Huaraz & The Cordilleras (Peru)

We decided to get away from the cold in Trujillo with a weekend trip to Huaraz and the Cordilleras. 10 hours on the deluxe night bus (pretty cozy besides the token snorer on every trip), and we arrived in Huaraz just after 8am.

As soon as we checked into the hotel, we booked over to the tour company for a day of mountain biking. I insisted on full suspension bikes for us both (expensive, but worth it), and only an hour later we were on our way with a guide and a shuttle climbing up the Cordilleras Negras hillside.

The city I enjoyed the most in Peru was definitely Huaraz. I loved everything about it: its warmth in all meanings of this word (the people and the weather), its streets, cafes and bars. We liked it so much that visited it twice.

It takes about 10hours from Trujillo. We traveled by the VIP buses run by Linea (http://www.transporteslinea.com.pe/) that includes snack, tea/coffee, pillow and blanket, movies and super comfortable seats. I enjoyed Linea VIP …

The descent started out on a road for the first couple miles, and then we transferred to a single track trail with rocks, small creeks and other obstacles. It was somewhat technical and a bit too difficult for Vasilisa, but for me, the ride was amazing –with beautiful scenery and adrenaline packed turns descending all the way back to the town below. Even so, I got mine too as a pack of wild dogs chased me down one of the trails, and one even nipped my shoe.

Joshua & Vasilisa Mountain Biking (Huaraz, Peru)

Joshua & Vasilisa Mountain Biking (Huaraz, Peru)

Joshua Mountain Biking (Huaraz, Peru)

Joshua Mountain Biking (Huaraz, Peru)

Our first visit to Huaraz was full of adventures and activities. The first activity that we did was mountain biking – it was an unforgettable experience. Joshua hired a tour company called Galaxia Expeditions (http://www.galaxia-expeditions.com) that for just $100 landed us full suspension bikes, a guide and a transfer to the top of nearest Cordillera Negra. At the office the manager promised that if the track was too complicated we could always take the general road. They didn’t seem to care about our level or experience as well as our equipment. No one even helped us to adjust our bikes right. As appeared later that gender: female + experience: “I know how to ride a bike” + equipment: shorts & t-shirt = walking down the track, holding the bicycle in front.

Yes, that is exactly how I ended up! The track was steep and rocky. I didn’t know how not to fall down nor how to escape the rocks on the track. The instructor seemed not to care about me carrying my bicycle. I guess he assumed that I was safe enough in that position and didn’t bother to help or explain how to go down using the bike.

Josh tried to make me use it couple of times but I totally refused riding it. The thought of falling on the sharp rocks made me sick. So I let him go down and continued to carry my bicycle down. I used it a bit when at the very end of our decent when we reached the regular road. To cut the story short I had spent 4 hours caring my full suspension bike for $50 and still had a lot of fun. After, visiting the hot springs made me more than happy.

Once back in town, we ate the lunch they had packed for us, returned the bikes, and grabbed a cab over to the local aguas termales (hot springs) in Monterrey. The tour company had said they would take us there, which ended up meaning that they walked us 50 feet to the corner, hailed a cab, quoted us the price and said adios!

The hot springs were amazing, despite the muddy orange-brown color of the water. We started out in the pool area (sort of luke warm water), which had a funny sign of a couple making out with text below saying “25 or older only.” We weren’t sure if we were entering some sort of orgy pool or what, but it turned out pretty normal.

After the pool, we got a private room with a big Jacuzzi bath tub and 115+ degree water, where we spent 20 minutes soaking it up and relaxing. Once we got out, I felt a bit dizzy and overloaded from the hot water, but once that wore off, I felt an immense feeling of ecstasy and tranquility.

Chancos Hot Springs Monterrey Peru
Muddy Water Pool Area

Funny Sign at Hot Springs
Sign at Chancos Hot Springs (Monterrey, Peru)

We finished off the day with a great dinner at a restaurant in Huaraz called Pachacama – little cheese and ham hot pocket bites with guacamole, curry rice with fruits, and sangria! And next to our table was a giant chess board that we played as we ate and until we closed down the restaurant around 10 pm and went back to the hotel to watch a bit of TV and sleep.

