A Travellerspoint blog

Pampa Galeras - Abancay

Days 005 - 007

sunny -5 °C
View South America on ccontheroad's travel map.


After 14 hours of sleep I felt quite well and when I went to ask the guy working at the station for hot water he told me that we should actually join him for breakfast in the kitchen. Fresh coca tea, bread with butter and marmalade, a soccer game on TV from the Austrian team Rapid Wien and everything was well again :)
So we packed the car and went on to explore the surroundings a little bit. It was the first time for me to see vicuñas – such beautiful animals and in the research station they have about 30.000 of them running around free! Also we went across the street into a tiny shop to buy some coca leaves, filled up our thermos with hot water and off we went for another exciting day.
Especially for our fellow travelers: We highly recommend visiting the Vicuña Research Station at Pampa Galeras! It is a perfect stop along the road from Nazca to Cusco (if you travel as slow as we do you will need more stops then one, but even if not, this one is a great experience!) – you get to stay directly within the research station, the guy we met working there was really friendly (he is the kind of "security" there taking care of the building, at the moment of our visit there was no one working in the research station), we got to see Vicuñas right after getting up, and you can be assured that this is not a tourist trap and that the price is fair.

Well after a really nice morning and coca tea we were ready to continue – again a rather tranquillo trip with a planned stop in Puquio for lunch. Shortly before reaching Puquio we saw a young woman with 3 children on the side of the street waving us down to take her with us – at this point we decided we should really start taking people with us. Not only is it a good deed, but also it is a great experience. Well, as soon as we stopped the car a whole crowd from the other side of the street came running to our car and we ended up with 1 granny, 2 young women, 4 kids and a whole pack of firewood in our car – as I just wrote: a great experience :)
After we dropped them all off at the respective stops we went on for lunch at Hooters – yap, Puquio has a Hooters! Not quite the same as one is used to from other cities in the world, but the sign outside the restaurant definitely said ‘Hooters’.

After being fed we bought some bread and stuff for dinner and breakfast and continued our way towards some lagoons along the way – described beautifully by our guide books and also the altitude seemed to be fine … well later we found out that it was actually 4400 meters – higher than the mountain pass described in our books. Well we kind of guessed that we were really high up as it was freezing cold at night.

at Laguna Yaurihuilas

at Laguna Yaurihuilas


Luckily we finally bought a heavy blanket in Nazca, but still it was so cold that when I reached for water in the morning I realized that the water in the bottle was frozen plus none of our electronics worked anymore. But as the sun came out in the morning everything seemed to be fine again. With our body heat we managed to get lamps, the iPhone for some music and the cameras to take some pics to work again. We enjoyed the sun which managed to heat up the car like a greenhouse and stayed at the lagoon for quite a while – of course, outside it was still cold…
But finally we decided to get started. We put up the curtains and the seat, all our stuff in the trunk, etc – ready to go! But not the Dodge – apparently the motor also didn’t quite like to cold, but the car battery we could not simply warm up with body heat … after a few times trying to start the motor we decided it is time to get back on the street and get some help. After about 20 minutes finally a car stopped (I guess the others thought we wanted a ride with them) and immediately the guys were willing to help us. The jump-start didn’t really do the trick and so they simply pulled out a rope and managed to get us back on the road. This way we were able to get some drive and managed to get the Dodge started. 20 Soles propina for the guys and off they went – and off we went … for about 5km, because then the motor decided not to work again, plus my body decided not to work anymore due to the struggle when pushing the car (in 4400m altitude!). So Chris stopped the car on the side of the road and I parked myself on the back seat – both to rest. When I woke up again about half an hour later I saw Chris leaning over the open hood with an expression on his face that I have never seen before: Despair! He told me that not only the motor was hot, but that all the water he put in on top came out on the bottom. I tried to cheer him up, but nothing would work. I said: ‘You want a kiss?’ He said: ‘No!’ I said: ‘With a kiss everything will get better!’ Finally he agreed to a hasty kiss on his cheek. At this moment we were disturbed by someone asking us what the matter was – we turned around and a car with two guys who looked like mechanics had stopped next to us. As if it was the most normal thing on earth they got out of their car and started working on ours. With some silicon the managed to fix the leak (at least for a while) and they told us we can either drive like this another 150km to the next mechanic or we drive about 10km to the next phone and they will call a tow truck for us – for free. Of course we agreed on the tow truck option and it took us about 30 minutes to get to the next phone.
We parked the car in front of Restaurant Viky and the mechanics went to call the tow truck. We used the waiting time for lunch in the ‘restaurant’ – which by the way had the most exciting toilet I have ever seen… not only that it was a wooden – ääähhm whatever ‘construction’ with a hole in the ground, no also one had to get there through the back yard, where children were playing with cats, dogs, chickens… some intestines hung on the clothes line to dry in the sun and a dead lamb was laying next to the tire cut in half, which was used as a sink…
Well, after lunch we went to visit the local farmers working with lamas on the meadow and making bricks for their houses – super interesting, especially because I am almost certain that we were the very first Gringos to have ever spent several hours in this town, if not even the first ones to have ever gotten out of their vehicle there!


