Mid-section

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So, I have a fondness for museums of all kinds. I love the new modern ones with interactive displays, and I also love the dioramas of yesteryear. I believe this particular diorama is illustrating where the people who crossed the Bering Strait into the Americas slept when they first came to Peru. (I also have a fondness for the people who crossed the Bering Strait. What an idea! There’s something so great about it. Anyway.)

So, after Trujillo, we took a night bus to Huaraz, which is a city in the Andes. It’s in the Callejon de Huaylas Valley, between the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca (two mountain ranges). N lived in Huaraz for a time, so she knows it pretty well. We thought that even if it was raining (which in fact it was not), that would be a good place to hang out for a few days. And it was.

I’m trying to remember what we did. We went to visit the city of Yungay, where a huge avalanche came down following the earthquake of 1970. The city is moved, now, but there is a really beautiful memorial — just a field, really, with lots of flowerbeds, covering the place where the city was. (Lots of birds. Birding had to be slipped in somewhat surreptitiously.) We took a trip to Chavin de Huantar. That was an amazing trip. We had to cross the Cordillera Blanca (in a bus), which was amazing. Then we came to the city and wandered around for a while looking for the site. It’s a ceremonial site for the Chavin people and probably the most interesting thing about it is that it has a carved rock still located inside the temple — the Spanish never found it and moved it. You can see pictures of it, and it looks like another carved meso-American artifact, but when you actually encounter it in situ, at the end of a narrow tunnel, sort of underground, with the light falling on it from above, it’s actually incredibly moving. It really seems to possess some meaning.

(An aside here is that the tour guides at Peruvian ruins are almost more interesting than the ruins themselves. They all seem to have some crackpot theory about how these ruins came to be — Vikings, Egyptians, Thor Heyerdahl. The guide at Chavin felt strongly that the images themselves told you all you needed to know to understand the religion, especially if viewed under the influence of San Pedro cactus. Of course, he is probably right.)

Another day we stayed in town and visited the museum and the markets, and spent the afternoon drinking pitchers of beer with N’s friends. Another day we went for a horseback ride up the mountain, and another day we drove up to a lake and hiked around it. N has been on a three-day trek and is planning a much longer one for the spring. I am jealous, and happy that she’s taking advantage of the opportunity while she’s there. I think I would need some time to acclimatize, myself. Hiking at 3-4,000 meters is no picnic. We huffed and puffed around the lake and on our way back met some Andean families, out for a Christmas hike in their high heeled street shoes (which they no doubt farm in, too) and full skirts, carrying four year old children slung across their backs in their shawls, going a whole lot faster than we were.

Crossing the Cordillera Blanca

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At Chavin de Huantar (no picture of the sacred lanzon).

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But a replica in the museum

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and an attractive pot

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Amazing and interesting dancing on Christmas eve, which I think is explained by this, since N’s friend thought it had been brought to Huaraz by immigrants from Huanuco. (Sorry, it’s a terrible picture, since I felt weird about taking pictures. The dancers are wearing blackface masks, with one wearing a white mask, and then a couple, who seemed to be the kind and queen, with no masks, and some are wearing sheep costumes.)

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Christmas hike at Lake Paron

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The lake is really that color —

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No pictures from the market, which was completely overwhelming, nor the afternoon spent drinking beer at the gringo cafe, nor the rather amazing overnight bus that took us, on the 26th, from Huaraz back to Lima.

Just as an aside, I am having a really hard time gathering myself together after this vacation. I’m at work, but I’m kind of pretending that I’m not. Luckily it’s a week that kind of lends itself to that — nobody’s here yet, and most people seem to be going about the day like zombies. I’m just hoping no one comes and asks me anything hard. Next week — by next week I will be full of vim and energy, ready to start the new year. But please god not quite yet —

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