Chavin de Huantar – Peru
This was a full day and full on trip from Huaraz to the Inca Ruins of Chavin. We chose to go with a tour that took in some of the sights of the Cordillera Huayhuash which has to be passed through in order to get to the ruins. At its highest point the pass through the mountains to get to Chavin de Hauntar is over 4,100m and should not be attempted by anyone experiencing altitude sickness (as we discovered when my travelling companion was struck down in the village after we had descended). The tour was all in Spanish and we had absolutely no idea what the guide was talking about for most of the time – this had its challenges but also gave us an opportunity to learn some more of the language.
Up with the Dawn
Setting out early from Huaraz we headed off into the wilderness only to be held up by a 6 mile long traffic jam (would you believe) due to road works – just like being at home. The tour guide took the opportunity to enlighten his charges with the history of Chavin. Two hours later the speedo finally swung over 5km an hour and we were on our way. Those who had been listening to the guide for 120 minutes had a dull glaze to their eyes due to Inca Overload. We, on the other hand, had had a good time trying to outdo each other in the interpreting stakes, tuned out when we realised our Spanish was totally inadequate and then had a nap safe in the knowledge that the guide would not be insulted due to the fact we didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
The itinerary (which started at 6.00am) was to spend the day in the national park, then drive up and through the mountain pass, visit the museum, have dinner in the village, visit the ruins at night when it was more atmospheric then start the long journey home and get back about 12 at night. The scenery was spectacular. Mountains towered, wildlife was skittish, lakes sparkled, clouds threatened, the temperature dropped the higher we went and it started to rain. It was bleak, cold and totally awesome!
On the road
Tracked them down at last!
Our driver showing us the therapeutic benefits of Cocoa leaves (didn’t work by the way)
We missed the museum by 5 minutes (closed for the night – dam that traffic jam), had a passable dinner and headed out for the ruins. We took part in a ceremonial purification which involved the ‘priests’ (actors) inhaling fumes from fat hand-rolled cigarettes (possibly of a narcotic nature) then blowing out so much smoke in our faces that the all the good of 6 years of nicotine abstinence my lungs had enjoyed was null and void in an instant. The underground chambers and tunnels were all more atmospheric for being lit with lamps that allowed darkness to pool in corners and shadows to loom menacingly overhead.
Famous dagger stone in tunnels of Chavin which is part of ceremonial ritual – they think
Then the long journey home in the dark (at least we couldn’t see the sheer drops!), the climb up to the pass again where altitude sickness kicked in for my companion and finally at 2.00am in the morning we arrived back at Huaraz. It had been an extremely long day and totally worth it.