Peru 7: Route Cusco, Ayacucho, Huancayo via Lima to Barranca and Huaraz

Our next goal was to drive towards the Cordillera Blanca. Four mountain passes over 4000m taught us a valuable lesson. Ab Cusco ging es nord-westlich in Richtung Cordillera Blanca. Am ersten Tag in Richtung Abancay schafften wir nur 177km, denn die hohen Pässe nahmen viel Zeit in Anspruch. Auch der Wagen wurde ausserordentlich beansprucht –bei Ankunft in Ayacucho waren die Bremsen mehr als hin, vollkommen überhitzt (Beläge sahen glasartig geschmolzen aus) und wir mussten 5 Tage in Ayacucho verbringen bis Ersatzteile aus Lima kamen. First day from Cusco in the direction of Abancay only allowed us to cover 177km – slow-going mountain passes and the exit from Cusco took quite some time. We camped wild (S13.588387, W072.833262) and enjoyed the scenery of the Salcantay mountains in the distance. Similarly we continued next day at a slow pace and covered the next 4000m pass with winding tarred roads (8hrs for 285km), ending the day camping next to the Rio Pampa (near Chincheros), nice and warm at the river +30°C after we had 6°C in the mountains during the day. Unfortunately some small sand flies bugged us during sunset. Leaving for Ayacucho we drive over 2 more 4000m mountain passes and passed through scenic Puna landscape and saw our first large and flowering Puya Raimondii plant. Finding an orange Taratula along the road was a highlight -beautiful! When we arrived in Ayacucho the brakes of the cruiser were finished –a grinding noise made us realise that the passes have worn them down completely. Although being a Saturday, we get assisted at Toyota at 12:30pm and the mechanics confirm what we suspected – new brake pads will have to be ordered from Lima on Monday and the discs require skimming down. We had no choice but to book into a hotel in town.I realised that I had to change my style of driving in the mountains: use the gears more and the brakes less. The vehicle being heavy and an automatic made the brakes wear very fast in the mountains - and driving passes in Peru, we could take no chances, brakes had to be 100%. We had them very thoroughly checked every 5000km from then on. We found the Ayacucho Plaza Hotel convenient as we could park the vehicle safely inside and within 5 minutes reach the centre of town. In the Plaza we were surprised by the number of ice cream shops selling tasty and creamy ice creams. Just in front of them inca women were preparing artesanal ice cream by turning a dish constantly inside a larger dish filled with ice – we counted more 12 ice cream places around the plaza.Heaven after not having any for so long. Furthermore did we learn that Ayacucho is know for its 33 churches and a beautiful plaza. After the brake pads arrived and the vehicle was inspected for the repair, it turned out that the discs were already too thin to be skimmed again - new back drums and disc assemblies had to be ordered from Lima, creating another 2 day delay. This was bad news, but at least Toyota in Ayancucho was on the ball and very helpful -also found one person with basic English skills with whom we could communicate. We used the time to explore more of the area including watching a traditional firework display and music in front of the church next to our hotel. Finally we left on Thursday morning getting lost for more than 90minutes to find the right road in the direction of Huanta. The road was narrow, mountain passes and curvy and on multiple occasions we had to reverse as trucks had to pass. That evening we found a wild camp side on the banks of the Rio Mantaro on the small campo of farmer Marcelino for Soles20,-. (S12.598943 W074.672082). Marcellino brought us fresh prickley pears when we arrived and next morning early bode us farewell with a pot of freshly cooked wild papas (potatoes). He only farms with natural products. The road to Huancayo consisted of more mountain passes, an area with many mines and heavy traffic past la Oroya, large mining operation for lead and copper. The road was congested at a construction section and came to a total standstill. We decided after 315km in 11.5hrs that this was enough at wild camped in the mountains on a stream with temperatures at 5°C at 4485m –not a pleasant night, but we had no choice (S11.596414 W076.247511). In the morning it was a freezing 2 °C when we got up and continued towards Lima, which we decided to pass on the Panamericana and continued to Barranca on the Pacific coast. At km228 we turned off to the Punta Bermejo where we again camped wild close to a fisherman’s hut (S10.567237 W077.904945). Just up the hill is a scenic point with Pelicans, Comorants, Gennets and Seagulls. Unfortunately a lot of plastic spoils the otherwise tranquil point. Plastic pollution all over Peru is a major problem. Next day we refuelled at Pativilca and continued across the Cordillera Negra towards Huaraz (4477m pass) through very rugged landscape with large chili plantations where we entered the National Park Huascaran late afternoon although the sign at the turnoff indicated that the park closes early afternoon. The ranger permitted us to stay overnight in the parking lot and made the baños (toilets) available. The site is at 4164m (S09.888989 W077.305008), not ideal for overnighting but it did not affect us too much as we had slowly adapted through the previous days. However Karin suffered more, especially in the morning at -1 °C.

