I sat on the bus as we left Lima concerned about the 8-hour bus ride to Huaraz. Unless you want to pay a lot of money to fly up on a small aircraft, it is the only way there other than in a car. Would the trip be dangerous, boring, and tedious? It was winter in Peru and Lima, as always, had its infamous cloud cover in place. I had been told that the clouds gave way to the sun as you entered the mountains and I was looking forward to seeing the sun again. Seeing the coastal region North of Lima after we left the city was striking. The fog settled on the coast like a comfortable blanket providing eerie views of the ocean as it met the cliffs of the shoreline. Despite my longing to see the sun, I couldn’t help but enjoy the amazing ocean vistas before we turned to head up into the mountains.
The road up the mountains to Huaraz followed an unnamed river with the land being farmed both on the banks of the river and up the sides of the mountains. The fields looked like a beautiful patchwork quilt made of all the colors that nature had to offer. We passed through small villages and by farms with workers harvesting their crops. I saw large areas covered with ears of corn drying in the sun, women and children chaffing wheat by hand, performed in the same manner for millennia. It was inspiring to see the people hard at work, using techniques abandoned by modern farmers decades ago. Still, despite the fertility of this land it is easy to understand how modern tractors and other farming devices could never be used on these fields perched precariously on the steep sides of the Andes.
Reaching the pass through the summit of the mountains brought us to an area of relatively level land. Here the fields stretched to the foot of the high snow capped Andes providing breathtaking views. Large ranches seemed to exist here with caballeros riding their horses out to examine the cattle that fed on the thick grasses. A river flows through this striking landscape providing ample water to the residents and livestock here.
Eventually we headed back down the other side of the mountain range into the valley where the city of Huaraz is located. Once again your eyes are assailed by spectacular views of the mountains, villages and the river as it flows through rapids next to the road. By the time we reached Huaraz itself, the sun had set behind the mountains and we were arriving in the dark. I had booked a room at the Albergue Ishinca Hostal (www.albergueishinca.com) and they were waiting for me at the bus station. A very short cab ride later, I was checking in and depositing my things in my room before going out to eat. This hostel was very nice, clean well-appointed rooms, hot water in the shower, private bathroom as well as comfortable and clean beds. The woman, Loila Castillo, who owns and runs the hostel, is a happy, friendly person. The cost per night was S/.20 Soles and a hearty breakfast cold be purchased for an extra S/.5 Soles.
A major earthquake hit Huaraz during 1970. They told me that almost all of the buildings were destroyed. For this reason, there are not a lot of historical buildings left in the city. Everything is new and had been built in the years since the natural disaster. The streets are wide and clean in the cities center and a new Plaza de Armas had just been opened to the public. There are many beautiful plazas in the city besides this one. Just off the Plaza de Armas is the Museo Arqueologico de Ancash and it is definitely worth a visit. Make sure you go to the lower level and exit into the garden in back. It contains many stone sculptures from the sites located around Huaraz. Street vendors are on every corner selling everything from Hats to Birds. There are also many things to do and see in the area using Huaraz as your base. There are the ruins at Chavin, the mineral and hot springs at Monterey, trekking the Andes, skiing, the Glaciers and the site of Willcawain; just to mention a few.
Viewing the mountains surrounding the city, the sun and breathing the clear mountain air is very invigorating. The people of the city are warm and welcoming. There is a vibrant feel to the city that you can sense as the people go about their daily routines. Some people still wear the traditional dress of their ancestors. Color is everywhere. I enjoyed my trip to Huaraz and the city very much. Everyone coming to Peru should make the trip here and see a different side of Peru. The trip there by bus and the sites you see are worth it in themselves. So, take the day bus, try to avoid falling asleep or watching the movies they offer and enjoy the dramatic vistas on your trip there. Buen viajes!