A Travellerspoint blog

Mountain Town

Huaraz, Peru

sunny 70 °F

Exactly 33 hours after the double decker VIP bus pulled out of Terminal Terrestre in Cusco, we amble into the tall metal gated terminal for Movil Tours buses in the city of Huaraz. From southern Peruvian highlands to central Peruvian mountain range, in only two buses and one short (thankfully) layover in the fog entrenched capital city of Lima. (Side note - I will never forget these two bus rides, beautifully uniformed attendents on loud speakers directing us passengers to only use the bathroom on board to urinate, if another need occurs, please alert the attendant who will alert the bus driver, who will pull over on the side of the road so you can do your business).

Six months ago we had never heard of Huaraz, Peru or the Cordillera Blanca, this most amazing mountain range. And now that we are here in this ramshackle city that was almost entirely rebuilt after a 1970 earthquake, at this moment on the balcony of our hospedaje with a wide immense view of the white capped mountain range beckoning adventure, I am so thankful that somewhere along the way in our travels someone told us that we if we like the outdoors, we must see the Cordillera Blanca in central Peru.

Less than 24 hours here and we have: changed from the expensive Lonely Planet Guide recommended hostel to an lovely hospedaje around the corner (half the price and we had quite an interesting chat with the senora who has a sister living in Maryland and they both wonder where all the Gringos are because "everyone in America speaks Spanish"); ran into Canadian friends that we met two months ago on the altiplano jeep trek from Chile to Bolivia, gotten the low-down on rock climbing, trekking, and a possible ascent of a 6,000 meter peak; ate a $2 almuerzo (lunch) among the locals; and, matched the mountains that we see in the near distance with the ones on the handy free tourist map guide.

There are a lot of peaks....something like 50 peaks over 6000 meters all in this 180 km area, we North Americans have just 3! So...what to do...we have 16 days here, and need to acclimate just a touch before we head out into the beautiful mountain playground. There are so many possibilities, my pen and notepad have been busy scattering notes. The sun just set beyond the hill and the temperature dropped 10 degrees, time to put on all of my 8 items of clothing (yes, I am so sick of each of these 8 items and yes, they are falling apart).

Posted by retomer 17:26 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking

Tripping around Inka Territory

Cuzco, Peru

sunny 68 °F

DSC_2978__640x421_.jpg Here we are slipping, sliding and tripping in the great Inka capital of Cuzco, Peru. Smooth old rocks line pedestrian passageways, steep stairways, and narrow cobble streets making gazing up while walking a bit precarious. The days keep passing and we keep finding ourselves waking to the Viva El Peru etched into the mountainside framing the city. We´ve ventured out of the city for an adventure to Machu Pichhu (blog coming soon) though here in the city we find ourselves doing what we love most; wandering here and there, chatting in Spanish, and absorbing the life in the Andean highlands. And of course, we stick our heads now and then in to the endless churches to check out the alters and often rest in the many plazas that invite people watching.

IMG_2214__470x640_.jpgThey say that Cuzco is the oldest continually inhabited city in the hemisphere, 700 years, and that about half of the current population is indigenous. It´s not hard to imagine that we are walking in the same steps as the pre-Inka, Inka, Spanish, and that the man on the corner selling Inka Kola could be a direct descendant from the great Inka ruler Pachacutec. Though, actually, this is doubtful, as I read that no one knows if the Inka royal family line survived after the murder of the last Inka ruler. (The word Inka means king by the way).

DSC_2970__428x640_.jpgIt is hard to imagine how the throngs of vendors selling tourist handicrafts survive. There are tons of shops and markets, and then those that hawk the streets - all selling similar socks, hats, gourds, paintings though of varying quality. They come in from the countryside with their babies on their back or toddlers by their side. It breaks our heart to think that so many people rely on tourism for their livelihood, especially since "el crisis" is in the air and everyone is talking about how tourism is so slow this year. I can´t count how many times we politely say "no, gracias". The city center and all the historical colonial homes are hotels or restaurants, all catering to the oodles of us travelers and tourists from every western country. And I can´t say we don´t mind the wonderful plethora of food offerings - its awesome to eat fluffy scrambled eggs a top homemade toasted bread with a side of roasted potatoes and salsa, or a hummus sandwich with thinly sliced grilled vegies lightly brushed with balsamic vinger.

This is all a stark contrast from when I spent five weeks in this town 19 years ago. There were only a handful of hostels and a handful of tourist restaurants back then. Life in this town circled around practicalities, not tourism. I can´t help but wonder if the young shoe shine boys that used to flock around me so many years ago are now the twenty-somethings hawking sunglasses or city bus tours in the plaza, speaking more than a handful of english phrases.

Peru seems to be a country of contrasts played out here in Cusco and we find ourselves on that line of complete enjoyment and bewilderment of how we can enjoy our surroundings when so many are suffering.

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Posted by retomer 13:03 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking

Machu Picchu Picts

A visit to one of the seven wonders

sunny

IMG_2315__600x800_.jpgAfter days of analyzing tours from the hundreds of tour agencies in Cuzco, we decide to head out on our own to the famed Inka capital, Machu Picchu, situated up the Urubamba valley from Cuzco, Peru. Named one of the seven wonders of the world, we are prepared for crowds but are surprised by the unknown.

This alternative DIY route includes:
A 5 hour bus ride through the high altitude dry valley and then over a high barren pass where, amazingly, the small stature of Inka descendants appear out of nowhere tending alpaca;
A dramatic drop down steep switchbacks to Santa Maria, a little town in the jungle, after having a dinner break on the side ofhte road where the bus passengers scatter to pee, and then gobble down Chifa (chinese) food off of plastic plates in plastic bags;
A late night hour taxi ride, with us in the backseat of a mini station wagon squuezed between a campesina women

Posted by retomer 12:27 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites

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