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Perils in Peru 2 - News - bespk

Perils in Peru 2

Posted on Sunday, 17th February 2013 by Eunice

As we near Lima the traffic density increases; mainly buses that race each other to the next stop, which then screech to a halt on the main carriageway regardless of other traffic.  There are endless roadside car wash facilities and one can see why; as our car is filthy.  The road widens and heads through large industrial areas.  The density of traffic increases again and the driving just gets worse.  It seems there is no need for traffic lanes here.  If you can fit five cars abreast in an area designated for three lanes; that is perfect.  If the car in the left hand lane decides to turn right that is what they will do.  Indicators have no purpose and the horn rules.  "If you do not want to get hit; stay out of my way!” 

We got pushed, shoved, driven at and somehow Guy managed to swerve around it all.  Then there was the kind man in his 4 wheel drive vehicle, anxious for our safety and passed Eunice a note saying "mind your bags!".  As we had been travelling with our air conditioning system on full (the back of the hood rolled up), these were felt to be vulnerable. 

Despite having a detailed map we are soon lost. We needed to take a turn across the bridge and ended up in an area that it may not have been wise to venture into.  However with the bags now more secure, we head towards the city centre.  A roadside stop attracts a large crowd very quickly.  Lots of photos, but a kindly lady is able to tell us where we are on the map and we set off again.  It is now rush hour; the traffic lights do not work, so there are policepersons with whistles trying  (to little avail) to control the frustrated drivers.  Tempers are becoming frayed and the antics of several drivers give Guy an opportunity to vent his feelings.  Eventually we are on the right route and thanks to earlier plotting on the iPad manage to reach our destination, in the quieter area of Miraflores.  It is now the last day in January and a good time to stop.

We stayed in a small boutique hotel HaucaWasi in a back street within five minutes of the Hauaca adobe ruins.  The house has been recently converted into a hotel and was previously the family home of Roberto, who now runs it.  There are only five rooms so this ensures it is the ideal place for peace and tranquillity.  The area is very pleasant and secure.  The police here patrol on Segways and very quiet motor bikes.  It is a ten block walk to the magnificent Malachon that stretches along coast at the top of the cliffs.  If you are feeling brave you can make a parachute jump from a park at the top.  We both felt we had had enough near death experiences recently so passed on the opportunity We found some very good places to eat. During the three days we were here Guy serviced the car and we took time to relax, catch up on ‘administration chores’ before heading south.

We decided to head out of Lima on Sunday 3rd of February as there might just be less traffic.  We had not taken into consideration that we were heading towards the seaside resorts of Lima and everyone was heading that way!  The toll booths are now active and you have to pay to use the highway; but this does not reduce the traffic density as there are no other routes to take.  There is a veritable seaside supermarket selling beach paraphernalia and clothing under brightly coloured umbrellas by each toll booth and in all the suburban towns.  There are many large seaside camps with water parks on the right hand side of the road; suddenly the road is deserted, with only the occasional bus that seems to overtake us frequently.

Having driven over 150 miles, we do not see anywhere suitable to stop on the Pan Am highway, so decide to turn right towards Paracas, a small peninsula jutting out into the Pacific. It is renowned for its wildlife; flamingos, seals, pelicans and natural rock formations.  After a long drive down a straight empty road we reach the town. We have an unwritten rule; not to stop at the first hotel you find as you enter a place. But not sticking to the rule pulled into the El Mirador Hotel, just off the cross roads. Our idea that being a peninsula it would be quiet was completely wrong, as this is the main road to Pisco and semi-trucks rumbled along it all night.  The hotel was basic, clean and provided good hot showers. We had a really lovely meal of sea bass.  As we arrived on Sunday afternoon there was a party atmosphere, with many local families enjoying the poolside restaurant to the accompaniment of live music.  We awoke the following morning to the overwhelming stench of raw sewage carried on the wind.    Extremely unpleasant and a good reason for an early start.

This was our eighth day of driving in the desert and it is tedious.  The scenery each day is the same; although the colours of the desert change.  The vistas are very dramatic at times, particularly where a deep river gorge cuts through the desert.  Also the types of cultivation change with the regions.  We climb more foothills of the Andes and arrive in the wine growing area of Ica.  This is a mixture of a chaotic Napa valley and Tequila with many wineries selling their wares alongside the road which host vast advertising hoardings..

It was whilst negotiating the Rio Grande and its incredible steep hairpin bends that we heard a 'ping', from the engine and the car started to become very hot as we descended into the town of Palpa.   Pulling over onto the side of the road attracted the usual crowd.  Guy was unhappy about continuing further and felt we needed to change the distributor.  Fortunately there was a petrol station 50 yards up the road where we were allowed to park up and strip down the car without too much sand and grime.  Very important; we have to empty all the contents from the back to find the spares to undertake the repairs.

Many interested people stop by to have a look.  We are given mangoes by two kindly men who watch for some time and would like to help. This is not an option as Guy is very focused. To keep Eunice occupied she is dispatched in a tuk tuk taxi to purchase grease.  After a slightly worrying time of being driven off into the back streets to find one shop closed, she re-emerges onto the main road where the dealer provides red or blue grease.  Both are purchased with a receipt and after consultation with Guy the red returned and monies refunded.  A very happy taxi man receives a S5- (about $2) for all his trouble. In just under two hours the distributor was replaced with a spare.  Restarting the car we notice a noise in the alternator idler pulley.  The bearings have shattered.  Fortunately in true Blue Peter fashion, Guy produces one he has made earlier and after rapidly reassembling the car we are back on our way.

