The last American week, once more and so short to seem already ended: the travel through Peru, fantastic but perhaps lived less intensely regarding the adventures in the other Latin American countries. Coming from the uncovered coast of the Pacific Ocean, Lima appears as an enormous and dusty strip of desert, at first sight quite unattractive. The traffic congests this big city reducing the historical center (around Plaza de Armas) to a funnel of smog, nothing romantic. People shout in order to sell goods of any type, from food to the most unthinkable objects. An old man shows us his product, saying “asì me gano la vida“, the Manual del Pendejo, that is expired daydreams and holy water… life in Latin America is never banal neither sweet, just demands a lot, maybe too much creativity.
The Yuyanapaq.Para recordar museum (in memory of the two decades civil war, 1980-2000), remembers through an intense audiovisual exposition, that tragic period in Peruvian history and the sad genocide of the Andean people, a season of ideological contrasts that kicked up a big wave of terror in the country. As always, those who paid the worst price in this war were the indigenous people, particularly in the region of Ayacucho. Overwhelmed by a spiral of violence and terroristic actions, the country lost the conscience and suspended its own history.
The Semana Santa (Easter) is coming up and Huaraz begins to animate for the beginning of the season of trekking and mountaineering in the Cordillera Blanca. This splendid mountainous chain, that extends along 180 kilometers in the National Park Huascarán, includes the highest peak of Peru (Huascarán, 6768 meters) and one of the most beautiful mountains in the world (Alpamayo, famous for its north-western pyramid shaped face). Beside the most popular circuits, Santa Cruz trek (5 days between lagoons, snowy sloops and passes up to 5000 meters of altitude) and Lagunas de Llanganuco (see photos), exist numerous footpaths for trekking of varied difficulty, among which: Laguna Churup trek, Quilcayhuanca trek and Ishinca trek. All offer wonderful sights of the snowcapped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. There are also numerous options of ascension to the summits of the mountains, without forgetting the neighbor Cordillera Huayhuash (Huayhuash trek). For further information on trekking and mountaineering in the region of Huaraz, a good starting point can be the Asociacion de Guias de Montaña de Peru. For the best sights of the Cordillera Blanca, cover the numerous paths of the Cordillera Negra, by foot, mountain bike or horseback.
A dawn in Huaraz is worth the show of 30 snowcapped peaks coloring themselves of the flush transported by the icy wind. A dawn in Huaraz is worth the smile of a trembling old woman, crying aloud “¡Tamales!”. A dawn in Huaraz astonishes up to make you scream that you have conquered the roof of the world, or just the destination along the travel. A dawn in Huaraz takes your breath away, leading you where the lonely Andean condor can get. A dawn in Huaraz is worth 10 months of nomadic travel and many adventures, it’s the joy of time and the enthusiasm to discover every day new horizons. Now the day with its colors, the rural market and the women laughing, the shy smiles of the children, a horseback-ride or a long trek towards the lagoons of emerald (Llanganuco and Churup)… and many small stories to remember.
It’s dawn when the desert of the Peruvian coast, starkly desolated, is awakened by the first sun beams, that wearily play with the fog. In our mind Trujillo and the Moche ruins of Chan Chan, one interminable night at the bus terminal of “America Express”. The dream vanishes accompanied by the smell of iron and fish of the port of Chimbote, a place of frontier and maybe pretty picturesque. We choose the most spectacular way to return towards the Andes, travelling along the Cañon del Pato. The bus limps hardly along the dirty road, numerous staggering bridges slows down the way. The abyss under us grows constantly, the river in flood roars on the bottom of the valley. A system of narrow galleries forces us to long waits when we intercross other means of transporting but, after hours of traveling, finally the horizon opens on the Cordillera Blanca, one of the most spectacular places of the world, with its numerous snowcapped mountains (Huascarán, Alpamayo, Huandoy, all beyond the 6000 meters). Along the Callejon de Huaylas from Caraz, Yungay and Huaraz, we enjoy a landscape that takes our breath away…
We wake up early in the morning, our first unforgettable week in Peru ends with an incredible travel: towards the past, the sky, a hard but authentic present. The road that connects Chachapoyas to Cajamarca is a pebbly and dusty way, that vanishes inexorably swallowed by abandonment and nature. We join the procession of hundreds of campesinos who, in the day of the market, head towards the pueblo of Yerbabuena (Rio Utcubamba); trading on every available means of transporting (camiones, horses, bulls) or by foot. It rains and the damp confuses colors and flavors of the market, shouts and mud sketches. In this atmosphere the millenarian exchange between the products of the Altiplano and those of the forest happens. We continue towards the archaeological site of Revash, an interesting example of Chachapoya architecture. The road follows a splendid green valley until Leymebamba, where we visit the museum “Centro Mallqui”, approximately 200 Chachapoya mummies are guarded together with numerous finds discovered near the Laguna de los Condores. Now we go up firmly, the vegetation disappears and we reach an altitude of 4000 meters. We catch up the clouds and we enjoy an impressive horizon, during the sunset.
