Saturday 1 August

(magnify) Morning light on the hills

Breakfast is in a deserted dining room at the back of the main house a short distance from our bungalow. It consists of bread, butter, jam, thick fruit juice, and camp coffee. It is not ideal for Rachel, who doesn’t like thick or hot drinks.

We decide to see how long it takes to walk into Caraz so that we can get a feel for what the logistics of this place will be like, before deciding whether to stick with it or move to a hotel nearer the centre (or one with a restaurant). Now that we have daylight we discover that we are in a well-kept resort of around a dozen or so semi-detached white-painted bungalows set behind a farm. On the far side of the valley beautiful hills rise up. It is very quiet and as far as we can tell we are the only ones staying.

(magnify) The resort seen from the bottom of the track

It takes us thirty five minutes to reach the cathedral on the Plaza de Armas, which we agree is not at all bad. Our first job now we are here is to change some money.

We soon find the bank but while we are still trying to figure out the queuing system (you seem to have to take a ticket but there are different types of ticket) a policeman approaches us and suggests that if we want to change money we would be better off using a different bank – or at least that was my best guess of the stream of Spanish.

We have some trouble locating the other bank. On the way we pass a wind band just leaving a church. We guess from the confetti and rice lying on the ground that a wedding has just taken place. When we finally reach the bank we establish that it does not change dollars. So it is back the way we came. Passing the post office we pop in to ask and are directed back to the Banco Credito de Perú, where we started.

(magnify) Plaza de Armas

Avoiding the policeman who spoke to us earlier, I take a ticket and we sit down to wait for our turn. The tickets have various different initial letters. Ours is “A” but no “A”s are coming up on the screen. After waiting for about half an hour I decide to go and get another ticket. This time I get an “S”. Finally our turn comes and we change $400. We possibly should have changed more (given the length of time we spent waiting) but the exchange rate is not great. The clerk is very friendly and helpful though.

Next we have to book tickets for our bus journey out of Caraz on Thursday. This proves to be considerably easier, even with my meagre grasp of Spanish.

We return to the plaza to get a drink in a café. Rachel is tired and needs energy and we rest there for a while. A bit later, sitting on the steps of the cathedral we share a banana. The plaza is well kept – a fountain enclosed in brightly painted railings, with mountains as a backdrop behind the roofs.

Our guide book recommends the Hostel Los Pinos for arranging excursions and we decide to see what they have to offer. But their office is closed. There is a small plaza outside the hostal and we sit there for a while for another much needed rest. I think it is the combination of the long journey and the stress of having to cope in a language we barely if at all understand, as well as logistics being somewhat more difficult than we anticipated that has exhausted us both.

Still, in the absence of any restaurant within easy walking distance of the resort or even taxi drivers who know where the resort is, we need some provisions to cater for ourselves, and we locate a small shop nearby. The shop keeper is amazingly patient with us as we slowly work out a couple of meals that we can cook from unfamiliar ingredient.

We eat lunch in an eatery off the main plaza. I order omelette and Rachel has tortillas, although it comes out looking suspiciously like my omelette. We wonder if something was lost in the translation. (We later discover that tortilla is supposed to be like that here.)

We walk through the market and buy some fruit and tomatoes, then attempt to catch a mototaxi back to O’Pal. No one seems to have heard of it, although we do receive plenty of alternative suggestions. Finally we give up in disgust and begin walking. As we turn onto the road leading out of town we have one more try and this time we succeed. The fare is two soles, which is half what we paid last night. On the other hand perhaps we were lucky last night to find a driver who knew the O’Pal Sierra Resort at all!

(magnify) Back at the resort

This was supposed to be a relaxing day, but we are both absolutely exhausted. After resting for a while, we take a walk to the far end of the resort. There is a small swimming pool and an unmanned bar area. There are a few young people here including a couple canoodling on a large rock.

For dinner we cook pasta with tuna in tomato juice. It is quite tasty and we are in bed by half past seven.