The only bus we could find that would take us past the border of Ecuador and into Peru left at 10 pm and would take us as far as a city called Chiclayo. Unfortunately, our first “desired” destination in Peru was not Chiclayo, but a city called Huaraz that was nestled at the base of the Andes Mountains, about 6-8 hours north of Lima. To get to Huaraz from Cuenca would take multiple connections and significantly more than 24 hours, so we decided that we would try to get as close to Huaraz as we could in one trip. We also researched the various towns we would need to connect through to get to Huaraz so that we knew where our options would be to stop for the night. We made it as far as the city of Chimbote, a fishing town which was much larger than either of us had expected. The detail of our internet research that stood out was that you could smell the town before you could see it, and true to our research we smelled fish a good 15 minutes before Chimbote was visible.
Normally we book our hostel a day or two before we arrive in a location (preferentially finding a room that comfortably accommodates two non-dating friends), but since we weren’t sure how far we were actually going to get towards Huaraz, we decided to book our stay when we arrived. At virtually every villlage, town, or city there are a few hotels at the bus station or within a block. Of course because this was the one time we hadn’t booked a place in advance, this would be the one exception to the rule. Upon arrival we asked a few of the vendors at the bus terminal which parts of town would be safe and have a few hotel options that we could choose from. After filtering through the suggestions that we were given, we found a taxi collective to take us to a neighborhood called Nueva Chimbote. On the main street there are dozens of restaurants and hotels, unfortunately our driver dropped us off one street over from the main street and we had no idea. Our first attempt to find lodging was at a “residencial” which is a very basic room and generally the cheapest option in town. The residencial did not have hot water and after 19 hours of being on a bus we decided a hot shower was a must. We asked if they could refer us to anywhere nearby that would have hot water. They suggested a place across the street called Hostal Delfines (Dolphins hostal).
The enterance to the hostal wasn’t immediately evident, but we eventually managed to find our way in and to the reception desk. The receptionist sat behind a counter and glass window like you would see at a bank which made hearing what she said difficult. We were able to understand that they had rooms available but were confused when she asked if we wanted “Alojamiento”, which translates to lodging. Why would we come to a hotel if we didn’t want lodging? Kevin thought that maybe he had misunderstood and she was asking if we wanted alimentos (food), so he told her that we would be leaving early in the morning to get a bus to Huaraz and that we would not be staying for breakfast.
When we got to the room everything started to make more sense. We had a heart shaped bed, red mood lighting, mirrors on the ceiling, and an ensuite jacuzzi bathtub (all for less than $14). The question that we had really been asked was do we need lodging (to sleep the night) or would we only be staying to use the room for a few hours. After much laughter and photo taking of our first night in one of these types of hotels we wandered the streets for dinner. After a nice dinner we decided to have an early night so that we could get up early and continue on our way to Huaraz.
Huaraz is a small mountain town framed with beautiful views of the snow capped Andes Mountains. We spent out first afternoon in Huaraz wandering the town and visiting various tourist agencies to book a day hike to one of the glacier lakes in the nearby national park of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. The hike we selected was to Lago 69 which was a 2 hour bus ride away.
On the way to the trailhead we stopped to admire the Llaganuco Lakes, which were our first taste of the magnificent colors that we had to look forward to on our hike.
The hike started at 3,500 meters and we hiked up to the lake which sits at 4,550 meters (almost 15,000 ft). The trip was 7 km each way and took us 2.5 hours to hike up and 1.5 hours to hike back down (the altitude and uneven terrain had a detrimental effect on our hiking speed). The hike from beginning to end was one of the most beautiful hikes that either of us has ever done. The hike wandered along a river valley, passed multiple waterfalls and lakes, as we walked ever closer to the white peaked mountains in the distance.
When we finally arrived at Lake 69 we were spellbound. The lake was a brilliant aquamarine color that almost looked radioactive because of the way that it glowed. We spent an hour taking pictures, eating our lunch, and soaking in the natural beauty of the mountain paradise. The photos just don’t do justice to the natural beauty that surrounded us.
The rest of our time in Huaraz was spent wandering through town, exploring the different plazas, and tasting all of the fruits from the local market that we had never tried before.