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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More eating in Huanchaco and continuing with cuy in Huaraz

Huanchaco is a World Surfing Reserve, so it isn't a surprise to see dozens of surfers on the beach and in the sea. After a quick 9 soles breakfast at Huanchakero, I spent most of the day either people watching on the cold, windy beach or in Otra Cosa eating.

Once, I was approached by a pair of missionaries - one who appeared to be the Spanish speaker, and the other the English speaker. I told them, "No hablo espanol." I followed up with "I speak no English." Then thirty awkward seconds followed as they stood there deliberating amongst themselves in whispers as to how to deal with the sinner who was obviously lying to them. One of them handed me a postcard size picture of their savior. I looked at them with a confused look, and finally, they gave up. 

As I mentioned, I spent quite a bit of time at Otra Cosa - apple cinnamon pancake, hot chocolate, the plate of the day, and the Dutch apple pie once more. 

When I told the owner of Otra Cosa that I was heading back to Trujillo to catch a bus, he recommended taking the "H" collectivo without the heart sign for 1.5 soles (vs a 15 soles taxi). Though it took longer than a taxi would, I had plenty of time to kill. About half an hour later, just as the collectivo was passing the Movil Tours station, I yelled to the fare collector to stop the vehicle and quickly hopped off.

It had been surprisingly difficult to find a bus ticket for Trujillo to Huaraz. Cruz Del Sur didn't run that route. La Linea and Oltursa wouldn't pick up their phones and La Linea's website was down. Movil Tours' website said it only had seats left for Peruvian nationals. I asked one of the folks at Barranco's Backpackers back in Lima to call Movil Tours and see if I could manage to get my hands on a ticket via her. It worked.

Movil Tours' station wasn't as fancy as Cruz's station in Lima. There was a flat screen mounted in the center of the room, where some America's Got Talent-like show was playing.

We boarded at 10:20PM, were handed a cookie and biscuit, and pushed forward for the 7 hour overnight trip. The road to Huaraz, which lies at 3,000+ meters (10,000+ feet) above sea level, is supposed to be scenic and dangerous given the steep and sharp turns circling up. I woke up intermittently throughout the night. Once, it was 4AM and the bus was slowly crawling upwards. The speedometer at the front of the bus showed that the driver was carefully going between 20-25 kph. Outside, it was dark except for what was lit by the full moon high above us in the horizon getting ready to relinquish its position in the sky to the soon to be rising sun. 

We arrived at the station around 5:20AM, and I was in front of my hostel by 5:30AM. Unfortunately, it was a family run hostel and no one was staffed 24/7. As nothing else was opened nearby, I was left with no choice but to wait until someone heard my knocking at the outside gate.

After settling in at 6AM and grabbing a gorgeous panoramic view of the sunrise over the Cordillera Blanca mountains, I went about figuring out my plans. Since the end of the Inca Trail, my trip has been unplanned due to the fact that I had decided to add an additional two weeks to my trip at the last moment. I was in Huaraz at the recommendation of the hostel owner back in Lima. What I was going to do in Huaraz remained a mystery.

Surrounding Huaraz is the Cordillera Blanca, a mountain range that contains Peru's highest mountain - Huáscarán - and whose melting snow is a major source of Peru's water. The Huáscarán National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an attraction for those interested in trekking, mountaineering, and snowboarding. 

As I had been at sea level for over a week since Cuzco, I spent the first day in Huaraz acclimatizing. A walk to the Plaza de Armas took me through the 2-3 block market, where the streets were lined with stores selling shoes and clothing. On the streets themselves were people selling fruits, vegetables, juices, bread, and even baby chickens. I snatched up six bananas for 1 sole (less than 40 cents) and a glass of white chocolate at a nearby cafe. 

The streets upon which the market was home to were filled with large holes and blocked by piles of rubble. Huaraz experienced a traumatic earthquake (and the ensuing avalanche) in 1970 that destroyed pretty much the entire city, leaving few survivors. Whether the streets here were a remnant of the past, I don't know. 

Later that night, I went out to dinner with a couple from the UK. We were in search of cuy (guinea pig). When asked where best to go, the hostel told us that most Peruvians only eat cuy during the day and on weekdays. It was Sunday night. We were relentless, figuring that a gringo-tailored restaurant would have it.

We managed to find a crepe joint that was serving what we sought. Spreading out our risk, we got half a fried cuy, as well as a langostinos (shrimp) crepe, and aji de gallina. Half an hour later, the crepe came out delicious, the aji de gallina came out cold, and the cuy came out as hard as a rock. Many people have told me before that cuy is pretty much skin, bones, fat, and tendons. Meat is scarce. At 28 soles ($10 USD), the cuy was far from a bargain - especially when the waiter tried to charge us for two. 

To make up for the poor meal, we dropped by a pastry shop!

Next up, trekking and climbing up thousands of feet to see Churup and 69, as well as a melting glacier. 


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