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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Peru - Mancora 's Beaches to Huaraz's Mountains

PERU | Tuesday, 29 November 2011 | Views [6693]

After our nightmare border crossing experience, Mancora was just what we needed!

Our first night the 5 of us shared a dorm and the following morning we all checked into private rooms in a different hostel called Loki because it was paradise. Loki is more like a hotel than a hostel; it has fancy white Greek style buildings with balconies attached to the upstairs rooms. We were on the top floor and had a fantastic view over the large pool surrounded by deck chairs, the bar, hammock area and just down the stairs – the beach!! Other than the beach, Mancora is surrounded by rocky desert.

The only down side was the bars next door playing super loud music until 5am and all their different styles of music clashed and competed against one another.

We spent 2 days relaxing, reading, sunbathing & swimming. I could’ve stayed there a lot longer….

The temperature was perfect – just enough to want to swim, but not too much that it was uncomfortable. We watched the sun set from our balcony, went for a walk on the beach and checked out the town which consisted of one sandy and dusty main street which was overrun with motorized tuk tuks, buses and trucks passing through. It’s a total tourist town with mainly shops, restaurants and market stalls and it’s inhabited by many Australian and American surfers. It was weird hearing English spoken everywhere again!

Loki hostel also provided a free Spanish lesson which was neat. I knew most of what they went through it but it was good having a refresher on the finer details of basic Spanish.

Our final day there we relaxed in the hammocks and had lunch with Antonio before getting ready for our early evening bus. We had paid a bit extra for what we thought was a “cama” bus, which means “bed”. The bus turned up over an hour late and as soon as we saw it we could see that the pictures we were shown were false advertising. It was a double decker bus with the bottom level supposedly being first class. It had 12 seats jammed into a tiny box of a room with a suffocating low roof, and they didn’t recline any further than the cheaper chairs upstairs. There was no air conditioning and what were meant to be each seat’s private reading lights, were only wires sticking out of a hole. Movies were shown on a tiny TV but the picture and sound was so distorted it was unwatchable. The toilet was a hole in a box filled with brown water….We also discovered that we had paid the same fare to Casma as those going to Lima which was 5 hours further. To add insult to injury, the two men sitting next to us had live chickens sitting on their laps which made our little box smell like a hen house. At promptly at 5.30am, they started crowing…..

After 12 hours of this delightful experience and no sleep, we were dropped off at 6.30am in Casma. Nothing was open and there was no bus station so we had no idea where we were supposed to go. We eventually found a bus ticket office which was closed, we rang the bell until a grumpy half asleep old lady came out and told us that the only buses that went to our wanted destination Huaraz, departed at 10.30pm…. We found a van offering a ride to Huaraz for 25 soles so we chucked our bags onto the roof and climbed in! We were hungry, exhausted and in need of a toilet but none of this stopped us from enjoying the incredible views on our 3 hour journey.

Luckily the roads were smooth and well cared for but they made me slightly nauseous as we wound our way up through the mountains – as well as slightly nervous as our driver went “rapido” and liked to take up both lanes around blind corners. The countryside consisted of desert and large dry rocky mountains with small indigenous villages popping up wherever there was a bit of greenery. Once we reached the top we were rewarded with a sweeping view of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range and its snow covered rugged peaks. We descended down into the small bustling city of Huaraz and were dropped off on a busy street where we flagged down a tuk tuk and spent the next hour trying to find the hostel we preferred. We gave up and asked the driver to take us to our plan B which was a nice cheap hotel run by a lovely old lady who didn’t speak a word of English.

We went for a wonder around the town and booked a day trip for the following day. No one spoke any English so it was a bit of a gamble trusting what I could understand but I did ok. We spent the rest of the afternoon recuperating in our room and were in bed by 8.30pm!

The next morning our tour arrived to pick us up as Andrew was upstairs getting our sunblock. I was told to reserve our seats on the bus so I got on and then it drove off! Our guide said that the lady’s at the hostel would explain to Andrew where we were but I tried to explain that he doesn’t know Spanish. A tense half an hour later, after collecting everyone else on the tour, we finally picked up Andrew and I had to explain to him why I disappeared without him!

The bus was like a sardine can – and for Andrew with his long legs, it was uncomfortable. There was one American and two British guys, but the rest of the bus were Peruvians in Huaraz for the weekend. Like most mass organised tours we spent pretty much the entire day waiting. 12.5 hours….