Peru 6: Puerto Maldonado for a trip into the Amazon Jungle

  We still had jungle fever, especially due to the cold nights in Cusco.This time round we decided to drive to Puerto Maldonado and not fly. Uns hatte der Urwaldtrip nach Madidi besonders gut gefallen, jedoch wollten wir mehr Papageien und auch die Riesenottern sehen. So machten wir einen Abstecher nach Puerto Maldonado und von dort aus zu dem Lago Sandoval. We had heard about the scenic road going down the escarpment from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and that the tarred road was in very good condition –which it was indeed and the mountain passes are spectacular. As we drove the landscape changed from barren and cold mountains covered in snow  to the lush and green forested escarpment ending in the jungle around Puerto Maldonado. Here we camped at the Anaconda Lodge with Donald and Wadee Traeris with a small Thai restaurant run by the Wadee. Next to us our closest neighbours were 4 Tarantulas that were territorial and came out after dark, resident Agoutis and the red howler monkey Oscar. Unfortunately an open-air disco had opened close to this property with blaring music into the early morning hours, even during the week. For this reason we cannot recommend to stay here in a tent or rooftop tent despite the fact that it is within walking distance to a mariposario (butterfly farm) and it being possible for us to leave the vehicle. Our guide Luiz Salazar came to the lodge to negotiate the various outings and work closely with the Anaconda Lodge. Next day at 5am our first outing was boating up the Rio Madre de Dios to a claylick of parakeets and parrots. Following day we went by boat for 30min downriver into the Tambo Pata National Parque from where we went on foot for 1.5hours to reach the shore of Lago Sandoval. Luiz then paddled us to Sandoval Homestead Lodge, a small lodge run by an indigenous family. For lunch we were served chicken with rice and egg rolled up in leaves plus fresh fruit juices. The afternoon we rowed around the lake, saw various birds, black caymans and freshwater rays. Next morning we started at 6am, came across an Anaconda in a bush under which we passed, observed families of giant otters fishing and playing plus many birds. During the afternoon we walk we came across a dead coral snake(very venomous) and leaned how Brazil nuts grow (only in the wild on tall trees and Agoutis are the only animals cracking the nuts). Our evening outing by boat brought us again close to the giant otters and we observed a marvelous sunset from a viewing platform at the rangers post. No boats are allowed further in on Lago Sandoval. No motorized craft are permitted on the lake which results in the lake being very quiet and serene. During an evening walk we searched for insects and came across a seldomly-seen  armadillo. Next morning we started at 5am, rowing across the lake to see Macaws which we saw flying overhead and observed Capuchin monkeys. Boating back we also saw large white Caymans on the riverbank. On the return journey to Cusco we again wild-camped at a stream halfway up the escarpment and finally arrived back in Cusco mid day.
This blog covers 19th July to 27th July 2016

Peru 5: Festividad de la Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo and Tres Cruces viewpoint

Witnessing one of the original religious festivals is gripping - just so different to anything we have seen before. Um bei einer solchen Fahrt am richtigen Tag im richtigen Dorf zu sein ist auch Glücksache. In letzter Minute erfuhren wir vom Virgen del Carmen Fest in Paucartambo -weitgehend als eines der noch wirklich ursprünglichen religiösen Feste in Peru bekannt und noch nicht stark vom Tourismus beeinflusst. Ein tief berührendes Erlebnis mit exotischen Masken, Musik, Tanz und Feuerwerk. This festival is one of the most authentic and not very touristic and takes place once a year in July. We were fortunate to hear about it in time to make the journey. Arriving and looking at the statues on the plaza did not quite prepare us for what we would experience. The statues reflect the different groups participating. The small town burst its seams and we wild camped at S13 deg 19.7857 W071deg 35.0680 along the river just outside the town. Traffic was heavy and it can took more than one hour to cross the bridge into town. The festival runs mainly Friday and Saturday with various troupes representing different professions and groupings. Friday evening culminated in a fireworks display among the participants within the very crowded little plaza of Paucartambo. The Saturday afternoon was the highlight with the carrying of the Virgen del Carmen through Paucartambo.
We drove on to the viewpoint Tres Cruces to witness the sunrise next morning, the mirador being at 3660m. We camped at the parking lot at S13deg073298 W071deg36.7039. What we hoped to be a quiet night turned out to be a sleepless one as vehicles started arriving from midnight and at sunrise there were more than 200 vehicles and 500 people - all somewhat disappointed as it was cloudy. Apparently with the right conditions a sunrise with 3 reflections of the sun can be seen at times. When the sun was up we realised how beautiful the flora in the area was.