Finally the tow truck arrived – at perfect timing when I finished sewing one of the curtains for the Dodge – and we got started getting the Dodge onto the truck. During the next 150km we finally found out about the organization behind all these helpful miracles: it is called ‘Survial’ (http://www.survial.com.pe/) and it is an organization financed by the road toll which one has to pay every now and then. The great deal is, in case someone has a problem, like us, they help for free to get the broken down car off the road – they also told us in case we have trouble again on our way back, they would help us again for free! Usually they are maintaining the roads etc., but there are also guys, like the ones that stopped for us, who are driving around checking if people need help. Also afterwards we found out that their homepage is actually quite helpful – especially to prepare for the trip, rather than to check it later ;)

Anyways, quite late we finally arrived at the mechanics house close to Chalhuanca. The only mechanic in the area, plus the next day was actually Sunday, but luckily he was working! So we dropped of the car there and the guy from Survial brought us into town to look for a Hospedaje. Not the nicest one, but within our budget – especially because we actually kind of ran out of cash and still had to pay the mechanic the next day…

What an exciting and actually instructive day – not only found out about the organization that saved our ass, but also learned a lot about our car and about preparing better for our trips and overnight stops ;) - see our tips below!


After an OK night in the Hospedaje we got up quite early to find our way to the collective that would get us to the mechanic. A few soles and 15minutes later we were reunited with our beloved Dodge again – funnily parked lifted up in the front, which made him look even more gigantic. We explained the mechanic what the problem was – it was simply a tap missing on the side of the motor to keep the water (and some oil) from spilling. We agreed on 150 Soles as he had to take the entire thing apart – of course the tap missing was the one the furthest out of reach. He told us by the afternoon he should be done, so we kind of accepted the thought of staying there another night :)
Ready to enjoy a lazy day we got all we needed out of the trunk, parked ourselves on a bench in the shade and prepared some breakfast. Also we were allowed to use their amenities: wash some clothes, use the promised hot shower, which ended up being cold – but OK, and simply relax a little. While Chris (to the surprise of all) did some laundry, I sat sewing some curtains next to the abuela (grandmother) of the house and enjoyned her interest in our travels. Meanwhile several mechanics were not only working on our car, but actually needed to climb pretty much inside the hood in order to reach the respective parts – very funny picture!
To our surprise the car was actually fixed around 2pm and unexpectedly we were able to continue our trip – but before that we invited ourselves in the family house for lunch (it was kind of a restaurant). For the first time we tried something called Arroz a la Cubana – rice with French fries and 2 sunny-side-up eggs on top. Super-rico, but very heavy and greasy, what later turned out not to be the best food for me :(
After getting some more stuff in the town we continued to look for some baños termales, even though several people recommended NOT to go there with our car, but rather to take a cab. But, adventurous as we are, we of course tried our luck. The road was not that bad – a little narrow with the Dodge and deep hollow of about 200 meters on my side, but the beautiful view repaid the hassle. …until it got steep and the Dodge decided that that’s too much exhaustion for him. We tried about 3 times, but each time the motor would die and especially as we just came from the mechanic we didn’t want to make the motor break down again. So Chris decided we are able to turn around on that narrow road – me running from front to back and all around the car weaving my hands to tell him to go and stop, meanwhile about 3 cars waited to pass and watched us – beautiful! But we managed, went back down and found a spot close to the river to stay overnight.