First we were taken to a small town called Carhuaz to buy souvenirs if we pleased, then onto another town where we had to pay an entry fee to see a concrete cemetery… The guide only spoke in Spanish so we couldn’t follow much of what she was informing us about but what I did gather was that the town of Yungay was completely wiped out by an earthquake in 1970 which caused 15 million cubic metres of granite and ice to bury the entire town and its 18,000 occupants… How devastating…

Then we went further up into the mountains on a gravel winding road, had to pay another entrance fee and then had to wait an hour as our guide had a discussion with the staff at the gate. No apologies or explanation afterwards… typical. Finally we made it to the destination that we had gone on the tour for – Laguna Llangnuco. By this point it was late afternoon and the clouds had closed in which weakened the emerald colors of the lagoon. It began to rain and it quickly became cold. It was a beautiful lagoon surrounded by rough mountainous peaks and the glacier covered Huascaran Mountain which is the tallest in the Cordillera Blanca at a whopping 6768 metres; but it didn’t seem that high as we were already at an elevation of 3860m ourselves.

We were allowed 45min there and then continued onto the small town of Caraz where we were taken to a restaurant for dinner. Of course we had no other choice as to where to eat and this place wasn’t particularly cheap…. Afterwards we stopped at the guides friends dessert stand, and further on at a ceramic shop… We were told the tour would be finished at 7pm but we didn’t get back to the hostel until 9.30pm. It frustrates me that they do this… why not just say that it finishes at that time, as its obvious they never finish at 7. It’s annoying that the tours main focus was on the expectation of us buying things as opposed to actually enjoying the scenery…

To be honest, compared to the mountains and lagoons I had seen in Canada, I wasn’t blown away by this one. Maybe if the weather had been nicer and the tour not as tedious, I may have enjoyed myself more. Huaraz just seemed a long way to come just for a day tour… It would’ve been nice to invest the time and effort into the many 4-7 night hikes in the area. That would’ve been spectacular to really immerse ourselves into the countryside but we didn’t have the time or extra money, plus it would’ve been difficult to organise an excursion like that with guides, equipment, trail maps etc with not a word spoken in English…

Funnily enough being in transit to and from Huaraz is what I enjoyed the most. We decided not to get a night bus to Lima (as too many of them is just torture) and it was definitely the way to go. The views on the 8 hour trip were incredible. It started off as rugged rocky mountains with snowcapped mountains climbing into the clouds and little streams bubbling past and blended into sheer cliffs as we wound our way down them passing little mud brick and tin houses built onto the edges. It fascinates me how these people live in such remote areas with their days occupied by maintaining their own crops and animals such as pigs, sheep, cows , chickens etc for survival. Many of their simple shacks don’t have windows or running water but there is usually a nearby stream. Despite the simple-ness, some of them even have lights and a satellite dish! The lady sitting in front of us was a victim the motion sickness and was throwing up into a bag… but after a while the road leveled out and we were surrounded by endless rocky desert. Forgive my ignorance, but I had no idea that Peru had deserts!! It was quite a contrast being surrounded by dry mountains and having lush greenery at the bottom of the valleys.

It was nice to have air conditioning on the bus for a change; we hadn’t had this since Colombia! Ecuador’s buses were very basic, usually with no toilets. The ones in Mexico were deluxe compared to them. But the bus to Lima was actually pretty nice – especially in comparison to the one from Mancora! However, we had a minor drama -The wheel of the bus caught on fire but luckily it only delayed us in the middle of nowhere for half an hour. We continued on and came across the wild coastal waters with humongous sand dunes which the road had been built into high above the sea line. As we came into the outskirts of Lima, little brick houses were built into the sand dunes – I didn’t think this was possible, it blew my mind! We almost got off the bus in a shady neighbourhood thinking we were in central Lima, but thankfully an American who is working in Peru with the Peace Corps informed us that we shouldn’t be getting off there!

Lima is a very large and busy city with loads of color, brick buildings, phone & power lines crisscrossing all over, make shift market stalls on the street sides, chaotic traffic, large crowds and rubbish everywhere. Lima has a population of 7.6 million people. In 1746 an earthquake wiped out most of the city. Fun fact - Lima was the first place in South America to build a rail way.

Peru is the 3rd largest South American country and is known for its large amount of Inca ruins, especially Macchu Pacchu, but it also has beaches, coastal desert, Andean mountain ranges and the jungle that is part of the Amazon Basin. The Cordillera Blanca (where we were) is the highest mountain range in the world outside of the Himalayas.

For all its glory, the Inca pre-eminence only lasted around 100 years. The empire stretched up into Ecuador and Colombia and down in to northern Chile.  As is the story for everywhere in South America, the Spanish took over and killed thousands of unarmed indigenous tribe’s people, as well as the Europeans bringing in diseases such as small pox which also killed thousands. Peru gained independence in 1821 and over time was at war with Chile and Ecuador over border disputes. Politics was very controversial over the years with corrupt and inept presidents. Over half of Peruvians live below the poverty line and unemployment is so out of control it can’t be measured.  Teachers, policeman and students even drive taxis. 45% of the population are purely indigenous so you can see the traditional dress everywhere you go. The women have a tendency to carry colorful sacks on their backs full with food or wood which sometimes are almost larger than themselves!

Interesting fact to finish on – abortion is still illegal in Peru.


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