Huaraz to Barranca to Lima 4 June:
[section “under construction”: the following account is in draft form]
We breakfast comfortably in Huaraz. It’s a pleasant breakfast, but way overpriced by local standards.
The drive is a pleasant one through high fields with white peaks behind them. It’s beautiful countryside. Why do we never tire of snow-capped peaks? When we pause, the silence and high, clear air is an added pleasure.
We stop at Conococha, the crossroads at which one goes left to Chiquian and Huancayo [ ________ Climbers] and the other right to Barranca and Lima [and a week of street noise and heavy traffic but access to many modern services and a lot of fine restaurants]. If I were the decision-maker, we might delay Lima a bit.
The crossroads features a bunch of stands and shops selling cheese from Chiquian, as well as other fairly local produce. We buy the cheese.
As we start the long descent [4,000 meters in about 130 kilometers], I’m dreaming of returning to this countryside and trekking a bit. I’m day-dreaming about buying the chalet 3 km. outside Caraz that I saw advertised on the Internet for U.S. $ 25,000. I would like to drive more bad dirt roads to ever more distant communities, and travel a bit by foot and burro or horseback. Yeah, we got to a lot of places most people don’t get to, but we didn’t get to Huari or Chavín de Huántar or Laguna Mitachocha or Punta Union.
But I wouldn’t mind a bit of stability. To sleep soundly, to arise early and make coffee myself, without bothering with anyone else or putting on clothes. More, as I wrote a friend whose e-mail had asked for more photos, we have experienced a great deal, seen some marvelous sights, had some moving encounters with people, . . . .we’ve seen and felt a lot, and shot a good deal of photographs and video, and we need a little time to process what’s in our hearts and heads and CF cards.
That doesn’t mean a week in Lima, but a month or two or three in Arequipa, in a rented flat, taking periodic shorter trips for two or three days from there. But Lima will be a good chance to recharge our batteries a bit, do some errands, and see our few friends there.
The descent is through rocky, sometimes barren countryside, intermittently populated. It’s interesting enough, though neither as beautiful nor as difficult as some other recent days.
Near the end of the descent, we pass a young man and his little daughter by a flat stretch of ground covered by drying chiles. We stop to shoot a photo and some video, and offer to buy some of the chile, mostly as a sort of propina for his grace in letting us shoot; but he says it isn’t ready yet. Thus we buy some fruit from the stand his wife runs across the road.
It soon turns out that the whole area is nothing but acres of various forms of produce drying in the sun.
But there are a few human beings dwelling amidst the drying produce, with their animals.
Thus we pause and photograph these sisters, their turkeys, one of their goats, and various other animals.
Our last shots — as we reach the coast and the fog — are of the countryside near the drying produce:
In Barranca, unable to call Marc from InnPeru, we try to e-mail him. But we have a message from a woman who rents flats that sound a little more up-scale than Marc’s. We can’t reach Marc, and Ragna would prefer the more up-scale flat anyway. I tell the woman that we’ll be there by a certain time.
But as I step back outside the internet shop, the owner points at one of our tires. It’s nearly flat. He provides directions to a tire shop, a little hole-in-the-wall shop with half a dozen guys lounging around. They’re amused to meet us. They fix the tire for ten soles, and wish us buena suerte on our journey to Lima. .
Already it’s nearly dusk. We begin a mad rush to drive the ___ kilometers to Lima in fewer hours than it should take. I usually drive well over the speed limit, but push it harder now. At times we’re aided by good roads and little traffic. At times we slog through a town. Then we’re racing through the darkness again.
At one point there’s a stretch of a couple of hundred meters with many cops and many stopped vehicles. We slow down. Usually such checkpoints don’t bother with us, but pay more attention to trucks; and we almost make it through this one before a cop waves his light at us and whistles, just as we pass him. We’re not even sure he means us, but after a moment we pull over, several dozen meters beyond him. We wait, looking in the rearview mirrors, and he is indeed walking toward us. When he arrives he greets me and salutes, then shakes hands. He asks whether we are foreigners and where we are going, and wants to see our passports. He glances at Ragna’s, then asks if I do not have one. I say I do, but it’s in the luggage, and that I can get it quickly. He ignores this offer and asks whether we have any cigarettes. He is a lot more interested in this question than in establishing the existence of my passport. Ragna fishes from the glove compartment a pack of cigarettes with a few left, and we hand it over to him. He thanks us and wishes us good traveling.
We’re amused. We sympathize: it must get tedious out there in the cool night air stopping vehicles. We continue, still speeding, but with a careful eye for the frequent huge trucks without lights on, or with both taillights out.
The long finish of the drive, the outskirts of Lima, is madness, with vehicles fighting for position and pedestrians diving in and out of the darkness on both sides of the road. It’s unclear when and where we’re meant to get off this multi-lane road, the Pan American Highway, and then I miss what looks like a good choice and we have to drive several kilometers more, distance I’m sure is way out of our way.
So we get off, in the middle of nowhere, a warehouse area pretty unpopulated at this hour, but we spot a cab and ask him how much he’d charge to lead us to Miraflores, to the block of _____ near the street our new temporary home is on.
He charges a fairly modest S./ ___. [Short cab rides around Miraflores run S./ 2 to S./5, although often the driver initially demands S./ 5 or more for a ride that should cost S./ 2. To Ragna’s amusement and/or annoyance, I bargain with cabdrivers.] We readily agree and start following him.
This journey is a tricky one, and both the cabdriver and I do a good job. It requires full attention: I’ve no idea where we are, often little idea which way we’re going to turn next, and we even get on and off a freeway at some point; and the other drivers, having no idea that I’m desperately trying to stay pinned to the cab’s rear bumper, naturally try everywhere to wedge in front of me, whether we’re speeding along or merging onto the freeway – and I am necessarily an even more selfish driver than usual.
Still, we make it; and without much common language, the driver and I share our amusement and exultation at our success. I give him more money than he’d asked, and tell him what a great job he did. We’re actually early, and the landlady is nowhere around yet.
Unfortunately, we’re tired and hungry, and need restrooms. There’s a guy standing around when I tip the cab-driver, who notices I’ve dropped a few coins and crosses the street to return them to me, and I guess he might be the security guard for the apartment building, but I’m not sure. Therefore with some concern, since the car is fully loaded with stuff on a side street in Lima, we go down to the corner to get something to eat.
When we return, everything’s intact, the landlady and her husband are waiting for us, and we move the car inside and go up.
It’s a nice place, and a nice evening. The place has everything you’d need, and everything’s in great shape, and there are even a few bottles of wine and whiskey [for which we’ll of course be charged if we consume their contents, but it’s a thoughtful touch, since often guests arrive direct from the airport with no knowledge of Lima and no energy to go shopping].
The landlady and her husband are also pleasant. We sit and talk with them for a good deal longer than needed to transact our business, and all enjoy it. It’s a good close to a long and sometimes difficult day.