Aug 03, 2010
Feb 01, 2012
We're heading east again, to the valley between the Cordillera Negra (black range) and the Cordillera Blanca (white range), named for it’s perpetual white capped glacial peaks. More narrow, winding road, but this was nicely paved… that is until we came to the construction that was responsible for making such a nice road, we were sent on a detour (which Steve affectionately named the goat path). What was supposed to be a 6 hour drive became more than twice as long, we camped along the way. We needed 4-wheel-drive on the detour (couldn’t imagine a car on the same road, only 1 motorcycle passed in 7 hours), sometimes Rovers turning radius was too wide and we had to back up to make it around the hairpin turns and used more fuel than anticipated. The last 30 kilometers into the city of Caraz were down hill (lucky for us), we coasted most of the way hoping we wouldn’t run out of fuel, we made it.
The Cordillera Blanca are impressive and a little disorienting to look at up close and see them towering above, popular with mountain climbers. After the Himalayas, this is the highest range in the world, with more than 50 peaks over 18,000 feet (5700 meters). The highest one being Mt. Huascaran Sur at over 22,000 feet (6768 meters).
We stayed a couple nights in the valley before heading to our destination of Chavin de Huantar, we drove through Huascaran National Park and past beautiful (very cold) Lake Querococha on the way to the east side of the white range. Way to go Rover, our highest pass is now 14,900 feet (4500 meters). The road, which definitely needed the help, was being worked on by hundreds of the local people with their wheelbarrows and shovels, filling potholes with rock they dug out of drainage ditches. They yelled to us as we drove by, wanting us to drive over their work to pack it down… well they yelled all sorts of stuff, at first we wondered if we weren’t supposed to be driving the road, but surmised they were all out there as a volunteer effort to fix the roads to make it easier for everyone to reach Chavin.
The Chavin culture was dominant in 1000 to 300 BC, they thrived in agriculture in this lush valley, also raised animals, mastered ceramics, metalwork, stone carving and engineering of buildings and canals. A large part of the ruins were covered by an earthquake in 1945, but there is still a temple, an underground labyrinth and a central plaza. The maze of subterranean tunnels, ducts and drainage it’s said was built as an instrument of shock and awe by the high priests, they had ways to manipulate light and sound and there’s a tall scary looking sculpture underneath. We sure had fun wandering around.
The museum in town had artifacts from the culture, amazing, intricate ceramics and large carved stone heads that used to adorn the main temple wall… all recently returned to the area from a museum in Lima (Peru’s capital).