After 4 weeks in the greater area of Cusco we hit the road again to Colca Canyon supposed to be the deepest canyon in the world even deeper than the Grand Canyon, depending upon how it`s measured.
The main attractions are the condors which come in the morning from the bottom of the gorge using the upwind. This is what they tell you in the program….. The road to get there is very difficult and mainly unpaved and again a torture for the three of us, MOMO, Karin and myself. When you finally reach the destination the first thing you must do is pay the entrance fee which is generally out of scale. This seems to be a common practice in Peru. We sleep at the parking lot next to the canyon and at 7am we are at the rim waiting for the condors. Around 9am we have the chance to see one in real. But it`s a very young one and very small too. Unfortunately we experience what other travelers told us already, a lot of money for nothing. Spectacular is different and far away from a comparison with the Grand Canyon even when the driveway thru the gorge shows some highlights.
We drive on over a pass of 4900m to Arequipa one of the most beautiful cities in Peru and with 1,3 Million inhabitants the second largest city. We stay in the Hostal Mercedes close to the city center where we can securely camp in the garden. Arequipa really is a lovely city and the historical center with the old buildings is worth seeing. The mighty cathedral covers the complete width of the main plaza. We stroll through the streets and enjoy the city live and the good restaurants. In the museum of the catholic university we gaze at the ice mummy Juanita a 12-14 years old girl which was found 1995 at a Vulcan in 6300m and sacrificed at the time of the Incas. One of the main attractions is the monastery Santa Catalina. With more than 20.000sqm it`s practically a city in itself. We book a guided tour and learn a lot about the life in a monastery in the 15th and 16th century.
The next day on the campground we meet Martin, a young Argentine from Ushuaia who is on the road with his old Renault and a roof tent and a couple from England, Daniel & Jess with their two boys Ethan & Noah. We enjoy the evenings together and share wine and travel experience. Although it`s hot during the day it cools down quickly after dark and one needs long trousers and sweater.
After 4 nights we move on, always along the sea side and direction north to Lima. It is a bleak area with unbelievable distances. Imagine that from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile thru Peru and up to the boarder of Ecuador the landscape on the pacific coast is more than 3000km and nothing but desert only interrupted from some green oases and the 10 Million city of Lima. After the first 400km we rest in Puerto Inca a nice bay with a sandy beach and a little hotel. We like the place and stay for another night before we continue. On our way is the Cemetery Chauchilla a grave field from the pre-Inka period. The found bones, skeletons and skulls were collected and are shown in twelve open graves. A truly scary experience. Then we move on to Nasca. Miles long lines and geometrical figures were drawn in the stones from the Nasca culture 200 B.C to 800 A.C. and until today it is still unclear what is was good for. The next morning at 7am (and most important: before breakfast) we fly over the famous lines. Because of its size they can be best viewed from above. In a small 4 seats Chessna we are 30min in the air. Before the flight we were skeptical whether it`s worth doing it. However we were not disappointed and we are happy that we did it, and also happy we didn`t had breakfast….
We continue our journey and make a stop in the oases Huacachina where the kids have fun with sandboarding and sand buggies in the huge dunes. We stay for lunch only and then decide to drive a small cross-country road to the national park of Paracas. The road is just about the limit. We drive 50km thru a desert landscape like the Sahara and a few hundred meters before we hit the ocean the road is blown away from the sand. But thanks to 4*4 and MOMO it`s not a problem for us and we can go cross-country. We stay on the sea for the night and once again we experience a wonderful sunset.
We still have 250km to go before we arrive in Lima. We are allowed to stay in the Club Aleman in the district of Miraflores. The 10 Million city is a chaos in itself. Driving by taxi is a continuous danger for your live and crossing the road is an adventure on its own. One must be very relaxed to bear up with this. The historical center around the main plaza with the old colonial style buildings is very nice and we visit the archeological museum and the gold museum whereby the last one is not worth the money. Lima is also known for its excellent cuisine and we allow ourselves a lunch in one of the famous restaurants of Astrid & Gaston. At this time of the year the Club Aleman celebrates German style Christmas with a market, music and various other traditional events. But before Santa Claus comes we better leave the place and move on.
