chevre perú: finding my way in huaraz

I’ve now been in Huaraz, Perú for one month. And I know the next two months here are going to fly by.

My first few days were a little blurry–I was fresh off of about 30 hours of travel to get from New York to Lima and then up north to Huaraz.

Huaraz isn’t the most tranquila of towns. Combis honk (and run red lights). Stray dogs wander and sometimes howl. And this summer, nearly every main road is under construction to resurface roads and mend the strained sewage system.

One of the rare construction signs. People just go about their business during the construction, and on more than one occasion I’ve nearly fallen into an unmarked ditch.

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However, Huaraz is full of friendly people, lots of activity, fun bars and restaurants, and a lively central market selling everything from whole chickens to custom-made clothes.

Veggies in the market.

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And have I mentioned the views? The city is surrounded by snow-peaked mountains, which are what draw many of the mountaineers that convene in town pre-and-post expedition.

Rooftop views of the Cordilla Blanca mountains

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In Huaraz, I’m getting a taste of small-town living. It’s hard to walk down the street or hang out in a cafe or restaurant without seeing someone you know (or who knows someone you know). In this way, it takes longer to do just about anything–yet the experience of getting something done is pretty friendly and social.

Yep, I’m in Latin America: Luly gives Katherine a dreadlock while Katherine’s pet monkey looks on.

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Anyone for a land-line call?

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I’ve become a regular at this fruit stand

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I’m currently gorging myself on these Cape Gooseberries, which I haven’t seen since Cape Town two years ago! Here they’re called aguaymantos. And they are ricisimo!

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I’ve found a living arrangement–I’m renting a room on the top floor of a guesthouse in town called Hostal Caroline. It’s a great deal, and I have access to the hostel’s amenities while also having a private room on the top floor with views of the mountains. And breakfast made for me each morning! I will sublet a friend’s apartment while she’s away for the month of August; otherwise, this will be ‘home’ till the end of September.

Mi casa amarilla en Caroline

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I have also found the lady who makes tamales. They’re like the ones in Mexico but with a twist: olives and pickled onions and ají sauce. Mmmm. Tamales should be their own food category.

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Jugos! What I love is that they don’t even have to-go cups.

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Our writing workshop is underway. We have about 35 girls between ages 11-17 enrolled in our workshop, which Ana and I are calling EscribaChica (which means “WriteGirl” in Spanish).

Ana and I have set up a blog for the workshops, where you can follow along and read work (in Spanish and English) by our awesome writers.

This week we wrote our first poems–some soon to appear on our blog–and I was blown away by some of the things the girls wrote. And it was their first time writing a poem! Creativity is just bubbling over in some of them.

Bi-lingual blogging with EscribaChica

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We’d love for you to make comments on our blog on the work we post. We plan to read any comments aloud in class to the girls. (We will translate those in English into Spanish). Trust me, they will really appreciate your comments and feedback on what they write, so don’t be shy!

Some of our writers hard at work decorating their journals on the first day of our workshops

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We just finished our second week, and after each session I leave feeling motivated and excited by the eagerness of our fledgling writers. And they are teaching me so much already.

Tania shows off the sticker she received after reading her work aloud

tania after reading aloud

As our workshops happen Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I have the rest of the week open to explore.

So far, I’ve been to sport climbing-and-bouldering area Hatun Machay twice, and I’m eager to be a regular there! The guiding company Andean Kingdom runs a shuttle there every morning, so it’s easy to take the two hour ride. The same company runs the refujio there it has the (wonderful) vibe and feel of an Argentinian refujio (no surprise since the owners are from Argentina).

Literally, the first thing that happened when I arrived at Hatun Machay: someone walked by with a dazed sheep, just about to slaughter it for dinner that evening.

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The refujio’s gatita, Paris, who just might make me want to get a cat one day.

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Manu stops to take in the view on the way back to the refjuio.

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Sun setting over the rock forest of Hatun Machay

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Chess by candlelight

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The rock in Hatun is rough volcanic and the majority of the routes fall in the 6/7 grade range, which means I have lots of options in my grade and plenty of people climbing around my level. I’m excited to have access to such a cool place with such a lively community of climbers.

Ana choosing our next route

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Marty practicing how to volar.

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Hatun is at about 4300 meters in elevation, which is definitely a challenge! You’ll get to the top of something that felt easy, yet it feels like you’ve just come back from an intense run. The first day there I had pretty bad altitude sickness too, but hopefully the worst has passed.

On the way back to town, we caught the sun setting over the Cordilla Blanca range. We all hung out of the combi to snap a few photos of the pink illuminating the mountains!

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This past weekend, I went out on a two day hike with some people I’ve met since coming to Huaraz. We were hiking at about 4500 meters, which with a pack and about 35 kilometers to cover over the two days, made it rather tiring. Not to mention that half the time we weren’t on a set trail…and I was still not acclimated to the altitude.

After the first day, we arrived at a small lake where we rested a bit and took in the view.

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Then we made camp. Despite the extra weight, I was grateful to have a warm tent. It gets downright freezing at nighttime!

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Mountain wild flowers closing up as the sun sets

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The next day, we hiked up to a ritual cave area and then onto a second lake, where we drank from the (rapidly receding) glacial water.

Cave paintings

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Katherine hanging out at lake numero dos

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Marshy ground gives way to lush greens and tiny flowers blooming

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Then we made a slow descent back to civilization along the spine of a ridge, which gave us fantastic views of the Cordillera Blanca range

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The crew taking in the view as we reached the top

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Mountains aside, parts of the dry, brown, dramatic hills reminded me of Southern California–and I felt like a bird, given our 360-view of the magnificent scenery

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Scoping out our route back to town

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As we descended back into the valley, local campisneos helped point the way back to the combi which we needed to take back into town. We counted over 22 people crammed into the little van–not including all the babies on the backs of their mothers!

The cramped ride afforded a photo opp of this lady’s awesome hat. Many of the women here wear this style of hat.

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Meanwhile, in the (north of the) Northern Hemisphere….

Steve and co are attempting their route on The Impossible Wall in Greenland, which they were expecting to take about 10 days. Hopefully I’ll get a sat phone message soon telling me how it went!

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The rest of the photos from Perú are here, EscribaChica workshop photos are here, and the Artic Team’s photos are here.

Hasta pronto!

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3 Responses to chevre perú: finding my way in huaraz

  1. Awesome! Leah discovered your post this morning and sent it to me. We’re hanging out in the Annex, after finishing the Santa Cruz trek yesterday. The tamales look great — we’re going to find some for lunch. Enjoy your stay!

  2. Cool–it seems they only sell tamales for breakfast and dinner. They’re outside the main entrance to the market.

  3. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blog is great, thank you!

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