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Peregrinations Mexico and Central America on Motorcycle: Open road, open heart, open mind.

A Recap of the Last Two Weeks as Seen in the Landscape

PERU | Thursday, 22 May 2008 | Views [676] | Comments [1]

The little oasis of Hucachina (near Ica), where we spent four days sunbathing, sandboarding, and drinking beer. Not a bad life.

The little oasis of Hucachina (near Ica), where we spent four days sunbathing, sandboarding, and drinking beer. Not a bad life.

Location: The computer room of Churup Hostel. No view from here, but the upstairs living room with the fireplace is very nice indeed!

Most recent meal: Banana and cheese sandwich with guanabana yogurt

Mood: Enlivened by the gorgeous mountains surrounding me!

The range of landscapes through which I have traveled in the past two weeks is nothing short of astounding. It started in Arequipa, a smoggy, rather ugly city on the arid Peruvian plateau. The city’s one saving grace was the mountainy landscape surrounding it: surrounding the city on all sides were towering volcanic cones, many still active, with glaciers gleaming at their summits. Volcan Misti, the most famous, is very active, and may very well blow its top in our lifetimes. This would be devastating for the folks of Arequipa, one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in Peru. 

Just outside of Arequipa lie the canyonlands. Canyon de Cotahuasi, the deepest canyon in the world, and Canyon de Colca, shallower by a mere 100 m. Kyle and I visited Colca Canyon, which was a truly magnificent sight to see. Its grandeur and jaw-dropping-ness pale in comparison to the Grand Canyon, but it’s still an incredible sight. Unlike the Grand Canyon, which opens up suddenly like a yawning fissure, Colca Canyon develops more slowly. As we drove towards it in the bus, the landscape around us seemed to liquefy and pour down into the earth, gradually getting deeper and deeper until everything in sight was running down into the crease that forms the canyon. The other thing that Colca Canyon has that the Grand Canyon does not is Andean Condors. Having them soar within two meters of my head was an experience I will never forget.

After the canyon (which, by the way, we descended into and climbed back out of, a grueling elevation change of 4,200 feet!), we returned to the plateau, only to descend in an overnight bus all the way to sea level. This was the first time in over a month that Kyle and I had dropped below 10,000 ft, and let me tell you—there is a lot of oxygen at seal level! My breathing and heartrate slowed to half that of other people.

Anyways, we spent three days at Huacachina, a rad little desert oasis. We arrived at five in the morning, and were able to see nothing but the thick banks of fog that roll in every night. Joggers ran up and down the roads, nearly invisible in the mist. I fell asleep as soon as we got to the hostel, and when I awoke it was to full sunshine and an absolutely astonishing quantity of golden-yellow sand. The dunes rose up in front of my nose, lunging upwards into the blue sky. The town itself is tiny, small enough that if someone sneezed at one end of it, a response of “salud!” would be heard from the other end. It’s full of swimming pools, palm trees, a lagoon, beer, and sandboards. Huacachina could not be any more different than all the other places I’ve seen on this trip.

After a few days of sandboarding, drinking, swimming and sunbathing, Kyle and I caught the day bus to Lima. The bus passed through some of the most desolate and inhospitable landscape I had ever witnessed. For one thing, the terrain is completely comprised of sand, just gray sand as far as the eye can see. For another thing, the area is steeped in a depthless gray fog. And that’s it. Sand and fog, fog and sand. Occasionally we would pass a failed orchard, with the gnarled stems of young trees reaching up through the ground like the arms of zombies. Sometimes we’d pass a two-track road leading off into the nothing, heading towards…what? More sand? We drove by two little towns that were like abandoned shanty-towns. Ghostshanties. I’ve never seen a more miserable attempt at neighborhood in my life. The most incongruous thing I saw along that trip to Lima was a sign posted in the middle of, well, of sand and fog. The sign read, “Propiedad privado”. Don’t worry, man,” I though to myself.

Then there was Lima itself, a gray sprawling city with not a whole lot to see. It rests right along the ocean, which is a different sort of ocean than I have ever seen. The coastline is long and barely broken. The waves roll in as small breakers, but when the tides runs back out it sucks at all the gravel so that the beach roars. Walking along the streets on the cliffs above the ocean and listening to the roar was the most indelible thing about the city.

And now, a few days later, I’m here in Huaraz, back at 10,000 feet. It feels so comfortable here at that elevation and in this climate! There are trees everywhere, wide open pampas, and, of course, the Cordillera Blanca in the background. The peaks are absolutely massive, as in 22,000 feet high massive, and completely covered in smooth, unbroken swaths of snow and ice. Sound nice? I couldn’t agree more. Huaraz, I think, has a new resident for the next month!

So, that’s where I’ve been for the past few weeks. And there are so many stories (so many!!) that I can’t even begin to write them all here. I’ll just have to relate them to y’all in a month, when I return to good ol’ Colorado.

Comments

1

Ah, Huaraz. I have so many great memories of that place. We weren't there all that long, but it was the 'base' of operations for our trek into the Andes. We did a 4-day trek starting at the Llanganuco Lakes and eventually crossing over Punta Union pass. The Cordillera Blanca is just a staggering place to be, that's for sure.

I don't know if it's kosher to be pimping my own photos of the place in your blog, but I'm going to do it anyway:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ferruginous/sets/72157601503955812/

These are the ones from just our Andean trek. There's obviously a ridiculous number of pictures - even our guide thought I was taking a *lot* of them, and he sees plenty of photo-crazy tourists. But the way I saw it, how could you NOT take pictures of that place?

  Eric D Jul 18, 2008 3:18 PM

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