We ended up staying five nights in Lima, accomplishing important things like: showering, doing laundry, taking Milo to the vet, visiting the mechanic, SUSHI, and meeting our new friend Miguel and a bunch of other Westy owners. We also enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of The House Project, after struggling to find a place for all four of us–me, Juan, Milo, and the van. Zing! We ended up staying an extra day just to hang out and eat sandwiches before plotting the rest of our roll through the country. Miraflores is so unlike the rest of Peru that we’d almost forgotten we were on this continental adventure.
After fighting through more traffic, we were finally released from the grips of Lima. Almost immediately, we were plunged back into the desert. We stopped for lunch at the beach in Cerro Azul, where you can drive right up onto the sand (and where we promptly got stuck and a whole family of picnickers came to help push us out).
But although the beach was nice for lunch, it wasn’t “camp-worthy” mostly in that it was too early for us to camp and we both felt like driving on. (Milo probably would have been fine staying.) So we drove down the coast to the Paracas National Reserve.
The Paracas National Reserve is pretty big and we only saw a very small part of it. One problem we keep having in Peru is that we start driving and then find ourselves in the middle of nowhere with no gas stations. So instead of driving further into the beautiful desert, we backtracked out to a gas station in the town and then decided to cut inland to Ayacucho.
The 350-km journey from Pisco to Ayacucho was one of the most beautiful roads of the whole trip. We went through a lovely canyon, very similar to the Canyon del Pato, where we had two nice nights camping. We knew, though, that we would be ascending about 3200 meters from sea level to reach Ayacucho, so we decided that we should probably stop somewhere around 2000 meters to get acclimated, as we have had some problems with altitude sickness when we ascend too quickly. When we got to 2000 meters though, it was still early, and the terrain looked promising camping-wise, so we decided to keep going. Suddenly, we were plunged into a “zona de neblina” (fog zone) and things got hairy pretty fast. The San Francisco fog looks like steam coming off of a bowl of soup compared to the fog we encounter in the mountains. We pretty much slow down to a crawl, put our blinkers on, and get very stressed out in the 5-meter visibility. This was how we crawled from 2000m to 4000, looking for a suitable place to stop. When we reached 4500, the fog sort of cleared up, and this was one of the first things we encountered:
We stopped to give them some food and water as the stranded passengers tried to get rides out to Ayacucho. But a motorist–with about an inch of snow on his windshield–had warned us that the road was very bad, so at that point we decided to stop for the night. We backtracked a few minutes to a pullout next to a canal and spent one of the coldest nights so far on this trip. And despite the coca tea and the aspirins, both Juan and I were hurting that night from the steep change in altitude. But in the morning, we woke up to this:
It took us half an hour to get the van started, but the drive out was absolutely gorgeous.
Peru is looking good. More photos at limpire.