Mountains, Ruins, and Recorders
So yesterday we took a trip out to the Chavin Ruins on the east side of the Cordillera Blanca from Huaraz. Instead of heading out on our own using public transportation as we are most apt to do, we decided to save some trouble and go ahead and pay a bit more to go on a trip arranged by the hostel. By doing so we had no need to go to the bus station and figure out departure and arrival times. Also there is a less of a need to worry about theft when you are on a bus with other fellow travelers. This can be relaxing change of pace, and besides, perhaps we would meet and befriend some other fellow travelers on such a trip. Well Ashley and I were the only two people to be picked at our hostel up by a representative of the local tourism agency â€“ no worries I thought, there must be travelers from other hostels in town on the bus that she took us to. Well, let me tell you, I stepped up into that bus and stared in wide eyed bewilderment at a compartment packed with over forty 11- and 12-year-olds, all of which had recorder musical instruments. Apparently Ashley and I had joined a musical class field trip of some sort. The bus was packed, there weren’t enough seats for all the students, never mind the two of us. Due to the lack of space I had to sit up front with the driver on the way to the ruins. This meant that I missed out on recorder renditions of such Peruvian classics as “Marry Had a Little Lamb” and “Happy Birthday.”
OK, so Ashley and I ended up on a class trip to the Chavin Ruins, no big deal. But it wasn’t that straight forward â€“ the class had a performance to give on the way to the ruins. We pulled into a school in a small highland town north of Huaraz. This school was wired up for a big performance, with some big speakers set up outside in the courtyard in front of the bathrooms of all places. I figured students would start coming out to fill up the courtyard for the performance but other than the 5 or 6 administrative types that were at the school when we arrived, the school seemed to be quite quiet and deserted to me. There were two benches set up and Ashley and I were asked to sit in the front row. There was nobody else to share the front row with us.
The bandleader/keyboard player began a speech and that is when I realized that there were to be no students to perform for, nor much of an audience for that matter. Ashley and I, I think, ended up being the default guests of honor for this amazing recorder performance that we were about to witness. Well the performance featured singing punctuated with skillful keyboard flourishes and of course the omnipresent melody of recorders. The performance ended but there were more speeches and a present was presented to an official looking woman in a business suit. I figured she must be a representative of the local school that we were at. Based upon my impressions of the school I was figuring what she really needed as a gift was some students to fill up her school but I didn’t they could have fit too many actual students in the box she was presented with. The gift ended up being a cd boombox (what are these things called these days anyway?).
We eventually made it to the ruins and back to our hostel in Huaraz. The trip to the ruins involved an insane trip over the Andes culminating in a journey through a dilapidated mud bog of a tunnel at an elevation of 4,516 meters (14,900 feet). My head doesn’t feel so well at that elevation. My head really doesn’t feel that well at that elevation while trapped in a bus with 40 screaming, singing, empty plastic water bottle banging, recorder playing Peruvian school children. I was ready to burst at the end of the return trip from the ruins.
We also completed a great overnight hike near Huaraz. The elevation kicked my butt though. We crossed a 5,000 meter (16,500 feet) pass between the Refugio Peru at the base of Mt. Pisco and Laguna 69. As we would find out, that’s a pretty high pass for your first hike at elevation. Both Ashley and I (more so I) were feeling the effects of soroche, altitude sickness. Symptoms included headaches, loss of breath, loss of appetite, fatigue, and restlessness. There is nothing quite like being exhausted, tired, and hungry but not being able to sleep or eat much. The guidebook claims that it takes 2 hours to hike to where we spent the night but it took us slightly over four and a half hours, how humbling! Luckily our photos from this portion of our hike turned out magnificently and I have to agree that the difficulty was well worth it.