Dona and I have talked about going to Peru on numerous occasions, but it hadn't quite made it to the top of our list. But our nephew Ram Papish came to the rescue — he (and his wife) were going to the Amazon, and would we like to come along? That was all we needed...
Getting ready wasn't easy. We were planning on doing some hiking up in the Cordillera Blanca, so we would need good hiking boots and good cold / foul weather gear. Sweaters, wool hats, wool socks, gloves, gaiters, icebreaker underwear... Layers and layers. We were also going to be in the jungle, so we would need cool, insect-armor type gear. Cotton / synthetic shirts, wide-brimmed cotton hats, and lightweight boots. In the end, I wore my icebreakers everywhere, wool socks everywhere, and brought a down sweater, pile vest, and anorak. It worked out pretty well, but we didn't get super high, and the weather didn't get really bad up high. Although we did get rained and snowed on.
We had a good connection on American, from Missoula to Dallas and on to Lima. It was an overnight flight, so we tried to sleep. We arrived in Lima at 05:30 in the morning, then got a fancy bus to Huaraz, Peru's hug for ecotourism in the province of Ancash between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra.
The route to Huaraz starts out running north up the Pan American Highway (1N) on the incredibly dry Peruvian Pacific coast. It reminded me a lot of the Skeleton Coast, the northern part of Namibia's Atlantic coast. Only in this case there is actually enough water from the nearby Andes mountains to support some agriculture and settlements.
The three-wheeled auto rickshaw, known universally as a tuk-tuk, is ubiquitous in emerging nations worldwide, and no less so in Peru. Now there are even electric tuk-tuks, made in progressive countries like the Netherlands.
At the coastal town of Pativilca the bus heads inland on highway 16, following Rio Fortaleza upstream. The bottom of the canyon is filled with irrigated farms; the canyon sides gradually turned from rounded arid hills to steep, rugged mountains. Or what in most places would be called mountains. The Andes are the highest mountains outside of Asia, and the rugged surroundings on our bus ride were just unnamed hills.
It looked like the only land with enough soil and water to grow anything was in the very bottom of the valley; everything else looked to be bare dirt and rock.
As we got farther up the valley, we started to see crops growing on terraced hillsides.
Late in the day we topped out somewhere above 4,000 m, dropping down to Lake Conococha, where the Rio Santos officially begins its journey to the Pacific Ocean.
We arrived in Huaraz close to dark. The folks at Olaza's Guest House met us at the station. We were excited to begin our exploration of Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca.
The pre-Inca city of Chavín de Huantar is relatively close to Huaraz, so we took a layover day and visited.
As this was our first trip to Peru, we had to make the obligatory pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. We're glad we did. We flew from Huaraz to Lima and then to Cusco, spent the night, and then took the Perurail train up to Aguas Calientes (Machupicchu).
We caught the train back to Cusco in pouring rain, spent a quiet night, then flew to Puerto Maldanado where we rendezvoused with Ram and Dawn for eight days in the Amazonian jungle.
Our flight home was a long one; we were pretty beat by the time we got here. But we'd go back in a minute, if there weren't other things already in the wings...