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John and Mandi

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Never Pass on the Right, Central to Southern Peru

Aug 31, 2018
by John
in: Peru

It finally happened, we were in an accident. The drivers in Peru are definitely the worst we have ever encountered. The disregard of the most basic rules has been the largest problem. Lanes...those must be for idiots. Hairpins present the most obvious place to pass, silly gringos. Wild abandon must be the required code, no wonder so many vehicles fly off the road. The small single lane two way traffic roads aren't why so many routes in Peru are considered some of the most dangerous in the world, it's the insanity of the drivers. Too many times have I had to slam on the brakes to avoid a head on collision while going into a turn, the drifting Peruvian channeling their inner Dominic Toretto.

Fortunately, our collision wasn't that bad. While slowing and signaling a right turn, a huge double trailer Scania was deep up our ass, a two up motorcycle decided to try and pass both of us on the dirt shoulder. Since defensive driving is the only path to survival, I was making the turn really slow to prevent the Scania from crinkling us into a tiny ball. Horn, squealing brakes, and crunch...the motorcycle had hit us on our passenger side. Everyone was mostly OK, the motorcycle driver had a scrape on one of his shins. Our fender flare was ripped off, our rim deeply scratched, and our fog light cracked...all on the passenger side. The motorcycle was missing a bunch of small parts and wouldn't start. We helped the two guys bend most of the bike back in shape and got them started. They hugged us, the universal sign of "let's please call this even and both just walk away", which we graciously embraced. Why test the supposed "gringo is always wrong" rule? We are just happy that everyone could actually walk away. Our one rim is probably worth more than their entire bike, our lives are unequivocally equal.

What We Did

Huayllay, Bosque de Piedras, Pasco

A two day drive from Caraz, we spent one night free camping next to a river just outside La Union before reaching the rock forest. It was raining when we arrived and the entrance gate appeared closed so we decided to visit the park the following day, being allowed to overnight for free next to a tourist information office. We awoke to rain but knew we could drive through the park, making our way back to the gate that still appeared closed. A really nice official ambled over from a nearby house, charged us the 5S ($1.53), then unlocked the gate to let us in. We spent a few hours driving and hiking a little within the park. While it is similar to Hatun Machay, it is much larger...almost endless in size. Mandi had read about some free climbing but the weather wasn't cooperating, we never drove to the area to scope it out. The park has scattered pit toilets, really just holes in the ground with rudimentary shelters, so we probably could have camped in the park if we would have checked at the gate first.

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

Of course it was raining

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

But there aren't any elephants in South America

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

Which person looking rock are we supposed to turn at?

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

I bet the van would look great in Africa

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

Where's orange fat head?

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

Llamma llama ding dong

Bosque de Piedras, Pasco, Peru

Where's Larry and Moe?

Nor Yauyos-Cochas Reserve, Junin

On our way to Yauyos-Cochas, we spent a free night at an overlook on Lake Junin (Chinchaycocha). It is the second largest lake in Peru, the largest lake entirely located within the country, but we were a little underwhelmed...most likely due to the constant rain. We think that the view of the mountains across from the lake is probably very beautiful on a clear day. The lake is located at 4,082 meters, 13,395 feet, making for a reasonably cold night. It was neat to watch the flamingos at that elevation, we always assumed they only lived in the tropics.

The following morning we made our way to the Nor Yauyos-Cochas Reserve, getting a lucky break with the weather as we drove through the park (east to west). It's one of the most memorable drives to date, a great recommendation from both Marcus & Julie and Craig & Michelle. The reserve is quite beautiful, containing some really nice single track, with sections of land that are obviously still being farmed in the traditional way. During the beginning of our drive we came upon one cattle truck leaving the park, never seeing another vehicle until reaching the outskirts of Huancaya. The only other people were the few herders off in the distance. We never needed 4wd but were glad to have good ground clearance. The cascades on the west side are very beautiful, what most tend to visit, we ended up free camping next to them in a nice gravel parking area.

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

You're just jealous

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

Pretty damn spectacular

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

No people, no trash, no problems

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

Bliss ass freaky rock

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

What a drive

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

It's starting to rain, we don't care

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

Might be able to drink that

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

Nicely done nature, nicely done

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

Veins of life

Yauyos-Cochas, Junin, Peru

This, is awesome

The drive from Huancaya to the coast is along one of the most beautiful stretches of land in Peru, in our opinion. With sections of river suitable for kayaking and pretty decent rock, we were in constant conversation about having a place there one day. It was so breathtaking we pulled over to make bacon and eggs alongside the river, taking a little more time to enjoy the landscape. This little section of Peru is deep within our hearts.