Quickly we return down, until we touch the waters of Rio Marañon, near the village called La Balsa (500 m.s.l). While we have dinner, the waitress tells us that various armed robberies recently took place along the road for Cendelin: a wearing discussion with our driver rises, but the decision is to continue. In the fog we reach the objective of the day (Cendelin), it’s late in the night. We all (Michael and Lukas, our travel companions, too) are exhausted. The following day we complete the distance from Cendelin to Cajamarca, hours and hours of up and down by bus again. A one-shot adventure, a travel in the most authentic Peru.
This is the third highest waterfall in the world, second only to the Salto Angel in Venezuela (972 metres) and the Tugela Falls (South Africa, 948 meters). Considering the two falls it’s 779 meters high, really spectacular… We got there along a hard trekking through what remains (unfortunately not so much) of the Peruvian mountainous rain forest.
The Chachapoya was one of the most mysterious and independent Pre-Incaic cultures. They lived in the isolated and hard valleys around Chachapoyas, capital of the Amazonas department. Iquitos seems so far from these places, but the immense rivers indicate us the direction towards the Amazon. The Chachapoya had been able to adapt to a hostile environment, building fortified cities (Kuelap) and necropolis of sarcophagi on the impressive slopes of the mountains (Karajia). The numerous mummies that during the last few years have been discovered, following the crescent interest for this civilization, tell us a history of warriors (“Guerreros de las Nubes”), skillful farmers and architects. Kuelap, the fortified citadel of the Chachapoya, is an example of their ability, second only to Machu Picchu for majesty, still nearly undiscovered. Kuelap was erected in about 700 d.C, on a steep slope at 3000 meters of altitude and still shows in all their greatness the defensive walls, hundreds of meters long and till 20 meters high. Manuél guide us in the Chachapoya world and their houses with circular plant and tapered thatch roof. Complex ceremonial rituals, planning the sacrifice of animals (llamas), venerated the figure of the god Sun.
The Andean region of the Northern Peru is a dusty but really interesting place: being a route virtually ignored by the tourism, we find some difficulties with transportation. Everything is widely repaid by the wild beauty of the places we visit. From San Ignacio we cover a tremendous dirty road by colectivo, until Jaén. A lively commercial center, city of passage between the coast and the Amazonian river basin of Peru, even though nearly lacking in reliable ways of communication. The successive day, not without difficulties, we continue the travel towards the desert village of Bagua and therefore San Pedro Ruiz, following a tenuous dusty trace, on the bottom of canyons digged by Rio Marañon and its affluents. In the night we reach Chachapoyas.
Lake Titicaca is breathtaking for its extreme beauty and not only for the altitude of over 3800 meters above sea level. From Ayacucho, an endless journey that leads first on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Pisco, Ica and Nazca, Arequipa and finally the return to the Andean plateau, between Juliaca and Juli, two villages on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Along the lake you can discover enchanted places, breathtaking views and an ancient culture that has its roots in symbiosis with the lake Titicaca. On the horizon you can see some Uros settlements, built on islands made of cane and that can be reached with the typical canoes also made of cane. A sunset on Lake Titicaca is worth a trip. Soon it will be Bolivia.
From Andahuaylas the road continues uncertain between steep climb up to the 5000 meters of the plateau and steep descents to lick the Amazon rain forest, along the valley of Chanka and the tributaries of the Rio Apurimac. Finally we arrive to Ayacucho, abandoned pearl between indigenous culture, religiosity and syncretism, sendero luminoso.
Ayacucho, the city of many Peruvian friends, also on their way to some fascinating and exotic places. Ayacucho, the city of the best anticuchos or offal of bovine and grilled potatoes and best picarrones or pancakes with a special sauce.