Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lima - Huamanga

On Friday we got up early to head to Ayacucho, only to find that the buses we had contracted to fetch us to the interprovincial bus terminal did not show up. Instead we started flagging down taxis and somehow got all of us to the terminal in time - no mean feat, considering that, all told, there were about thirty-five of us.

We rode a double-decker bus from Expreso Molina. Those downstairs had seats that reclined fully into beds, while those upstairs enjoyed better views. We paid for those, however, by being more subject to the swaying of the bus during turns -of which there are a hideously large amount when climbing the Andes.

Nico, Diego, and Cecilia

We had decided to take a day bus in order to maximize our time in Ayacucho and to give the foreigners, in particular my cousin Carla's in-laws, a chance to see the countryside along the way.

We followed the Pan American highway southward to the town of Pisco -famed for its namesake distilled spirit- where we turned, east and upward, onto the Vía Libertadores.

Along the coast, the country is dominated by the desert, with the only greenery and populated centers along the many rivers descend from the mountains to the sea.

Vegetation gets more abundant the higher one travels, though the western side of the Andes is far drier than the eastern Andes. Eventually one gets high enough that trees and shrubs can no longer grow, and the landscape is marked by stone and hardy mountain grasses called ichu.

At that altitude -well above 4000 meters- the thinner atmosphere can induce lethargy and altitude sickness in those not accustomed to it. The time spent in the puna on this trip is far longer than that on the road to La Merced. Several of our party, particularly those on the second story of the bus, with its greater swaying, felt nauseous and some vomited. Even I, though usually not affected by altitude, felt sleepy.

After nine hours in the bus and crossing the pass at Apacheta, at 15,570 feet above the sea, we arrived in the city of Ayacucho - or as it is known locally, Huamanga.

Huamanga's main plaza

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