Rio Canete, Lima, Peru

Can we have it, pretty please?

Rio Canete, Lima, Peru

Bacon, eggs, and breathtaking

Rio Canete, Lima, Peru

Shut up already

Paracas, Ica

What should have been one day of driving became two. We hit road construction that delayed us for quite a bit. Unlike the US, in Peru, entire roads are closed for most of the daylight hours for road work. Instead of closing one lane at a time, 3-5 kilometer sections are closed to work on both sides simultaneously. We just happened to hit the road work on the day it began, there was no chance of avoiding it since no one had known about it. Our available detour would have been over 400 kilometers so we settled in by making lunch. A couple hours later, instead of the expected 5, the road was briefly reopened to allow traffic to pass. We attribute our luck to the police truck that needed to get through. Due to our delay, we ended up spending one night at Camping San Jeronimo for 30S ($9.17) before reaching the coast.

Our plan was to spend some time around the town of Paracas, instead, we supplied up and drove into Paracas National Reserve (22S or $6.73 for the two of us). It's a desert located on the coast, so while not exactly our thing, it was not cringe-worthy like we presumed. We spent a free night camped overlooking Playa Raspon all alone in a really nice paved parking area. It was nice being perfectly level. We wandered the beach all alone the following morning then spent a few hours driving around the park. Mandi might not be sold, I didn't mind it so much...it was the off season so we were mostly alone which was nice.

Paracas, Ica, Peru

More coastal smog

Paracas, Ica, Peru

Did we buy water?

Paracas, Ica, Peru

It's not too too bad

Paracas, Ica, Peru

Getting somewhere

Paracas, Ica, Peru

If they can survive here so could we

Paracas, Ica, Peru

Just don't touch it

Paracas, Ica, Peru

If it was warmer there would be a billion people here

Chauchilla Cemetery, Ica

On our way to Nazca we stopped at the infamous Huacachina Oasis. It was definitely not our thing but we needed a hot shower and some WiFi to do a little more research, choosing Ecocamp Huacachina as our basecamp at 50S ($15.28) per night. After two nights we left, regardless of unaccomplished chores, it's just too much of a tourist trap. Arriving in Nazca we could see that visibility wasn't great so we decided to visit the Chauchilla Cemetery and put off the lines for the following day. Even though the burial sites are staged, grave robbers had scattered the remains all over the area, it is a really neat place that is definitely worth the visit. The preserved, exceptionally long, dread locked hair was crazy, not portrayed properly in our photos. At 16S for the both of us ($4.89), it was a steal and they let us overnight there for no additional cost. We weren't sure we were going to stay but an afternoon sand storm was starting just as we had finished exploring the site. That night was dead quiet.

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

Someone used teeth whitener

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

This Roger doesn't look so jolly

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

If they walk like they drive, this place hasn't got a chance

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

We thought 3 was a crowd

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

We're happy about your hair too

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

Can we borrow this for halloween?

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

Big head and a little hole

Chauchilla, Ica, Peru

What's with the effing cats?

Palpa and Nazca Lines, Ica

We had dropped by a couple towers to get a glimpse of the famous lines, 2-3S per person ($3.06 in total), realizing that there was a reason the flights were popular. While the Palpa lines are on hillsides, making viewing quite easy, the Nazca lines are not. What makes the Nazca lines a mystery is there are no mountains around that makes viewing them even possible. Still, the towers would probably be sufficient for anyone not enthused by the lines.

Palpa Lines, Ica, Peru

Liney happy people

Palpa Lines, Ica, Peru

I think he has an idea

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

That hand puppet has it's own hands!

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Hey, that tree has tail feathers

I have always wanted to see the lines, Mandi couldn't care less, but we arrived early at the little airport to secure a deal. Soon we realized the area was celebrating a four day weekend, it was Saturday, making great deals impossible unless we waited for three days. Factoring the costs of three additional days, we said screw it, and grabbed the best deal on hand. All in, including the municipal fee, it cost us $220.18 to fly over the lines ($110.09 per person). That's probably the worst deal out of everyone we know, what could we do. Three hours later we were bobbing about in the air trying to keep our breakfast down. I enjoyed it, even though I was a little queasy, Mandi hated it and ended up getting sick. We were seated by weight, putting me up front and her in the back, leaving her alone to be cared for by the sweet Chinese ladies near her. For anyone wondering, the airsickness bags are not the familiar paper ones...they are clear plastic bags enabling perfect viewing of their contents. Our plan to head back into the mountains was scrapped to get Mandi to a place she could recover, ending up at Wassipunko for a night (50S or $15.29 for the two of us). The right turn onto the access road is where our little mishap with the motorcycle occurred, Mandi was so enthralled.