Peru 4: Rainbow Mountains Arco Iris

A visit to the Arco Iris mountain is a new destination from Cusco and not yet listed in most travel guides -but well worth making the effort. Leider kam die Zeit des Abschieds von Uwe und Almut. Wir hatten eine schöne Zeit zusammen bis Cusco -aber die Zeit drängte und sie mussten wieder zurück bis Montevideo und dann nach Kapstadt. Wir reisten weiter und die Regenbogen Berge waren das nächste Ziel. On 9th July Uwe and Almut Harms started their return journey to Montevideo whereas we drove to the Rainbow Mountains with Bernd and Marion Frauendorfer from Hamburg,whom we had met in Cusco at Quinta Lala. This sight is not very well documented but has become very popular. Turn off at Pitumarca to get there. There is no camping site and touring busses leave Cusco very early to arrive at the trails starting point at sunrise. If you travel with your own 4x4 transport it is possibly to wild camp up at 4280m and then leave next morning to hike the 6km up to 4800m to see this spectacular mountain Cerro Colorado. The camping spot is below Nev.de Ausangate with its glacier 6384m visible from camping spot at the coordinates S13.52.378 W071.14.515. Be well prepared as the temperatures reach -5degrees or lower during the night. The trek is strenuous due to the altitude and the low temperatures in the morning but a very scenic hike. Some decide to go on horseback, but beware of altitude sickness if you are not already well adapted, as the horseride covers the change in altitude too quickly for some recently arrived tourists. We were elated to finally stand on top of this colourful formation.

Peru 3: Machu Picchu

No visit to Peru can be complete without a visit to Machu Picchu Ein Besuch der Inka Ruinen bei Machu Picchu war uns sicher mit am wichtigsten auf unsere Südamerika Reise. Es ist wohl die bekannteste und auch die am schönsten gelegene Ruine der Inkas. Auf diese Stätte herunter zu schauen und sich in die Vergangenheit zurück zu versetzen, ist einer der Momente im Leben, die sich zutiefst einprägen. To get to Machu Picchu takes a small journey: first we were collected at the travel agent at 10 clock in the morning for a drive by community bus to Ollantaytambo, where we boarded the train to Aguas Calientes and arrived late afternoon, checked in at Los Rojas Hotel for the night and took a bath at the termas(water could have been hotter for us). Next morning we got up at 4am for a small breakfast and walked down to the bus station at 5am to find many people waiting for the buses to start running at 6am. Do not get a shock when seeing all the long queue -once the buses start running, many visitors get moved within a short time. Approx 27 serpentines later we arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu just before sunrise. If your interest lies in photography, consider splitting from the guided group as it takes a long  time to meander through the ruins. Another interesting point is to walk up to the Sungate which is also the arrival point for those hiking the Inca trail and enjoy a different view of the ruins. At 7pm the train departed again to Ollantaytambo, where we caught a bus back to Cusco and a taxi to the Quinta Lala camping site, arriving at 11pm. Next day we had arranged an oilchange for our Landcruiser at the camping site, it rained but Nilo, the mechanic Milli had managed to arrange for us, found the required fuel and oil filters and got the job done.

