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Laying low in Huaraz

Written on: Monday October 22nd, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Huaraz, Ancash, Peru

Author: Julie


We arrived in the early morning of the 19th in Huaraz located in the Callejon de Huaylas valley in the middle of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. It is known for a multitude of outdoor activities like trekking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, skiing and rafting. It is most famous for the 4-day Santa Cruz hike in Huascaran National Park which has been described as having arguably the most scenic views of the Andes in all of South America. The 40 km wide valley runs north-south for nearly 200 km between the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains) to the east and the Cordillera Negra (Black Mountains)to the west. You can see over 20 snow-capped peaks over 5000 meters, of which the most notable is Huascaran (6,768m), the highest mountain in Peru.

Unfortunately, the last couple of hours of the overnight bus ride had been torture for Kevin who had come down with a nasty flu bug, combined with altitude sickness. We had left Trujillo at sea-level and journeyed to Huaraz located at 3200 masl. I certainly felt the symptoms of adjustment to the altitude of laboured breathing, dehydration, headache, and slight dizziness whenever moving too quickly. Fortunately, I adjust quickly to altitude and my symptoms passed after a day, but Kevin was much longer to adjust. We spent the first couple of days at Hostal Colonia located in a small dirt alley which our taxi driver had trouble finding. That should have been our first indication that our accommodations were not that popular, the clincher was when I signed in. Every hostel or hotel will ask you to fill in their registry, giving the required information of name, citizenship, birthdate, age, profession (traveller?), marital status, and passport number (the most important number you know when travelling). After filling in our info, I looked through the registry and noticed we were the first and only people to stay there in over 2 weeks. We had found the hostel on the web and it had excellent reviews of past clients so it convinced us to book there. Our room was nice, clean, the hot water decent, with a restaurant on site, so I was perplexed why no one was staying there and why it wasn?t included in our guidebook. Antonio, the one employee would knock on our door each day to see if we wanted breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We had breakfast both mornings and I loved the banana pancakes. During the day I would wander around the city, admiring the mountains in every direction. It wasn?t a particularly pretty city, mostly concrete. I later found out that in 1970 a catastrophic earthquake levelled the city except for one street and half the population was killed.

After 2 days, Kevin was feeling a bit better and we decided to move to another hostel listed in our guidebook closer to where all the other travellers were staying. During our last breakfast, the owner of the hostel came to see us. He offered his services as a guide but we were nowhere close to being ready to do a 4 day hike with the way Kevin was feeling. He asked if we wanted to extend our stay but we lied and told him we were leaving for Lima since Kevin was feeling the altitude too much and needed to get to lower altitude. He was nice and we didn?t want to hurt his feelings by telling him it was because he didn?t have more business. Also, he was charging 30$ a night and we wanted to stay somewhere a little cheaper, we knew we could have negotiated with him, but we really didn?t want to stay there anymore. We walked out to the main street to find it almost deserted. It was census day and everyone had to be at home waiting for the census agents to come by. All the stores, restaurants, casinos (there were a few), trekking companies, market stalls were all closed. It was almost a ghost town.

We checked in to one of the hostels suggested in our guidebook, with a nice room, decent views of the surrounding mountains, and best of all: other travellers. The price listed in our guidebook was 12$ but the owner wanted 20$ and the internet wasn?t free anymore, but we were so happy to be there so we didn?t try to negotiate a lower fee. Once we got settled, we checked out the lounge area and checked our email for the first time in a few days. Turns out our friends Nina and Matthew from Puerto Lopez and Vilcabamba were in Huaraz so we let them know where we were staying and that we would be around for a few more days. Not more than 30 minutes later who were at our hostel door but Nina and Matthew. They were in Huaraz with the intention of reviewing a few hotels for www.HostelTrail.com and to do the Santa Cruz trek. They were staying at another hostel called Olaza?s Guesthouse and were surprised we weren?t staying there too. We went to check it out and found this great place, with really nice rooms, a fantastic lounge with a fireplace, a rooftop terrace overlooking the mountains and valley, free internet, and free breakfast. Kevin and I decided then and there to check out of where we were and check in to Olaza?s the next morning. It was the nicest place, other than Le Rendez-Vous, we had seen since starting travelling. We spent the evening catching up with our friends. We wouldn?t be seeing them for a few days as the next day they were heading to a mountain inn located about an hour of Huaraz.

The next morning we told the owner of our hostel the same lie that we had told the previous owner and moved on to Olaza?s. As we were sitting in reception waiting to register, we met a nice couple named Paul and Rebecca who were looking to check out. They had just done the remote 6-day Huayhuash trek and the 4-day Santa Cruz trek and were looking to go to the village of Yungay an hour away from Huaraz. During their Santa Cruz trek, they hiked to the unoriginally named Laguna 69 but their photos had been corrupted on their memory card and they wanted to go back and take some more. They invited us to go along with them and since Kevin was feeling slightly better and I was itching to get in the mountains we decided to join them We made reservations for the night after at Olaza?s, dumped one bag with all the stuff we didn?t need in storage and headed out to Yungay in a collectivo van for the price of 3.50 soles.

1 meter = 3.3 feet

3 soles = 1 CAD