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PERÚ: CARAZ — HUARAZ

The ride along the highway between Caraz and Huaraz, despite a magnificent mountain backdrop, is dull enough for me to plug myself into my iPod to listen to informative and improving podcasts.

A peculiar tree grabs my attention - the leaves and bark remind me of a eucalyptus but it's certainly not one I've ever seen before.

I meet a Japanese cyclist heading north on a three speed bike. He says he doesn't like mountains and I don't wonder but I can't quite work out what he is doing in the Andes, then.

70 kilometres of pavement quickly disappears under my wheels (despite my 2.15 Schwable Mondials which aren't exactly speedy) and I arrive in Huaraz just as Sarah and James and Arturo and Caroline, who I last saw back in Tumbaco/Quito a couple of months ago at the Casa de Ciclistas, are finishing up lunch on the rooftop terrace at the excellent Santiago's House, a fine - and bike-friendly - new Huaraz hostel.

The terrace affords an excellent view of the peaks that surround Huaraz but I am rather more beguiled by the dogs playing each morning on the red sofa on the neighbouring rooftop.

Caroline and Arturo set off on their tandem beast...

...leaving the rest of us to the arduous task of constantly seeking out food. A menu lunch - soup, main, drink and, as often as not, a desert will set you back just over $2. Love the stylish blue retro decor - you'd pay a bomb for that in inner city Sydney.

The urge for an afternoon siesta must be overcome...

... with coffee, of course. At the Cafe Andino, this is NOT your average cup of Peruvian coffee and it will cost just about as much as the three course lunch did.

The customers all have iBooks...

Andino's customers all have iBooks...

... and have just come back from mountain jaunts. It's a gringo scene, through and through.

Mmmmmm.... coffeeee. Some things you just can't put a price on.

James' revenge shot.

The view is splendid...

...and there is such an extensive travel library you needn't ever go anywhere at all.

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