Nevado Pisco, Urus & Ischinca Expedition
Return to Huaraz
Day 15 – Return to Huaraz:
July 15, 2004
A combination of burros and small mules showed up at our camp as we were finishing breakfast and about to start gathering gear to be packed for the trip down the valley. We pushed and shoved the various big and bulky items into duffle bags while Elias and crew broke down the common parts of the camp and packed everything into the burro boxes, jute bags, and plastic drums. We also gave away a bit of food extra food from our stocks to another group that was heavy on enthusiasm but light on food. They were heading up to the high camp on Tocollaraju and were pretty much out of food. They ended up with a bag of beef jerky, some ramen noodles, some Clif bars and Jim’s remaining protein powder.
The arrieros, Elias, and Joaquin got the burros loaded and as they tightened the last of the half hitches, we headed down the trail with the promise of a ride back to town a few hours later. The trail comes easily when the name of the game is to lose elevation rather than gain it, but the distance is still the better part of 15 km from base camp to Colon. We ambled along, taking in the sights that were not visible on our trip up due to the low clouds and later rain. The group from Brazil was outbound as well and we knew that Matt too would be following this route a bit later when his arriero arrived to lend a hand. After a hour or two we came to the park entrance station and then dropped down into the treed area where the trail from Pachpa connects to the main route. We did not take the Pachpa cut off but instead continued on the main path.
The route steadily drops along side the stream that you follow down the valley. An aqueduct diverts some of the water in the direction of Pachpa but our trail followed the valley on downward. By now you’ve leave the park and start crossing through cultivated patches and stone walled pastures, many with small thatch roofed huts or herds of goats watched over by local kids. The trail is a fast walk but only because we were going down and not the opposite direction. I came away very happy that we started from Pachpa instead of a Colon drop off. (Hint) By early afternoon we had arrived at the last switchbacks before the parking spot in the road where a number of vans waited. We hit the hard road and spotted the same guy who did our drop off so we knew this was the end of the trail for sure. The pack train did not make as good a pace but after twenty minutes they too had arrived and the gear started going up onto the top of the van.
The trip out was less confrontational than the one in but we still had to stop perhaps six times for Joelle to get out and move large rocks from the road. Given that they were not there when our guy drove up and the taxi that left no more than five minutes before us was not stopped at any of them, one must assume that the campesino revenue authority placed them. I also assume that since our driver was steadily peering up the hillside as Joelle cleared each group, that the presence of a van with ten persons was likely more than the locals were interested in collecting revenue from. Needless to say, Joelle moved the rocks each time without incident and on down the hill we went. After about an hour, we hit the main road between Huaraz and Caraz and were on our way back to the Familia Mesa for a deserved rest.
The Familia Mesa welcome mat was out and we soon had our gear back on the second floor. It was now late in the afternoon so we were thinking dinner but it was too early to eat where we wanted to go. The solution was to shower and then go for a light lunch at the restaurant where Jim’s unrequited love worked. She was there and after we finished eating, G and I left quickly to allow Jim some solo time to work his magic. But sadly and to our mutual disappointment, the master was out of luck this time . . . he met us on the street devoid of any promise of future action. We killed some more time by sending messages home from the local Internet café and by settling up with Chris for the remainder of the balance for the logistics. After that, we got some clothes washed and took a brief nap before dinner. Finally, it was late enough to head up the hill to the Thai restaurant and get some serious Thai food.
On our way home from dinner, we chatted with a few other climbers but then went down to the main drag to scope out the possibility for some more exotic fare the following evening. We were in the Andes and with that geography comes the promise of alpaca steaks and guinea pig, i.e. the local delicacy cuy. We found a decent looking restaurant that offered both on the menu and we knew that true bragging rights would rest on whether or not we had the nerve to come back here the following night to partake of what in the U.S. is strictly a mascota de las ninas.
Day 16 – Huaraz Rest Day:
July 16, 2004
We debated when to head for Lima, i.e. whether to spend the spare day in Huaraz or back in the capital city. We were tired and the spectre of an eight-hour bus ride just did not grab any of us as the perfect thing to do the day after coming out of the mountains. Instead, we decided that a guinea pig dinner was more in order along with the sights and sounds of Huaraz.
