Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peru Part 2: to and from Huarez

We got up the next morning hella early to get into a cab and go back to the airport to pick up the rental car. The cab driver had the weakest vehicle I’ve ever been in… good thing too cause the guy thought he was Mario fucking Andretti. He had some interesting evil looking bobble head jobbies on his dash.

When we got o the airport it became clear that the airport was not where the Car Company was. After quite some help from a friendly gentleman (can’t say enough about the folks of Peru they wee wonderful) and some spilt coffee the Car Company came to get us. When we got to the Budget/EuropCar place they seemed very confused. I booked through a third party and they definitely had issues with it. “No drive Mechanico?” was repeatedly asked of us. I had arranged through a 3rd party cause I needed and Automatic with unlimited mileage… so after some conversation and an hour or so of waiting we set off in an automatic Toyota Yaris with the worlds most annoying alarm (kept going off at inopportune times). In total we estimated the drive to be 6-8 hours.

Driving out of Lima was not nearly as harrowing as we thought… we found our way without much trouble… The construction in Lima was spectacular. Entire four lane roads were closed off and they shunted the traffic off through dirt parking lots. Then we got to the Pan American Highway and slowly but surely left Lima behind. We climbed up a mountain shortly out of Lima and got to drive through clouds rolling in off the Pacific driving through clouds is surreal to say the least.
Clouds are down and to the left in this picture.

As we got out into the countryside we started to get stopped by police officers. They wave us over and usually get a little smile out of our poor Spanish, but they are friendly and nice, offer us directions (“Huarez?” picture me pointing further down the road,) and seem sincerely surprised that these Americans are attempting to drive in their potholed country.

We turned off the Pan American Highway and meet our last officer who was especially nice and set us on our way. We began driving steadily in an up hill direction. And drove that way on switchbacks for roughly the next 2 hours. The first item of interest we came across was fields and fields of chili peppers... which was stunning against the colorless stone backdrop.

We stopped at a place that was clearly a pit stop for buses and let me tell you every one stopped to get a good look of the Americans in the rented car, It was one of the few times that the people of Peru made me feel uncomfortable in their country. Traveling up into the Andes mountains lead to some fantastic views, but the construction habits of the Peruvians leaves something to be desired… Instead of having cones to signal construction they just leave large rocks in the road. The first of which I hit with a loud “ka bam” as my wheel apparently just bounced up and over it. There were several stretches of one lane “road” (by road I mean pile of dirt) where their was being construction done to improve the road conditions.

After driving steadily in an assent to the top of the first mountains of the Andes we hit a plateau. Hungry we stopped in a town with a slew of paces with signs that read Queso… so we stopped and bought some bread and farmer’s cheese. It was delicious… It got dark quickly as a storm rolled in and delivered the only rain we experienced while we were in Peru. Rachel took a nap as I completed the last hour to Huarez, swerving to make a herd of sheep jump over a barrier, swerving around potholes and folks with various farm animals and just enjoying the views.

After arriving in Huarez Rachel and I probably had our tensest moment on the trip as we attempted to fin our way to the hostel in the poorly marked city. When we finally get to the place it is quite beautiful. We have a view of the mountains from our little balcony, and there is a fantastic roof top view. We had some difficulty securing secure parking for the car but eventually our hotel hooked us up with a lady who’s walled backyard was available for overnight parking for what amounted to a buck fifty. We had dinner at Hotel Andino where Rachel ordered our first Pisco Sour and I had a delicious chicken stuffed with a Mushroom sauce.

View from our balcony when we arrived in Huarez

The next day we got up early eager to drive to Lake Llanganuco in the National Park of Huascaran… the power was out in Huarez, something that is fairly common, but we had a nice breakfast regardless. There is a clearly independently wealthy fella from Minneapolis running the place who is kind of a doutche. It’s odd that we come 6000 miles from home and the idiots we meet are most likely to be other Americans.

We drive about an hour north dodging potholes… and thus driving on the shoulder, in the middle of the road, pretty much anywhere there is actual road to drive on. We stopped in a town looking for a snack and Rachel met a nice lady who sold her bread and because she liked Rachel apparently, gave her the stalest croissant ever. After a little trouble finding the right road we were off up the side of the mountain in our automatic Toyota Yaris. The road was made of dirt and dust, and was clearly not leveled in ages…and thus it took us nearly 2 hours to go 25 kilometers up the side of the mountain. We got to the entrance of the park and got some corn con queso from a lady just sitting up at the top of the mountain. After another 15 minutes of driving we reached these two lakes, set at an elevation of 13,000 ft, surrounded by glacier-covered peaks. It was one of the most serene views of my life. We got the rowboat rental guy to let us take the boat out ourselves and we rowed around as Rachel took pictures of me trying to be funny.

The road was a little quicker going down and soon we were back in town. We headed out for some Pisco Sours and some Pizza. I can say that the pizza for the most par in Peru sucks… but Rachel is addicted so she made like 4 or 5 attempts. We also came across a bunch of places advertising Sex Burgers, which is essentially a cheeseburger with over easy eggs on them.

The next day we were heading back to Lima. It was uneventful, but even more fun than the ride up cause there was no longer a worry about getting lost. We got stopped by one of the same cops who stopped us on the way up who seemed sincerely happy that we were unharmed and still in good spirits. We attempted to stop several times for lunch but the section of the Pan American Highway between Huarez and Lima has quite a few places that as Rachel would put it “smell like death.” Eventually I had some delightful chicken at the Universal Restaurant.


Driving back into Lima was an absolute blast, Rachel seemed anxiety ridden but I was like a Pig in Mud. The Folks at the car rental place seemed surprised and a little ticked off that there was nothing wrong with the car when I brought it back, so they charged us $25 for cleaning the car cause it is filed with dirt road dust. A van takes us back to the Hotel Espana, and of course we head back to our new favorite restaurant where the nuns serve us more food. Rachel gets the same she had before and I get some delicious rabbit. We head home early cause we have to get up at 3AM to head to the airport for the next leg of our journey.


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