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An adventure in Peru's north
By Kay Kemmet
August 15, 2012
I expected it to happen sooner. It’s the shame nearly every traveler, tourist and wanderer experiences at least once, but after five months in Peru, I thought I was safe.
I didn’t run out of money, lose my wallet or end up lost in the middle of the night with a creepy stranger lurking in the shadows.
Instead, my months of eating mounds of fried street food, fruit and vegetables from open-air markets and brushing my teeth with faucet water caught up to me with the Peruvian version of Montezuma's revenge: Let’s call it Pachacutec’s curse.
It happened on the last leg of a great two-week trip to northern Peru. I saw the best of what this end of the country has to offer from Peru’s highest peaks to historical sites such as Chan Chan to the beautiful beaches of Mancora.
Huaraz is crowded with foreigners, but unlike other touristic towns, it doesn’t feel spoiled but rather preserved by the nature-loving tourists that make this town a destination. The food is great, and alongside regional traditions are trendy cafés and restaurants frequented by climbers and backpackers.
The setting alone, surrounded by snowy peaks, makes sitting in the center square a day spent well — though the architecture is disappointing and there aren’t many sights to see within city limits. However, when that gets old, there are dozens of tour agencies heading to different parts of the Cordillera Blanca and guides who can’t wait to take you to great, terrifying heights— be wary of the altitude sickness, though.
Then there is Trujillo. While Huaraz is magnificent for its setting, Trujillo is beautiful for its architecture and bright buildings. It’s also one of the easiest cities to navigate that I’ve visited. The majority of hotels and hostels are around the center and a wealth of good restaurants can be reached from a long pedestrian street leading to the Plaza.
Just outside Trujillo, the Chimu city of Chan Chan is well preserved despite its adobe structures. While it’s supposedly the oldest adobe city in South America, I was more impressed by the ruins on the other side of town: the huacas de la luna y el sol. The Moche pyramids actually have nothing to do with worshiping the sun and the moon but are magnificent nonetheless. While exploration in the Huaca del Sol is new and the pyramid is closed to the public, the Huaca de la Luna has painted walls still intact.
After visiting so many ruins that are mostly destroyed and look like piles of rocks, it was amazing to see standing walls with carvings and existing paintings.
The last stop on my trip was perhaps the one I looked forward to the most: the beach, though Lima’s winter weather left me skeptical about how nice the Peruvian coast would be. I was pleasantly surprised arriving in sunny and warm Mancora.
For me, Mancora had a reputation for being a party town for vacationing Peruvians and European tourists, and I wasn’t proven wrong. However, it wasn’t as loud and drunk college student filled as I expected and quite quiet despite being during Peruvians’ vacation period.
Just the same, I decided to stay down the beach at Vichayito. Still within reach of Mancora, Vichayito has fewer hotels, resorts and tourists while still sporting some good restaurants and a lovely and cheap set of bungalows where I chose to stay. Since Mancora was a 15-sol tuk-tuk ride away, I mostly ate at our hotel, relaxed and enjoyed the five-minute walk to the beach.
Unlike the beaches of Lima, trash didn’t brush by my feet. There was sand instead of rocks, and I didn’t feel like my purse would be stolen at any moment. While I can’t say such great things about the overly crowded beaches of Mancora, the beach in front of our hotel, which felt like our own, was quiet, relaxing and simply beautiful without too many annoyances blocking the view.
That was until a bad piece of sushi or fruit or who-knows-what struck. Despite my anger toward my stomach, the mild case of food poisoning probably couldn’t have happened in a place more fit for lying around all day. I headed back to Lima feeling like I had my best Peruvian vacation yet and semi-ready to start the next semester.
Kay Kemmet is an international student at Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru studying Spanish, Latin American history and journalism. She’s from Bismarck, North Dakota and studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Total coments: 1
Commented By: LEDCV
On: August 21, 2012. 10:57 am
What you got is what we called: Atahualpa's two step....not very pleasant when you are traveling. Word to the wise, always carry Imodium and Pepto-bismol tablets with you. I've heard worderful things about the northern coast of Peru but I haven't had the chance to visit yet. Hopefully some day soon.
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