Category: Chavin de Huantar

Buses and tunnels and random people’s couches

We left Cuzco midday on Friday, headed for Lima – that in itself is a 21 hour bus ride. But neither Caro nor myself like Lima, so we kept right on going another 8 hours to Huaraz, arriving around 7:30 on Saturday night. I had found a CouchSurfer who said that we could stay with him, so we headed directly to his place. (Couchsurfing, for those of you who don’t know, is an online project where you can find people living in the cities you’re traveling to who are willing to host you for free. The idea is that you will then, in turn, host people traveling to your city. As long as you are careful to host or stay with people with good references, it’s usually a pretty cool way to travel on a budget and meet interesting people.)

So anyway, we got to Huaraz and couldn’t find this guy’s house. Finally I reached him on the phone, and it turns out that he had given us the wrong address. And he wasn’t at home, but at a party. So he told us to wait in front of his place and he’d meet us there. He finally let us in, and his “house” was a single room with just one twin size bed and barely room to walk around it. That’s it. This guy really had absolutely no business offering to host people in his home.

After he let us in, he left to go back to the party.  The room was filthy, but we were so tired we didn’t have the energy to look for something else that night. So I slept in my clothes, Caro slept in her sleeping bag, together on the tiny bed. It was definitely a bonding experience, lol. In the middle of the night he came back and went to sleep on the floor right next to us – there wasn’t space to go anywhere else. It was so super sketchy, oh my gosh.  My guardian angel was definitely working overtime that night!

So we got up early the next morning and ran away from that. We were planning on staying 2 nights, but OBVIOUSLY that wasn’t going to happen. We caught the 3 hour bus to Chavin de Huantar by 7:30 am, and decided to spend the night there instead – paid for a room and everything. We reserved a private room with a shower, but the shower turned out to be broken. When we talked to the owner about it, she refused to do anything about it.  And so began my first argument ever in Spanish. It was actually really good – the fact that I didn’t have completely fluent command of the language meant that I had to speak slowly and choose my words carefully, rather than let my temper get the best of me. I was still steamed, though. We ended up convincing her to give us most of our money back; we were so frustrated with Chavin, that we got into a colectivo headed back to Huaraz that night, and then caught an overnight bus to Trujillo.  All in all, by the time we got to Trujillo, we had spent about 40 hours in buses and colectivos within the span of 3 days.  I was exhausted and close to a mental breakdown.

But more on that in the next post, I’m getting ahead of myself!  There was actually a reason that we went to Chavin; it was not just because we are gluttons for punishment. Chavin de Huantar is home to some of the oldest ruins in all of South America, dating from 1200 AD (some 200 years before the Incans came to power) to 300 AD. Despite the huge hassle to get there, it was really very very cool. The mystery of the people of Chavin is how they managed to survive so long, without any apparent weapons or military to speak of. During its heyday, Chavin de Huantar was used as a religious center and point of pilgrimage for the entire valley and surrounding regions.  It’s just amazing to me that buildings made without any modern technology at all could survive thousands and thousands of years. Can you imagine something built in the modern era surviving that long??

We spent several hours on the site. The above-ground ruins were interesting, but my favorite part was definitely the underground rooms and corridors. There was a series of labyrinthine tunnels that ran underneath the entire complex that visitors were actually able to enter. It gave me a whole new perspective on the people of Chavin – not only were they able to construct buildings that are still standing thousands of years later, but they were also able to excavate these intricate tunnels underground that still stand largely unscathed. It was truly fascinating. Despite the crazy roads and sketchy accommodations and frustrations with the locals, I was glad we went. It’s not truly an adventure without some unexpected excitement, right? 🙂

If you’re interested in finding out more about the people of Chavin, check out this documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpuOkO7gPa4

Here is a video of some of the tunnels beneath Chavin. When I say “hey,” I’m talking to Caro, who had managed to get across the gully right in front of me and was waving at me from the other side of the little window: