From Huaraz i had to back track a bit and spend a day in Trujillo, to get back my camera that I somehow managed to leave there when I was there before. From there I got the bus to Cajamarca. There isn´t really much to do in Cajamrca, it has a few small archaelogical sites, but nothing as impressive as in other parts of Peru. My main reason for going there was to meet up with Cathy, my friend from Glasgow who is doing a work placement there for a month. So we had a very enjoyable couple of days catching up on all the news from home and everything that we´ve been up to over the last year or so. For a while I have been thinking of finally booking flights home, it is going to have to happen sooner rather than later, while I still have money left to pay for them. I almost booked them, but haven´t quite managed it yet.
Archive for July, 2008
finally made it to Huaraz after the strikes ended. Its a relatively small town in the best area for climbing and trekking in Peru. I spent the day finding out about trekking in the area and eventually decided to go for an 8 day trek on the Huayhuash circuit, apparently the 2nd best trek in the world, after the Annapurna Circuit. And the trek itself didn’t disappoint. I loved all 8 days of the walking, each day we hiked over high passes through spectacular scenery of high snow covered mountains, glaciers, lakes and past small villages where you would think it was impossible to live. Each day we had at least one high pass to climb of between 4500-5000m but luckily I felt unaffected by the altitude so could enjoy the walk without too much of a struggle. And everyday we started out quite early in the morning to reach the campsite by mid afternoon as for a few hours in the afternoon the weather always seemed to be bad, we experienced high winds, heavy rain, hail and snow storms, but the majority of the time we had clear sunny weather. The 4th day of the trek was the shortest day and we were camping near some hot springs, where we spent the afternoon having a very welcome wash, the only opportunity on the trek. Although the trek itself was amazing, our guide and the service we received on the trek was appalling. We had been promised an English speaking professional guide and a cook, we only had one guy with us who only seemed to know one word of English (lunch) and seemed to spend the whole time trying to avoid us, so although I can speak relatively good Spanish it was still very difficult to get even the most basic information from him. The tents we had were not suitable for camping in the mountains, none of the zips worked and after a few days mine had a huge hole in the roof, not good for camping in a snow storm. Due to our ‘guide’ being so bad, I decided he must just be a cook normally, but he wasn’t much better at that. Food included a piece of stale bread for breakfast and sugar sandwiches for lunch. The evening meal was basically the same every night except for the final night where we paid extra to have something different and try the local speciality of Pachamanca, lamb and potatoes cooked underground by hot rocks. This meant a bit of late night shopping for me. After dinner the night before, the only Spanish speaker in the group I was sent up the hill from the camp to visit the farmer and choose us a sheep. It was a bit different from shopping at Tesco.
So the trek itself was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys trekking but I definitely wouldn’t recommend booking with either Quecha Explorers or Monttrek.
I arrived in Trujillo early in the morning and tried to get a taxi to take me to a hostel. As seems to be common in Peru, the taxi drivers don´t like to take you where you want to go as they all seem to get commission from other places. So I was taken to a much more expensive hotel where i had no intention of staying but I left my bag until check in time and went for a walk around the city centre. Having got myself organised, booked a tour for the day and found a much better place to stay I went back to the hotel and told them I had changed my mind and thanked them for the free bag storage.
I spent the day on a tour of some archaeological sites in the surrounding area. In the morning we visited the temples of the sun and moon, in part of a city built by the pre-Incan Moche culture. The temple of the moon had been excavated so we were able to go in parts of it. It was a really interesting building. The area is very dry but occasionally there are big floods caused by El Nino. When the temples flooded they would just fill them in with clay bricks and build another temple on top of it, so it forms a pyramid shape. In total there were 5 temples on top of each other, all with the same basic design. The most impressive thing about the buildings was the brightly coloured wall paintings that had survived with in some cases very little damage. You could see that in each temple the design of the patterns had been modified slightly as the culture changed over time.
After lunch we visited Chan Chan, a huge archaeological site of 9 palaces, built by the Chuimu culture, which followed after the Moches. We spent hours just looking round 1 of the temples. Was really interesting to see how the culture and architecture had changes in a few hundred years as the culture developed and how they adapted to cope better with the rainy seasons. Was also really interesting to see how within just a few hundred years the beliefs of the society had completely changed, from worshiping mountains to the moon. So thanks to having a really good duide for a change, the day was really interesting.
I had wanted to leave that night to get to Huaraz, but the strikes meant there were still no buses, so instead I spent the following day in Huanachaco, a small town a little bit further up the coast, where I made the best of the good weather and enjoyed a relaxing day on the beach.
