Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lessons Learned Going to Chavín

Monday, the next day after the soccer game, we woke up quite early and caught the 7:30am bus to Chavin. It didn't actually leave until 7:50 or so, but that's Peru's punctuality, or really just Latin America´s elasticity regarding the conecpt of time. It wasn't very apparent we were on the correct bus, as the man I asked as we boarded sort of just noded for me to get on the bus. So, I asked the woman behind me if this bus was going to Chavin. She, very nicely, reassured me it was, with a big smile.

Good enough. I was exchausted and didn't feel too well that morning, so I slept for a large part of the ride, despite the super crummy road. In the beginning, when I was awake as we got out of Huaraz and into the mountains, as well as the numerous times I was woken up by bumps, I took some of these pictures.

Didn´t quite figure out what lake this was unfortunately.

It was all so green. Sorry the picture is so dark.

Not the greatest picture since we were moving and in the bumpy bus, but the quick moving river winded along much of the road.

Getting up higher than the river and starting all the switchbacks.

The pictures in no way do any of it justice (as pictures, taken with point-and-shoot cameras, rarely can), but it was like we were going through backdrops for a movie - so much green, the mountains were ginormous. We passed the Pucaraju mountain that is 17,300 feet and the Yanamarey mountain that just gets over 17,000 feet! Crazy big. Understandbly, Andy stayed awake the entire ride, in awe.

I woke up as our bumps slowed through a couple little towns. I thought we should be getting off any time now, about 3 hours into the ride. Then, the super nice lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder, through the seats, and said in Spanish "Didn't you want to go to the ruins in Chavin?" as she pointed backwards. Well, nice lady, yes we did. So at that point, we figured we the bus would turn around at the next town and we could get off when we went back through. However, just to make sure, I went and asked the driver's assistant (or the guy who yells out the window to get people to get on the bus at any point after the engine starts) when the bus was returning. His answer: ¨manana.¨ (tomorrow)  Awwwwesome.

So, we got off at the next itty bitty town of San Marcos. We were way too far away from Chavin to walk back at that point. Once off the bus, I was quite nervous because it was obvious white people rarely go there, as there would be no reason to. We found the town square, asked a man selling bus tickets for the next bus to Chavin. He only sold tickets to Lima or Huaraz (which wouldn´t have been too bad of an idea, but we still wanted to go to Chavin, since we made the 3 hour bus ride anyway). Then, he told us to go up the hill where the Chavin bus lines were. So we did. Once to the top, there were a handful of men with taxis asking if we wanted to go to Chavin. Yes, but not with you. Taxis are pretty sketch here if not called from a hostel/restaurant, especially if you are gringo, don´t speak flawless Spanish and have no idea where you are or really where you want to go.

There was no apparent place to buy bus tickets to Chavin and I thought to myself ¨Please God, just let a bus to Chavin come this way.¨ And what do you know, up the hill chugs a big old bus, and across the street from us, a handful of Peruvians gathered for it to stop. We ran across the street, joined the group and the guy asked for 2 soles each (about $0.65) to get back to Chavin. Done.

The fun-ness doesn´t stop there. Once we got off at Chavin, we were not hawked by people asking to take us to the ruins, which is normally the case when you get to tourist destinations. These ruins, by the way are pre-Incan and of one of the first civilizations in Peru. Seems like sort of a big deal. We figured it would be obvoius where to go, especially since everyone in Huaraz recommended we go check them out. After asking around, getting pointed toward a museum, we gave up and hiked up a fairly steep hill. Passed by a donkey and a woman carrying a baby, we were headed to the crosses on top of the hill overlooking the town. We hiked for over an hour and turned around to look down, realized we passed the trail toward the crosses. Looking up, we had a lot farther to go if we were going to reach the top. Too far for our hungry stomachs, bladders and lungs to go before needing to catch the 4pm bus back to Huaraz, so back down we went.

As there is one everywhere, Plaza de Armas in Chavin. Fountain on the right, church on the left. The hill thing we hike faces the church, so ¨behind¨ the photo.

View from our hike of Chavin, the town.

After returning home, we figured out that the ruins (officially called Chavin de Huantar) are a few kilometers before the little town. It was still quite surprising, as we were the only gringos in Chavin, that no one wanted to take us there. There were no obvious signs for where they were located either, which is just so strange for what we assumed, was the only tourist attraction this little town had to offer.

I learned that the local buses (not fancy schmancy bus lines) do not announce where they are as they stop, as you´re just supposed to know where to get off. I also learned that when desiring to do something touristy, sometimes it is just best to sign up with a tourist group in order to get to and fro your desired location, without problems.

Next post will be a doozy, one of those ¨nothing worse could happen right?¨ stories, complete with a bout of altitude sickness and hitchhiking.

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