Peru 2: Cusco and the Inca ruins of Saqsaywaman

Around Cusco you find a lot to do and see the best masonary work of the Incas Der Campingplatz in Cusco bietet die Gelegenheit, die Stadt zu besichtigen sowie die interessanten Ruinen Saqsaywaman zu besuchen -im Laufabstand. Etwa 5 Minuten zu den Ruinen, 20 Minuten in die Altstadt und zurück mit einer billigen Taxe. We found Cusco a charming city and the Museo de Cacao provided us with the best chocolate cheesecake ever! In the same building we booked for Machu Picchu with Qori Inka Travel, after deliberating whether we should arrange it on our own or use an agent. All in all we realised that it is more convenient to book via this travel agency at around an estimated 10% premium. All tickets were ready next day for collection and service was professional. All train and bus tickets, entrance fees, a guide and one night accommodation in Hotel los Rojas in Aguas Calientes were included in the cost of USD250 per person. Camping Quinta Lala is situated very conveniently. It is a 20 minute downhill walk into Cusco and the return fare by taxi is cheap. It is also  only about 200m away from the entrance gate to the ruins Saqsaywaman.We found the stone work in this ruins to be the most impressing of all ruins we have visited and strongly recommend a visit here. The stonework at Machu Picchu does not match the quality at these ruins. When in Cusco spoil yourself with a visit to the fresh produce market in the Mercado San Pedro and enjoy best fruit juices freshly prepared (our favourite at no 86). Across from the market you can do grocery shopping conveniently at the well-stocked Orion mercado. The plaza de Armas in Cusco is surrounded by Cathedrals, restaurants, souvenir shops and ATMs. For excellent groceries and other essentials we shopped at the modern, large Plaza Vea on the outskirts of the city and close to the Toyota dealer.Next to Plaza Vea you also find a large hardware store for essentials.

Peru 1: Along Lake Titicaca to Puno and on to Cusco

We passed from Bolivia into Peru and carried on along the Lago Titicaca and the city of Puno until we reached Cusco. Wir passierten die Grenze nach Peru ohne grosse Schwierigkeiten -konnten aber bereits erahnen, dass die Behörden in Peru freundlicher und aufgeschlossener waren.Wir erkundeten die Halbinsel Socca auf dem Wege nach Puno und blieben, nach einem gemütlichen Braai mittags, gleich an selbiger Stelle und kampierten dort - ein paar interessierte Bewohner grüssten uns freundlich und hiessen uns willkommen. Tags darauf ging es nach Puno, von wo aus wir die schwimmenden Inselbewohner besuchten, bevor es dann nach Cusco weiterging. Border Control into Peru was a lot more welcoming than leaving Bolivia. We decided to take a round trip of Peninsula Socca where we barbecued for lunch but decided to stay. Next day we arrived in Puno where we stayed with Edgar and Consuelo at Casa Panq'arani, Edgar arranged overnight parking for the trucks, round the block, 4 minutes walk. We took two Tuk-tuks to the harbour and then a boat across to the Islas de Los Uros, the inhabitated floating islands. Each island is a growing papyrus-like platform on which the dwellings are erected. In the evening we enjoyed an outing into the city and its pedestrian zone where we found a lot of nighttime activity and dancing as well as good local food as was recommended by our hosts. Next day we drove via Juliaca to Cusco where we found convenient camping at Quinta Lala , efficiently run by Mili and a favourite meeting place of many overlanders visiting Cusco. Ask Mili for freshly pressed fruit juice and eggs from her hens, she also will wash clothing. The single camp's bathroom and shower is kept pretty busy by the number of campers. Around Cusco many interesting towns can be visited with craft and fresh produce markets. We made excursions in the area,one of which was a day tour to the Sacred Valley and to Chinchero, offering plenty of opportunity to buy really good Peruvian crafts along the road and the craftmarket in Chinchero is worth seeing. We also visited the local ruins saw the elders leaving the church service all dressed traditionally. Afterwards we had lunch in the town of Urubamba (pretty busy with tourists) and ended the day in Pisac, however arriving too late to visit the extensive ruins, which warrant a few hours to be explored.
 

Bolivia 7: Lago Titicaca

This section covers our trip from La Paz to Lago Titicaca. Gern wären wir die Todesstrasse gefahren, denn landschaftlich soll sie bezaubernd sein - leider war es vollkommen vernebelt und so sind wir kurz nach der Drogenkontrollstation wieder umgekehrt. Es ging dann in Richtung Lago Titicaca (190km lang, 80km breit) und wir mussten bei San Pablo de Tiquina mit der Fähre übersetzen (Bol 60 per Wagen= R120) und fuhren dann bis zum Strandstädtchen Copacabana, wo wir im Hotel Gloria übernachteten und von dort Ausflüge machten. After our arrival at Lago Titicaca we found suitable accommodation at Hotel Gloria with parking possibilities also for large vehicles. Next morning we woke up and it was snowing. On this day we got some laundry done and Uwe and Almut visited a trout farm on the shores of the lake.   Copacabana itself is a quaint town with interesting old church decorated in mosaic tiles. Next day we travelled by boat to Isla do Sol, a 2 hour boat trip, where we spent the day visiting a museum and Inca ruins ( complete with a Shamaan). The vistas were great - in the background the snow-capped Cordilleras Munecas & Real and the blue lake in front of us). Leaving the lake we took the road to the border, where unfriendly Bolivian officials booked us out of the country, but we were warmly welcomed by friendly Peruvian border personnel. As we had no letter specifically stating that our vehicle insurance by Clements (USA) explicitly covered Peru, the customs official was kind enough to endorse the vehicle entry papers so that we would not have any problems at police road checks.

