Friday 31 July

We get a good night’s sleep, thankfully. The city is still shrouded in a blanket of low cloud. Breakfast is a basic affair of bread rolls, juice and coffee. We ask in reception if on our return to Lima we can have an upstairs room.

(magnify) Leaving Lima

They seem well organised and know that we are expecting a taxi to the bus terminal on Javier Prado. The terminal is clean and efficient but the ticketing system for service at the counter where we collect our pre-booked tickets is a bit random and baffling. After checking in our luggage we go upstairs to wait for half an hour. Everything seems to be going according to plan so far…

We leave Lima through a drab and depressing suburb. Many of the houses look unfinished. The only source of colour is the brightly painted houses of the shanty towns on the hills on the coastal side of the road as we head outwards.

The coastal road out of Lima passes through dull grey desert, with little really to see from our prime position at the front of the upper deck. A few hours into the journey, the steward begins calling bingo – a chance for me to practice Spanish numbers. I get most of them, but seem to have a problem with sixty and seventy (sesenta and setenta).

(magnify) Mountain road to Huaraz

As soon as we leave the coast road and begin heading inland we leave the sea fog behind. Soon we are into rugged hills where there is much more green, and already it feels warmer.

There is much winding slowly uphill. Snow-capped mountains begin to appear. The road twists back on itself and eventually we reach a long narrow plain and then begin to descend once more.

We arrive in Huaraz at about half past five. After retrieving our luggage, which is a bit of a scrum, our next task is to dodge the touts and find our way to the combi terminal a few blocks away, but we are nearly thwarted by a distinct lack of street name signs.

The sun has dropped below the hills that surround Huaraz, casting a beautiful orange glow on the snow-capped peaks above us. We soon locate the next combi to depart for Caraz (the one at the front of the line, Rachel) and, with our luggage strapped on the roof, depart a few minutes later.

We rattle along at a frenetic rate through the darkness, passing through several small towns. Suddenly we are catapulted into the air as the driver misses slowing down for a speed hump and there is a tremendous bang and clatter from the roof. I hope to God that our rucksacks are both still there. The remaining half hour to Caraz seems more like two.

In Caraz we gratefully receive our rucksacks from the roof of the minibus and proceed to the main square to look for a taxi. There only motorised rickshaws. The first one that we ask seems not to have heard of the O’Pal Sierra Resort, but the second is more obliging.

The rickshaw sounds as if it is going to explode as it strains along the road out of Caraz and into the darkness. We reach the turn-off for the resort and bump precariously down a narrow track. A few minutes later we stop in the darkness in front of what emerges to be a big metal door across the track. There is no light and no sign of life. Our driver gets down and starts hammering on the gate. Eventually a man appears at the balcony of the gatehouse with a torch and shines it down on us. After a short exchange the gate is opened and we drive through.

We bounce along the track for some considerable further distance before finally a young woman hails us. We have arrived.

She shows us to our bungalow. It seems very nice, but our spirits sink when it becomes apparent that no dinner is available, though we can pre-order breakfast for the morning at 8 soles each. I’m struggling with my rudimentary Spanish and the woman speaks no English.

We eat a couple of bread rolls and mandarins that we brought for the journey and then sink exhausted into bed.