After several days of buses, we arrived in Puria, Peru, and then passed
on quickly to Trujillo. Trujillo was a nice city, with one of those fantastic
central squares I usually associate with Mexico. By the time we got there,
Robyn and I had picked up a travel companion by the name of Peter. Peter
is English and had recently lost his job in a Coke employee reduction.
Peter traveled with us for about a week and we are now experts in the
soft drink industry. Particularly as it relates to marketing in the 3rd
world, as Peter had been working mostly in Russia, Ethiopia, Slovakia,
From Trujillo, we took a couple days worth of buses down along the Pacific,
and then turned straight up and into the Andes. The last day of travel
consisted of a day in a small decrepit bus, on a one lane dirt road through
a very steep and narrow canyon, traveling up, up, up....
At approximately 10,000 feet we got our first hint that the brakes were
not as adequate as one would like given the conditions of the winding,
one lane, dirt road! In retrospect, we think that we may have had a break
fluid leak, because they seemed to work a bit at first. Anyways, after
a few hours it became apparent that they were failing when the bus conductor
periodically had to jump out of the bus and put a big rock behind a wheel
to stop us from rolling backwards. We realized the situation had grown
quite serious when finally one of the rocks failed to stop the bus and
we started gathering speed, backwards, down the said road, along a thousand
foot drop off, past crosses on the side of the road which mark the spot
of other mechanical failures.
Choosing between the drop off and the cliff, the bus driver backed squarely
into the cliff, where we remained until everyone dis-embarked and helped
push the bus out. Given the non-existent traffic density, the high altitude,
and our remote location, we decided we had no choice but to continue.
For the next hour we had to roll through several more hazardous situations,
where the most we could do was scream at cows, cars, and construction
equipment to get out of the way because we had no brakes (the horn didn't
work either!). We got off at the next town and found alternative transportation.
I have never seen a bus driver perspire so much!
Arriving finally in Huarez, we were stunned by the ´Cadero Blanco´, as
that part of the Andes are called. The town is surrounded by snow capped
peaks of 20,000+ feet, one of which is supposed to be the most beautiful
in the world (although I´m still faithful to the Matterhorn).
It appears that in Huarez the altitude (10,000 feet) has perhaps affected
the stability of the locals, or maybe it´s the water (?). The first hotel
we stayed at featured an extremely old and eccentric Chinese proprietor
who took an hour to get us into our hotel room, all the time giggling
while demonstrating to us things not to do in the hotel. For example,
he laid down on Peter's bed and showed him how NOT to kick the wall. He
stood up and showed him how NOT to spit on the floor. In our search for
a hotel the next day, we found one empty hotel (ala ´The Shining´) that
featured a hysterically giggling female proprietor who held her hand under
arctic shower water proclaiming 'muy caliente! muy caliente!´(very hot!).
From Huarez, we set out on a 4 day hike that was characterized by failing
rented equipment, sub freezing nighttime temperatures and unbelievable
views and terrain. The 2nd day we climbed 3500 feet to the top of a 14,500
foot pass (we were smoked!) and then descended to 13,000 feet to camp
in an incredible meadow amongst five 20k+ peaks. A pasta dinner with a
bottle of Chilean Merlot and a bit of scotch rounded out the spectacular
evening panorama. We awoke covered in ice and protected only by tents
and sleeping bags which featured non functional zippers.
From Huarez, we passed through Lima, where we left our backpacks at a
bus station, and headed to the Central Square to explore for a couple
hours before catching a night bus. Although most of Lima is a dump, the
downtown area was quite pretty and very lively. We were very aware of
Lima's reputation for crime and were concerned since we had to carry our
money belt and because we had previously been mugged in Quito. The cab
ride back to the bus station was like a scene from Dante. We rode in a
yellow bug through very dark streets, sometimes the wrong way down a one
way street, past people picking through trash, burning fires and lots
of people with nothing apparent to do except show passing interest in
us. A bit worrisome.
We took the night bus to Nazca, which is where we are now. Nazca is the
site of the 'Nazca Lines´. They are these incredible drawings of various
shapes and animals in the desert sand. They are hundreds of meters long
on each side, so they can only be viewed from an airplane, which makes
their very existence bizarre, since they are probably a thousand years
old. We took a 30 minute flight over them in a six seater prop, which
was a fun experience in and of itself. There are about 20 drawings and
they consist of things like a whale, a fish, a monkey, a dog and an astronaut
(!), There are many unconfirmed theories about why these drawings exist.
Tonight we head on another night bus up to the city of Arequipa, after
which we will start heading towards Macchu Picchu via Lake Titicacca.
Nazca Party Cell.
|Our bus to Huarez after rolling backwards and crashing
into the hillside to stop itself because it had no brakes. On
the opposite side of the road is a 1000 foot drop off.
|Camping with Peter in the Andes near Huarez.
|At the 14,500 foot pass into the Santa Cruz valley.
|View of one of the 'Nazca Lines' drawings. This
one is 'the astronaut'. This picture is taken from the window
of our airplane. The drawing is about 200 meters long.