October 20th - 21st 2003
Another gorgeous day, and after a walk part-way round the Laguna Chinancocha, we drove back down to Yungay to get the Weasel a much needed wash. We felt sorry for the poor man who spent almost two hours slaving over the extremely dirty, dusty and muddy landy in the hot sun. Then with the barely recognisable Weasel we headed off again - Ed determined not to do any offroading for a while to keep his pride and joy in tip top condition!
After some lunch along the Panamerican, just outside Carhuaz - a huge plate of grilled pork chops, sweetcorn, fried potatoes and onion salad - we drove to Huaraz with the intention of staying there for the rest of the afternoon and night. We spent nearly an hour and a half driving all over the town looking for a hotel with parking - and within our budget - to no avail. Frustrated, we decided to give up and get back on the road, hoping to find something on the way. We were pressed for time as it was 3:30pm when we left Huaraz and we had only 2 1/2 hours left of daylight.
The further from Huaraz we drove, the more remote the road seemed to get and it seemed unlikely we would find any accommodation for the night - unless we could reach the Pastoruri Valley where we thought we would be able to camp. The park lies about 14km from Pachacoto off the Panamerican along a gravel road. We found the turn off and headed into the park. The scenary was a lot different from the rest of the valley - very bleak and remote and the hills were more rolling than forming glaciated peaks.
There was no one at the park entrance so we carried on driving trying to find a suitable spot to camp for the night. But as the road started to climb (we were at an altitude of about 4,200m) we struggled to find a flat area out of sight of the road and eventually decided to return to the park entrance and the visitor's centre to camp up there. Luckily the park guard was there when we returned and had no problem with us camping next to the centre..
The next morning we were up early and went back into the park to look at the Puya Raimondii plants a couple of kilometers from the park entrance. The plants are the largest bromeliads in the world and are only found in isolated areas of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. With a huge, spiky rosette of long, waxy leaves up to 2 meters or more in diameter, they take 100 years to grow to full size, when they flower by producing a tall spike (up to 10 m high). The flowers last for about three months and the plant then dies. With each plant flowering only once every one hundred years, it was hardly surprising they weren't flowering when we went - the odds were pretty much stacked against us! Supposedly there is normally a flowering every three years.
Before we left in the morning the Park Guard checked our tickets (bought at the Lagunas above Yungay) and registered our vehicle details in his log book. About 200 meters outside the park checkpoint is another "tatty" looking checkpoint. When we drove in the night before this was unmanned and open. On trying to drive out the locals had lowered the gate and surrounded the car begging for pens, paper, sweets etc. Having cleaned us out of pens and sweets they then informed us to get through we had to register with their log and pay another 10 soles. They had an official looking log in the little hut and receipt book. We had noticed that the buses and pickups did not appear to have to pay and they only charged the tourists. Having already paid 130 soles we were a little miffed at having to pay again and refused. In the end they let us out. This is all within sight of the official park checkpoint.