One week in Huaraz, Peru, and I have a renewed appreciation for almost every part of our everyday life in the states. When we leave the gates of our “deserted hostel turned home of the Haleys” for the next 5 months, we are bombarded by taxis, buses, stray dogs, construction, mud, trash, mini floods, and old Quechua women in beautiful k’eperinas and bombin hats. The town is large, busy, and it is easy to see Peruvian aesthetics is not based in architecture. The buildings are all cement and cinderblock with the same generic sign advertising goods or a chalkboard for “Menus”, which are the Peruvian version of a lunch café. We have been navigating the streets with tourist’s eyes and usually do well if we stick to the recommendations of the family who brought us here. They are an American couple who run a trekking company and have also just opened a microbrewery in Huaraz. WithoAt the schoolut them, I might have given up on this place the first time I had to save one of my children from be flattened by a cambi driver.
Our home can romantically be called “rustic” but also means I cried the first night here. We occupy two rooms in Las Retamos, a piece of property that was a swanky hostel/resort in the eighties, but now has two livable rooms (lucky us) and a lot of other rooms filled with collapsed ceilings and random treasures- Quinn has found two bicycles, set up a tire swing, and refurbished a bird bath. There is a common kitchen with a two burner camp stove and the American family has bought us a refrigerator. A plus to Retamos is it still has a beautiful courtyard with exotic fruit trees and many flowers. We are equipped with gates and a 24 hour security guard, but not to protect us- they are actually for the boxes of cookies and cigarettes stored behind our building. I just pretend the very bored guards would rescue us along with the cookies if needed… Another advantage of Retamos is the animal menagerie the children are creating. So far they have a mama chicken and her babies, the guard dog Thomas, three kittens, and 5 roosters. I’m just hoping they don’t develop and affinity for the rats that lurk around.
The area draws most of it’s economy from the gold and zinc mines, as well as the adventure travel business where climbers and trekkers come from all over the world to scale the highest mountains in Peru. Huaraz is set in a valley between the Cordellera Blancas to the north and Negras to the south. To get out of the city is magic- green and dramatic sprinkled with small farms and ruins. Our bodies are still adjusting to the altitude as we huff and puff up the slightest inclines. The challenges here are day to day, but I look up at the mountains and watch my children discover a world we could never of imagined.