We cruised down the bumpy road heading towards the town of Yungay.
Along the way we stopped to have some lunch. They had a full menu of Andes treats. Guinea Pigs, Stream trout, pork, and hen.
They also had Alpaca on the menu but after seeing these cute dudes roaming around in the backyard of the place. I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
Plenty of Canchas (Kind of a Peruvian popcorn) and Coca tea were consumed though. It really does help with the altitude sickness at these heights.
We ate up and headed down the road to the town of Yungay.
Yungay while seemingly a thriving town today, has a very sad history. It was here in Yungay that 25,000 people lost their lives during the great earthquake of 1970. The quake dislodged 1/4 of the mountain top sending 50 million cubic meters of debris flying down the hillside at speeds over 400 KMH. The entire town was buried alive before they even knew what hit them. Only the tops of a few tall palms remained after the landslide.
We followed a small dirt road up above the new town headed towards Llaganuco Lodge. Passing more rural life along the way.
Sheep pelts drying in the sun… and a satellite dish of course. You don’t want to miss the latest “YO SOY!”. The Peruvian version of American Idol. Which, if you can imagine, is somehow even worse than that drivel they put on in the states.
We arrive at the LLaganuco Lodge… after getting lost for about an hour. Hey Charlie, invest in a sign will ya!?
We posted up camp and explored the beautiful grounds. Charlie really has an amazing slice of land wayyyy off the grid up here in the highlands just below the Lagunas Llaganuco.
Who needs a newspaper with views like these?
We hung out with Charlies’ 2 Rodesian Ridgebacks. They do a good job of keeping the property safe.
Next morning we headed up the trail on foot to the lagunas, located about an hour walk from the lodge.
At the lake info center they had a creepy display of some native animals. Including this horribly stuffed mountain derp lion.
Luckily the lake itself more than made up for the derp lion.
The steep gorge walls plunged directly into the azure glacial waters. Quite a sight.
After exploring the lake a bit we took a small footpath through a forest of Queñoa trees. They are more popularly known as Polyepis trees and are native to the Andes mountains. Their flaky red bark and twisting shapes reminded me of the Manzanita trees back home in the Sierra mountains.
Lauren climbed up a huge boulder for a better look down the valley.
Carly soon joined
We spotted some tarantulas crawling around too! I have read that Tarantulas cant really bite you and are mainly harmless. I still am to chicken to pick one up.
We encouraged Enzo to get the hell off this cold rainy mountain and down to Huanchaco to enjoy the sunshine. Well… It didn’t really take much convincing, he had one foot out the door already and we gave him a ride to town the next day. When we got back to Huanchaco he had already rented an apartment and setup shop! New neighbors!
We stopped by the same restaurant on the way out of town. Our sweet Llama friends turned nasty and tried to kick Carly. I think her spanish was off and she insulted him.
I didn’t feel bad about eating him any more
We briefly stopped in Huaraz to drop off Enzo and do some shopping around the town square. The city was pretty but seemed way too busy for my liking.
On our way out of town we noticed a lot of junk in the road, old tires, rocks, and street signs. Lots of police activity as well. Turns out we had just missed a protest that morning. Apparently there was some shady stuff going down in a nearby town regarding a college president and some misplaced funds. The locals were showing their disappointment with the situation by causing all kinds of grief for truckers and unfortunately tourists caught up in the mix.
We passed many many roadblocks, luckily none were manned by crazed protestors and we could easily drive around them.
I have no idea how they managed to move this giant friggin tree stump in the middle of the road.
Remnants of the roadblocks were frequent, most had been cleared. Note the donkey protestor. Fight the power, Donkey!
We soon came to a bridge where we encountered about 15 geared up police. They were wearing riot gear and stopping cars from crossing the bridge. From our view everything looked fine. We asked the police if we could cross, they said “Not today!”.
We sat around for a while waiting to see what was going on, we saw lots of villagers walking over the bridge but could not see what was happening. As we waited the line of cars and semis grew longer and longer. Truckers eventually got impatient and started blaring on their airhorns and pushing up onto the bridge. Peruvians love to use their horns and soon we had an entire orchestra going full bore. I pulled over to get the hell out of the way.
Note: the Peruvian using a damn bike pump to inflate his flat tire…
At one point about 15 youths came across the bridge and the riot police met them in the middle. I thought it was about to go down but they just had a brief chat, shook hands, and returned to their respective sides of the bridge. I could only imagine what would happen if someone tried to blockade I-10 or I-95 in the States… I am thinking lots of mace, tear gas, and rubber bullets. I admire the Peruvians ability to peacefully protest, at least in this case.
