The Cordillera Blanca

From Lima we traveled deep into the mountains for what would come to be a very intense week of death defying bus rides, 4 am cliffs hiking, eating solar cooked foods at an ecolodge, tunneling inside 4000 year old ruins, fighting altitude sickness at nearly 20,000 feet above sea level, and drinking Shara Shara tea in a favorite upstairs cafe owned by an Alaskan man.

Yes, the Cordillera Blanca had a lot to offer. Coming into Huaraz by bus was the way to go, for as we traveled up into the steep mountians we got a slow and peacful look at mountain villages, forests of giant alow plants, and tips of snow covered mountains in the distance. After 10 or so hours, we arrived at the cusp of nightfall in the mountain village 10,000 feet above sea level. It was dark so we couldn´t see our surroundings too well, but the streets were bright so we headed to JO´s place, and englishmen run hikers hostal on the edge of town. Lovely adobe rooms welcomed us and after a dinner at a desterted restraunte where we met a student, sara, who informed us of the poor water quality and the heavy glacial melt in the area, we retired to our room and slept on hand woven woolen blankets.

The next day we acclimatized to the low oxygen air by hiking directly up a cliff side to a look out, where to our surprise we came apon an X-games type of mountain bike challange. After a breif sit, and a few pictures of the now ver visible magnificant snow covered sheer and jagged peaks surroundign the town, we walked back down.

The next day found us taking a day trip to the Pastorouri Glacier, the most signifcant source of water for the Peruvian country. Now severely melted and split in half, at a hieght of nearly 20,000 feet we were not allowed to walk on the glacier but were able to touch it and witness the very warm climate around the glacier in what is the South Hemisphere´s winter. Soaked int he glaciers energy and the magnificence of the day travel by bus to it, we were ready to take on our next adventure.

That next adventure was to the town of Chavin de Huantar. A small village located next tot he 4000 year old capital of the pre-inca Chavin culture, we walked from the village center to the Inca Hotel after our 4 hour bus ride deeper and higher in the Andes. We ate at the only visible restraunt with the word touristico in the name. Bad choice. That night, and the next morning were plagued by sickness for the both of us, and I was nearly sure I had contracted giardia. None the less, we walked to the ruins for an early start to make the best of it. What followed was an amazing personal tour by Martin, a local artist, walking all around and over the 4 hectar site. Multiple landslides had covered the ruins, but it was one its was to be completely excavated. A team of students from Stanford´s archeolgy department was on site that day to do some work. We walked among wanderign Alpaca through the walkways of the old city, witnessing the amazing stone carving, and measurment technolgy pocessed by the ancient culture. We then walked down steep steps in the clostrophobic gallery chambers of the main temple. Lit by florecent lights we passed through the chambers to view sleeping areas, meditation areas, ritual chambers and a giant perfectly preserved stone monolif which they worshiped at the center of the temple. (pictures to come.)

Finally we spent three days heading north to the towns of Carhuaz and Caraz, two alternate sights for hikers to begin their multiday treks. Not in the right shape or having the right gear, Natali and I opted for somthign a little different. For the high cost of 100 dollars a night we spent one night at Pocha´s House an ecolodge snuggled into the hillside. There we relaxed, took in the scenerey and ate delicious foods including, polenta, chicken catciatori, yogurt, butter, bread, jams, and eggs, all grown and harvested from her yard. Early in the mornign we woke at 4 am to walk up the nearby dirt road to the mountainous hill behind her home. By the first cracks of light we realized it was quiet a bit taller than expected and my hiking boots which I had been wearing for 5 days were begining to give me blisters. We pressed on determined to summit the insanely steep hill by sunrise. After giving up on the trail and heading straight up the cliff side we made it to the summit and a small stone foundation of a long forgotten farm shed. We marveled in the sights of the largest of the Cordillera´s a 22,000 foot jagged pyrimid of a mountain. As the sun crested over the peaks we stood amidst abandoned bean and wheat feils and did yoga sun salutations to the bright, warm, South American sun. A box was check in the “too do before you die” list before I even knew that it was on it…

The next day we stayed in an ultra budget hostal and left the next morning for the coast. I opted for a gravel road route through the “beautiful Cañon de Pato” or Duck Canyon as my Lonely Planet guide informed. However I am quite sure they did not ride this route, as we found that it was unpoliced allowing the busses to pack twice the amount of people into the bus and ontop of the bus, which unfortuneatly was the only place we could keep out bags! With 60 people on a 30 person bus we road on a one lane eroded path though a canyon perhaps 3000 meters deep at parts, through 40 hand cut tunnels, through passes only 30 feet wide with towering cliffes above and below. 200 feet above a roaring rapid river, the bus nearly sliding in mulitiple times when we approached washed out sections. At the end of this ride we arrived in Chimbote, a dirty, polluted fishing port, the inspiration for one of Natali´s favorite books on indigenous cluture. We quickly boarded a much nicer bus for the 3 hour ride to Trujillo, Peru´s second largest city….

We arrived at night, exhausted, sore, with stressed nerves and very good feeling for still being alive. This side trip had been exciting at the very least, full of adventure, stresses, beautiful sights, history, and surprise, and all for a franction of the cost of a weekend in a New England city…

Peru continues to amaze, surprise, upset, and happily keep us. As I would hope it would.

3 Responses to “The Cordillera Blanca”
  1. incredible…i want to do sun salutations in a spot just like thatJessica

  2. Jennifer says:

    What adventures! In my mind, I could see you both, and I could envision the amazing scenery. I am so excited to talk to you in person about your experiences when you return! How tempted I am to buy a ticket right now to visit you both down there, and explore the country. Much love to you both!

  3. Chris's MOM says:

    Your experiences continue to amaze and delight me. Namaste! I honor the spirit in you and Natalie

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