Thursday, September 3, 2009

Huar are we?

The last time we were in Peru, we did the Gringo circuit, Lima – Nasca – Huacachina – Arequipa – Puno – Cusco, with a little jaunt up to Iquitos to see the Amazon. This time were concentrating our now-shortened trip in the North. The highlight of this area of Peru is Huaraz. Huaraz is 3100 metres above sea level in the Peruvian Andes. We were looking forward to seeing the mountains but we weren’t looking forward to getting used to the altitude all over again.

Despite the closed curtains, the sun woke us at 6:30am. Clearing the fog from the windows we were greeted with a panoramic view of the mountains. The heavily bundled people walking along the highway, told us not only were we considerable higher we were also going to be considerable colder. Oh boy.

There were many signs telling us that we were in a completely different part of Peru. But there was also the familiar, starting with the pestilence of touts gathered like vultures outside the bus station doors when we arrived. (I’m writing to the OED to suggest that plague of taxi drivers and pestilence of touts be the official way to refer to more than two of these professionals. Think they’ll agree?). Since we had a hostel in mind and even a reservation we shooed them away and headed through the town still quiet in the early morning.

The hostel was about a kilometer away but with our heavy packs and the altitude it felt 10x further. And of course the room we had booked was on the fourth floor. Sure it was a room with a view but maneuvering those stairs was almost the death of us. All that was soon forgotten when we got into the hot shower. Washing away the night of bus grime perked us right up, not enough however to send us out to explore the city. Instead we enjoyed a delicious and huge breakfast and decided to just spend the day relaxing at the hostel just getting used to the altitude.

Rather than getting to know the city we got to know the other hostel guests. Most of them were part of a tour group. We sat and talked to Naomi, an 18-year old Aussie girl who had just finished high school and was making her way around the world. She was feeling a little out of sorts since most of her tour group was about 15 years older than her (um so were we). She said she felt so young (not in a good way) and I told her we often felt so old. But for her it meant that just 6 weeks in she was really missing her family and friends. She asked us how we were doing. I explained that it was a bit different for us – traveling as a married couple, is kinda like traveling with family and friends. And for the ones back home there are the wonders of skype, email and facebook. But I think it’s also different for a 36&37 year old to go off around the world than someone half our age (ouch that hurt to type). I told her to hang in there. Her tour was almost over and then she had 6 months to travel on her own where I assured her she would meet sooooooo many people her own age (since we’d met lots of them already). Guess the grass is always greener no matter who you are.

After Naomi left, Adrian and I decided it was time to sign up for a tour. The owner of the hostel tried to convince us to try ice climbing or mountain hiking but with the altitude bugging us, we opted for the bus tour to Llanganuco – an aqua glacier lake, and Yungay – a town buried by an earthquake 30+ years ago. Then we decided to treat ourselves to dinner. Huaraz supposedly had an amazing Thai restaurant. When we first walked up it appeared closed although all the tables were set and the lights were on. We were about to turn away when a street vendor told us to knock on the window. So we did and sure enough a woman came out from the back and unlocked the door, only to lock it once we were seated. Hmm, rather odd. Locked in we couldn’t escape when we saw the prices on the menu. And perhaps this was the plan. Compared to our huge and cheap meal the night before, the prices in this place were the same if not more than what we’d pay for Thai food in Toronto. It was ridiculous but we decided to splurge (not that we had a choice with the door being bolted and all). And we weren’t the only ones, as Naomi and her tour group were soon knocking on the door to be let in. We left them to finish their bottles of wine and made our way (slowly thanks to the altitude) back to the hotel. We weren’t too bad until we hit the dreaded stairs to our room and then we felt every one of those 3100 metres. But the full moon view was worth, it don't you think?

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