November 02, 2006 GMT
Still in Huaraz, Peru

So, let's see. When I left off I was headed for the Peruvian border. I had elected to stay in the mountains, and not cross on the coastal route that is more populated. As usual, this turned out to be a good choice, as far as border formalities go. The border guards were pretty bored and had nothing better to do than process me through. Total time, about 40 minutes for both sides, total cost $0. The town on the Peru side was La Tina, I don't recall the nearest town on the Ecuador side. You are losing altitude pretty steadily as you approach the border, after crossing the border the country changes immediately, drying out and becoming more rolling hills than mountains. By the time you hook up with the main highway again in the town of Sullana, you are down on the coastal desert floor. Up until this time, Peru looked like anywhere in rural Latin America. After getting on the main highway, it started looking like a dump. You could see where garbage trucks would just drive out into the desert and dump their loads. Some of the piles would be on fire, which added the nice smell of burning plastic to the mix. Maybe I had just gotten too used to first world conditions in Colombia and Ecuador, but this was not a favorable first impression of Peru. My first destination was the ruins of Chan Chan, near Trujillo, but I knew I couldn't get there the first day, so I just hammered out as many miles as I could, and got a room in a roadside hotel.

The next day, I got an early start and made Trujillo early in the day. I found a room in a little hostal in the beachside suburb of Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a weekend getaway for Trujillo residents, as I got there on a Sunday and it was packed, and Monday it was just about deserted. Monday, I spent the day going to the various ruins with a Canadian woman I met at the hostal. Yes, she ended every other sentence with; eh? Chan Chan was huge, but wasn't particularly impressive other than its' size. What I really enjoyed was The Palace of the Sun and Moon, or something close. This place had more detail work and the construction techniques left some incredibly well preserved original paint on some of the murals from the 800's AD or something.

Tuesday, I left Trjillo early, with the intention of making it to Huaraz. Huaraz is in a valley between two mountain ranges, many of which are over 6,000 meters. You turn off the PanAm at the little town of Santa, and climb up following a river through a canyon. Starting down on the desert floor, the canyon is totally naked rock, with not a speck of green. As you climb, there starts to be vegetation. About 50 miles of this route is gravel, but not especially rough, although some of the bridge decking leaves something to be desired. Once you top out of the canyon, the road becomes paved again, and this portion of the drive is supposed to be spectacular, with views of the snow capped peaks. I can't confirm that , as about this time it started raining, and there was no visibility upwards. I made it to Huaraz in mid afternoon, and got a room in probably the best run hotel I have seen snce the states. A little expensive by Peru standards at $15 a night, I was ready for some luxury after riding in the rain. Besides, my stomach troubles from Ecuador had morphed into a head cold, and I thought this would be a good place to rest and regroup a little. The big attration in Huaraz is mountain climbing and high altitude trekking, and there are lots of guide services for all the adventure sports here. This means there are excellent restaraunts and tourist services here. Naturaly high prices go with that. From here the decision is how to go from here to Cuzco. The easy way is to go back down to the PanAm, through Lima, to Nazcz, and up to Cuzco, all paved. The alternative is to go east up over the mountain range on the east side of the valley on a mixture of gravel and pavement, and on to Cuzco the back way. Hmmm, you know which is more appealling, except that there will be a lot of stopping and asking directions. It would mean bypassing the Nazca lines, but I can live with that.

Another border crossing done. I think that is 9 down and 3 to go.

One of about 30 tunnels on the road up the canyon towards Huaraz. This is just a little baby one.

When they expanded the temple at The Palace of the Sun and Moon, they covered up the old facade, preserving it almost perfectly. The paint you see is from 800 AD or something. I thought this site was much cooler than Chan Chan, if you can only see one, this is it.

On my next trip I am going to use a giant fiberglass chicken as a top box.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at November 02, 2006 09:15 PM GMT

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