We slept in and then went for breakfast at the Casa de Guias, which has a small café that does a good breakfast. We’d been there before and it was a safe bet to start the day. Next G wanted to walk up the hill to the Hotel Andino; a Swiss run lodging that overlooks the town and likely has the nicest rooms in town. We took the quick room tour to scope out what a $100 per night room in Huaraz looks like. Our next stop was to take Jim to a bank so that he could attempt to get a cash advance on a credit card. There was a line and the pace was slow at best. I gave him a script of what to say (not that he would understand the answers given) and G and I went on our way to find a local joint that was supposed to have a masseuse of the non-rub and tug variety. We found one but did not like the looks of the surroundings so we wandered on back to the central part of town to pick up Jim. Enroute we paused to watch a funeral pass on one side of the street while a school group paraded down the other side of the road. Kids and banners to the left of me . . . six guys carrying a coffin to the right. Never a dull moment.
Jim had struck out on getting U.S. dollars and did not want soles so G spotted him cash for the duration of the trip. This is of no importance but for the admonition that one should either have U.S. for the duration or a pin number to draw U.S. funds from an automatic teller. A lesson learned for both Jim and me, as we appear to be the only two persons left on the face of the earth without pin numbers. Regardless it was lunchtime.
After lunch it was naptime for the G so Jim and I were market bound. Huaraz has a large market area and if you are going to visit it, I suggest you do so after your climb if you choose to have a cook on board. Nothing really scary but if you are going to buy any meat product, you will undoubtedly wonder just when that chicken met its demise. Regardless, everything you might need to feed an expedition can be found there: fruits, vegetables, staples such as corn and rice, and most ever else you can think of. The market also has stoves and other what not that you might need to set up a camp kitchen if you are shy a pot, pan, or other cooking necessity. Our tour did not stop in the vendor stalls area, we ranged out of the street stalls and into the large market building where the cow heads and sheep heads were available and the cuy that we would likely dine on this evening lay on display, sans entrails, for the willing buyer.
We then wandered further afield and down into an even less polished area where cars and trucks met their demise and their vital organs surgically transplanted into other tired but deserving vehicles. We got the grand tour of the gypsum and reed vendor’s place when I stopped to scope out some bamboo looking stalks. The walls in Huaraz are not of the sheetrock variety but instead a mat of reeds is placed where the wall will go and then multiple layers of gypsum (yeso) are applied. I asked the vendor of the technique and 20 minutes later we had been thoroughly instructed in the art of wall construction. Our next stop was the mechanic’s shop where the pisco was flowing by the water glass and everyone wanted to shake the gringo’s hand. Then we stopped at the furniture maker’s and got the tour of the place as well. What it all amounted to was it was mid afternoon and we were wandering about the industrial side of town where the gringo is seldom seen. My Spanish was good enough for chitchat and these folks were friendly and interested in talking shop. You tell the yeso salesman that you have somehow gotten your wife to finish drywall in the U.S. and you will have a friend for life.
We had made arrangements with Matt, to Tocollaraju soloist, to meet us for dinner at 6 p.m. in front of the Familia Mesa. Together we headed for the guinea pig joint on the main drag, full of bluster and daring. That is all well and good until you sit down and reality hits you that you are about to devour your kid sister’s favorite childhood pet. Worse yet, Jim and I had seen the raw materials in the market but a few hours earlier. OK, I’ve really built this scenario up so here’s the real scoop. It’s a nice place and cuy is a local delicacy. We order one as an appetizer and figure each of us will do a piece so that we can say we did and then go onto to the regular meal. I figured while I was on a roll, that I would have the alpaca steak as my main meal, a selection not repeated by any of my peers. The cuy was divided into quarters and when it arrived we all looked at one another with the question of who would go first.
Cuy tastes like dark meat chicken, there is not much of it there and if you pull the little foil covering off the end of the leg, you will see a guinea pig foot complete with claws. It was served battered like fried chicken and G, Matt and I ate ours. Jim refused and we ended up giving it to the group of gringo girls at the table next to our as we overheard them talking about what it would taste like. They nibbled at the cuy as well. The main course came next and the alpaca was excellent. I’d put it on a par with elk for taste and I’d repeat without any hesitation.
The postre for this meal was a trip to the Tombo disco for a sample of Latin music and visual arts. We each grabbed a brew and sat down to listen to the local group play a selection of Andean folk music. Following the indigenous scores came the disco portion of the evening, i.e. the rest of the evening. The Tombo is apparently the place to go and if you miss the days of Donna Summer and the disco beat, you will be right at home. If you would really do without the late 70’s, skip the tunes and scope out the gyrations of the opposite sex on the dance floor. G and I are married so we were strictly wallflowers but Matt made it to the dance floor after about an hour. Now what G and I really wanted to see was Jim, the self professed master of developing world romance, do his thing but . . . we were disappointed, no . . . we were emotionally hurt as he too nursed a beer and made like the wall flowers that we all are. We’d had enough around 1 p.m. and made for the Familia Mesa for the last time.