Gonzo journalism in the Americas. Join g. as he zigzags across the continents in search of all that is fun.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Huaraz: So Hard to Leave...
I just pulled myself from the evening vista atop Olaza´s rooftop terrace to come in and rap out another post before heading back into the unknown. Olaza´s Bed and Breakfast, run by Tito Olaza, has been the most incredible haven. It isn´t cheap like a hostel but it is very affordable. The service is great and Tito knows everything you´d want to know about the area. He speaks awesome English and helping people figure out Huaraz seems to be his joy. His brother runs a mountain bike tour company and another runs a bar called the Voodoo Lounge. They are all good people.
The terrace here at the hotel has such a commanding view of the mountains I could stay up there forever. But the sun is down and I´ve only got a couple hours before I catch a night bus to Lima. I had a great chat with a guy named Nick, a fellow traveller and mountainbiker from England, who is currently working in France but just a couple of years ago was selling real estate in Uganda. We had a good conversation about travel and experience. The travellers I meet have such awesome stories from everywhere on the planet. Most of them are travelling for a few weeks, but some like Jonathan, are on several month odysseys. It is really humbling to meet so many fascinating people.
My friend Bones commented... "isn´t Huaraz grand?"
I realized that I haven´t written enough about how great Huaraz really is. The town has yet to become like Cusco. It is still very peruvian local, just with mountaineering and trekking shops scattered about. Tourism is very present but it doesn´t take over the town´s ambience. But with tourism comes good restaurants. I have found a couple of great little places in the short time I´ve been here. First off the thai restaurant that Bones mentioned, "Siam de los Andes" is now more like a friend´s house. I went down there last night. My head was pounding and my nose running. All I could think about was some spicy TomYumKai soup. I had seen it on the menu the other night when Jonathan and I went in. My hope was that this spicy thai variation of chicken soup would burn my sinus troubles away.
When I walked into the restaurant, I was warmly greeted by Mary. (Pronounced Mah-ree) I explained what I needed. She smiled and said, "And maybe you need some of my special ginger tea?" I couldn´t have suggested better. The tea was a perfect blend of ginger, coca leaves, black pepper and honey... talk about custom care. Nothing like a warm restaurant that makes you feel at home when you´re on your own and feeling like crap.
Mary is the wife of Naresuan who owns the restaurant. They are the chefs at this thai oasis in the heart of the mountainous Ancash region of Peru. Mary is from Colombia and Naresuan is from Thailand. I can only guess at how they met, started their family and ended up here in Huaraz treating weary mountaineers, guides, trekkers, and common tourists like me to the best thai food I´ve ever had. It will remain a mystery only to be guessed at as the restaurant is filling up and my time with the owners becomes limited. I sip at my tea and scratch these thoughts out on borrowed paper with a pen I grabbed from the bar.
In anticipation of the great wine drinking to ensue in Argentina and Chile, I order a glass of Casillero del Diablo, one of my favorite chilean reds. Mary brings it to me just as I ordered it... in a lowball glass, just can´t do the stemware. The music...is a nice world beat, exotic and flavorful, just like my steaming soup. The lemongrass adds a special zing to the spicy elixir.
The evening winds on as I´m just so comfortable here sipping soup, tea and wine. Later Naresuan comes over to my table and joins me for a bit and we start rapping about mountainbiking. Turns out he is planning a big expedition on mountain bike through the Huayhuash mountains here next season. I´m very interested of course and we end up spending the next couple hours talking. I meet Adam, who is working here on some conservation projects. He joins Naresuan and I at my table. While he is eating, I come to find out that he teaches a course in Montana that I took about 12 years ago with the Wild Rockies Field Institute. What a strange coincidence. Another great evening making new friends in the world. Oh and I did get to find out how Naresuan and Mary met...
Huaraz has a couple of these great little restaurants. If you are an open-minded connoisuer and not a critic great culinary surprises abound. I had guinea pig and french fries in a local family restaurant, ceviche in a little place- though they are everywhere- while toasting beers with a couple of senior citizen men around 11 am, and the best chicken burrito around at Chili Heaven. Chili heaven is a great little establishment, warm, inviting, only seats 15 people or so and parked up against the wall in this already crowded little joint is a KTM 950 Adventure motorcycle. This orange and black monstrosity is a bike I dream of ripping through all of South America. The food could have been terrible and I still would have loved it because of the motorcycle. I found out that the restaurant is owned by a guy named Simon. His wife and gorgeous daughter, Melodi, wait tables, cook the food and generally rock the house. Supposedly I can rent this bike, but I´ve yet to meet Simon.
A day has passed now and I´m soon bound for the bus station. I don´t really want to leave Huaraz. It is really great. I´m going to stop by Naresuan and Mary´s on the way to the station for one last kick ass thai dinner. I´m feeling nostalgic preparing to leave this place that has become a new favorite. Oh well, a day in Lima, and I´m off to Buenos Aires. Ciao Huaraz, Hola Argentina.