We woke up early the next day for our tour of the Cordilleras and Lagunas Llanganuco. Our first stop was at a small city called Carhuaz, where there was a colorful Sunday market and bands playing in the central Plaza de Armas. We walked around the Plaza de Armas and the market for about a half hour, with Vasilisa secretly photographing the traditionally dressed Andean women, and we bought a big jar of the local honey (so fresh!) to take back with us.

Next we stopped at another small town called Yungay, which had witnessed the worst Andean disaster in the earthquake of 1970. The town and streets were still filled with rubble – the only thing untouched being a huge Corcovado-like Christ standing at the top of a small hill – a site where 92 people had taken refuge from the after quake avalanche and survived – and four palm trees that had been protected behind the church which had taken the bulk of the blow. In total, 20,000 people had died from the tragedy. Vasilisa was cheered up though when we heard that the ex-Soviet Union had been first in line to help with restoring the town, providing the most support, just above the U.S!

Next, we climbed up steep dirt roads in our bus, finally reaching a beautiful emerald colored lake, Laguna Orconchocha, settled just beneath the snow line in a stunning glacial valley, with immense rock walls on one side and the hills leading up the Cordillera Blancas (snow covered glacial mountains) on the other. We walked around the lake, and at the water access point we stopped and waited for everyone else to move on before we skinny dipped in the chilly, 40 degree water. But as sneaky as we thought we were, the entire bus found out and we became the center of attention for the rest of the ride – answering lots of questions about how cold the water was and how crazy we were!

The tour finished up with a visit to Caraz, where we stopped to taste a local sweet treat made from milk and honey, along with an Artisan house where we watched a local woman throw a pot on a wheel and then hope we might buy her goods in the store! Of course Vasilisa didn’t disappoint them, buying a couple sets of earrings (only 2 bucks total though!). And I thought I might die as one couple spent like 30 minutes browsing the store and buying nothing, but finally we left and returned to Huaraz.

Once back in town, we packed up, bought a 50 cent hamburger (not bad by the way) and boarded the bus back to Trujillo. Once again, I didn’t sleep well, with the token snorer seated right behind me sounding off like some sort of dying animal!

The next day we went on the trip to Laguna Llanganuco. It was a very nice and easy trip (no mountain biking this time!). The first time I saw people in traditional clothes – bright & colorful – beautiful skirts and funny hats. I was so excited that I went photo hunting for people wearing Peruvian clothes. We did a little shopping trip and came out with the bottle of delicious home made honey just for $3 US.

Andean Woman (Carhuaz, Peru)

Andean Woman (Carhuaz, Peru)

The lagoon itself was amazing: stunning views and perfectly warm weather. Too quiet for Joshua: so he decided to swim in the lake – ice glacier lake! – with the water temperature close to freezing. Not only he did it himself, but somehow he persuaded me to go in too. The water was freezing: I could stay just for a few seconds…

Joshua in Freezing Water (Laguna Orconchocha, Peru)

Joshua in Freezing Water (Laguna Orconchocha, Peru)

Woman Throwing a Pot (Caraz, Peru)

Woman Throwing a Pot (Caraz, Peru)

We decided Huaraz was worth seeing again, and decided to return a couple weeks later for a 3 day visit. On this second trip, we went on a trek to Laguna 69 & visited the ancient ruins of Chavin.

The bus ride to Laguna 69 took over 3 hours, so even though we left Huaraz at the crack of dawn, we didn’t get to the trail-head until after 10am. The hike was a beautiful trail below the snow-capped Cordillera Blancas, with views of waterfalls, rivers and glacial lakes. As the hike continued on, the high elevation started to get to our heads, so we decided to stop just short of the Laguna to make sure we could get back to Huaraz on the last combi, and we returned without actually making it to Laguna 69. Despite this, the hike was amazing.

Cactus Flowers on Laguna 69 Trek (Cordilleras Mountains, Peru)

Cactus Flowers on Laguna 69 Trek (Cordilleras Mountains, Peru)

Glacial Triangles on Laguna 69 Trek (Cordilleras Mountains, Peru)

Glacial Triangles on Laguna 69 Trek (Cordilleras Mountains, Peru)

We ended up catching a ride back to town for free with a local, and on the way we stopped of at a natural sauna cave for rest and relaxation. The sauna was just what I needed after a long days hike –it felt great!

For dinner, we went out to a local French restaurant (The Creperie). We ordered French onion soup & ratatouille –such a treat! There was local art on the walls, and Vasilisa ended up buying one of the paintings for her mom, and I helped with negotiations (about 50% off the starting price).

