The Backroads of Peru to Cuzco: Part II

Huaraz Travel Blog

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The church in the plaza at Huancaspata
Leaving from Tayabamba the bus made its way up higher into the mountains on the start of the 8 hour trip to Sihuas. As the road climbed higher we left the reaches of civilization behind and passed into the high altitude zone where there was barely any visible signs of life. At this high altitude there was only short grass on the mountains and no trees, nothing higher than one to two feet. It was actually really nice to see hillsides unscarred from agriculture and wild herds of sheep roaming the hillsides. At one point we passed by a grassy plateau where four wild horses were running while the snow capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca reached up to the clouds in the distance, just an amazing sight. The only thing to impact the excellent scenery was the family friendly movie they were showing on the bus where in the brief time that I watched it two women were raped, a dog was shot, and they shot a man execution style.
The snow capped peaks of the Cordillera barely visible under the clouds
The scenery continued as we descended into a canyon and stayed inside the canyon for most of the rest of the journey to Sihuas. We finally arrived in Sihuas, two hours late, after ten hours. It was around 6:30 and I wandered around the two or three main streets of the town looking for a place to stay, there seemed to be three and the first one I tried the door was open but no one was there, at the second one I had better luck. The room, was certainly nothing fancy, small with bare cement walls and dimly lit, kind of like spending the night in a jail cell, but the price was good at 5 soles ($1.67)! I was off on another bus to Huaraz at 8:30am anyways so it didn´t matter much. I had some dinner and looked around for a cold drink but I couldn´t find any store or restaurant in town with a refrigerator so I gave up and bought something warm and went to sleep.
The town of Sihuas in the morning sun
 
The next morning I got a ticket for the bus to Huaraz, supposedly 10 hours, and waited for the bus. When the bus came I knew it was going to be a long ride, it was the oldest and poorest looking long distance bus I had seen as of yet on my trip. I picked a seat near the window in the back with my knees pinned to the seat in front of me. As we left we climbed up the hillside to look down upon the town, and the bus was moving very slowly and was very full. Once we reached the first town after an hour some people got off and some got on, the same thing after another two hours to the next town. We passed through a decent looking town right around lunch time but didn´t stop, and I was really hoping that we would so that I could get out and stretch my legs a bit as the seats were quite uncomfortable and cramped.
High mountain scenery out of Sihuas
Finally we stopped at this shack on the side of the road that had no electricity for lunch. After lunch a kid from the bus came up and asked me why I had come to Sihuas, I guess it isn´t a center for tourism either. I explained that I was traveling through to Cuzco in the mountains, which seemed to satisfy him. The road then descended down for another hour or two into this incredibly deep gorge with mountains rising straight up on either side about 8,000-9,000 feet from the river valley. The scenery was staggering, to see such a sharp change in altitude, there weren´t even any places where I could capture the full the extent of the change with my camera. At last we reached the river and at the bridge there were a few shacks selling fruit, but it was so hot and dusty that we didn´t stop for long.
Where we stopped to eat lunch on the way to Huaraz
The dust kept continually blowing into the bus as we descended the switchbacks and the air was hazy and dry. The road continued along the river for a while, at one point our bus stalled while crossing a mostly dry riverbed. The driver couldn´t get the engine to start after several tries and then he yelled for all the men to get out of the bus to push out of the riverbed and get it moving so he could try to start the engine on the downhill. So I got out of the bus and we pushed it up the small hill out of the riverbed and he was able to start the engine. The dirt road continued along the river for a while before crossing back over the river and turning to the south as we drew closer to Huallanca. We passed through this small town amidst the dry, arid desert like conditions and this town was so dry the soccer field was all dirt and didn´t even have a single blade of grass, and in South America that says something.
A view into the canyon
We stopped to let some people off as there was a row of poorly looking houses leading up the hillside and probably more abandoned houses than inhabited ones.   
 
The road continued a little further toward Huallanca, passing through the old section of town first, with a horid looking shanty town of hovels down off the main road with patchwork corrugated metal roofs and crumbling walls with maybe one in every three inhabited. There was a school that looked closed, overgrown, and dilapidated, and a few stores and police post. After the old section of town we reached a huge prison like, heavily fenced in the with barbed wire, complex owned by Duke Energy as part of the huge hydroelectric power plants they have in the river gorge.
Where our bus stalled out in the canyon valley
The complex was nice and new with well painted and maintained buildings, a few watered grass fields as part of an athletic complet and lots of satelite dishes and other modern conveniences. Unlike a prison, the security was likely designed to keep the townspeople out. It didn´t appear that there was much giving back to the community here. As the road passed the complex, it became better maintained and continued up the hill to a series of ten or more single lane unlit tunnels bored through the mountains. As the road climbed the river thundered through the gorge way below, narrowing to distances of maybe 20 feet across as the sides rose steeply up thousands of feet. There was one dam built with a water spillway passing through to the side in a channel cut into the canyon walls, whree a waterfall made a thundering drop and then turned ninety degrees on a dime and flowed back down to rejoin the river.
The town before Huallanco
Further upriver there were waterfalls flowing down the steep sides of the canyon and a few walking bridges across the river. Soon we were so high up above the river it was hard to see it straight down below. As the road followed the river the gorge gradually started to widen and soon we reached a paved road, the first I had seen since the brief stretches around Cajamarca, over forty hours of bus travel ago. What a blessing it was to travel on this paved road the rest of the way to Huaraz, just so much easier and quicker, even in our slow bus. About an hour outside of Huaraz it started to rain and there was thunder and some dramatic lightning but this all cleared by the time we arrived in Huaraz, after 12 hours.
 
Huaraz was a nice city, with views of some of the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca and lots of the conveniences of a city, such as cold drinks and decent places to stay.
A waterfall near the hyrdroelectric plant in the canyon
There is a small but nice museum with some of the artifacts from nearby archaeological sites. From Huaraz the route to Cuzco proceeds to La Union and from there to Huanuco, Huanuco to Huancayo, Huancayo to Ayacucho, Ayacucho to Andahuaylas, Andahuaylas to Abancay, and finally Abancay to Cuzco.
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The church in the plaza at Huancas…
The church in the plaza at Huanca…
The snow capped peaks of the Cordi…
The snow capped peaks of the Cord…
The town of Sihuas in the morning …
The town of Sihuas in the morning…
High mountain scenery out of Sihuas
High mountain scenery out of Sihuas
Where we stopped to eat lunch on t…
Where we stopped to eat lunch on …
A view into the canyon
A view into the canyon
Where our bus stalled out in the c…
Where our bus stalled out in the …
The town before Huallanco
The town before Huallanco
A waterfall near the hyrdroelectri…
A waterfall near the hyrdroelectr…
Looking down on Huallanco
Looking down on Huallanco
The main plaza at Huancaspata
The main plaza at Huancaspata
The ruins of house in the desert c…
The ruins of house in the desert …
The archaeological museum in Huaraz
The archaeological museum in Huaraz
Artifact from the museum in Huaraz
Artifact from the museum in Huaraz
Huaraz
photo by: latino28