|June 30, 2000
Well, here we are, the last posting of our trip. The last few days have been exciting, awe-inspiring and yes, a little scary. But we'll get into that in a moment.
During our expedition in Peru, we had hoped to be able to travel in a loop around the country. Notwithstanding some obstacles, we have succeeded. We had heard stories that the Central Highlands was among the most beautiful and least traveled areas in all of Peru. We wanted to find this out for ourselves.
The Central Highlands includes the area between Cusco and Lima. We traveled from high mountains to low desert valleys and back again. We crossed numerous rivers and high altitude puna (plains).
The journey back to Lima is not a long one comparatively. We are currently in the city of Huancayo which is about a 7 hour drive from Lima. The road from here is well traveled, and more important, it is paved. In contrast, when leaving Cusco, the pavement ended after about 2 hours. The road became narrow and dusty. We were treated to 30+ hours of riding on these roads. Three days of 10+ hours each.
Because this area is only rarely visited by travelers, the facilities are limited, at best. In the larger cities of Ayacucho and Huancayo, more information and better facilities are available to assist travelers like us.
This beautiful area is untouched by tourism because it was under the control of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorists for 20 years. In the 70's and 80's this area was unsafe to visit, but in the early 90's, the leader of the Shining Path was arrested and slowly the area has opened back up.
Our last bus ride was hopefully the most exciting. We took a day bus so we could enjoy the vistas. Usually we would take a night bus when the route was to be 10 or more hours. The vistas were well worth the ride, but we dubbed the trip the "bus ride from hell". The bus made so many stops in the villages along the way, that soon we didn't even have standing room. The only thing missing were chickens and pigs.
As we said, the visits were fabulous. But to get these vistas, the road was cut into the hillsides overlooking the Rio Pampas. We followed this river for most of the day. The road was barely wide enough for the bus we were on, let alone the other vehicles we met and passed.
Many times we would look out our window and see only a long drop to the river. We could not even see any sign of the road we were on.
At one point, the driver and his conductor had to get out to clear the roadway of rocks that had recently fallen. When we started up again, the passengers on the other side of the bus began yelling for the driver to go faster as more rocks began to fall. Fortunately, none of them came near the bus.
Here in Huancayo, we have just had a very satisfying and fun day. Utilizing the local transport, small Toyota-type-combi vans, we traveled to villages along the Rio Mantaro Valley. We visited a town known for its silversmithing, toured a 17th century monastery and hiked for miles through villages and farmland.
We finished our day at a small village famous for its trout farms. There we had fresh cooked trout as well as ceviche. Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lemon, chili and onion, served cold with a boiled yam. A delicious and truly typical Peruvian dish.
Today we visited a village that was celebrating the anniversary of its founding with a parade. The village dignitaries carried a bier containing an icon of the patron saint of the village. As they marched through the streets they crossed over religious murals that were created from flower petals and colored sawdust. As they reached each mural, they lowered the bier and said prayers. It was an interesting and beautiful experience.
Tomorrow we are off to explore the high plain and its glacier and glacial lakes. We will have the entire day to explore. On Sunday it is back to Lima on the bus and on to our 11pm plane.
We hope you have enjoyed following our expedition as much as we have enjoyed bringing it to you.