Caraz was very quiet. Most of the villages in the Cordillera Blanca cater for mountain climbers, and it is not the season now. Caraz is a quaint little town with locals in traditional dress. Red and bright pink seem to be the preferred colours. The hats worn by the women in this area are conical with flat tops (we have noticed that hats are different in the various different regions!)
. But the skirts are always very gathered and the women wear colourful shawls. The mountain people are very small, and some of the women don’t even come up to my shoulders. (I was also taller than most of the men.). The locals walk through the town leading their donkeys laden with lucerne to sell at the market, and they dry their mielie cobs in the road. There is lots of agriculture in this area, with lovely fruit orchards. Cuy (guinea pig) is a local dish of the mountains. (Even at Kuelap, the ruins of an ancient civilization which we visited near Chachapoyas last week, the houses al had an inside area in which to keep their guinea pigs so they didn’t get too cold!!)
After spending one rainy night at Caraz we set off for Huaraz. Huaraz is the base for climbers and outdoor adventurers (just the place for us!) as it is close to the 2nd
highest mountain range in the world. The town is at 3,028 metres. We had read that there was a place just outside Huaraz that perhaps took campers so we aimed for there. After asking for directions, we eventually found it – 30 minutes on a hellish road, through a little village, and higher up the mountain, at 4,200metres/about 14,000ft. (We always feel quite pleased with ourselves when we understand the directions given by the locals!!). We really hit gold as it was quite beautiful – The Lazy Dog Inn
. It nestles under the snow-capped mountains with a huge glacier on one side. The mountains gleamed at sunset and there was no noise except for the sounds of nature. We could see the lights of Huaraz twinkling in the valley at night with a star-filled sky above…Horses used for treks in the area are sheltered in the grounds of the Inn at night so we had them around our vehicle throughout the night. The owners (a very nice ex-Canadian couple who are keen environmentalists – with water-recycling projects, composting toilets and mentoring a community school) let us camp, for free, in their grounds. The hotel consists of little cabins and a lodge, and in the evenings we went to the lodge and sat around a blazing fire. We had 3-course meals (veg from their garden cooked and served by local ladies in traditional dress) with the owners and the other guests. On the first night in addition to us the only guest was a retired Canadian who has been cycling around the world. His bicycle had just been stolen in Lima…..! And on the 2nd
night there was a group of Australian medical students who were working at a hospital in Lima, as well as the American Consul General in Lima, with her family…
BUT… All was not quite as rosy as it sounds because, on our arrival outside the big wooden entrance doors to the Inn, we switched off our truck and it would not restart!!!…
. The farm labourers pushed us inside and there Andy read through the manual and spent a good 2 hours trying to fix the problem – with no success! So the next day, with the help of the owners, we called their local mechanic to come all the way up to see what he could do. He arrived at 9:00am, took one look and said that we would have to be towed back into town. So at 11:00am the tow-truck arrived, hitched us up, and off we went into town ,,,. It was quite a thing being carted down the mountain as the roads were narrow with tight corners and some of the little houses in the villages along the way had low roofs jutting into the road. We got into town at about 1:00 and waited until 2:30 while the mechanic was having his lunch. Eventually we discovered that the problem was a damaged cable running from the gear lever at the steering wheel down to the gearbox. After a number of phone calls we found out that a replacement cable was not available in Peru, and that it would take 30 days to get one sent from the USA!!! So the local mechanics got busy and patched up the damaged cable as best he could….. we now are hoping that this temporary repair will last until we can import a new cable. At 6:00pm we left town and headed back up the mountain to the Lazy Dog Inn…….! What a day….
We reluctantly left the mountains this morning, and are now just north of Lima at a town called Barranca, at the sea again. (The altitude in the mountains was quite something to deal with. There just wasn’t enough air so it is good to be back at sea-level!!!! ) We weren’t expecting much from Barranca, but have been pleasantly surprised and have found a good place to stay for the night near the beach.
We walked to the beach and to the local plaza and as usual seem to be the only Gringos in town…..! We leave here early tomorrow morning as we want to get through Lima on a Sunday to avoid its infamous traffic!.
It was a long and interesting drive through the Canon del Pato , which runs between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra, eventually leading to Caraz. The road was another dirt road, and we went through 32 hand-hewn/one-way tunnels. It was very eerie as it was like driving through narrow, dark caves… and some of them are quite long. We only came across one other vehicle, and it had to back out to let us pass…. Many more sheer drops and towering heights! We definitely don't have to do the "Death Road" in Bolivia as we have done quite a few of them already!!!!