August 15, 2007
I arrived in Huaraz this morning after being on a bus all night. I was here at the beginning of my trip, and loved the mountains and small city atmosphere. My feelings remained unchanged on this visit. The air is clean, the scenery is beautiful, the people are friendly, and everything I need is within a few minutes' walking distance from the city's center. There are lots of tourists here, but it's a different bunch from those in Cusco. Whereas in Cusco, the tourists come in huge groups and only stay in the area for a couple days to check out Machu Picchu, here they come for months at a time to go trekking, rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, and whatever other form of adventure they can conjure up. Huaraz is an outdoorsman's paradise.
My main purpose for coming back to Huaraz was to trek the Huayhuash Circuit, which encircles an entire mountain range of 6000-meter peaks. The trek is extremely difficult and remote, but also very rewarding, and I figured it would be my last major challenge in South America. As soon as I got into town, I put up a notice looking for trekking partners on the bulletin board of the Casa de Guias, the best place in town to leave messages. The waiting game began again. This is the major disadvantage of traveling alone. Every time I want to do something new, I need to spend several days searching for people to join me.
This afternoon I was on my bed typing on my computer when the whole bed started shaking. It felt like one of those coin-operated bed shakers found in some sleazy hotels. I thought maybe it was shaking because of construction work outside, but I didn't hear any jackhammers, and the bed was away from the walls. I looked under the bed, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. I got up and walked around my room, but didn't feel any shaking. I sat back down on my bed and sure enough, it was still shaking. I thought I was either going crazy or someone was playing tricks on me. Soon the bed stopped shaking, and I didn't think much of it.
For the first time in awhile, I happened to splurge on a room with a TV for $5, and when I turned on the local news a few hours later, I saw that there had been an earthquake in the south of Peru. So that's why my bed was shaking! I did some quick math in my head and realized that I was more than 600 KM from the epicenter, and I was in the mountains, whereas the earthquake had occurred in the ocean, yet I could still feel it. It must have been huge. I turned on CNN and saw that it was the top story in the world. The details were still pretty sketchy, but it looked really bad. I walked around Huaraz for a bit expecting to see the end of the world, but everything looked normal, just eerily quiet. There was no damage in the town, but everyone was in as much shock as me. I spent the rest of the night glued to the TV, trying to find out more about this disaster.