July 18th, 2008

An Adventure in Huancayo

One of the advantages of being a part-time worker is that I (Kathleen) have 4 day weekends every week. Last weekend I capitalized on that advantage by leaving by dear beloved husband to fend for himself and headed up to the mountains with some embassy friends to visit the town of Huancayo. One of the draws for this particular trip was the opportunity to go by train on what is either the highest or second highest railway in the world (the guide books differ on this point – some giving credit to the Tibetans for having a higher railway). In our excitement to experience this fun and adventure we apparently did not take into account how long a 13 hour train ride can be – but I guess that is what made it an adventure.

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As with most trips out of Lima we left at a very early hour but had an opportunity to nap on the way - say hello to Mindy and Peter:

We had opted for the economy seating on the way up to Huancayo so that we could visit and play board games. The sleeping wasn't as comfortable but we did enjoy a marathon Trivial Pursuit game.

En route we had a few stops and some pretty good scenery watching:

including a stop at the highest (or second highest)railway station in the world at 15,681 feet:

Huancayo is the capital of the province of Junin and the commercial center of the region. It is not the most charming city that we have visited but does have reasonably good dining, a pleasant Plaza de Armas with the standard mix of the cathedral, hotels and restaurants on the four sides and plenty of civic activities and festivals.

The city is known for its Sunday market when vendors of food, artesania, and cheesy imported goods set up their stalls and draw quite a crowd. We attended the market but also went out to visit local makers of fabric and jewelry products.

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We also checked out the jewelry making process -

definitely a non-OSHA approved process but one that produces fabulously detailed silver product.

Most of our time - after some serious shopping at wonderfully low prices - was spent exploring the Mantaro Valley and enjoying blue skies, lovely scenery and the river views.
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And no day trip would be complete without a stop for lunch at a charming riverside restaurant

and of course the cuy selection on the menu (guinea pig)

Our final stop was a visit to the Franciscan convent of Ocapa. Unfortunately we could not take photos inside - the art is terrific, especially the recently painted chapel with murals of the Franciscan history in the area. I definitely recommend a stop here if your travels take you the Huancayo area.