When you want to touch the sky but all you need is a break – and some ceviche.
A change of scenery
Casinos, skyscrapers, traffic jams and the Pacific ocean. Quite a change of scenery. Perhaps it would be easier to get used to all this with a full stomach. How about fresh raw fished cured in lime and spiced up with chilli peppers. Ceviche, yes, sounds good to me.
Like Myanmar, Peru was about to face a general election that was not been exempt from controversies and corruption accusations, and the capital was at the heart of it. And there are things that you just can’t make up: left-wing parties supporting a right-wing candidate because it is the only way to stop the daughter of one of the most infamous Latin-American dictators to come to power. Life as usual.
But for us, Lima was just a quick pit-stop before yet another trip to the Andes.
Something is not quite right
It was the Santa Cruz trek that drew us to Huaraz. A four day hike, at 4000 metres, through the heart of Cordillera Blanca, amongst some of the highest peaks of Peru.
You have two options, either spend hundreds of dollars on a poorly organised tour, or find whatever gear you need and just go on your own.
I feel adventurous, do you?
And just like that, we found ourselves renting sleeping bags, a tent, a gas stove and buying supplies, food and water purifying pils. Everything ready. Apart from me. Whether it was the prospect of four days at high altitude or just a desperate call for a break, my body said enough, and I spent the next couple of days in bed with fever. So much for feeling adventurous.
On the third day and with some – but not all – my energy back, we finally headed to the mountains. The bus was blooming with smiles and welcoming faces. Loads of good morning, take my child, you seat here, come on up, move that, sit there and have a good day. Can you imagine something like that at 7.00 am in London? No, I don’t think so.
The driver dropped us off at the start of the trek. A few families wearing their colourful andean outfits were about to start their labours and wished us good luck. Thanks, something tells me we are going to need that and more!
Within five minutes, we were out of breath. After a few months wearing hiking boots and rain jackets our bodies had had enough of mountains – at least for now – and were craving for beaches and rainforests – soon my precious, soon.
We carried on, of course. Drink more water, breath in, breath out, one step, another one, stop, repeat and do not forget to look around. With not another gringo on sight, the Andes were once again putting on a great show. A few hours later, we made it to the top, the Laguna Churup.
Exhausted, we had lunch – yes, avocados again – and a well deserved nap. I must admit that despite the awesome landscape, we were badly missing our daily dose of wildlife. Once again, soon my precious, soon.
For some reason, the way down gave us a big boost and we decided to walk past the bus stop towards the next village, leaving some beautiful quinoa fields behind.
Until we met Señor Julian, who offered us a ride back to Huaraz. His old battered car had definitely seen better days, like our legs. We just could not refuse such a kind offer.
Satisfied with the trek to Laguna Churup, the time had come for us to slow down a bit. In just a few days, we had a flight to catch to the Galapagos Islands, something we had been waiting for since since the beginning of the trip. Plus there was a ton of research we needed to do.
And so, another trek in the Andes was replaced for the quiet town of Trujillo, where we would have time to rest our legs and visit Chan Chan, or what remains of it. Three thousand years ago, it was the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America and the heart of the Chimer Empire.
The city spanned 20 square kilometres and housed ten palaces although only one of them has been restored and dug out. This could be a very important archaeological site and a major tourist attraction, but unfortunately there are not enough funds to support the restoration works.
Not far from Chan Chan lies Huanchaco, a sleepy beach town famous for its surf and quiet atmosphere. Despite the cloudy day, the beach was full of life, with local fishermen trying their luck in their homemade canoes while a couple of brave kids tried – with different luck – to tame the waves.
We spent the last couple of days in Trujillo sampling more ceviche – asking each chef for their secret recipe – and walking around the colourful Plaza de Armas.
Peru, showed us a bit of everything, from the lively parades in Cusco, to mighty mountains and old citadels. And just like in Bolivia, we left feeling we had just scratched the surface of this beautiful country.
The weak died and the strong survived. No, it is not another hunger games movie, it is the Galapagos Islands.