May 7, 2014
We arrived in Huaraz on Monday morning around 7 am, on an overnight bus from Lima.
The bus was reasonably comfortable, though we didn’t book in time to get the VIP seats that recline down to 160 degrees. There was even food and beverage service, although the food didn’t look appetizing, and a movie. They started the movie at 11pm and it was some gangster movie full of gunfire and car chases. I don’t think anyone was watching it. We were all trying to get to sleep. I was thankful to have ear plugs, though I could still hear the muffled sounds of organized crime mingled with the road noise.
When we left the bus station, we were surrounded by a group of men trying to earn a commission by taking us to a hotel. All but one fell away once we made it clear that we already knew what hotel we were going to, and that one left not long after we made it clear that we already had a reservation there. He was friendly, and gave us directions that were sort of correct. Directions are hard to follow in Huaraz because most of the streets aren’t labeled at the intersections, just on small address plates on the sides of buildings, or on mailboxes. So you have to actually turn down a street for 20 feet or so to figure out if it’s the street you need to take. We’ve gotten lost a lot.
The city of Huaraz is laid out along a narrow valley between two mountain ranges. The Cordillera Blanca, with snow-capped mountains, to the northeast, and the Cordillera Negra, shorter mountains to the south. The city is full of brick buildings, tile roofs, and the crowing of roosters. So far it has been sunny with scattered clouds in the morning every day, and has rained in the afternoon and early evening. People start hiking early in the hopes that they can be done and back inside before the skies open up.
Our hotel is Hostal Alburgue Churup, named for the nearby Laguna Churup. The dining room is a wood-paneled room with high ceilings and dozens of house plants. The east wall is all windows, looking out over the city and the mountains beyond. When it is clear, you can see four or five tall snow-capped peaks in the distance. Today, the clouds have started to cover them, and one of the nearer peaks, which was clear yesterday, has a dusting of snow.
Yesterday, we went for an acclimatization hike, up to Laguna Wilcacocha. It was a comparatively easy hike, about 4 miles each way, with a 1600 foot elevation gain. Still, since we started out above 10,000 feet, we felt it. At the top, a group of (I assume) Peruvians, asked to take a picture. I thought they wanted us to take a picture of them, but they actually wanted to take a picture of them and us.
Tomorrow, we start a 4-day trek on the Santa Cruz trail. Our guide is named Epi. His family runs the hotel and a nearby adventure guide company (Huascaran Adventure Travel) with good reviews. He smiles a lot and has been very patient talking to us about different hikes we might want to do. He speaks very little English, but so far my Spanish has been holding out far better than I thought it might. There are a lot of holes in it, but it’s kind of fun to work around them. So far my favorite was when I couldn’t remember the word for “spice”, so I asked for “a little thing that you add to food to improve the flavor”.