10.25.2008 - 10.25.2008 58 °F
“Just the ten of us” (and a dog) set out on Saturday morning; stomachs full on vegan biscuits and artichoke hearts from breakfast. A crew of assorted individuals and couples from around the world, volunteers at the eco-village we are staying at, on our way to the Reserva Nacional de Lechay for a day away from Chacra y Mar and the Hare Krishnas. The trip originally was rumored to be taken with the center’s only mode of transportation, an old work van, but that would be too easy. Instead, we set out on foot, everyone at their own pace sparking-up small-talk along the way. The walk from the Eco Truly Park to the main road was just over 2 KM. There was no hiding that we were all travelers, sticking out like a hand full of sore thumbs. Cabs and mini-buses began to flock around us, negotiating prices and routes. Many in our group were experienced, spoke Spanish and knew how to handle the aggressive and persuasive drivers. After a bit of discussion, all ten and the pup hopped into a mini-bus heading towards the city of Huaral.
The driver dropped us off just outside of the Huaral bus depot, much nicer than the one we experienced in Lima, though the bus was rickety and the seats were full of attempted patch-work. If the bus had air-conditioning, it quit working a good 20 years ago, so we relied on a small cross breeze from the limited openings of the windows to keep us cool during the 40 minute drive to the park.
As the bus screeched to a stop, ten heads popped up from their assorted seats and filed down the aisle towards the exit door. Stepping off that bus literally felt like we had been dropped off on another planet, shades of brown stretching in all directions – desolate, with a slight breeze lingering from the nearby ocean shores. The overcast sky made it hard to distinguish the horizon. A single dirt/sand road and a small sign letting us know we were on the right track were all we had to go by. Time to walk. And walk. And walk some more. The brown dusty landscape gradually gave way to an immense scattering of wild desert plants topped with tiny purple buds. In the distance, we could see the road sloping up, green hills and a cluster of trees just above the surrounding fields of long-stemmed yellow flowers. It felt as if we had been cast in some bizarre version of the Wizard of Oz, making our way towards the Emerald City while following the yellow-dirt road.
More than an hour had passed since we left the bus, and it felt like we were walking up an escalator that was going in the opposite direction. Finally, a glimpse of the park’s entrance – a small one-man operation. The “lone park ranger” graciously gave us a group discount of one sol per person and allowed a few of us to use the bathroom. “NO MASCOTAS” was posted on the access sign. Sorry pup, no pets allowed in the park. We’d have to get him on the way back out.
Onward and upward. The terrain was now covered in lush vegetation and leafless craggy trees. The fog was thick above and the temperature was cooling. We eventually learned that the surrounding hills are in the shape of a horse shoe, so as the fog rolls in from the sea, it is caught or held back by these steep hills, creating a moisture-rich ecosystem very different from neighboring areas. At one of the picnic areas, we talked with a local who explained the various trail options. Against Marisa’s wishes, we were soon heading to the top of the ridge on a two hour hike that would loop back to where we started.
Scattered throughout the trail, the ten of us made our way through the misty and mysterious scenic path, passing families, a group of foreign bird watchers, a Peruvian band attempting to shoot a music video and native hawks diving down from the sky to pick up dinner. The trail was well kept and had a naturally flowing feel as we ascended and descended through numerous switchbacks. Two hours went by fast. The views were non-existent on the ridge because of the thick streaming fog, but just below, surreal views of alien landscapes jetted out through the valley. It was quiet and peaceful and enchanting. Marisa was now singing a different tune, happy she had made the trek.
But we were still a long way from home. The sun was going down fast and we had at least an hour or so walk back to the main road, where we would have to hail a passing bus back into Huaral and then a cab to our junction and then the jaunt by foot back to the Eco Park. Did I mention that we had not eaten any food since breakfast? The legs were tired, the stomach was rumbling and the sun was setting in the middle of nowhere. As we walked towards the park’s entrance, the last few families drove out in their cars along with buses full of Peruvian tourists. As what seemed to be the last vehicle in the park kicked up dust as it rumbled by, the break lights suddenly came on and a woman hanging out of the mini-bus’s sliding door promptly yelled for us to get in! What luck! We hurriedly picked up the pup from the “lone ranger” and staggered into the bus. They made room for the girls to sit in seats and cleared the aisle for the rest of us to sit on the ground. Music played and stories were shared. Not bad timing.
They dropped us off in the town of Chancay, even closer to Chacra y Mar than Huaral, and we said our “thank-you’s” and “good-byes.” Night time was in full effect and the race back to home was on. Marisa and I quickly made alliances with the Costa Rican couple who were willing to share a moto-taxi with us. Next thing we knew, Marisa, Lisa (San Francisco) and Rosa (Costa Rica) were sitting inside the covered motorcycle-drawn rickshaw, while myself and Gustavo (Costa Rica) held on tight to the small luggage rack that extends out from the back of the carriage. Off we went! The moto-taxi has to drive on the side of the highways because it does not go fast enough for normal traffic and at one point, we almost kissed a passing passenger bus making its way around us. The girls seemed to think it was funny, but the combination of no padding, the smells of exhaust and trying to figure out how to keep our feet from dragging on the road proved to be quite a memorable ride. We paid the driver a little extra to take us all the way back to the beach, completing our day. It was one of those trips where there were no expectations or itineraries, no real strategy or overwhelming goal, but it surely was a trip to remember.
For more pictures of this TREK, COPY & PASTE the web link below to a new tab (they are towards the end of the album):