Peru : September 18 - October 8 : Cordilleras Blancas

21. September

Trujillo, The Moches – Evidence of pre-Inca life


From Mancora, we took the bus to Trujillo, a busy Peruvian town in which we spent only one night. There are ruins outside of the city, the Huaca del Sol y de la Luna. The large mounds are believed to be pre-Inca and of the Moche civilization. The renovation is still underway, though what has been uncovered unveils quite a glimpse into the handiwork of the culture and the importance put on geometric shapes and configurations. We arrived in time to watch the setting sun and glimpse one hairless Peruvian dog – not sure why I was so fascinated by it. Patrick thought it was a bit strange. Our taxi driver had actually waited for us and proved to be quite a tour guide, no extra cost. The benefit of speaking a bit of Spanish was the small conversations that came our of taxi rides, no matter how long. It was always a pleasure to meet someone so proud of their country and generous enough to share it with us.

[Click on any picture to view full screen slideshow]

22 – 25. September

Las Cordilleras Blancas


These white peaked mountains line the interior of Peru, offering majestic views, the highest altitude lake and a freshness in the air. Most people approach the mountains from Huaraz, a hikers and mountaineering town at the southern end of the range. We would end up in Huaraz, taken a path first from the north that took us through a windy mountain pass. Our ride was in a crowded local bus (we were the only foreigners), were crunched like sardines into old seats, while even the aisle was full of baskets, chickens and an elderly woman who was happy to crouch on the ground. At one point, we had to all get off the bus, so it could make it across a land slide – with all the weight of the passengers it would have bottomed out. So we walked across the debris and then watched our bus follow. This is when you know you are travelling.


We arrived in Caraz and found a basic room. Patrick was again feeling the affects of the altitude, sapping him of all energy and robbing him of any appetite. I had troubled finding places open to eat and it was even more difficult on Sunday. The town square provided a lovely spot for people watching, including elderly women, sitting in traditional dress, sharing life stories over and ice cream (supposedly Caraz is known for its great ice cream). Anyway, with little resources to make Patrick more comfortable or entertain myself, we made the decision to take a mini-van to Huaraz. The Peruvian version of a tuk tuk, took us to the local stop, where we boarded, paid for an extra seat to house our luggage and off we were. We got to glimpse the white peaks as we travelled south and the crispness was evident through the open windows.


[This is a playlist with several videos, click on the film strip button (next to the play button) to see all]

23 – 25. September



Our hostel was just what the doctor ordered. We arrived and there was a bit of confusion about where to put us, and I could see that all Patrick was a warm bed to climb into. He was patient and he rewarded with a lovely space that he aptly climbed right into. We ordered pizza for delivery – again funny how something we take so for granted becomes such a novelty.


The altitude was apparent at every breath – climbing the 3 flights of stairs that led to the breakfast hall and communal hang out space made me completely breathless. But the view upstairs was so worth it. The white peak was framed perfectly in the large windows and the changing colors could be watched in peace and quiet with the warmth of the fire place on your legs.


When Patrick was feeling a little better, he mustered enough energy to accompany me on a tour of Huascaran National Park and Chavin, the ruins high in the Blancas. We visited the highest point of our entire trip and though I was impressed with the numbers on the sign, I was more excited about the llamas purposefully placed to attract the tourists taking pictures. They were my first llamas in Peru! This was significant. (I did come to a point, in about 4 weeks, when the sight of a llama was of no consequence – in fact I was totally unimpressed, but that did not take away from the joy of these first few sightings).


One of the outstanding features of the ruins at Chavin was an underground water system that was used during certain rites and rituals. Imagine a flute, with its end cut off and placed into the ground, with the air holes facing the sky. Water flowed through this pipe and the priests and shamans covered the holes accordingly, depending on what kind of sound they wanted to create. The tunes and sounds coming from the ground were disguised as the voice of the gods or the totem animal or to prove whatever point they were hoping to make – of course convincing the followers of their majestic power. Whether they believed or not, we will never really know.


[Click on any picture to view full screen slideshow]

The one for Andrew II: Kitty playing crazy

 With the napkin ball around our lunch table


25. January

Deli sandwiches for the bus


Our trusty guide book directed us to a very Berkeley-esque deli in downtown Huaraz – full of Northern Californians sipping on lattes, crunching on veggie sandwiches and listening to David Grey. The lending library covered three walls, the bulletin board advertised energy healing and trekking boots for sale and the bulging cinnamon rolls dripped with white cream cheese frosting. This did not feel like Peru. I ordered two sandwiches and a brownie to go and we hastily jumped into a cab in just enough time to get to the bus station for our bus to Lima.


We heard nothing positive about Lima, so our one night there was only to accommodate our flight to Cusco the next morning and possibly intercept the package that Andreas had sent to us with DHL. The bus to Cusco, an uncertain 18-20 hour ride through Pisco, the area devastated by the earthquake, did not seem like the right choice when a fairly inexpensive flight was available to us. So, we arrived in Lima, tired and without a place to stay. Our first try was why out of our price range, but they were gracious enough to offer their town car as transportation to a hotel in a nicer part of Lima. We checked in, ate and plopped into our bed.



26. September



Don’t use DHL. We learned that the hard way. Or maybe don’t send electronics of any kind to South America. In an attempt to recover a few of the important things that were stolen, our dear friend Andreas put a lot of hard work and energy into collecting and shipping the few things that Patrick had spent a lot of hard work and energy getting shipped to Andreas. All in all, it was a lot of time and energy.


In Lima, at the DHL office at the airport we learned that it was stuck in customs because of its contents: hard drives and spare batteries…things that are hot items, I suppose. I had to prove that I was on holiday, that the items were mine and that I was not intending to sell them. After a few signatures and some miscommunications (we later discovered), all was well and the package should arrive in Cusco as planned. We got back in our taxi, who had waited the whole time for us, and boarded our plane.



next: Cusco, Peru