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

It's going to be one whale of a time

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Flight 43, you're cleared for landing

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Shazbot

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

That monkey is in the middle

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Far superior to man

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

That bird is stuck to the landing

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

They called it heebie jeebie

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Getting close to barf thirty

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Mr Squiggles

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Yup, a bunch of lines drawn in the sand

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Who the hell knows?

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Kamakazi ant fighter person thing?

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Cool design for a bottle opener

Nazca Lines, Ica, Peru

Much more discernible from up here

Saihuite, Apurimac

Leaving Nazca had us making the climb back into the Andes, passing through the Pampas Galeras National Reserve. It is known for Vicunas, we stopped at the visitor center to tour the little onsite museum then wander to a nearby pen that contained a baby vicuna. We failed to take a picture but the baby was super cute. Again, the drive was long, we free camped alongside a river near Promesa for a night before reaching the little archeological site of Saihuite (10S per person or $6.12 for the two of us). It is known for an extensively carved stone, Piedra Labrad, but the real impressive part of the site is the Ruma Huasi stone down the path behind the main ruin. The seats and steps carved into it had us imagining ceremonies and such. Stones with carved steps are all throughout the sacred valley, nothing was as remarkable as the ones at Saihuite.

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

Back in the Andes, now where's the candies?

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

It says a lot

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

That is hard to misunderstand

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

Two monkeys don't make a right

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

Not its best side

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

They had more of a 33 step program

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

The gods have spoken

Saihuite, Apurimac, Peru

Square hole, round peg

Laguna Humantay, Cusco

Wanting to get in some more hiking, we drove to the parking lot for Laguna Humantay after visiting Saihuite. We were stopped in a nearby town to pay a 10S per person municipal fee, $6.12 for the two of us, the overnight parking and hike were free. Starting the hike at 7:40AM, before the tour buses arrived, we reached the lake right around 9:00. A recent entry in iOverlander by our friends Steffi & Daniel stated the best time at the lake was between 9 and 10 for lighting and no crowds. While we were arriving a couple that camped at the lake was leaving, making us the only ones for almost an hour. It was a tough 1 hour hike almost straight up to 4,250 meters, a relatively easy hike down. Altitude compounds the difficulty. During our return hike we passed hundreds of visitors, Steffi & Daniel were spot on.

Laguna Humantay, Cusco, Peru

Are we hiking up there?

Laguna Humantay, Cusco, Peru

It's not claritin clear

Laguna Humantay, Cusco, Peru

It has a pretty backside

Laguna Humantay, Cusco, Peru

You reflect, I need a break

Tarahuasi, Cusco

Knowing that the elevation in Cusco was well above the recommended usage for spinning hard drives, we stopped at the ruins of Tarahuasi. Not the most spectacular ruins but a great spot to spend the night and get a bunch of administrative things accomplished. Camping is free as long as we visited the site, the 20S ($6.12 for the two of us) was a great deal considering we wouldn't be under 10,000 feet for a while. Solid state hard drives are a non-issue, spinning hard drives can be damaged at altitudes over 10,000 feet. Most of us have libraries that are too large for our internal drives so we rely on spinning external drives. One day solid state external drives will be affordable, right now large enough ones are almost a grand. It's one of the reasons we have not been updating our blog as frequently as we prefer. It's crazy to think about how much time we have spent well above 10,000 feet. The drive from Nazca to Cusco is usually two days, we took four to explore a little more.

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

Quite the display case

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

Illuminati was here

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

Bubble butt

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

Of course the Spanish built on top of it

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

Look at which one lasted the longest

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

Christians deface everything

Tarahuasi, Cusco, Peru

For some reason we couldn't park on top of it


Say what? (2)
Srikanth
Sep 4, 2018 at 12:46 PM
Wow. Peru looks very beautiful in your pictures. Amazing landscapes.

Sorry to hear about the accident. But good to know that everyone is safe.
Sep 9, 2018 at 04:26 PM
Thanks Sri!

Peru is very beautiful and has been an easy country to travel in. Hope all is well with you.
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