The next day we took another bus out to the Chavin ruins – another long bus ride. The ruins were different from some of the others, with complex underground labyrinths and intricate artistic stone work.

After the ruins, we explored the town, walking around the central plaza de armas and some surrounding streets. It was just a week before elections, so everyone, including small groups of tribal dancers, was chanting and parading around the town outfitted with signs, t-shirts, hats, etc for their candidate of choice.

That night, for our last hours in Huaraz, we ate again at The Creperie, this time ordering a dessert crepe filled with bananas, ice cream, pineapples & chocolate sauce. It was definitely more expensive then our usual 4 sole / $1.50 menu, but totally worth it – what a trip!

We returned to Huaraz again two weeks later. This time we visited the hot springs twice as we discovered another hot spring with a natural sauna in a cave. We got all the information on what to do in Huaraz from iPeru (http://www.turismoperu.info/0/modulos/JER/JER_Interna.aspx?ARE=0&PFL=0&JER=37&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1) that was very helpful. The lady at the office detailed explanation how to get to different places, how long will it take and how much will cost; in addition she gave us all the possible maps she had in the office. So we had lots of opportunities to spend time out in Huaraz.

We wandered around the food market that was overflowing with different kind of products: from honey, coffee, coca tea to guinea pigs, frogs and other meats. The gross part of the market was the meat section: it smelled terrible as all the animals (pigs, horses, guinea pigs and others), just killed a few hours before, were hanging from the counters – no refrigerators of course. I could hardly stay there more than 30 seconds. Other that that the market was awesome – all kinds of fruits and vegetables, cheeses and honey.

The next day we did the hike to the Laguna 69. We got up 5 am to catch the “combi”. Oh yeah, it is a very important part of the Peruvian life – “combi”. “Combi” – is the public transportation of choice in Peru, it consist of old micro bus (manufactured in 90s or earlier) where the tempered glass windows are often replaced with regular glass (that doesn’t tears itself into countless little cubes), a bus driver and the yelling/announcing/stopping guy (whose job is to yell out the bus directions and fill the combi with passengers exceeding capacity at least 2 times. So taking a combi is an experience! To get to laguna 69 we had to take two combies: Huaraz – Yungay (3h – $1.5US) and Yungay – beginning of the track (1h – $3US).

We got to the beginning of the track around 10 am. The last combi back was at 4pm so that left us with 6 hours round trip (the lady from iPeru told us that it is 3 hours one way). It was a beautiful hike, with waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, mountains. 3 hours later we realize It would take us much more then 3 hours to reach the lagoon 69, so we decided not to take our chances to miss the combi back. The way back appeared to be much faster and we reached the road around 2 pm and were lucky to catch a free ride back to Yungay.

That evening we had fantastic dinner at a French restaurant – Crêperie Patrick (http://creperiepatrick.com). I found Huaraz to be a really good place to go out – and so we did!

Waking up the next morning wasn’t easy. We visited Chavin ruins that are about 3 hours from Huaraz – the road was beautiful: it climbed the mountains, crossed rivers and the views opening from the window were unforgettable. The best part of the ruins was the underground halls and corridors. The guide book said it was said that corridors were used for the religious ceremonies and for the food storage. Josh had his own theory: he sees it as a huge prehistoric entertainment center and part of the ceremonies were drinking, gambling and sex. :).. The rest of the day we enjoyed the elections campaign at the Plaza de Armas.

That was the end of our adventures in Huaraz and around. It is definitely a place to come back to!


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This article has 5 comments so far!

  1. jj lankin says —

    you guys make me sick – i am so jealous looking at this blog….i wanna go

  2. Julie says —

    I am so glad the two of you are having such a great time. I LOVE reading your blog and hearing about your adventures from both of your perspectives. Keep it up and stay safe and healthy.
    Love you both,
    Mom

  3. Julie says —

    P.S. Photos are wonderful.

  4. Michael Alynn Soros says —

    You are having a real adventure.All the types of water,trees and Mountains. The people are really
    down to earth and seem to be alive and alert. You I
    see are having a experience that will last for a lifetime. What do the people you meet talk about?
    Dad..

  5. wendy says —

    I love getting a chance to see the world through your eyes. Your writing and photography and fun and insights and smells and colors and foods and temperments and relationship are all delightful. Enjoy!
    xoxo aunt wendy

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