→ Nazca – Cusco: Organization ‘Survial’ – maintain the road, collect toll charges & help desperate people like us when the car breaks down. Help is for free!! http://www.survial.com.pe/ (the homepage is very useful for the travel, they have road maps, altitude is given, the road is described very well, the number to call when you need help is given, etc.)
→ When you intend to travel through high altitude with our own car: check if the motor is good for it when you buy the car. If not, don’t be surprised if the car only goes really slow and that the emission is black smoke if you go higher than 3000-3500 meters.
→ Bring enough cash – sometimes there are no ATMs for several 100km!
→ Bring water for the car – the altitudes in the guidebooks are not always correct, and I mean it depends on the car you drive, but the motor almost certainly will get hot.
→ Use antifreeze fluid, especially if you will stay overnight at a high altitude (we are certain that the frozen water in our radiator was the reason for the leak)
→ Bring a battery-jumper-cable – unless you don’t mind desperately waiting for someone who has one and who is willing to help you :)
→ Be prepared for really cold weather!! Bring blankets, warm clothes, etc.)
→ Prepare for the altitude: bring along painkillers (headache, stomachache, etc), drink a lot of water, get some fresh coca leaves and a thermos to get hot water wherever you stop, don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol and don’t eat too heavy/greasy before and during being in high altitude.
→ Be prepared that all kinds of batteries can die due to the cold (also the car battery :) ).
→ Bring your own toilet paper – everywhere!! Even in restaurants they usually don’t have paper. Btw: usually you have to pay for using the bathroom – we discovered that at markets they first of all have usually the cleanest bathrooms and secondly the cheapest, plus they usually sell toilet paper for about 0.30 Soles.
→ Bring baby wipes / wet towls + some water to wash your hands, brush your teeth etc. And be prepared to get pretty dirty, especially your hands. If you travel on a budget like us, Hospedajes usually don’t have warm water and with cold water the dirt on your hands won’t get off.
→ Bring sunscreen – due to the high altitude the sun is really strong, so be prepared.
→ Bring several flashlights – a lot of places don’t have electricity / blackouts are rather frequent.

Posted by ccontheroad 11:52 Archived in Peru Tagged south_america_by_car peru_by_car Comments (0)

Nazca - Pampa Galeras

Day 004

sunny 30 °C
View South America on ccontheroad's travel map.

After a rather comfortable night – not that quiet as we thought, but OK – we had a nice breakfast and off we took to the Cahuachi pyramide-like ruins. As described in our guide book and also on some signs on the street it was supposed to be only about 12km off the main road… well more like 25km I guess and super-bumpy! But totally worth the hassle – it is a really undiscovered ruin that is ‘managed’ by a single guy named Pedro who offers tours for a propina. He does a really good job, tells stories about the ruins, explains everything about the site as well as about how they are excavating the ruins and who is in charge, plus he answers pretty much all kinds of questions. He told us the ruins are spread out really far over the land there and possible we even drove over some of them on our way to find the parts which are already excavated – he also said once they are completely laid open it shall be a destination like Machu Picchu … we’ll see I guess. Anyways, it will take quite some time till this will be done as there is not enough money available to properly work on the ruins. Only once a year in their summer break Italian archeology students come and work for about 1 month – so the next summer presumably the work of the past summer has to be repeated… Anyways, this place is definitely worth a visit! But bring something to cover your head – I felt quite bad after half an hour in the sun :(
After about 1 hour break on the side of the street we decided to continue anyways – as Chris was driving I was able to sleep a little bit. But unfortunately we continued the road to Pampa Galeras, so we were about to get up to over 4000m meaning directly from feeling bad from the sun I went to feeling bad because of the altitude. At this point in time we also still didn’t have any coca tea and anyways no possibility to make tea ourselves.
Besides me feeling pretty bad the trip up to Pampa Galeras was rather unspectacular – only a few stops to keep the car from heating up and we found out that our car, just like me, does not really like the high altitude so we had to go rather slow.
Just before dusk we reached the Vicuña Research Station Pampa Galeras – perfect for me, because I was about to die. No clue how Chris managed everything, but I simply staggered into the room we got inside the station for 20 Soles, crawled underneath the 5 heavy blankets and fell asleep for about 14 hours.
Yeah for a day in the sun and driving up about 4000 meters !

