Friday, November 19, 2010

Huanchaco, Huaraz, Lima, Huacachina, Nazca - Perú

Good ol’ Cass and I headed out of Chachapoyas on the night bus to Chiclayo – arrived there at 4:30 a.m. and hoped the 5 o’clock bus to Trujillo. From there just one more bus to Huanchaco, the nearby beach town which drawers surfers and tourists year round. The beach itself is absolutely nothing to write home or anywhere else about, but it was nice to have some warm weather and sunshine – and ceviche too. After our time in the mountains we were experiencing some form of withdraws! Huanchaco is known for their reed fishing boats and great waves, so we sat along the water front and enjoyed both. I only had the 1 day in Huanchaco, as my night bus for Huaraz was set to leave at 9 p.m. – so off I went yet again! Said goodbye to Cassie & her boyfriend Nick, although planned to meet with them again in beautiful Huaraz.

typical set menu for around $2.25 - ceviche starter

Huaraz is known for its incredible scenery and stunning mountain ranges: the Cordillera Blanca (permanently covered in snowcaps and glaciers) and the Cordillera Negra. The town resides at just over 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), and you can see one of the tallest peaks in the Western hemisphere (Huascarán, almost 7,000 meters, over 20,000 feet!) 

I decided to do a solo 1 day trek to Laguna 69, setting out at 6 a.m. and returning to town around 6 p.m. After a few collectivos to get to the base, I headed into the middle of the Andes on a cloudy but ambient day. The terrain around me felt so raw and so vast and it was so soothing to hear the noises of nature all around. After a bit, ran into some other trekkers, and we finished the path to the laguna together. Words cannot describe the striking color of indigo, so here are photos exactly as they were taken.

Imagine this place on a bright blue sky day! Oh la la! We only had half an hour or so to enjoy the exquisite surroundings (and dream of being able to swim in this perfect bit of water) before it started to rain – and in the mountains at the altitude of 4,600 meters (15,000 feet), the rain is no joke. We were freezing and soaking and still had hours to hike downhill before returning to the trail head. Many collectivos later was so glad to get back to Huaraz and enjoy a hot meal and cold beer with Cassie & Nick before parting ways yet again! Fell asleep on the bus in Huaraz, woke up in Lima on the 27th of October.

The Day of Douglas! We hadn’t seen each other in 2.5 years, since I left Amsterdam in February 2008. I had been looking forward to his arrival in Lima since the day I landed in Medellin, Colombia, exactly 50 days before (not that I was counting down the days or anything… haha). We spent the next couple days catching up while exploring the capital city, which notoriously is not the world’s coolest place, but which we both really adored. From venturing into ghetto like pueblos, to meeting new local friends at the cross walk (and proceeding to drink a few too many pitches of Pisco Sours with them!), to eating in markets, listening to street music, wandering along the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the colorful colonial buildings and intact vintage cars – we really got a feel for what Lima has to offer. And then came Halloween. I’m not sure what was scarier, that or La Iglesia de San Fransisco’s catacombs with the bones of 25,000 dead bodies in the center of the city.

After 5 days in Lima and loads of new friends and memories, we headed with a couple of others (Ross & Kieren from Ireland and Matt from England) to Huacachina, a town about 5 hours south. Known as an “oasis”, Huacachina really is set around a lagoon in the middle of the desert, completely and totally surrounded by nothing but massive dunes. Bright blue skies and blistering hot days, with gorgeous sunsets and freezing cold nights – my first real time in the desert like this!

The draw to Huacachina is the ability to go sand boarding there, so the next day we booked a tour with a dune buggy, rented snow boards (which have been converted to sand boards) and set out with a small group into the desert. The buggy ride itself was like a roller coaster in a heat induced frenzy – we were all laughing so hard as the thing hauled through the dunes, up and down over massive hills, the whole time feeling like we would either tip sideways, forward or backward. I think the $15 we spent for the whole thing was worth the ride alone!

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hang with the guys on the actual sand boarding, but it was surprisingly easy and extremely fun. Don’t get me wrong, I ate my fair share of sand by the end of the day, tumbling over after building up too much speed on the way downhill – but the feeling of flying down the sand like that was so unique and so grand that it didn’t matter in the least!

Next stop was Nazca, a town in the desert known for their famous “Nazca Lines”, created about 2,000 years ago and still intact today (because of the intense heat and lack of rain, the ground stays hard and the lines stay in place). The figures are in the shapes of animals, fish, birds, trees, human figures and crosses between all of the above. The exact purpose of the Nazca lines is unknown: some think they were a kind of offering for the gods to see (as the Nazca people were polytheists), some think they were related to astronomy. Alternative theories abound, but no one knows for sure. The best way to see the lines is to do a day flight over the city, but none of us were willing to spend the money on it, so we just went to the mirador (view point) for our own observation. Interesting to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site!


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