Trip Start Mar 18, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

After 8 hours on an overnight bus from Trujillo (nr Huanchaco) we arrived in Huaraz, very early at 5:30am! We find a hostel, wake the landlady, get a room and have a quick kip before the day properly begins!

Huaraz is completely different to the previous places we´ve visited in Peru as we´re now at 3100m above sealevel and amongst the Andes, just like in Ecuador. We´ve left the sunny hot Peru desert in a swap for a cooler and rainier climate. There are many things we could do here, include hiking for 4 days around the Cordillera Blanca (white mountain range.. due to them being snow-covered), but we decided on 3 1-day tours to the Llanganuco lakes (day1), ruins of Chavin (day2) and finally the walking around the glaciers at over 5000m (day3).

This is what is written about the Cordillera Blanca:

"The Cordillera Blanca is without questions one of the most magnificent mountain ranges in the world. And no other range combines its easy access and generally excellent climate with such an alpine wonderland of towering, ice-covered peaks. The Cordillera Blanca, the Parque Nacional Huascarán, is truly a treasure of the natural heritage of Peru and the entire world, a great living outdoor museum, and the goal every year of thousands of mountain climbers, scientists, and other wilderness lovers from all around the globe."

The Llanganuco lakes were beautiful and on the way we visited the old town of Yungay which was destroyed on 31 May 1970. An earthquake shook the nearby ice-covered mountain which caused a huge avalanche killing 26,000 people. It only took 4 minutes for the ice/snow/rocks to reach the town due to the 1000m difference in height from the mountain to Yungay. The site of the old town is now a huge graveyard and a new town is now built nearby. The only thing from the old town which wasn´t destroyed was the graveyard on a hill... it is still standing.

The ruins of Chavin (NOT the mecca for our British Chavs!) were amazing to explore. This is apparrently the Jerusalem for all Peruvians as the people of Chavin date back further than the Incas, Chimus, Mochicas... etc. They were from around 1,200-400BC. The ruins are of a large temple-like site. As the buildings and ornaments were made of stone, a lot has survived... more so than the clay-built pyramids of the Sicans and Mochicas. We visited the layout of the area and (most impressively) went into the underground labyrinths which were very impressive. After the visit at the site, we travelled back along the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca and it was THE bumpiest ride I´ve ever experienced as the roads were full of rocks and, at the worst, holes the size of houses in the road. I have a back nexk-ache afterwards, but it was worth it for seeing Chavin.

The glacier walking was great fun. We boarded the minibus at the usual 9am (and left the usual 1 hour later!!), and this time had Christian as a guide. This was quite nice as he spoke both English and Spanish to us in the bus so we got to understand a lot more this time. So, we were informed that we´d be going over the Pastoruri glacier later in the day at around 5100m (Mt Everest base camp in 5200m) and that we should wrap up warm and take some coca tea or chew coca leaves at the first stop, 1 hour away. As the coca leaves contain minute amounts of cocaine (very tiny!!) it helps stop altitude sickness. At the first stop, and one tea later, we all got back in the minibus and headed to the glacier.

On the way, we saw the famous plants of Puya Raymondi. These are strange looking cactus-like plants, which are actually a relative of the pineapple tree. They are only seen in a few South American countries (Peru, Bolivia, Chile... a few others, I think!) and only between 3,800m - 4,500m above sea level. After a few photos, the bus moved us all the the mountains to Pastoruri. After getting out of the bus we had 2 hours to ascend the glacier and return, as after 2 hours the altitude can give severe headaches to most people not acclimatised. (Indeed, I have a little headache as I type... better get another coca tea!!).

The climb up to the glacier was tought going, and I could feel my heart racing faster to try to supply more blood round the body to supply satisfactory amounts of oxygen, just as at lower altitudes. Many mini stops were needed, but got up to the glacier in the end! The glacier walk was a challenge on it´s own as I decided to walk up the "virgin" snow and make my own path... failing to realise that it was a little dangerous! Anyway, a few slips and falls later we nearly reached the top of the glacier and then headed back. The view from the top was amazing, and it´s a shame the camera doesn´t really capture the true picture up there. Also, on the way down we ventured into a cave and had a few more touristic photos. Well, why not!

So, the activities of near Huaraz have been finished and it´s off to Lima on the overnight bus (Movil Tours)... 8 hours of Spanish-dubbed films here we come!!
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risint on

re: Longest post so far...
I know... the internet cafe we used was so fast we were able to upload loads of photos... and hence I blabbed on a lot!!
Cheers for the comment, O chemical brother! :-)

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