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Peru – finally seeing some ruins (Chachapoyas, Trujillo, Santa Cruz)…

PERU | Wednesday, 10 October 2012 | Views [1199]

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

I was incredibly happy to finally get to Chachapoyas. And I was not disappointed. It’s a lovely city with white washed buildings and the star attraction of pre Inca ruins in nearby Kuelap.

There are plenty of other things to do around Chachapoyas and maybe if I had a bit more time I would have hanged around for longer but decided that there were other things in Peru I wanted to dedicate my time to.

So after a chilled out afternoon spent eating and drinking a lot of delicious hot chocolate I set out in the morning to visit my first proper ruins.

Kuelap is a giant city perched on a steep mountain cliff. Even though, as expected, not that much remains it still is an impressive location. What had withstood the time are the amazing walls and the foundations of many homes within the city. Every home was round, as oppose to Inca homes which were rectangular, had a space for guinea pig channel (the most common food) and the dead were buried within the house.

It was an interesting introduction to Peruvian history.

That same night I headed out to Trujillo as after couple of weeks in the Andes I could not wait for some sun and beach time.

I actually stayed in the town near to Trujillo - Huanchaco. It might not be the most beautiful beach or town, but I have been so starved of sand action, that I didn’t mind. The place also kind of grows on you. So it was a couple of lazy days of reading and sun tanning and stuffing myself with ceviche, only broke by the visit to nearby Chan Chan and Huaca de la Luna temples.

Both are really impressive. Chan Chan is the largest adobe city of the ancient world and it is gigantic. What you can see now is the palace but the city stretched for miles and miles – it is amazing how something essentially constructed of mud could have survived for such a long time.

Huaca del Luna is even more amazing as the original colours of the wall paintings are preserved.

Both are examples of the pre Inca cultures that were later invaded and dominated by Incas.

We visited the temples from Huanchaco and I have to say it’s a bit of a mission involving a lot of combis – there is no direct route but it is really worth to make the effort and see the temples.

With batteries recharged I was ready for a trip to Huaraz for some hiking.

Huaraz is a bit of a strange place. It is not exactly overrun by tourists, even though it’s a launch pad for a very popular Santa Cruz trek, but there are plenty of restaurants and cafes that cater for foreigners. But the tourist do seem to blend well in and so Huaraz is undoubtedly a Peruvian city.

For me it was a place to do some trekking but since 8 day treks were far beyond my time limits I opted for the Santa Cruz.

I was really happy with my choice. It’s not the most technical of treks but also not the easiest with the highest point of 4750m, it is beautiful.

The first day is a 6 hour steady climb through Andean villages. Unlike in Ecuador, the indigenous people here are much more curious about foreigners and so more open to chat and accompany you on sections of the road.

The first camp is at the 3800m giving everyone a chance to acclimatise. You also get the first glimpse of the snow capped mountains ahead and the route to the Punta Union – the highest pass of the trek.

The second day is the hardest altitude wise with the 4 hour climb to Punta Union (4750m) but it’s also the most amazing point of the trek. We were helped by the weather which on the camp side of the pass was gloomy, cold and dark but as soon as we crossed the pass we were greeted by sunshine.

It is a beautiful moment of the journey. There is no denying that the views are magnificent with the perfect blue glacial lake at the bottom of the pass.

From there it’s an easy 2 hours down to the second camp at the foot of the Alpamayo (apparently the world’s most beautiful mountain) and the summit made famous by the Paramount Company as they chose it for their logo.

It is an amazing valley and with the sun shining it was a lovely afternoon to chill out and get ready for the most challenging day of the trek  -  9 hour walk to the next camp.

Now, I am not entirely sure why we ended walking for 9 hours. We did choose to climb up to another glacial lake at the foot of the Alpamayo which is an optional 3 hour extra trek, but I did not figure out why we added another 2 hours and slept in a camp much lower than originally planned… Oh well, it was a pretty spectacular location.

Although we were quite lucky with the weather, Alpamayo did not do us a favour and kept being covered by clouds, we did get to see the Paramount Mountain in its full, famous, glory and it was amazing.

We also trekked through the part of the trail which was destroyed by the landslide in February. It’s quite amazing what an impact it had on the nature as where used to stand trees and lakes was nothing but sand and stone.

For the rest of the day we trekked through the beautiful valley and it also slowly started to get warmer.

The last day was a very short 2 hour trek to Cachapampa following the river and the vegetation changing from cactuses to eucalyptus trees.

It were beautiful 4 days and am really glad I did it even though I did struggle a bit with altitude (day 3 was a bit painful). I used Galaxia Expeditions and they were really good – lovely guide, good equipment and the food (considering where we were) was truly amazing.

After well deserved burrito in Huaraz I headed over to Ica and Huacachina for few days of desert rest.

There is nothing to do Huacachina. It’s a tiny desert oasis, completely dedicated to tourism, but it’s hot, has plenty of swimming pools and is surrounded by beautiful dunes. I spent 2 nights there and pretty much did not move from the side of the pool – only to eat and drink. I did not choose the time to arrive there very wisely – it turned out to be the national holiday and so the village was filled to the brim. Luckily I only had to deal with that for one day.

The real shame is that the sand dunes are basically rubbish bins. It is very unfortunate that there is no culture of putting your rubbish in the bin here, instead it just ends up on the street, side of the road or top of the dune…

It is very easy to arrange Nazca flights from Huacachina but after hearing from so many disappointed travellers I decided to skip the lines and go straight to Arequipa.

Tags: chachapoyas, chan chan, huacachina, huaraz, ica, kuelap, moche, peru, santa cruz, trujillo

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