Huánuco, Peru: a rare, genuine travel post

2022-03-11 @Travel

I arrived in a smaller Peruvian village, Huánuco, en route to eventually reach the Amazonian jungle. It’s mostly bustle around the center: endless traffic and honking, tougher to cross streets. Reminds me more of SE Asia, less of South America.

Having trotted here and there, I may well be the only white guy in town. Nothing centric inspires me to any great extent - short of the Iglesia San Sebastián. Nor do I intend to stay long.

But among the highlights, gigantic mountains loom in all four bearings. The vista alone justifies the arrival. I’ve known more than a few smaller towns surrounded by such scenery, but this one really is a sensation.

Now as far as scaling one of these mountains, glancing at the map, no convenient base for a hike seemed in the remotest vicinity. I thus resorted to my commonly lazy demeanor: whatever.

The hotel receptionist suggested some semi-touristic options: hire a taxi at some intersection to be dropped off at the base. Meanwhile, the driver waits as you explore, then drives you back. Mambo, jumbo, mambo, jumbo … Not likely.

As it happened, the entire first day I consumed devastating nutrition: late morning, afternoon, and at night. Plain awful. Catastrophic.

I failed to adhere to even the minimal standard. The particulars aren’t worth mentioning. I guess this is to be increasingly expected as I proceed into the Amazons.

The only conceivable means of penance: scaling a mountain. And must arrive by foot, even if it takes all morning through sketchy surroundings.

Upon studying the map a second time, Cerro San Cristobal appeared somewhat plausible: 30-40 minutes to reach some point of entry, whence the particulars were no longer clear. None of this is touristic, mind you.

I scribbled the rough directions on a scrap of paper and headed out early morning. As I proceeded, the surroundings began to appear increasingly favelesque. Internal sensors signalled: where the bloody hell are you heading? I continued.

A recurring tip: these extravagant excursions are easier to reconcile empty of valuables: no phone, no wallet (save for a little cash); just my tiny and cheap external camera. I even left the key at the hotel reception.

At some point, the paved road became gravel. I was in the sufficiently impoverished part of town: with livestock, the hounds, and the slumbering sheep suspiciously following my steps as I climbed over a huge pile of debris that blockaded the onward path.

From here it gets too intricate to describe without the employ of a poetically detailed sketch.

A good part of the journey involved the scaling of dense shrubbery and rocks. A part of the path: a plainer, hazily marked, yet previously trotted trail.

The descent would prove even more challenging. Though as I later reflected, one could follow a lot more of these pre-trotted paths, opting for the longer, zigzagging journey across the mountain range. But I headed more vertically through the bushier territory. It wasn’t easy.

I never quiet reached the uttermost peak, as this would involve crossing the entire range. And I only carried one small bottle of water, no snack, wearing shorts, and really equipped in no way characteristic of a sane person on a moderate hike bound for the sky.

Glancing onwards, the continuing path seemed reasonable. And though tempting, I stopped here, already an hour and a half into the journey, the view, believe you me, spellbinding: the Lego houses way beneath, the traveling patches of fog, the lower range, the higher range in full splendor.

The reverse path, though quicker, felt more confusing and (slightly) nerve wrecking. I didn’t precisely recall my previous steps, yet not about to follow those roundabout paths that seemed to span kilometers around the never-ending range. I descended vertically to the extent possible, but it’s not something I’d recommend to anyone with even half a brain.

Once eventually reached the favela in one piece, I was greeted by a couple of dogs eager to tear me to shreds. Maybe they would’ve, if not tamed by the residents.

From then on, scratched, soiled, and satisfied, I returned to the hotel, where per my request, the incredibly modest breakfast awaited at the table: one fried egg, two tiny rolls without butter, some fruit juice and a tiny 50-ml coffee.

It’s now two hours later into the afternoon, but that’s still all I ate all day: the merits of a body accustomed to long fasts. It feels good after the toxicity the day prior.

Questions, comments? Connect.