Bolivia 6: Trip into the Madidi Jungle

Was wäre ein Besuch in Südamerika ohne den Urwald zu sehen? So beschlossen Uwe,Almut, Karin und ich , einen Abstecher per Flugzeug in den Bolivianischen Jungel zu machen. Per Flug, da die Strasse dorthin eine zweitägige Reise auf schlechten Pisten gewesen wäre. Buchung machten wir über ein Reisebüro in La Paz. Der Flug dauerte 45 Minuten und ging bis Rurrenabaque, wo wir von Alex empfangen wurden -Representant der Gemeinschaft, welche die Madidi Jungle Lodge besitzt. Following the arrival by air in Rurrenabaque, we arrived at the Madidi Jungle Lodge after a 3 hour boat ride into the Madidi National Park. Ronny, our guide from the community, accompanied us. We stayed for 3 nights/4 days and were lucky to see a variety of animals, birds and learned a lot about the flora during daily walks. It included red howler monkeys, wild pigs, capibaras, red brocket deer, yellow squirrel as well as tamarind monkeys, fished for golden Piranha, observed caymans. Birds included the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) which looks from a bygone era. During evening walks a number of interesting insects were sighted. The food prepared by Doña Erica was delicious and mainly consisted of local fare ( eg. catfish prepared in Jaivanaleaves and spiced with bark from the ajo tree (garlic tree).

Bolivia 5: via Oruro to La Paz

Nach der letzten Nacht im Hotel Girasol in Uyuni wurde uns klar, dass Karin nicht an der Höhenkrankheit litt, sondern dass es etwas anderes sein musste. Ausserdem hörten wir, dass die Lastwagenfahrer nach diesem Wochenende die Strassen dicht machen wollten. So fuhren wir ohne weitere Stops durch bis La Paz und hielten uns auch nicht länger in Oruro auf, denn diese Stadt machte keinen einladenden Eindruck. In La Paz gab es die hervorragende Clinica Alemana ( in der aber kein Wort Deutsch gesprochen wurde -zum Glück etwas Englisch) in der Karin schnell diagnostiziert wurde.La Paz wird uns wegen seiner interessanten Märkte unvergessen bleiben. Due to the pending trucker strike announced for the following week, we decided to drive straight to La Paz via Oruro. Here Karin was diagnosed having both a bacterial as well as a parasite infection - fortunately Clinica Alemana has an in-house path lab and we left the clinic within 3 hours medication in hand. We found suitable accommodation in the Hotel Berlina (on Calle Illampu in Zona El Rosario)-which was the only hotel with a parking garage high enough to accommodate both our vehicles (2.50m approx.). This proved to be a blessing as we could leave our vehicles parked there while later making an excursion into the jungle. On top the hotel has a terrace which lends itself to photograph across the city - or fly a drone -which a Costarican visitor did, but promptly received a message not to overfly the government area! It also was conveniently situated to visit various street markets and travel bureaus for arranging the jungle trip to Madidi and also to take a taxi to downtown to do a city tour on the Red Bus which included a short trip to the outskirts to see the moon landscape. From the hotel rooftop restaurant we had a good view across the city. On a clear day the prominent peak of Mount Illimani (6439m) is visible which is snow-capped. Hotel Berlina is situated in an older part of the city and in walking distance we found good restaurants (Aunt Tia became a favourite stop), craft shops and also the indigenous witchcraft market (Mercado de Hechicería) selling potions, herbs and dried Llama fetuses. Basically anything can be bought in this area. The colourful cloths, bags, shoes, masks are a feast for the eyes and very typical. La Paz is at a height of 3600m and walking the steep streets in our neighbourhood made us realise that we had not fully acclimatised to the altitude yet. Note: Sucre is the capital, but La Paz the largest city). The airport of La Paz is in El Alto, 400m higher than the city: arriving or leaving by plane is at 4000m, the highest large city in the world and many a traveller suffers altitude sickness on arrival. El Alto is also serviced by the Teleferico which we never had the time to take for a first-class aerial view of La Paz. However, we also witnessed the most polluted river passing right through La Paz with industrial waste and sewage.