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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,269 days a wanderin'

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Rounding Out Happiness, Southern Peru

Sep 18, 2018
by John
in: Peru

Not everything is wonderful, only a fool would claim so. We have never had any trouble calling it how we see it, our sight is truly most of what we are. We do not suffer from the strains of absolute positivity, honesty is the serum of our souls. Knowing the truth, especially from those we value, means more than a blanket statement of awesomeness. Not everything is great, or happy, or worthy. That is impossible. Those unsatisfactory times are what makes those satisfactory even more so. Great is balanced by the marginal, wonderful by the dreadful, exceptional by disappointment. Two ends of one stone, both essential in contentment.

What We Did

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco

We were on the fence regarding Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca Mountain or Mountain of Seven Colors). The hike sounded hard and what we had been told about the crowds was disparaging at best. It still seemed like something we wanted to do, we figured the worst case would be some challenging exercise. Leaving Cusco, we spent a noisy night free camping in Pitumarca, then finished the drive to the new parking lot of the regular hike up Rainbow Mountain. We pulled in around 9:30, deciding to eat breakfast and let the last of the tour bus passengers start the trek up. The parking lot is at 4,512 meters (14,803 feet), the summit is over 5,000 meters, making for a slow slog. We started hiking at 10:15, reaching the summit around 1:00, taking just under 3 hours. Many tourists had to hire horses due to the high altitude and steep terrain, some being forced to or risk getting turned around without reaching the top.

It was a stunning hike, worth the visit and the 20S for the both of us ($6.04). The view of the surrounding area from the summit is quite special. There isn't clear information on how high the hike really is, we checked a couple apps on our phone which stated between 16,500 - 16, 700 feet, breaking 5,000 meters is good enough for us. Since we started our hike later than most, all the tours groups were heading down by 12:30, there were only about 10 of us remaining on top. We spent half an hour taking it all in and eating lunch. The hike down took less than two hours, it started to snow around 2:30. Not wanting to spend the night in the parking lot, we drove an hour to a free camp along the road next to a river and among eucalyptus trees located at a more comfortable altitude of 3,800 meters. We are so glad we didn't skip Rainbow Mountain, it's one of our favorites in Peru!

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

Three colors, almost there

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

So far, not so bad

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

Huffem and Puffem Pass

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

We must be color blind

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

At first we thought it was a bear

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

Just, Damn

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

I still love boobies

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

Our kind of eye test

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

There is no wonder

Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

Cold it is, shiver we must

Q'eswachaka, Canas

On our way to Colca Canyon, we decided to take a detour to see the free handwoven Incan bridge, Q'eswachaka. To our surprise it was quite crowded, the setting is very beautiful. We wandered down and around the area surrounding the bridge, taking a break from driving. The bridge is remade annually by the local residents in honor of Earth Mother, Pachamama. We're not sure it is worth the visit, but on a clear day the drive is stunning.

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

New stuff has no class

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

Hey, that's tied on with string

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

One hell of an art project

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

They had taste

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

Why do we always drive what sports cars envy?

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

Way better than a Windows screensaver

Q'eswachaka, Canas, Peru

I can't stop looking at that one little cloud

Colca Canyon

We decided to take the PE-34E to Chivay. Our National Geographic map listed the road as surfaced, it was a bumpy dirt and gravel track mostly used by mining operations. The changing landscape was mesmerizing but the three 4,700 meter passes made a slow drive even slower. We spent a free night next to a river in the trough between the second and third pass, reaching Chivay mid morning the following day. After grabbing a late breakfast in town, we drove through the free side of Colca Canyon before paying to access the section known for having Andean Condors. At 70S each, $42.30 for the both of us, it was rather expensive for what it is.

PE-34E, Peru

Not bad for a dirt road

PE-34E, Peru

I see where we got the idea for fortresses

PE-34E, Peru

Rock hard

PE-34E, Peru

What happened to all the water?

Colca Canyon, Peru

Not enough rocks to get level

Chivay, Colca Canyon, Peru

If it's going to be that kind of party...

Colca Canyon, Peru

It's kind of canyony

Colca Canyon, Peru

Not exactly how we remember it

Colca Canyon, Peru

Were they the mud dauber people?

We reached the Cruz del Condor, viewing point for the famed birds, close to 4:00 and decided to spend the night free camping in the parking lot. There was an unlocked bathroom, making it a prime spot, two additional rigs arrived later that evening. A local fox kept making the rounds checking for any scraps that might have been left behind by the day visitors. The following morning we walked up to the highest viewing area, meeting and talking to Declan & Rachel while we snapped photos of the condors and of an Andean hummingbird. By 9:00 the tour buses arrived so we all wandered back to the rigs, chatting over coffee (and tea) before setting off on our different ways through the park.

Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru

There is always a line, always

Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru

That's one good lookin baby mama

Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru

Sometimes the littlest speaks the loudest

Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru

Where are you flying off to?

Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru

Truth: Giant buzzard

Colca Canyon, Peru

No, we didn't drive that

Colca Canyon, Peru

Not as big as we were led to believe

After driving far enough down the highway to leave the actual canyon, we turned around and drove back through to the town of Yanque. We hiked to a bridge that had some funerary tombs beneath it, then visited the Yanque Museum located on the town square. It was a neat little museum, definitely worth the 7S each ($4.23 for the two of us). The kind man administering it told us it was fine to free camp on the town square for the night.

Yanque, Caylloma, Peru

Why does the sky seem angry?

Yanque, Caylloma, Peru

Never, drink it

Yanque, Caylloma, Peru

They all arose on the 31st of October

Yanque, Caylloma, Peru

For that price I expected something newer

Yanque, Caylloma, Peru

You know they called him light bulb head

At 6:30 in the morning the music started, we first thought it was a town announcement. Dazed and confused, we peeked outside to see what the commotion was about. To our amazement, the square was full of vendors and there was a group dancing around the fountain. We had somehow slept through everyone setting up for the morning activity. We hurriedly dressed and were soon among the melee snapping photos, taking videos, and eyeing the colorful merchandise. Of course we had to buy a few things. I picked up a new wallet and a sweater, Mandi found a new hat, we also bought a small colorful piece of fabric we are not sure what we are going to do with. Still half asleep, we wandered to a nearby coffee shop for some much needed caffeine. While we were driving out, just after 9:00, the entire square was almost empty. Everything was set up for the tour buses heading to the condor viewing area, once the buses left, the town returned to its simple sleepy self.

Yanque, Caylloma, Peru

Life of the party, Mr lamp shade hat

We decided to take the paved highway to Arequipa, giving the van a rest from the usually less than stellar Peruvian dirt roads. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to stop at a pull-off on a pass that turned out to be the highest paved pass in the Americas. Abra Patapampa Pass is located at 4,910 meters (16,109 feet), or so it said on the sign in the parking area. Still being in a spendy mood, we bought a bright yellow lap blanket and a sweater for Mandi from the sweet ladies who were set up at the viewpoint. It wasn't the clearest day, we snapped a couple photos anyway. A wonderful happenstance.

Abra Patapampa Pass, Caylloma, Peru

You keep puffing, but no passing

Arequipa

Our plan was to slip into Arequipa, accomplish a few chores, then head out after a couple of nights. We chose Las Mercedes since it had pretty much everything we were looking for. At 36S per night, 12S for each of us and 12S for the van, it wasn't cheap at $13.90. Nevertheless, we ran back into Declan & Rachel and became fast friends with a great German couple, Michaela & Peter. Our days were mostly spent hanging out or exploring town with our overland friends. We did manage to make it to Zig Zag for an early dinner, running into Michaela & Peter and making a night out of it. Dinner and drinks set us back $60, the portions were small, everything was delicious, and we'd do it again. Declan & Rachel found an American style restaurant, Pork & Bean, which was a real treat. The owners make and smoke their own meat, they also make breakfast sausage which can be purchased by the 5 pack for 10S (roughly $3). We had given up on breakfast sausage, even though Mandi had been talking about it for months, hopefully the ones we had will satisfy us until the end of our trip. After 6 nights we finally returned to the road, it was our friends and not the city that held us.

Arequipa, Peru

Service must have just let out

Arequipa, Peru

Much better view

Arequipa, Peru

Not really a friendly message

Zig Zag, Arequipa, Peru

Now that's a Pisco Sour

Sillustani, Lake Umayo

We had already driven through part of the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve on our way to Arequipa, seeing lots of vicunas, we expected similar on our way through a different section towards Puno. To our disappointment, trash littered the entire highway. Despite the signs encouraging those traveling through to not throw trash into the habitat, we witnessed items being discarded from the vehicles in front of us, it was disgusting. We did see a fair amount of vicunas, nothing photo worthy due to the garbage everywhere. Several times I thought I saw brightly colored birds, mistaking the plastic bags that were floating around in the sky. Maybe we should have driven the dirt track instead.