Driving a car in Peru on your own is a very special experience. This adventure led me to the below mentioned essay about the car drivers of Peru. Believe it or not nothing is whitewashed and in case you have the chance to be here you will agree and even probably think that it is understated. Here we go:
The most important part of the car is a very well-functioning horn. With this you can overtake at any point in time everywhere, really everywhere. The average car driver in Peru obviously thinks that because of the extensive use of the horn and headlamp flasher other drivers disappear or are beamed out of the way like in Star wars. That this doesn`t really work can be seen on the uncounted crosses along the highways. But nobody really cares. We now also better understand why the Peruvian cross themselves when they pass a church by car or by foot. The guardian angels better never disappear. Overtaking in blend bends or cambers seem to be a nation-wide sport. Traffic signs, especially do not overtake and speed limitations are only in place to be ignored. The traffic light counts down the seconds until it gets green. Practially a good idea. However in case you do not start when 3sec left you are in danger to be pushed from behind. The instruction manual for the direction indicator as long as they are functioning seems to be not enclosed. Ultimately the car behind must know where one goes. Likewise the Peruvian driver thinks that lights on is not good for the battery and leaves the lights out also at nighttime. In bigger cities the general motto is: when you brake, you lose. And in between all the chaos the small 3-wheels Moto Taxis who find even the smallest gap. Those of you who want to experience “Need for Speed” in reality is most welcome in Peru.
We heading further North thru endless desert landscape. In between all the dust and sand people live in small houses made out of rush mats and really succeed in plant something. A small cross-country road leads us to the National Reserve of Lachay. Between August and December the try desert landscape changes to a green oasis forced by condensation of the fog which comes up from the sea. Our next stop is Caral one of the oldest archeological cities in America dated back to 2636 B.C. Almost around the same time scale than the Cheops pyramid in Egypt. But not much is left from the former pyramids apart from some pile of stones. It looks like that we slowly have seen enough from the cultures of the Chavin, Paracas, Nazca, Moche, Tihahunaco, Wari, Chimu, Incas and the residues of the Spanish conquerors. Without diminishing the real lovely remains of the different cultures in Peru what disappoints us is the obvious tourist rip-off. The Peruvians perfectly manage to make an attraction out of the simplest piece of stone and in addition they succeed in getting a disproportionately compensation for this. But maybe we have already seen too much and are ripe for the island....
To escape from the boring desert we decide to make another side trip to the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca a high valley surrounded by twenty mountains all above 6000m. We take a deep breath and off it goes from 0m up to 3000m. Unfortunately the weather upsets our plans. When we left the sea side it was sunny and warm but the mountains welcome us with storm and heavy rain. We hold out for two days in Huaraz but it did not improve and the forecast neither. We could not even think about an excursion in one of the side valleys to wonderful lagoons. We would only struggle through mud and dirt and see nothing apart from fog and rain. We must admit ourselves that an excursion to the mountains seems to be not the best idea during the rainy season and decide to go back down again. However a little adventure is a must and we drive through the Cañon del Pato, a spectacular descent to hell. A single lane with very narrow 35 tunnels and a few hundred meters down on the right and vertically up on the left hand side. We also made a short video clip about it which can be found in the video section.
However finally we made it down without any damage and move on to Trujillo on the Pacific coast. Close by we visit the temple of the sun and the temple of the moon from the Moche culture which is dated around 800 B.C. Although one half was already washed away the temple of the sun is the biggest detached pre-Columbian building in Peru and made out of 140 Million mud bricks. The excavations are continuously ongoing and consistently new representations of figures and paintings are found. We make an interesting tour with guide through the area and are very impressed how well preserved it is after so many years. Another archeological site in this area is Chan Chan build in the 13th century and with 26sqkm the biggest city in the world build out of mud bricks. During the heydays of the Chimu empire the city had 60.000 inhabitants and immeasurable treasuries of gold, siver and ceramics. Despite heavy rains back in 1925 which destroyed most of the Adobe reliefs the huge area is still worth seeing and very impressive.
Afterwards we recover in the small village of Huanchaco. The last two weeks were a lot of driving and we need a point of rest. And finally there was this nice restaurant with "good fish" which knocked us out and unintentionally extended our stay for a few days longer than originally planned.
We will need another few days to completely recover from the upset stomach and then spent the Christmas days 500km further North on the pacific coast before we continue our journey in Ecuador beginning of new year. But this is then part of the next blog.
We wish all our readers and fans of our homepage a wonderful Christmas time and all the best for the New Year. Also next year we`ll continue our trip and provide regularly blogs, pictures, videos and other useful information. Sign-up for the newsletter and you will be informed about new entries automatically. So long. Hasta Luego.