Nevado Pisco, Urus & Ischinca Expedition
Onward to Huaraz
Day 3 – Lima to Huaraz:
July 3, 2004
We awoke the next morning to the sound of traffic and car horns and a sight that serves, for me at least, to confirm that I am truly south of the border, a landscape of unfinished buildings, each with rebar reaching skyward. Sometimes I wonder if there is something in the Napoleonic legal code that requires each structure to have a least one piece of rusted steel projecting from the highest point. Regardless, the muggy air crept into the room as the morning sky was obscured by low lying cloud and the threat of more rain, as the streets were already wet.
Our schedule for the day consisted of little more than getting from Lima to Huaraz, eight hours distant by bus. We had a one o’clock departure so the morning was ours to kill. We took in the hotel’s continental breakfast, Hotel Aleman, what would you expect? The we headed across the street to the super Mercado to change some money and make an investment in bottled water. Hydration was the mantra of this trip and the bottled variety is a must for sure. With soles in our wallets and time to burn, we walked on down Avenida Ariquipa for a half mile or so and then turned to head back to the hotel. We made arrangements with Domingo, the hotel’s driver, to take us to the Movil Tours terminal, a few miles distant near the national stadium.
Domingo was ready to go at 11:45 and we were soon making our way through the now crowded streets to the terminal. The Movil terminal is not in the best of neighborhoods, hence an admonition from Domingo to be aware of our bags at all times, lest something come up missing. We unloaded the minivan and hustleed all into the terminal to the ticket counter. While the rest of the crew sat on the gear, I managed to communicate our names well enough to claim the tickets Chris Benway had previously reserved and paid for. We checked the bags, paying a small overweight fee, and waited with the rest of the crowd to board the bus.
Movil operates really nice buses, each equipped with a hostess, pisser, comfortable seats, and clean windows to look out of. You also get a box lunch right after departure and Inca cola to go with it. Rest assured the concept of a box lunch in Peru is the same as the U.S. but with a touch of gastronomic fear thrown in for the hungry and hearty soul. The time to board came and we took our assigned seats as our bags were loaded into the cargo area below. At the appointed time, the gate of the terminal slid open and we were off to Huaraz.
The route to Huaraz first involves departing Lima proper and then traveling a few hours up the coast before turning east and ascending to the top of a 15,000 foot pass before dropping back down into Huaraz, at 10,000 feet. For those who have never climbed higher than the 14,000 peaks of the continental U.S., you get a quick taste of high altitude without moving from your seat. The trip out of Lima takes the better part of an hour as the bus makes its way out of the city center and through the sprawing urban area. You get to see all the urban sights you expect, street markets, three wheeler motorcycle cabs bustling about, grinding poverty, and modern malls festooned with signs advertising familiar U.S. brands.
Once out of Lima proper, the road parallels the coast line on the left and industrial complexes on the right which later yield to massive sand dunes. The industrial complexes are all surrounded by high brick walls and like those in Lima proper, are fringed by guard posts on each corner. Our driver in Lima noted that the suppression of the Sendero Luminoso presently made the towers unnecessary; however while the movement was active, the towers were manned to preclude attacks on factories and businesses. Soon enough, Lima is far behind and the scenery includes cliffs dropping to wave swept beaches and massive dunes across the flangks of which the highway rests. Every once in a while there is a small town or village nesteled on one or both sides of the road but little else. The trip up the coast takes a couple of hours before finally traversing an area of cane fields before the turn east to the high country.
The road to the mountains is a seemingly endless serpentine path climbing steadily past small villages and many individual subsistence farmer’s plots. You pass corn and peppers drying on pads beside the road, the odd burro carrying a load or simply tied out to await a load, and the multitude of locals walking along the roadside. Perhaps half way to the pass, the sun falls behind the mountain and the rest of the trip is in the dark. But that does not make for a boring ride by any means. Movil shows two movies on every trip and they are likely never for the faint of heart. Our first flick was an early 70’s winner by the title of “Chase.” If you’ve heard of it or seen it, you must be one of the unlucky few. Then when the sun was gone we graduated to a Steven Segal movie, same theme, everyone gets beat up or shot and every pistol has standard size magazine that holds somewhere around 500 rounds. You get the idea . . .
