Ayacucho is a city of the Peruvian central cordillera, which is still quite unknown. It used to be the cradle of the Shining Path (a terrorist group that was very strong in Peru in the 1980’s) and only started recently to attract tourists, even though it has a lot of assets: a colourful colonial architecture, a very mild and pleasant weather, a region of mountains and ruins from the Wari-Tiwanaku Empire all around…
I had initially planned to stay there for a few days but finally stayed for one week… once again the surprises of traveling and couchsurfing!
Saturday 24th November 2018
I arrived in the morning after quite a tiring night-bus trip (a comfortable bus but if you tend to be sick in the transports, be careful because it’s a mountain road from the beginning to the end!), I first started to look for a convenient accommodation. Everything was expensive for me and didn’t look welcoming; I could feel that tourism isn’t very developed there compared to Cuzco.
I finally let my bags in an accommodation located just on the side of the mercado central. It was quite rudimentary but it would do for one night, and I negotiated the possibility to use the kitchen to at least use boil water, which was already something!
Once settled, I left to the mercado to have lunch and then started to explore the city. I had an obligatory stop to taste the local ice cream, made with cinnamon and sesame. Delicious, I recommend it! I then arrived at the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by beautiful arcades on each side. A wedding was just terminating in the cathedral; I then had the occasion to see the lively dances done on the forecourt, with some traditional live music.
I continued my stroll in the city, exploring its colourful streets and discovering the numerous church facades. Indeed Ayacucho counts no less than 37 churches, which makes it a very important city during the Holy week. The atmosphere was mild, it was hot (28°), this city looked quite pleasant at first sight!
I went to the tourism office of Peru (always a warm welcome and some nice tips) to get some information about the activities to do in the region, did some shopping at the Mercado and went back to the hostel, feeling very tired from the bad bus trip of the night before.
A flop in Huanta
Sunday 25th November 2018
I woke up early and got ready to go to the village of Huanta. I had been told at the tourism office that there was a feria every Sunday morning where they practice barter, as well as a mirador overlooking the Huatuscalle Canyon. Unfortunately when I arrived at the village about one hour later, there wasn’t any feria and the rain had started. There was a parade in town, which I watched for a while before deciding to turn back. It was useless to go to the mirador in these conditions; I wouldn’t see anything with this covered sky.
I then took a but heading back to Ayacucho but went down at a crossroad half way, from where I could go to visit the ruins of the Wari civilization’s capital. I did the last kilometres leading to the ruins hitchhiking, seated at the back of a pick-up. I was with two teenagers that looked amused by my presence. The girl spent her time taking photos of me “discreetly” with her phone but I could see her doing so! ^^
When I finally arrived, I started with the visit of the small museum located at the entrance of the ruins. A beautiful mummy, some works of art and some interesting explanations are exhibited in the only one room of the museum. It’s small but enough to learn more about the Wari (a pre-Colombian civilization dating from 600 after Jesus Christ) before going on with the visit of the ruins.
I could recognize the Wari’s typical architecture (which I had discovered in Pikillacta ruins, a major site of this civilization, located in the South of Cuzco), although the stone was different. High anti-seismic walls protect the place, which is composed of the classical elements of this era: administrative, religious, living and production sectors. There are also an amphitheatre, a monumental sacrifice stone, graves reserved to the nobles, a cave with offerings, etc.
The overall place was covered by cactus which fruits were ripening, all of this with nice panoramas over the surrounding mountains. As it is very wide, I stayed there for a long while to explore it fully.
I then could have gone on to Quinua, a village with lots of craftsmen producing ceramics and where happened the historical battle of Peru’s Independence in 1824. However I was without any energy and decided to go back to Ayacucho, where I moved to another hostel (a bit cheaper but even worse than the first one). I was then well decided to leave Ayacucho on the following day but the magic of the trip would decide differently…
Monday 26th November 2018
I had contacted several couchsurfers before arriving in Ayacucho, and one, Tito, was already receiving some friends but had told me that he would advise me when he was available, in case I would still be in Ayacucho. And indeed he had contacted me the night before, thus we had decided to meet to at least have a walk together.
We then met in the morning on the main square. Tito offered me to do various visits but I was more in the need of nature so I opted for his proposal of walking along a river close to Ayacucho. We went there quickly by bus and walked down along the river while getting to know each other.
We stayed there for a while enjoying the peacefulness of the place, until our stomachs made us come back. Tito told me that his kitchen was at disposal if I wanted; as I was missing cooking, it was easy to convince me!
I was then still planning to leave Ayacucho on the following evening but I finally changed my plans and stayed in Tito’s house. He offered me to teach me how to do arts and crafts (bracelets, necklaces, etc.) to help sustaining a bit my trip, but also to go with him on the following morning to visit some poor families that he helps.
From Tuesday 27th November to 2nd December 2018
As I finally stayed several days in Tito’s house, I won’t describe my life day by day, even more as I stayed several hours doing bracelets and cooking!
The morning we went to visit the poor families was very enriching. Tito gives them a hand via a friend that works a centre of mental health in one of Ayacucho’s districts. We visited families suffering from various problems (alcoholism, domestic violence, diseases like schizophrenia, etc., all very poor).
The problems we met were not comparable to the level of South Africa but nonetheless touched me and made me think a lot. There’s definitely a lack of help from the government and real social difficulties that one can’t stay insensible to. There’s also to accept that one cannot help everybody when realizing this kind of actions, but that each action already means a lot for the concerned people.
Apart from that, we also went on my birthday to Colpa Waterfall, located around 1h from Ayacucho. A nice and peaceful place of nature (if there aren’t other noisy visitors) with beautiful views around the mountains around. And it looks like going to a waterfall becomes an obligatory ritual for my birthday, as I did the same one-year before in South Africa!
Finally, I learnt how to do bracelets and necklaces in macramé. This will be a nice task for the long waiting times and trips that occur when travelling, a nice gift to thank people that receive or help me during my trip, and a good way to help finance it a little bit; hoping that I will manage to sell them well. A new step of my trip is starting!
To be continued…
Bus Cuzco – Ayacucho: 39 soles in promotion (instead of 70 soles) with Megabus. Semi-cama bus, very comfortable. About 15h.
Colectivo Ayacucho – Huanta: 5 soles, about 1h
Colectivo Ayacucho – Colpa: 6 soles, about 1h
Hospedaje Chaska: 20 soles per night for a single room. Clean and well-located hostel (close to the mercado central) but expensive for this comfort. Cold shower, basic Wi-Fi.
Hospedaje André: 15 soles per night for a single room. The walls are very thin, one can hear everything. Quite rustic.
Entry to Wari archeological site of Wari: 3 soles, including the access to a small museum (one exhibition room) and the over all site (a huge place).