The Lost Photos, and gastrointestinal deluge in the Peruvian Andes (Huaraz)


A few months removed since returning from my trip from Peru to Michigan overland, I realized that I had a gap in the photos from my time there: Huaraz. Although it was a stunningly beautiful part of Peru (about 9 hours by bus north of Lima) set in the Cordillera Blanca, one of the highest parts of the Andes, my enjoyment there was limited by a fairly severe bowel assault by bacteria. I was staying in a comfortable guesthouse owned by the aunt of a young guy who I met on the bus to Huaraz, and he finagled a private room at a rock bottom price of about 3 dollars a night, so I was in no hurry to leave. However, only a day and half into being there the intestinal hoopla began.

I was only able to explore some ruins from the Huari culture called Wilcahuaín a bit north of the city, take a hike to some hot springs, and venture up to a lagoon in the mountains. I don’t recall the name of the lagoon since that was when the fever and chills began and my concerns drifted.

I had awoken late and took a bus to the village where I was supposed to catch another smaller bus up towards the lagoon, but it had already left by the time I arrived. Stubborn, I saw some cars were going in the right direction of the lagoon about 25 km uphill, and I just sort of started walking up until I was a bit out of town and flagged cars down as they were passing. Eventually a family stopped, and I offered them a dollar to let me ride with them up toward the lagoon. IMG_0755Walking up to the lagoonThey weren’t going all the way, but it was significantly closer and higher than where I was at the time. They let me out at the turn off to their village, and a few minutes later I flagged another ride for about a dollar to the entrance to the park.

I figured I had arrived, but the attendant said it was another 1.5 hour hike to the lagoon. He said most of the tourists that came through were with a larger group with vans and transport arranged, but that wasn’t really my thing. I had mixed feelings about hiking because the scenery was quite astounding, with glistening walls of rock rising up into the clouds with an occasional glimpse of the snowcapped peaks above, but I was starting to feel a bit uneasy from what I assumed was my body reacting to the 13,000 foot elevation. I just started hiking since I wasn’t going to turn back at this point, but about a half hour in the uphill hike became really taxing with body aches and chills. I sort of ruled out the altitude since I had just come from the similarly elevated Punean altiplano with the most severe symptoms of altitude being shortness of breath. I resigned myself to accepting that it was probably a foreign microorganism; my experience in third world countries and getting chills and body aches meant only one thing: my ass was going to explode in a few hours. IMG_0759

I continued on with the hike and eventually made it up to the chilly lagoon and collapsed on a nearby bench without so much as taking a picture. After lying for a bit I took out some bread and cheese that I brought for lunch, and got the umpf to walk around the lagoon a bit and snap some shots. It was eerily deserted, with only a few people soliciting me to rent a boat and paddle around, but I was in no mood. Occasionally, when the sun would peek from the clouds, the dull gray lagoon would transform into brilliant blue, even more blue than the sky on a clear day, and then quickly fade away. I asked someone nearby when the next transport would be coming by since I was eager to start the few hour long journey back before the gastrointestinal deluge commenced. There actually was no public transport, I was informed, and my best chance would be to hang out near the road and try to catch other tourist buses coming down from various packaged trips.

I wandered out to the road and after an hour there was no sign of traffic, but eventually I hailed a bus full of sunburned Europeans and Australians. I said I was willing to pay to get back to Huaraz, and considering my state I was happy to only have to pay 5 dollars for the 50 or so kilometers back. I eventually got to talking with an entertaining Australian couple about music, health care, drug laws, and piracy (the digital kind), a conversation I threw myself into so as distract from the various inflammatory processes gripping my insides. We made it back without incident, and upon returning to the guesthouse I became very acquainted with the bathroom over the next few days, only stumbling out to get some antibiotics and sports drinks. After getting IMG_0313Sunburned skinenough energy to hit the internet café, I had the pleasure of finding out that all of my pictures had been inexplicably erased from my memory card. It wasn’t terribly tragic since I had been uploading pictures to my website’s server, but everything from the past few days had been erased. I just settled for it being something that happens while traveling, but today (August 1st, 2010) I tried a recovery software on my computer and actually found the pictures lingering in an unrecognizable format but still recoverable.

There were also a few pictures of an Aymara dictionary and lesson notes that I was surprised to find, a few shots of the Peruvian countryside on my bus ride from Puno, and even a pile of dead skin that I had pulled off from a horrible sun burn I got while working at the Old Folks' Home. Looking back, I kind of wish that I had spent more time in Huaraz, but time was limited and I moved on to the North coast. Perhaps I’ll get back there one day to see it properly (and just maybe go with a tour group). Here are the pictures in slideshow format:


Sunburned skin.Sunburned skin.
Pictures of the Aymara-Spanish dictionary I was using. This is the start of the letter 'chh', which is a throaty 'ch' sound.Pictures of the Aymara-Spanish dictionary I was using. This is the start of the letter 'chh', which is a throaty 'ch' sound.
Notes from my Aymara lessons.Notes from my Aymara lessons.
The ruins of Wilcahuain.The ruins of Wilcahuain.
The lagoon.The lagoon.
Sunburned skin.
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