I had heard a lot of bad things about Lima before I arrived there so I wasn´t expecting too much from it, but it turned ot to be not as bad as everyone said. After the overnight bus from Arequipa I spent the morning in Miraflores, one of the richer areas of the city. Here I felt safe walking around alone, despite the warnings and had a nice morning seeing a small part of the city by the coast. In the afternoon I decided to go to the national museum, unfortunately most of it was closed so I saw an extensive exhibition about potatoes and an interesting photographic gallery about the recent history and terrorism in Peru. This was actually really interesting as it was something I knew little about. My second day in Lima I decided to brave the city centre, apparently one of the least safe places in South America. I went with a German girl form the hostel for a bit of support. We saw the changing of the guards at the government palace, a very long ceremony that the ministry of silly walks would be very proud of. We went to the San Francisco monastery- One of the most interesting parts of the tour was the catacombs where there was a strange collection of bones. Apparently the archaeologists had organised the bodies by bone type so we saw a room of femurs, etc. In one area they had made an interesting mosaic pattern out of skulls and bones that was a bit disturbing. Other than that it was an interesting tour with some impressive architecture with a lot of influence from Southern Spain. After unexpectedly surviving the city centre we headed back to Miraflores on the buses, a bit of a challenge but we made it in the end. In the evening I tried to get the bus to Huaraz in the mountains, but due to strikes and road blocks there were no buses running that way, so rather than spend an extra few days in Lima I got on the only available bus and went further up the coast to Trujillo.
After an overnight bus ride I arrived in Nazca at about 5am, not in the mood to avoid the touts so I let someone show me to a hotel. For only 2.50pounds a night I thought it was quite good for my own room, private bathroom and TV. Unfortunately though after arriving at the hostel she spent ages trying to sell me various tours and flights for the next day, at prices well over twice as much as they should be. I eventually managed to get rid of her and go to bed only for her to come knocking on my door at 7.30am wanting to know if I had decided what I wanted to do. Because it was overcast the chance of getting a flight that day were very unlikely so I decided to do a tour of some of the archaeological sites in the area and go to the viewpoint where you can see a couple of the figures in the lines. Eventually she dropped the price by 50% and although I thought it was still over priced I gave in and agreed to it, just to get rid of her. After that, the day did improve the tour was actually better than expected, I had my own private guide for the day and he was very knowledgeable about the area, so I probably learnt a lot more about Nazca and the lines than I would have done doing a flight. In the morning we visited several sights including the aqueducts built more than 2000 years ago, that are still in use now and have survived numerous large earthquakes in the area because of the way they were designed. we also visited a Nazca cemetery which was a bit of a strange sight. The Nazca culture mummified all bodies and buried them in family graves. Despite being attacked by grave robbers, some of the mummies were still in very good condition and had been arranged on displays in the open graves.
In the afternoon we went to see the lines from a watch tower overlooking a couple of the figures, the view form here was better than I expected but obviously nothing like flying over them. And by this time some flights had started running as the morning fog had cleared, but they were all booked out by tour groups. The figures were impressive to see, along with the perfect straight lines that continued for kilometres across the desert. What was most impressive to me was that the lines and figures were apparently still perfect after hundreds of years with apparently no reconstruction. How have they survived weathering and earthquakes for that long? And although there are some theories, there are no really convincing ideas about why they built them.
Having seen everything there was to see around Nazca I decided not to stay and see if I could get a flight the next day and so I took an overnight bus to Lima.
I spent a few days in and around Arequipa, a very nice colonial city in Southern Peru. Within the city itself there are a lot of religious sites, including many churches, the cathedral and the Santa Catalina monastery. One of the main sites is the monastery and I spent a couple of hours visiting it. It is huge, like a separate village walled off within the town centre. It was really interesting to find out about the way of life for the hundreds of nuns that used to live there and the few that still remain today and there was a lot of impressive colonial architecture. I also visited the university run museum which displays the body of the child mummy Juanita found on one of the mountains overlooking the town. As the Incas believed the mountains were Gods there have been numerous child sacrifices found in the mountains across the Inca territory. Strange to think that it was thought of as an honour and privilege to be sacrificed, but only the best children were chosen. Because of the burial conditions the mummy was still in very good condition so they have done a lot of studies on the body and you could even see the facial expression of the child.
I also spent 3 days trekking in Colca Canyon, which has apparently just been reclassified as the deepest canyon in the world. It is a few hours drive from the city to the canyon, which was not the most comfortable ride on an overcrowded local bus that required a break for some repairs on the way. From the village of Cabanaconde we started trekking, down into the base of the canyon where we crossed over the river and climbed the otherside to a small village where we stayed the night. On the second day we had a couple of hours walk in the morning back down into the canyon to an oasis where we stopped for a few hours for a refreshing swim. In the afternoon this meant we had a steep 3 hour climb back out of the canyon to reach Cabanaconde. It was really hot and hard work and would have been good to have another swim at the top to cool off. On the final day we went to a viewpoint to watch condors flying over the canyon. Despite having seen quite a few before now, they are really impressive birds to watch flying and a couple of them came very close to the cliffs so you could really appreciate the size of them. From there we went to the village of Chivay where we visited a hot springs before getting the bus back to Arequipa.