Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 5, 2009

Two months in Peru, PART 4: Peru is gorgeous.

After two months in Peru, Rob and Jessie take a look back and try to put their fingers on just what it is that’s kept them here so long. Click here for parts One (Peruvian People), Two (Peruvian Transportation) and Three (Peruvian Food).

In Part 4: Peru’s beauty, both natural and human-made

People have lived here an awfully long time

Kuelap ruins

When I was a kid out in Harrah, Washington, I was in awe of how old Fort Simcoe was. The houses had been turned into museums so that we kids could marvel at how primitive life was in the 1850’s and scare each other with ghost stories. It was ancient history.

These days as we take the bus back and forth from Huanchaco to Trujillo, we pass along a road that cuts through the 20 square kilometer ruins of Chan Chan. A few kilometers out of town, and older still, the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna are still being excavated and giving up their ancient secrets.

The ancient pre-Inca cultures of Peru’s North Coast had the same building materials of today’s inhabitants: mud brick. This means they’re often in a pretty bad state of repair, which can get wearying to the ungrateful traveler, but their contemporaries in the Andes were blessed with stone, which leaves ruins that are often less impressive in sheer size (Túcume’s pyramid complex rivals the Egyptians, it is said), but more interesting in terms of us being able to understand what we’re seeing.

The Cajamarca culture left us Cumbe Mayo and the Ventanillas de Otuzco, as well as the tourist-icized Inca Baths. The Chachapoya left us the fortified city of Kuelap, the mummies of Laguna de los Condores, the spectacular sarcophagi of Karajia, the Revash complex, as well as countless other smaller ruins that are known only to a few. See how only three of those have a link? We’ll definitely be going back to that area.

Peru is amazingly stunningly wonderfully beautiful.

mountain peaks above Huaraz

Sometimes getting there can be the best part, as in our train ride from Lima to Huancayo, or bus ride from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas.

Rob’s taken a couple thousand photos of how beautiful the landscape is, and I’ve written a couple thousand words describing the natural beauty of places like the Gruta de Guagapo and Gocta Waterfall. We spent four days loving every minute of the rain during our trek through the Santa Cruz valley, and every bump on our mountain bike day-trip in the Cordillera Blanca.

Peru is a land of extremes, from the dry, barren coastline to the breathtakingly severe Andes to the humid, fertile jungle, and you can go from one extreme to another in a matter of hours.

I’m trying to keep in mind that we’ve only seen a fraction of the country’s northern half in these hectic two months of travel. I’m looking forward to a new pace of life as we settle into Huanchaco and volunteering—going from a grand, skin-deep overview to an in-depth look at a single community. In December we’ll hit the road again, this time visiting some of the more touristy places with Mama and Papa Kwak, and then, who knows?

I think we’ll be happy no matter where we go here. It is Peru, after all.

panoramic Cajamarca morning


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