A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

Discovering Huaraz

An ancient city with a new beginning.

semi-overcast 16 °C

In a steep sided valley squeezed between two great Andean ranges lies the northern Peruvian city of Huaraz, and from our hotel balcony we can view 23 of Peru’s highest peaks, including the permanently snow-capped Mt. Huscaran at 22,205 feet…
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On May 31st 1970, the Great Peruvian Earthquake shook these giant mountains like a dog with a rag doll until great boulders snapped off and crashed down the hillsides…
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The tight-knit community of Huaraz, perched more than 10,000 feet in the mountains, took the brunt of the shaking. More than 95% of the buildings were destroyed and upwards of 25,000 people lost their lives. Many who were not killed by falling rocks and buildings were swept away in the subsequent days by the floods that resulted from the debris damming the many rivers. Following the carnage, and with the help of international donors, the old city’s remnants were razed and a new city laid out on the site.
Wide boulevards with central gardens were built to replace the narrow lanes of the colonial city…
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A new cathedral was started…
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A colonnaded shopping street was rebuilt…
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And thousands of new buildings were begun. But that was 45 years ago and sadly it seems that few buildings, (including the cathedral), were ever finished. Many of them are now beginning to deteriorate beyond redemption…
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However, life goes on for these hardy mountain people much as it has done for centuries and the daily street market is abuzz with colourful farm women all sporting their traditional costumes as they try to scrape a living…
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Others have come up with more novel ways of getting a few bucks…
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Their traditionally tall decorated trilby hats are particularly attractive – as are the sunglasses on the llama, (or is it a vicuna?).

Most of Huaraz is a century or more away from the ritzy areas of the capital, Lima, but there is much wealth here. The surrounding mountains are honeycombed by some of the richest gold, silver and uranium mines in the world - many Canadian owned – but little seems to find its way onto the streets. A three course lunch, including a cold drink, can be had for just $1.50, while tuk-tuks are still the most common transport for the poor…
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Posted by Hawkson 15:19 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Lima – A Flying Visit

sunny 33 °C

More than ten million Peruvians can’t be wrong - Lima looks like a great place to live. But, while the chilly Humbolt current can usually be relied upon to keep the locals and the lettuce from flagging, we are wilting in the mid 30 temperatures and after a fleeting visit we are flying off to the cool of the Andes to visit the ancient Incas.

The ocean-side, and very modern, city of Lima is renowned for its numerous Catholic edifices but it seems that god has not always been impressed. This monastery of San Francisco in the city centre has been destroyed four times by earthquakes since its inception in 16th century…
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But the Peruvians are a persistent bunch and today the churches and cathedrals are busy gearing up for Easter with parades and special services…
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This weighty silver icon was on its way into the Basilica in Lima accompanied by an oompah-band and dozens of uniformed bearers in a tradition that began in 1850.
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The expansive cathedral plaza in the centre of the old city is dominated by both the Basilica and the enormous presidential palace, and surrounded by elegant colonial buildings housing some pricey lodgings and eateries…
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Things may look rosy here today, but in 1990 there was an economic crises that led to the collapse of the currency and the average wage falling to less than $2 a day. However, judging by the prices of hotels and restaurants, the huge numbers of casinos and fancy shopping malls, and the fleets of BMWs and Audis on the streets, the average citizen seems to be doing pretty well. Apart from the nightmarish traffic jams, Lima’s streets and boulevards are a fashionista’s paradise…
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The European influence is obvious on the street here and both men and women would look at home in Milan or Paris. There are entire malls dedicated to luxury fashion and many of the snazzier districts have upmarket boutiques and jewellery stores lining the elegant side streets, but the developers may have gone too far. One mall alone has over a thousand stores, but some of the smaller malls are blighted with empty shops and heavily discounted prices…
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Fine dining is another passion with European roots and in recent years Peru has risen to the heights of haute-cuisine with its restaurants and chefs garnering international accolades. Today, Peru is one of the world’s destinations for foodies and we’ve kicked off our visit with a local favourite – Lomo Saltado accompanied by Pisco sour…
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The tender chunks of fillet steak with onions, peppers and French fries, were absolutely delicious – as was the Pisco sour; an addictive cocktail made from Peruvian Muscat brandy with lime and egg white - less than $50 for two for the whole enchiladas.

Posted by Hawkson 14:51 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

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