We arrived in Huaraz at around 10 p.m. and were met at the bus station by Isabel Benway. Chris had said that we would be gathered from the station and sure enough Isabel was there to show us the way to the Familia Mesa lodging. The bags took a taxi and we walked to stretch our legs after the long bus ride. Soon enough we were inside and shown to our room on the second floor. Familia Mesa is a multi-storey affair with a tienda and laundry on the first floor, family home and lodgings on the second floor and more lodgings on the third floor. Chris was also in the final stage of construction of the new Café Andino in a separate part of the third floor.
The room was a welcome sight and after lugging all our gear to the second floor, we made light work of calling it a day.
Day 3 – Huaraz Organizational Day:
July 4, 2004
We planned a rest day in Huaraz to recover from our trip from the States and to organize the logistics of the climbing portion of the trip. Isabel indicated that Chris would meet with us in mid morning to iron out the planning details so that left us with the opportunity to find some breakfast. We headed onto the streets of Huaraz and after wandering around a bit, we found the small café associated with the Casa de Guias, about 4 blocks from Familia Mesa. Jim went healthy with the muesli, G went traditional with the American and I was left to choose between the two. After breakfast we wandered about Huaraz’s main business drag for a bit before heading back to meet with Chris.
I had been working with Chris for about two months via email to grind out the details of the trip. That may sound like a lot of work but it really was not, given Chris does this for a living and is more than helpful with figuring out the details. He put up with reasonable and dumb questions with equal tolerance and I must say that he never let an email go unanswered. I praised his operation in the Logisitcs section, praise well deserved, and when it came time to iron out the final details he was ready to go. We asked our last lot of questions, each of which he addressed before making an appropriate arrangement to cover whatever detail we asked about. When that was all done, he introduced us to Elias who was our cook for the full breadth of the climbing portion of the trip. Elias was on the clock and after some brief discussion of food likes and dislikes, he was off to the market to purchase everything that we and our staff would need food-wise for the next two weeks. What a relief, Elias did the planning for every meal, bought all the stuff, and packed it into boxes, ready to go the next morning.
Chris also confirmed our transport to the Llanganuco Valley the next morning, advised us of the fees and costs that would be incurred once in Huascaran Park and hustled off to gather the rental gear needed for the trip. While Chris and Elias took care of the food for the rest of the trip, we had to attend to the needs of our own growing boy, Dr. Strangelove. We headed back out onto the streets and found a nice restaurant just up the road. The food was good and I must admit the server was not hard to look at either. Jim of course was thinking about more than looks, he was in love, already. We all partook of the local stir fry favorite and then walked it off by wandering about the neighborhood, followed by a nap.
By the late afternoon, Elias had gathered enough goods to cover the floor of a fair size room and was in the process of packing all of it into wooden boxes that would be moved by burro to our camp. Chris meanwhile had accumulated an extra mountaineering tent, all the kitchen goods, a big cook tent and propane for the stove. While we are talking about gear, I’ll mention that Elias, and I would guess the other cooks as well, pretty much have this whole meal prep gig down to an art. You can make suggestions but why bother, they know what they are doing and unless you are Joe Experienced Expedition Planner, you likely do not know what you are talking about. What I’m getting at is if you are looking at a pair of gas grill size propane bottles and wondering what in the hell the cook is thinking, don’t. Leave him alone, the bottles are not riding on your back, so shut up and partake of good food later. You think you just gotta have that MSR stove for your high camp, that’s fine, you’ll get to use it to reheat the same good eats as below, that the cook will make and get hauled up to you right on time. These guys are like all good help, hire the right guy . . . and leave him alone.
By evening, all food issues were resolved but for our dinner. Jim is a growing boy and he was ready to eat. We took to the now dark but lively streets in search of Thai food. We had a good lead but bad directions and ended up in this small café/flop house combination eating curry dishes prepared by a dude with dreadlocks and a stocking cap. The appearance of the place aside, the beer was cold and the curry was great. Then back onto the streets for an evening stroll down the main commercial drag to scope out the shops, buy some miscellaneous items at a pharmacy and stock up on some bottled water for the trip to Huascaran Park and the Pisco base camp. For those who have never been to Latin America, a walk down the main drag at 8 p.m. is not a walk down a shuttered and deserted avenue. Instead, all is alive, shops are open and the whole town is out and about shopping, strolling, hawking goods, begging, and doing what folks all over the world do, except unlike Americans, they’ve taken a mid afternoon break and are now back at it in the early evening.
We hit the beds around 10 p.m. knowing that we were bound for the Llanganuco at 7 a.m. the next morning.