Tariy ’09: The Callán Pass to Huaraz

Posted by Julio C. Tello,

Day 3.

I woke up to a beautiful day in Casma so OK! here’s where things get very interesting. After a quick breakfast and thanking my family for their hospitality, I waved them goodbye as I made my way towards the bus stop at Alas Peruanas. My transport was a small blue bus that seated about 50 people. The 6 hour route this bus would follow is one known to few tourists, normally if you were to travel to Huaraz from Lima you would take a paved road that branches off the Pan-American highway near Barranca. This route known as the Callán Pass would see me climb to an altitude of 4,622 meters or 13,866 ft above sea level.

The ride started out normal enough, making it’s way out of Casma and through the fertile valley, passing several farms along the way. Soon the fields of avocados, mangos and  asparagus began to fade into a massive desert floodplain, a place so barren that is was a striking contrast to the scenery just minutes earlier.

peru-the-casma-desert

As the bus snaked it way up the mountains, and higher in altitude, the vegetation began to reappear. Clouds could be seen lower in the sky, hugging the mountains and creating lush scenery. These beautiful micro-climates created by this steep rise in altitude is one of those things Peru is famous for. Botanists all over the world go crazy for these types of environments, rare and unusual types of plants and insects thrive in these isolated conditions.

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peru-the-callan-pass

peru-the-callan-pass-microclimate

Although Alas Peruanas claims the route will last about 6 hours in reality it is more like 7, this is because every now and then the bus stops to pick up passengers at small towns along the way to Huaraz. On one of those stops a rather large man made his way onto the bus, realizing that the only empty seat was next to mine, I had to accept that fact that from now on the ride would be a little less comfortable.

peru-the-callan-pass-route

peru-uncomfortable-bus-rides

All the while the bus was now climbing up the Andes, over dirt roads and through tiny villages. I have had my share of frightening experiences traveling throughout Peru. The most unsettling is always driving along dirt roads at high altitudes, watching clouds form beneath you. I would rate this route a 6 in a 1-10 scale of the must gut wrenching roads that I have had the pleasure to travel on. Perhaps it’s the scenery that takes your mind off the ridiculous heights, or maybe I’m just getting used to it. Whatever the reason here’s a short video to help you picture just how high and how steep the drive is, note the sliver of white that is a large river cutting through the valley below.

I was now about 5 hours into the journey and the bus was reaching the highest heights of the Andes, I could feel a headache known as “Soroche” or altitude sickness. I was also beginning to feel more congested and drowsy, luckily I had bought some lime candies to help with the altitude. The pampa grasslands were spread out in all directions as the bus reached the heights of the Callán Pass, there before us like a revelation, the snow capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca (The White Mountains).

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peru-cordillera-blanca-huaraz

peru-cordillera-blanca-route

The descent into the valley in which Huaraz is located is marked by switchbacks and winding roads. Although you can see Huaraz in the distance it is still another good hour before your actually inside the city.

peru-huaraz-city

I reached Huaraz at about 3 in the afternoon, from my waist down my body was numb and it felt good to touch solid ground again. I began to walk around Huaraz looking for a place to catch lunch. I have visited Huaraz before in 2007 when I came with family and friends. During that trip I had not explored Huaraz in great detail and spent most of my time in the area of Huari where a festival was taking place. So as lost as I may have looked there is always a golden rule I apply whenever reaching a new city; head to the Plaza de Armas (Main Square). From there I usually walk in a round spiral like manner, slowly outward from the Plaza as to remember landmarks and not get lost. I must of had one heck of an appetite as I was quick to shed 16 s/. on a meal (usually 6 – 8 s/.). I ordered a Bisteck a lo Pobre ( Poor Man’s Steak)  and was not disappointed. I highly recommend the restaurant Ranchero Food (Jr. 28 de Julio N. 688). Provecho!

huaraz-ranchero-chicken

huaraz-ranchero-food

Long bus journey over and with a full stomach weighing me down I exited the restaurant. It was time to find a place to spend the night. Unfamiliar with the hotels in the area I went with my recommendations and decided to book myself a room in Hostal “Gyula Inn” (Parque Ginebra N. 632). It wasn’t exactly the best choice but for 20 s/. a night and my fatigue dragging me down I decided to book the room and take a nap. It wasn’t much of a nap as the icy Huaraz climate welcomed me to the city, amazingly it was actually warmer outside then in my hotel room. To warm up I decided to take a hot shower, it took about a 20 minutes at having the water running to get some warm water although it was rather sporadic. If hot water is all you ask for in a hotel room then this place is not for you.

Later that evening I headed out to explore the city a little, for the most part I found an Internet cafe to check up on the business and had dinner, at a more reasonable price of course. I was also able to cram some work into the day by speaking to some tour operators about their pricing and tours. I returned to my hotel at about 10pm and passed out immediately, walking around a large city in high altitude really drains you. Tomorrow I would have a chance to explore more of Huaraz and check out the area’s hotels.

Daily Expenditure – 45.50 s/. = $14

20 – Gyula Inn – Simple Room
1 – Internet (1 hour)
16 – Lunch
8.50 – Dinner

Julio C. Tello

Founder of Karikuy, an organization in Peru that brings travelers to visit and explore the country. Julio also runs the Karikuy Volunteer program and is the editor of this blog. Julio likes to write about his adventures in Peru as well as Peruvian folklore, mysteries and secluded locations.

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