Here we want to talk about our second home Huaraz (our first home being our frosted and freezing tent), the small but swarming city at the foot of Cordillera Blanca that smells like roasted chicken after nightfall. It hosted us one third of the time before and after each climb and played well its role of oasis of bakery, sleep in beds, food with vitamins, repair shops, wireless internet, hot shower, human contact and more…
Huaraz is the touristic center of Cordillera Blanca but not only. The region is rich thanks to mining and the authorities do their best to spend the public money in the loudest possible way. All officials drive brand new Toyota pick-up trucks and at the time of our stay (summer 2012), they were renewing all road surfaces almost simultaneously.
Huaraz is an outpost of modernity and urban life. In the lateral valleys at the foothill of Cordillera Blanca, people live in small villages and are almost self-sustaining. They speak quechua, women wear the traditional Andean costume and carry babies or wood or food in a coloured piece of cloth thrown over the shoulders. Mules are the every day means of transport. In addition to providing for their needs they grow flowers (for export) and eucalyptus trees and farm sheep and cows.
The streets of Huaraz are built according to a square pattern. The “collectivo” terminals, on opposite sides mark the limit of the city center. The “Plaza de Armas” (there is one in each Peruvian city) is flanked by bank branches and the decorative tourism police station. Following the Avenida Mariscal Luzusriaga lined with archways that shelter hawkers of all kinds, you end up in the market quarter with its food stores, slaughterhouses and canteens. On the way, you have passed by the Casa de Guias and the Parque Ginebra with its shops and restaurants, the only very hideout of gringos eager for inflated prices.
The city center is full of restaurants or stands selling food. They can be categorized as follows: “pollerias” for roasted chicken, french fries and salad, open in the evening, “cebicherias”, for raw fish salads and other fish specialities, open only at noon, “chifas” for Chinese food, “pasticerias” for empanadas, hamburgers and pastry, traditional restaurants proposing all the same menus: soup and salad with either lomo saltado (beef) or picante de cuy (guinea pig) or chicharrones de pollo (chicken) or trucha frita (truit) and vegetarian restaurants (we found three in the whole city).