The ABC of Huaraz: Adventure, Beep, Ceviche…7 min read
“Beep!” —the familiar sound of the klaxon indicates danger. I turn—nothing.
“Beep!” —again and again, a symphony of horns orchestrates the streets of Huaraz.
The beep around here absorbs a vast amount of meanings. Some of them seem logical. For example, allowing other drivers to know you are coming behind the turn. Thus, preventing accidents. But typically, the horn screams “Hey, I am here!” in all the possible and unnecessary situations. The drivers are so attached to it, they have even installed a custom horn button for quick access on the gear stick.
Beeeep…Bienvenidos a Huaraz!
If you are hanging around looking like a gringo, it is either because of your adventurous nature or because you are lost. Huaraz is a melting pot for trekkers, climbers, and nomads. Each type is easily recognisable by the outfit and attitude. A common place to find foreigners thirsty for adventures is Parque Ginebra, home to La Casa de Guias and the Placa de los Periodistas. There are several hostels around, such as Campo Base.
Traveling to distant places and experiencing their exotic and sometimes weird customs, goes hand in hand with the taste of the local cuisine. From street food to international fusion cafes, Huaraz offers something for each taste.
Lunchtime is when you get the Menu del dia offer and you can tingle your gustatory senses while filling your belly from about 6-7 soles ($2) to 10-15 soles ($4) depending on the venue (2018).
Once in Peru, the national dish ceviche is a must try. Be it trucha (trout), pollo (chicken) or cui (gunie pig), it will all come with a serving of both rise and potatoes. And while the locals couldn’t care less about their carb intake, Peru is the country where the well-known super foods quinoa and maca are no more than street food. It is precisely street food you should focus on. Every Sunday calle Jose Olaya hosts a local cuisine festival where you can try traditional dishes.
As a coffee lover, one of the first things I do when I wake up, is yearn for my cup. Huaraz is an early bird and on my first morning here, it served me the greatest shock of all – la essencia del cafe. What you get is coffee essence, something like an extra strong mix between an espresso and Turkish coffee on the side with a big glass of hot water to mix with. If you ask for milk, you get a can of a condensed one.
No need to get desperate, places such as Cafe Andino and California Cafe offer a wonderful espresso. They put real milk in their cappuccino and are the place to hang around if you would like to mingle with climbers and travellers. Both offer a great library with books and guides. The atmosphere is perfect to sit and get some shit done on your laptop.
Now lets talk fresh. The Jugerias, or juice bars, offer the right dose of vitamins for your health. If you like to stick to a classic orange juice, the streets are full of freelancers who can instantly squeeze you a glass for less than a dollar. The street trolleys offer also liquid mixes of maca and quinoa. At night they transform into portable street bars.
Talking about local drinks check out the yellow Inka Cola. If you fancy something stronger, there are several locally brewed beer brands.
But the crown of local drinks goes to the Pisco sour cocktail. In one of the better bars you can taste one for 15-20 sol. If you feel more adventurous, you can get a litter of it for the same price in a local club. I tried both and I have to say that the taste and quality differ as much as the quantity you get for the same price.
Where to Stay
Huaraz offers a great variety of hostels and hotels. Prices vary from $5 per night in a shared room to fancy prices in not much fancier places. My personal experience took me to hotel Virgen del Carmen 1, where I found the flexibility and hospitality I was looking for. As a person who would spend over a month in and out of Huaraz, I needed a place where I could securely store my stuff while out of town. Not only was storage free, but the booking arrangement went something like that:
“Hi! Can I have the keys to the storage room?”
“Sure, there you go!”
“So, senora, we are leaving for the mountains. We will be back next Wednesday or Thursday, depends on the weather. We are probably gonna stay for 2-3 nights and off again. Is it ok?!”
“Claro, claro, no problem!”
For $9 per night, we would have a clean room, with private bathroom. We would leave our luggage at storage for free, and for uncertain amount of time, come back and find it untouched. We would stay for a few days and repeat the process. Our dates were never fixed since they adapted to weather conditions. The place is clean and central.
Thumbs up for it!
Gear Up and Go Adventuring
Planning an adventure is easy here since there are many agencies that provide their services. The wise thing to do is to ask around for offers. Prices can vary with up to 30% difference. If you somehow end up alone in Huaraz, you can find a partner in crime via ad boards. They are strategically placed in cafe Andino, cafe California, and in some rental agencies. At the latter, you can either fill up the missing pieces of your rack, or you can do some curious business.
Equipment in Peru is pricier compared to the rest of the world due to taxes. So local agencies are open to buy gear from travellers. Anything well-kept is marketable. Mountain boots, crampons and sleeping bags are among the best sellers. If you can bargain, you could sell your old equipment for the amount you’d need to buy it brand new back home. Plus, it saves you on extra luggage on the plane back.
Surrounded by white sharp-ended peaks, Huaraz is a city where internet cafes still exist and CDs are not out of date. Advertising comes in the form of fresh paint on the brick walls. Or through audio recordings, selling you an ice-cream “a solo un sol”. A gateway to risky adventures, the most dangerous thing around here is crossing the street. Apart from being careful with the traffic, there is plenty of police on the streets and the city feels safe.
The younger generation keeps up with the looks of pop stars and listens to reggaeton. But you can also see people dressed in their traditional outfits. If a female has a colourful hat and a shorter skirt on top of a longer one, it means she is single. So, gentleman, you’d better read the signs!
- You will need some local cash in order to get to Huaraz but exchange just enough at the airport. The exchange rates in Huaraz are much better and vary as much as 3.25-3.27 soles for a dollar.
- The best and cheapest way to get to town is by a bus (Cruz del Sur or MovilBus). Take advantage of the bed-like seats during a night trip and you won’t feel the 8 h drive.
- If you know which date you are traveling back to Lima, check in advance for bus tickets. There are special offers that may save you up to 50% of the price.