The People of Huaraz are healthy and strong. I deeply admire and respect the people of the Ancash region. Those who have ancestral roots here are direct descendents of the Incas. Many still tend their corn (maize) and quinoa and llamas as the have for centuries. Only dna and/or blood tests can reveal the extent of genetic mixing of these peoples since Pizarro arrived.
The mingling of cultures is obvious. Catholic buildings are a ubiquitous presence. Many ‘evangelical’ protestant groups have substantial followings… Seventh day adventists, Ba’hia, Hare krisha and Mormons have a presence. There is a ‘plaza de armas’ in most every town. Quechua is often heard in the marketplace. There are ‘festival’ posters showing various cultural/historical images: Actors in the garb of conquisatores side by side with people in Incan costume and images of the crucified Jesus… all blended together.
My 11 day stay at the newly opened Santa Cruz Trek Hostal was a good one. Abundant hot water, new bed, quiet neighborhood, (a very economical price) great local food… delicious mountain air… vibrant, friendly people… all these things made it hard to leave Huaraz.
Found that there is only one transport company exiting Huaraz towards Huanuco. The ‘Rapido’ transport company has three buses departing daily. 6AM, 1PM, and 3PM. The bus goes to Huallanca and La Union only. From La Union one must hire a car to continue on to Huanuco.
I chose the 6AM bus. Paid my bill at the Santa Cruz hostel the night before departing. A young man would get up at 5:15AM and help me lug my bags down a flight of stairs and help me hail an early morning taxi. I knew how far it was from the hostel to the bus office. Had all my bags completely packed before going to bed. Slept lightly. Arose at 5AM. Dressed. Stripped my bed. Piled my sheets, pillow case, and towel into a neat pile. Removed all my trash from the room. I like to leave a place as clean as I can and have it ready to be prepped for the next guest.
Was at the ‘El Rapido’ office by 5:30AM. Had a quinoa beverage sold by a sidewalk vendor in front of the station. Sat in the waiting area with others, watching the ever present flat panel television screen showing local news and images. It appeared to me that most travelers were local business people. Many had small laptops in tow.
We were invited to board the small bus at 5:55AM. It departed shortly after 6AM as advertised. The journey was to take exactly 4 hours from Huaraz to La Union, making various stops along the way until arriving in Huallanca where it stopped for 10 minutes before continuing on to La Union.
The bus route is a continuous long low climb ascending among the Huayhuash range. There are some spectacular vistas of distant peaks along the way. The climb is steady for 2 hours before any descent. Then there is the constant ‘s’ curves up and down before a long decent into a lovely narrow valley.
At La Union there were cars waiting to take passengers on to Huanuco. La Union to Huanuco is 137km. That ride takes another full 3 and a half hours.
If you have time or interest, you might find it amusing to do a Google Earth route from Huaraz to Huanuco. You will find the route from La Union to Huanuco of particular interest. Imagine stitching together a hundred or so ‘S’ curves that are carved into the side of steep areas looking down into a continuously winding series of river valleys. There are no guard rails.
I sat in the front next to the young driver. There were two passengers in the back seat and we did pick up a third along the way. Buses do not do this leg of the Huaraz/Huanuco route during the rainy season. Many occasional (smaller) rock and mudslides are cleared on a daily basis. People accept this as a normal part of life.
Drivers get used to having to lay on the horn approaching the numerous ‘blind’ curves. You never know what might be right around the corner. This is not a journey for those who spook easily. Once you do develop some confidence in your driver it is possible to enjoy the spectacularly beautiful scenery.