2007 Roadtrip Peruvian Highlands: Huarez

To get to Huarez from Cajamarca we had to retrace our steps back to Trujillo. Again it was a 6 hour ride, with 4 hours of it, the potholed secondary road. The Hotel El Gran Marques had our suite ready for us at the same price we had previously paid. We had dinner at Le Valentino, Orbegoso 224, Trujillo, fono: 295-339. The owner was delightful and made us their own rendition of zabaglione as a special treat.
The next morning we left Trujillo at 10 a.m. and arrived in Huarez at 5:15 p.m. The portion from the Panamericana to Huarez was potholed and slow: that took 2 hours. It was great to get back to the foothills of the Andes and the green after descending to the desert coastal area. We had to acclimatize to the altitude again!
There is only one top-end hotel in Huarez--Andino Club Hotel (Jr. Pedro Cochachin 357, fono: 43-421-662 e-mail: andino@hotelandino.com , web: www.hotelandino.com). I stayed in the car on a nearby street to guard our stuff while Dimitri went to reconnoiter. The streets around the hotel were all cut up badly because of some project. Getting to the hotel was through dirt mounds and a construction zone.
We weren’t enthralled and the price was steep. In any event we took Suite 401. It had 1 bedroom, living/dining area, kitchenette, a sauna and Jacuzzi. The deal we made was US $160 for suite including breakfast and dinner (no extras for tax or for service) or S/.508 at an exchange rate of US $3.18 to the nuevo sol. If the sun ever came out we would also have an expansive view of the famous mountains that people come to Huarez to climb. We found their large garage and tried not to take the car out again.
Mario, the Swiss owner was nice and accommodating. Unfortunately his manager smokes. The lobby area and sometimes the dining room stunk of cigarette smoke. The manager was oblivious to our requests to smoke outside.

We took one guided mountain bike ride during our stay with a guide who we hired through Mountain Bike Adventures. It was only 27 km but most of the time was on grueling, uphill. The views were nice but not spectacular, probably because it wasn’t clear enough. We biked to Wilcahuaín, past the Lazy Dog Hotel situated in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range at the base of the Quebrada Llaca through forests of alder and eucalyptus. We like to bike for 4 or 5 hours up and down, with lovely views. This was predominately uphill with a narrow and dangerous descent. Not one of our best rides.
In Huarez we found Cafe Andino for lunch and it was great. (Lucar y Toree 530, 3rd floor). The owners are delightful. It turned out to be the preferred hang out for young travelers (and for us). It amused us that they had laptops in their backpacks, which they treated without respect. There was a hotspot at Café Andino with lounge chairs and couches where they hung out for hours. Café Andino also had tons of magazines. We too spent hours there (except on Mondays when it's closed).
One day we drove to Caraz and hiked up Cerro San Juan. We talked to Alberto at Pony Expeditions about a guided bike ride. We decided against it.

The mountains around there are just too steep to be fun.
But all of the discussions about biking with guides provided us with our next fun mountain bike ride. Early one morning we drove to Yungay (2 hours round trip from Huarez—120 km) with our bikes on top of our car and all dressed for biking. We parked our car and found a station wagon taxi to take us and our bikes to Llanganuco, 26 km uphill from Yungay (cost: S/.30). We biked 37 km (first 10 up and down around Laguna Chinancocha (woman) at 3850masl and Laguna Orconcocha (man) at 3863masl (meters above sea level) to Yurac Corral then the descent to Yungay. The Lagunas are spectacularly located inside the Huascaran National Park in a glacial valley embedded by the steep walls of the highest mountains of Perú--the Huascaran and the Huandoy. It was lovely but we had three flat tires. We only had 2 inner tubes so after the last one we were close enough to Yungay to take a mototaxi ride (with the 2 bikes strapped to the back of it with the bungee cords we carry) to a bike shop on Avenida Arias Graciani where for S/.15 they fixed the flats and cleaned and oiled the gears.

Near where we parked our car in Yungay there was a small building with a wedding procession entering it. The bride, dressed in the local garb--but it was white--didn't want to be photographed. Five hours later when we returned to the car on the bikes, the street outside the small building had been turned into a dance floor. The bride and everyone else were dancing and having a great time. We got a photo of the dancing--too bad the bride's outfit is not visible.
On Sunday we walked to José Otaya for street food but we were too early. All along the streets were makeshift stalls with whole pigs being roasted for lunch with that fabulous crispy skin. We’ve had that kind of pig and it’s great but too belt-busting and cholesterol-laden so we passed it up for a more healthy alternative.
We were having a nice time in Huarez and had planned to stay a week. But the hotel was too expensive for what it offered and the disgusting smell of the manager’s smoke in the lobby and dining room was really annoying us. Plus we felt we had probably experienced the best of Huarez, considering the weather and our mountain biking preferences. Last but certainly not least, our friend Berry from Santa Monica was scheduled to arrive in Lima the next day, Monday, for a group tour of Perú with www.oattravel.com called Real Affordable Peru (which it turned out was great and exceeded her expectations, by the way).
We left Huarez at 11:40 a.m. the next morning but didn’t arrive in Lima until 7:15 p.m. We were stopped and hassled by the police 3 times and it took longer to convince them we couldn’t be “shaken down” each successive time. (The last time you may recall that I mentioned earlier in this Travelogue that they took my driver’s license and threatened not to return it until I paid US$100.)
I didn’t have the telephone number of the San Augustin Exclusiv Hotel where Berry was staying and because of all of our delays, I didn’t reach her before she left for dinner. We did connect later in the evening and had a nice rendez-vous before she left early the next morning for her Amazon Jungle experience. We love to meet our friends in foreign locations. It is so much fun. And we were able to come up with a plan to meet again in Lima after her return from the Amazon and before she left for her segment in Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Puno and Lake Titicaca.