Peru’s Changing Landscapes and other misadventures


We were on Peru’s well trotted trail by now. Our brief time in Lima was spent wandering around the pretty metropolis (at least the rich parts), which is where we chose to perch our van for a sleepover and enjoy the view from the malacon. Lima is well known for its culinary delights, and we were excited to partake in this. However having paid 2 to 4 dollars for some of the best food since we left home (served as two course meals with a drink) it was hard to conceive that food would get much better with price. So somehow while we still planned on eating in some of the ‘not to miss places’, we found ourselves at a cafeteria providing food for automotive service folk working in the area.   Lima’s cuisine it appeared slipped right under us.

Trash and sand dunes, common features of the Peruvian desert

As we ventured down the coast the desert continued, barren as they come but changing shapes.  It took two days from Lima to reach the point from which we were to turn into the Andes once again, and then another two days over the Andeas to reach Cusco.  It was a nauseating ride as Astrid navigated the switchbacks, while at the same time we were trying to hydrate ourselves for the altitude.

Nature reserve
Every so often a few houses emerged from the sand


Drive into the Andes started with these mountains which eventually grew some life
Hiking the sand dunes

Most of our time was spent in Cusco. We parked above the city in a campground and explored from there. Wandering aimlessly, as we do best we explored the artsy neighbourhood of San Blais.








It was there that we hatched a plan to make it to Machu Picchu. However, this would take an alternate route and dog watchers.  Along with two other overlanding couples we set off on a 6 hour drive to the village of Santa Teresa. The drive took us through the Sacred Valley where we stopped at a few markets.

Market in Pisac
Some of Peru’s 4000 potatoe varieties


Ollantaytambo Market

The last hour of the drive followed a dirt road etched in high slopes, to arrive in Santa Teresa where we would leave our car. From there a taxi would take us another 40 minutes to a hydroelectric station from where we would walk along the train tracks for 3 hours until we reached Machu Picchu or Aqua Caliente (the village at its base).

Brett’s idea of squishing coins on the train tracks kept us entertained for a while




As our German friends Paula and Constantin took Ella, we went up to explore the holy mountain along with some 2500 other tourists.   It is hardly suprising to hear that Machu Picchu slides 1cm per month with this amount of traffic.  Not to mention the shoving of hordes of annoying people must keep the Inca’s spirits slightly distressed.









By the time we made it back along the train tracks to the car the next day, we were greeted with news of landildes which have made the dirt road we drove in on closed. Considering the rains were not stopping, finding a way out was better then waiting.


It was decided we would follow the dirt road for a while and then take a dirtier road over the mountain. This journey would take us past 3 landslides that we managed to drive through, a two hour detour across the mountain to avoid the fallen road lost in a landslide and three car pushing’s that inlcuded 5 to 8 people.  By night time we were back on pavement.

Happy to see pavement we decide to settle at the town center parking lot in front of the police station for a nights rest.

If the drive did not keep us on our toes there was always Ella to fall back on.

The following day as we made a short detour and let Ella out of the car to run behind us (as was her usual excercise regime during long driving days) we encountered a herd of sheep.

Ellas’s instinct kicked in and we watched as she hearded 50-70 sheep over the hills with a cloud of dust rising behind them. Then came the 5 dogs that ran after them and to follow the shepherd. We joined the scramble and ran as fast as our lungs would cary us at 3500 m. Brett won. We reached Ella to find out there was sheep missing. Together with the shepherd we looked for the missing sheep over the hills, in the valleys, through the bushes until finally Brett spoted the poor thing on a vertical cliff. How it got there is beyond me. The shepherd claimed this sheep was a goner, as it could not get back up. Considering we were no sheep experts we offered to pay for it. So after an hour and a half of sheep searching expedition and figuring out sheep prices, it seemed fair to cross shepherding off my bucket list as we made our way to the more familiar place of a mall’s food court for a pizza.

Hiking Peru (Cordillera Blanca)


Unlike the fine costal highway, the one leading into the Andes was far from what the GPS should be calling a highway.   The deserted dirt road cut along the river valley.  It was strangely beautiful and the ride was fun as we caravanned with our German friends Paula and Constantine. Neither of us expected the 260 km to take 10 hours, but when cookies are thrown in your lap from a passing car, no ride seems too long.

One of many tunnels
Paula and Constantine take the lead









Random fruit stands in the middle of the road




Unlike some pretty places we ‘ve stayed, this night’s stay did not qualify in that category. It did however have the ‘secure parking’ title going for it, but not much more than that. We arrived at sevenish and shortly after the gates were locked. Behind them a few families that lived there, what looked like a mechanic garage, chickens, quinine pigs, cats, dogs and a drunk guy making his way around the parking lot.


Huarez Parking Lot

The next day as we made our way to the Cordillera Blanca, there was an air of confidence as we drove to 3500m where we would make a home base (potentially from our veteran experience with altitude or more likely the’ best top 40’ that was blaring in the car). Here we would hike. This was the second highest mountain range next to the Himalayas, with over 20 peaks past 6000m high.

Car fort and preparations for rain







And we, or more correctly our dear pet was not allowed in. Dogs it seemed were strictly forbidden from partaking in the hikes. Needless, we hiked the outskirts peering through the crevices of these massive cliffs beyond which lay what Lonely Planet termed the ‘meca for worshipers of outdoor adventure’.

Hiking the glacier valley
Finally, a glacier sighting
Evening calm by the fire

Leaving camp; photo credit: Paula



Peru’s Northern Desert


Penniless (in local currency that is) and with a busted AC we were gunning it at 120 km/h in Peru’s Northern desert. The fastest we have gone since Mexico.  Our ear drums rattled as the strong winds shook the car and partially pealed the skin off of our faces, but at 37 degrees we were not about to close the windows. It seemed every half hour or so we were being pulled over for a police check, but unlike the corrupt bribe stories we were told to expect, these guys were friendly, with the last cop having us follow him out of town for a shortcut.  None the less these frequent stops extended our travel time past the expected arrival time.


Just before dusk we arrived in Chikama, the host to the largest left breaking wave.  The beach town was unlike those of Central America.  It was set in a desert, void of vegetation, including palm trees and lacking the screaming Tucan’s and other birds that insured everyone was up before dawn.  We were unsure whether the town was half destroyed or half built, but with the sand cliffs dropping off into the ocean it had character.

The wave (s) in all it’s glory, as observed from above
Early morning feeding time photo op

The water was also cold enough for everyone to be wearing wet suites, excluding one local kid and Brett.  After an hour and a half Brett still claimed the water was fine, while I questioned him, wearing long pants and a toque, wondering if he was numb and loosing his senses (not that I am the best reference point for temperature, but still).

DSC05825 DSC05845

From Chicama, we migrated 60 km down the coast to what would turn out to be a longer than expected stay, as we clung to the air’s summer feel, which was about to be lost once we moved again.