We have fallen in love with this mountain city of Huaraz, nestled in the valley below the mighty Cordillera Blanca. We´ve made home at La Cabana hospedaje, in the friendly realm of Senora Flor who is taking good care of us. The city tends to be noisy, then completely quiet from 1:30 - 4 every afternoon for siesta (though they just call it a lunch break here). Barking dogs ramble up and down the unorganized streets, honking taxis pass constantly, we never know how high we need to step up to get from street to sidewalk. Buster´s nerves are frayed by the bombardment of sonic input.
There are adventure travelers here, but it seems more of a typical Peruvian city than an overrun travel hub. The central market building bustles with locals buying produce and raw meats, manufactured cheap clothes, party supplies - any item needed to eat, sleep, celebrate, live. There are no huge supermercados here, and commerce spills outs into the streets. One of our favorite scenes are the fully cooked whole pigs on wooden street carts, the diners standing surrounding the carts, eating pork with greasy fingers. There is ceviche made from the local trout, bananas being sold out of wheelbarrels, raw chickens hanging by their feet, women knitting as they sit next to a pile of knitted leg warmers, hats and socks.
It´s easy to strike up conversations with the friendly locals, sitting on a bench in the plaza de armas and chatting with women in traditional colorful campesina dress of layered skirts, wool leggings, tall brimmed hats perfectly angled to offset the huge smile of metal mixed with white teeth.
And, we are taking advantage of the gorgeous countryside. We spent a few days at Hatun Machay, about an hour and a half down valley, rock climbing sport routes at 4300 meters and staying at a hut with an international crowd of climbers and a hut keeper, Armando, who grew up in the mountains and shared stories of history and adventures as we all snuggled around the fire.
We went mountain biking in the foothills, criss-crossing on single tracks of animal trails and campesino footpaths, across patchwork fields of wheat and quinoa and through little hamlets of adobe huts, waving and hola´ing to the people who work and live in what feels like the middle of nowhere.
And, we summited our first snowy peak. A lovely 4 hour trek up a valley brought us to base camp. A 5 am start the next day straight up a steep rocky ridge under a clear starry sky, an hour later dawn breaks as we crest to moraine and then as the day light allowed us to turn off our headlights, a snow storm covered us and we contemplated whether to continue or turn back. A break in the sky egged us on and laden with crampons and a safety rope we slogged up an even steeper snow. Over 5200 meters high, breathing became tough and every ten feet we had to stop, finally summiting as the sun broke and we relished in our accomplishment and the view of the world from 18,133 feet.