The weather closes in and as we drive across the Nazca plain, all seems very grey.  There is rain in the distance, almost unheard of in this part of the world.  We had researched a hotel in the town, but despite our best efforts missed it completely. Only to find an even better one, Hotel Mojoro 1.8 kilometres down a dirt track.  After the previous night this seemed very sensible.  The hotel itself is shielded behind high walls and initially we thought it was closed, but a knock on the gates revealed a real oasis of lush green, mango trees overladen with fruit, an amazing collection of very early native Nazca artefacts and sculptures.  There is an artisan gallery run by a lovely man named Victor, who helped Guy replace five broken spokes that he found whilst looking over the car later in the day.  He and ten members of his family; living up in the Andes, make the incredible fabrics and other articles that they take it in turns to sell from this outlet.

We meet a delightful Dutch couple and their driver, at dinner, who invite us to join them and share a bottle of wine.  They have been visiting the area for several years as they have a son who is cultivating the desert.  We learn lots about the ancient Incas and Nazca people's traditions; the finding and maintenance of the Nazca lines.  A really very interesting evening. 

During the evening and overnight it rains heavily and many of the guest rooms are flooded as the roofs are only made of woven reed. Rain is extremely unusual here.  We are woken to the sounds of mopping up and everything looks washed and refreshed.  As we drive back to the main road we notice the cacti are greener and swollen, many with emerging flower buds.  You have to act fast if you are a desert plant!

We head towards the town of Chala; one of the few places to stop overnight.  Our route takes us alongside the coast, stretches of impeccable beach that go on for miles.  The small towns we have passed through south of Lima seem much better ordered and maintained. Many of them have squares for communal gatherings.  There is also less rubbish than we had previously seen.  We climb up and down along the cliff tops, or mountainside, for here the Andes comes right down to the ocean.  Where there are river gorges the roads twist down and up again.  Fortunately there is not too much traffic and driving seems to be less reckless, but to negotiate the tight hair pin bends the large trucks have to pull over to the opposite side of the road.  Ironically, whilst driving on a dead straight road along a plateau we come across our first fatal accident between a truck and a minibus.  Both of us are rather shaken up by the site of dead bodies alongside the road. 

As we drive towards the town of Chala the Hotel Puerto Inca is signposted off to the right.  We took the dirt road and headed down the twisty challenging road 2.8 kilometres towards the coast.  The hotel has a beautiful setting, in a small cove with a deep sandy beach.  We had a room overlooking the beach and sea, which was basic and adequate. The shower produced warm and salty water which left one feeling slightly sticky; but any wetness is very welcome.  The food was good and plentiful.  Behind the accommodation are the ruins of an Inca Port.  In the evening we sat and watched the campfires further down the beach.  In the morning we had the challenge of getting the car back to the main road, but fortunately since its last repair it has been running much better and took the challenge of the hill climb in its stride.  The valleys are filled with lush greenness, olive trees, rice and fruit trees.  After the rain the rivers flow rapidly carrying a large amount of debris with them.  We noticed leaving Nazca a large amount of police with riot shields and this seemed a recurring feature as we journeyed south.  We wondered what was going on and although the car has caused quite a sensation where we have stopped; decided it was nothing to do with us.

From here the road hugs the mountainside and coast, rising and falling with the gradient, there are steep, mainly, unprotected drops to the coast.  It is best not to look down at times.  You hope and pray that the oncoming traffic is on its side of the road; for there is nowhere to go.  Where the gradient is too steep there are tunnels to take you through the mountain, at the entrance to one, down a dip, we encounter a large boulder in the middle of the road.  Could have done some nasty damage.  We arrive in the town of Camana in the early afternoon and find a room at the Hotel de la Tourista, set in the centre of town, but with secure parking and reasonable rooms.  Ironically the bar here is called the English Bar.  We are both desert weary and now just grateful to have somewhere to lie down and sleep.  Although we have not driven vast distances over the last few days, the monotony is exhausting.   We have now driven 14,000 miles since leaving Baltimore - no wonder it seems like the journey has gone on forever.

In the morning Guy discovers a puncture in one of the wheels. After breakfast we head off to the local lantara (tyre man) to get it fixed before continuing on our journey to Arequipa.  The man in the tyre repair shop is wonderful, discovers a faulty valve and replaces it; all for S5 ($2).  And we are soon back on the road again. We are heading inland and climbing steeply from sea level to 8,550 feet.  The car gets hotter and hotter as we climb, the petrol pump working hard.   In between long uphill stretches, the bends get steeper and sharper at one point making a descent onto what appears to be a flat plateau, with a deep river gorge running through it.  The traffic in Arequipa is very busy and as scary as ever.  We find our hotel in the old part of the city, which is in a relatively quiet area and surrounded by beautiful parks, containing llamas and alpaca.  We are here for a rest and to await the arrival of some much needed replacement spokes from the UK.

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