Monday, August 10, 2009


Throughout much of Latin America, there seems to be a penchant for claiming a city for Christ by erecting a giant cross atop a nearby hill. Our first trek was up this token hill.

On our way up, we passed a group of local teenagers who cheerfully shouted "gringo! gringo!" Not that the label was undeserved. With polarized shades, smears of sunscreen across our faces, and sunhats the size of sombreros, we probably looked like a pair of fugitive albinos who had escaped from some local cave. Normally, the word 'gringo' has a negative tinge. If someone yelled "cracker! cracker!" to me in the US, I might take similar offense. But in Huaraz it is used positively. After this uncensored greeting, one of the girls even asked us to take a picture with us.

Our next two treks took us into the foothills of Villanuraju. Beginning each trek first entailed a 1-2 hour taxi ride (depending on the speed of the driver) up serpentine dirt roads that wind up the valley foot by foot.

The roads made me wonder if Peru had had its own recovery and reinvestment act. When driving up hills, there was a clear need for a gradual, winding ascent. However this pattern went on regardless of gradient- continuing uninterrupted as we entered plateaus. Perhaps once upon a time the cattle roamed this path and there was little need to change it. Perhaps Peruvians love to drive and seek to maximize the distance of each journey. Or, perhaps with the reinvestment act I imagined, more road = more recovery.

Or, perhaps the builders of these roads felt the same as Eyal and I - that with scenery this stunning, one should do everything possible to prolong the experience. The roads started through terraced wheat fields tended by women in traditional Andean garb. Beyond these rural farming communities, we ascended into a steppe region that was largely uninhabited, save a stray cow or two. From there, the Cordillera Blanca rose majestically before us. Narrow passes offered us peaks of the glacial universe awaiting us at higher altitudes.

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