Our bodies jolted as we bumped along the steep, rock-strewn, pot-holed, muddy track. We thought we’d seen bad roads in Bolivia, but this was something else. Occasionally we’d stop to pick up a hitch hiker – usually a local Quechua woman in long plaits; a tall, beautifully embroidered hat; bright layered polleras (skirts) and bearing the heavy weight of her manta: a colourful, intricately woven shawl, usually used to carry babies, small animals or all manner of produce.
As we bounce through this rural Andean community we pass simple adobe huts; men working in the fields using the ancient method of bull and plow; donkeys, sheep, chickens and goats; and people washing everything from clothes to hair to chickens in the roadside waterways.
When we arrive at Lazy Dog Inn we enter the 21st century again. We were treating ourselves for Simon’s 30th to a stay in this luxurious eco-lodge in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. Huaraz is the traveller hub for hikers and climbers to plan their trips up to one of 20 peaks over 6000m high in this area. The town itself isn’t very attractive so we were drawn to the idea of staying up in the mountains with easy access to walks. Lazy Dog Inn is 10km above Huaraz at 3600m in a rural area with 360 degree mountain views including the glaciers behind.
The lodge has been constructed in an eco-friendly manner from adobe, and was hand built by the local community, providing much needed employment opportunities. They use composting toilets and produce zero sewage. All the staff are from the area and the Canadian owners have set up an NGO Andean Alliance to support the development of the community.
We planned on staying four nights at Lazy Dog but ended up staying for nearly three weeks. Simon was offered the opportunity to build a website for their NGO on a voluntary basis, and as we had fallen for the lodge and the area we stayed on.
There are just two cabins and three rooms in the main house, so there’s always a friendly, family-like atmosphere. We stayed in one of the colourful, bright cabins at first, and loved it. You have lots of privacy and space, mountain views, a terrace, fireplace, sofa, desk, comfy bed and big bathroom with bathtub. All the rooms have skylights letting in lots of light and you can lie in bed at night and look at the stars. Amazingly there is good wifi everywhere.
When we started volunteering we moved to the Cashan suite inside the main house which has all the features of the cabin but a little less privacy.
Meals are served communally in the main house and give you a chance to meet the interesting mix of guests. The wonderful food is home made, with much of the produce coming from their garden. Breakfast is fruit salad, pancakes or eggs, juice and coffee. Lunch is usually soup and toasted sandwiches, or a packed lunch if you are out on a walk. The three course dinner includes soup; inventive, international mains using lots of vegetables (vegetarians have no problems here) and tasty cake. There is filtered water too so you don’t need to waste plastic.
Most people come for hiking and there are lots of options, although to get to many of the glacier lakes it’s at least 6-7 hours walking. Mountain and rock climbers have plenty of peaks to choose from. We did a relatively easy walk up the Quebrada Cojup and went horse riding on the lovely, smooth Peruvian paso horses.
Lazy Dog is a wonderful place to relax – sit in the sun, read by the fire or use the sauna. There’s a spacious living room with a big fireplace, comfy couches and plenty of excellent books to borrow (it’s not often you find this in South America).
Diana the owner is happy to involve you in the local community too. You can visit the school or like we did go along on random trips. We jumped in the truck with her to pick up sawdust from a remote carpenter’s workshop. It was a insight into how Andean communities live.
We were also lucky enough to attend the inauguration of the new school and community centre. We had never seen such huge vats of soup and potatoes.
Luckily we didn’t have to witness the cuy (guinea pig) genocide but we did see the aftermath of 50 crispy bodies. It wasn’t a vegetarian friendly feast but we did enjoy the traditional music and the chaotic sight of four year olds trying to dance in unition. It isn’t often that you get to attend community events like this.
All prices include breakfast and dinner and range from 180 – 270 soles (US$64 – 95) per couple depending on the room. There’s a 10% discount in the off-season. You can book at the Lazy Dog Inn website.
A taxi from Huaraz costs 40 soles (US$14) and takes 40 mins – 1 hour along a very rough, steep mud track. When you aren’t loaded down by luggage you can take a colectivo (shared taxi) for 1 sole ($0.35) to the nearest village Marian and then it’s a steep uphill walk for an hour to get to Lazy Dog. It is an interesting walk though, passing traditionally dressed locals, simple abobe homes, and farmers herding donkeys, goats and sheep.