As we were waiting there, some shady looking villager kept coming up and telling us they knew a secret way around the bridge. If we just paid them 100 soles they would show us the way. Not wanting to get scammed we ignored them. Eventually Bike pump guy and about 7 other cars all pooled together their money and asked us if we wanted to get in on this shortcut action. We had been sitting there for 2 hours now and figured what the hell. We tossed 10 soles to the cause and joined the queue of renegades who wanted to get past this bridge. Villager dude jumped in Bike-pump guys truck and away we went with our convoy.
As we pulled up a dirt road next to the bridge we saw what all the commotion was… An entire town of people was on the other side of the bridge. They had gathered thousands of rocks, boulders, trees, and random other junk to block the road. This was the actual town where the shady college was located. They were pissed and this was their way of sticking it to the man. Blocking all cargo south out of Huaraz.
We scooted up the shortcut dirt road for a few miles, the unpassable river to our left following bike-pump guy wondering where the hell we were headed.
Eventually the convoy came to a stop. Everyone got out to do some sort of negotiations. Not wanting to get involved we just sat in the truck and watched from afar. Turns out this little town does have a bridge after all. However, they wanted to get their cut for us to pass it. The convoy collected up a few more soles to pay the villagers and away we went.
Yeehaw! Secret bridge!
The bridge popped us out way south of the town with the roadblock, Success!
About 10 minutes up the road we came to another bridge. BLOCKED! damnit! These crazy Peruvians and their roadblocks…
Luckily this river wasn’t flowing too deep. We locked the hubs and forwarded straight across it. Who needs a bridge!? Toyota 4×4 to the rescue!!
We finally made it past all the towns and into the remote altiplano. Not enough people or news services out here to get riled up about much.
It was an incredible high-altitude drive to Chavin.
We made into town right at sundown. We found the nearest bar and celebrated our crazy journey. I ordered the house special, did not realize it was going to be so fancy!
Grabbed some grub and hit the hay. Up the next day to check out the Chavin Ruins.
The Chavin de Huantar area has been occupied since at least 3000 BC. The major ruins date back to 1200 B.C. Longggg before any Incas ever existed. The site was a large central gathering place for many surrounding tribes and as such contained many relics and artifacts from civilizations long forgotten. It is full of temples, caves, and underground passageways where the artifacts where once stored. The majority have been moved to museums but you can still tour the grounds and tunnels.
Looking up at the main complex
Carvings of snakes, birds, jaguars, and other creatures.
Lauren and Carly exploring the underground tunnels.
Goofing around in ancient passageways
Tenon-head. These heads once surrounded the temple and showed a female figure in various forms of transformation from a human to a jaguar.
Artist recreation of the grounds.
The grounds and nearby museum were very interesting. But we were on a tight schedule and jetted out of Chavin quickly after looking around the place.
We had been in contact with our good buddies Felix and Toni. We had planned to meet up in the mountains to check out some sort of crazy plant called a Puya Raimondii (Yes, this is what we do with our free time… drive all over the place to look at weird plants). We reversed the journey back towards Yungay. Luckily roadblock free this time. Oddly, there wasn’t a stitch of evidence that this whole route had been a shitshow the day before. All bridges and roads completely clear. Fine with us.
With no clear meeting point other than “near the crazy plants on such and such road” we headed up into the mountains once again following a long series of switch points up into the Cordillera Negra.
The villagers here cultivate every last inch of land. How they can even walk to these plots without falling to their death is beyond me.
We got to the top of the mountain and enter a thick fog. Luckily we spy our friends coming back up from the other side of the mountain! They had picked up a hitchhiking Peruvian grandma who needed to go a little further than they had planned. Being the nice people that they are they went ahead and drove down the other side of the mountain to drop her off and then doubled-back to meet up with us.
We met up and headed straight to the stands of Puya on top of the mountain. I learned the Puya is a very rare plant that only grows in certain elevations of the Andes. It grows straight up for 40-60 years before finally flowering and releasing its seeds and pollen. After it has flowered it immediately dies. We had unfortunately just missed the flowering season by 1 month but it was still pretty awesome standing next to these weird giant plants.
Even more awesome was camping with our old pals who we had not seen since Guatemala!
Felix and Toni drove their Right-Hand drive 4×4 Mitsubishi Delica all the way from Canada to Peru and are headed to Ushuaia just like us. Their van rates as one of the most badass and offroad-capable vans I have seen thus far. This Delica can go anywhere and I would be happy to offroad with these dudes any day.
We setup camp on a high ridgeline overlooking the valley and the Cordillera Negra opposite from our mountain range. We shared the view with some wild pigs, flocks of sheep, and some ladybugs.
Sadly all good things must come to an end. We packed up the trucks and headed our separate ways. We hope to meet up again soon somewhere south!
Back in Huanchaco, we had one last party before sending Carly off. Knowing Carly, this won’t be the last time we see her in South America! Can’t wait for her to come again