Reaching the funerary towers of Sillustani, we paid the entrance fee of 15S each ($9.06 in total), negotiated to visit the park the following day, parked for the night, and proceeded to be harassed by the museum administrator who wanted free stuff. He was nice, a smooth operator, we gave him a pen instead of batteries to finally get rid of him. The following morning we wandered the site then got extorted by the same administrator to visit the little onsite museum, we settled on what amounted to $1. We could have just walked off, which we eventually did after he tried to trade my pocket knife for "a gift", but we wanted to make sure things remain civil for those coming behind us. The camping in the lot was peaceful and free, why mess up a good thing. Even with the annoying bullshit, it's a neat little site and the coffee at Tunki Cafe was some of the best in Peru.

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

Obviously they had more money

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

Why isn't it all dry and crackly?

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

What is it about dead people?

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

For the white boys

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

Not named Chinese Hat

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

They must be starting bike tours soon

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

Minnie Pearl wants yo hat

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

Why am I still so thirsty?

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

You got lizzard, no skin

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

I guess his head is in the tower

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

Cracked pots are everywhere

Sillustani, Lake Umayo, Peru

I'm glad this is no longer in fashion

Lake Titicaca, Llachon

Another life long dream of mine has been to visit Lake Titicaca. I'm not really sure why, probably has something to do with the name (childish giggle). We were told to stay at Casa de Valentin, 15S per night ($4.53), because he arranges personal tours to the islands. While the camping was so-so, we had to park in the dusty driveway due to construction, it is a decent spot overlooking the lake (assuming one can ignore the sights and sounds of the work being performed). We had already made plans with Declan & Rachel to split the costs of the island tours, they arrived a few hours after we did. The following morning we met our guide/captain and set off for Taquile. Instead of the usual stairs heading straight up the island, we hiked around the island, occasionally stopping to catch our breath and learn about the flora. We had a great time, lunch was underwhelming, and Mandi picked up another hat that she can keep in her backpack. All in it cost us 70S per couple for our private guide/ride and an 8S island fee per person, about $25 for the tour for both of us. Lunch was extra, we'd skip it and just bring snacks.

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Washy washy washy, new blue Cheer

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Someone's still in the dark

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Nice ripples

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Instead of drinking beer they just chew coca leaves all day

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

We're not drinking out of that

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

If we only had a bigger vehicle

Taquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Thanks for charging us for your photo bomb

The following day we met our captain again and set off to visit the floating reed islands of Uros. The making and maintenance of the islands are fascinating, the tour is more of a tourist trap. Instead of buying any of the items for sale, we all opted to take a ride on one of the reed boats for 10S per person ($6.04 for the two of us). Our private tour was 55S per couple, adding in our reed boat excursion brings the total to 75S for the two of us ($22.66). Declan & Rachel decided to head out after the tour, we took warm showers and relaxed the rest of the day spending a third night at Valentin's place. Knowing what we do now, we'd probably skip Uros and only visit Taquile or take a 10S tour from Puno.

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Fortunately big bad wolves can't swim

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Banana we happy

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Peru

That sums it up nicely

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Goofy sumbitch

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Of course we made the woman do all of the work

Uros, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Little Bo Uro

Lake Titicaca, Chuicuito

Instead of staying longer at Casa de Valentin, we moved around Lake Titicaca to Chuicuito, just past Puno. Our time in Peru was coming to an end, we wanted to be close to the border for an early crossing. We chose Las Cabanas as our last stop. At 20S per night, $6.04, it was a reasonable deal to get ourselves and the van ready for Bolivia. Shortly after arriving in town we ran into Ryan & Camille, ending the night both parked at Las Cabanas sharing wine. We both were performing chores, taking an afternoon to grab lunch and to tour Inka Uyu...also known as the temple of dicks. It was a strange little site, possibly an ancient fertility temple, no one really knows for sure. We had a good time being goofy with the penis shaped stones, as did everyone else there. Ryan & Camille left after a couple nights, they are northbound, we ended up staying a total of four. Our original plan changed after Declan & Rachel informed us about a 4 day festival happening in the neighboring border town. Spending a little more time in Peru was easy, especially parked in a nice quiet spot with a hot shower. After 127 days, it was time to say goodbye.

Inka Uyu, Chuicuito, Peru

Must have belonged to the chief

Inka Uyu, Chuicuito, Peru

Everyone is giddy around a big hard dick


Say what? (2)
Sep 18, 2018 at 12:08 PM
And WHY exactly did you give up on breakfast sausage? I never thought I'd hear the day! Looks like an amazing country. lol.. we WILL get there one of these days!
Sep 26, 2018 at 02:03 PM
The breakfast sausage we have been finding has been way too disappointing. You will and you will love it. Peru is very diverse, beautiful, and the Peruvian people are wonderful.
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