Posted by ccontheroad 09:18 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Huacachina - Nazca

Day 003

sunny 30 °C
View South America on ccontheroad's travel map.


After a rather warm night in the Dodge we joined Melanie in the hostel’s courtyard for some breakfast – our plan of ordering some coffee and other things did not quite turn out as the hostel kitchen was closed due to extermination (of rats, mice, roaches,… luckily we never found out).
And so we hit the road quite early in the morning and took off to Nazca. The drive was rather unspectacular besides some photo-stops and then finally the tower, which is used as a view point for the Nazca Lines – unfortunately also not super-exciting. One only sees parts of the lines and only if one knows what he’s looking for. But OK, we didn’t expect too much – nevertheless people know why they are rather offering plane rides over the lines then a visit of the tower (but the tower is only 2 Soles compared to the plane ride which is about US$80).
CIMG6312.jpg CIMG6317.jpg CIMG6318.jpg
So we continued to the city of Nazca and to a cemetery called ‘Cemeterio de Chauchilla’. The cemetery is well recommended in many guide books and also most of the travel agencies in Nazca offer a trip there – I guess one needs a guide to really enjoy the visit, otherwise it is just a bunch of mummies without any explanation… Well the drive there and the sunset was super pretty plus we found out that when I’m driving and the police stops our car, they don’t really look at our papers and are even helpful with directions :)
Back in Nazca we found out that campgrounds are just as expensive as hostels – so why bother to have campgrounds, seriously? Had dinner in the streets and a goodbye beer with Melanie before we dropped her off at the Cruz del Sur Bus Terminal to continue to Arequipa. Since we didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on a hostel (or campground) we simply drove a little bit out of the city onto a dirt road that seemed rather unused (and was also the road we wanted to take the next morning to visit some ruins) and parked the car for the night.

Posted by ccontheroad 09:05 Archived in Peru Tagged nazca_lines Comments (0)

Paracas - Huacachina

Day 002

sunny 30 °C
View South America on ccontheroad's travel map.

After a rather cold and not super-comfortable first night in the Dodge (after all we still didn’t have any blankets at this point in time & tried to keep warm with towels, scarves, lots of clothes and jackets…) we got up quite early – not just because we had to, but as soon as the sun came out we woke up anyways. On our way to pick up the others at the hostel to start the tour to Islas Ballestas I tried to satisfy my hunger with leftovers from dinner, but Chris tried to convince me that I don’t want to eat too much as it gets quite smelly around the Islas due to the birds… Well after meeting the others I managed to sneak some cookies from them after all ;)
The closer we got to the boat, the more complicated things got – we actually paid everything in the hostel, but they told us to still have some money ready when embarking the boat. Of course when we got there the amount was different then they told us, plus not only one person but two asked us to pay something. We, typical Gringos as we are, thought they try to rip us off and refused to pay one of them… later we found out we should have paid, but managed to sneak in without paying ;)
The tour was OK – typical touristy thing, but worth the hassle. The ‘guide’ on our boat seemed rather de-motivated and it took our own attempt to spot animals in the water and on the islands – but we managed to see some seals, of course the birds and penguins and when returning we even saw some dolphins!

Back onshore Chris was already waiting for us to take off to Huacachina – an oasis in the middle of the dessert close to Ica. Unfortunately we decided to have lunch in Huacachina… bad decision! What a touristy trap! Mainly tourist food – hamburgers and weird stuff we haven’t eaten for weeks. Finally we found a restaurant that offered Peruvian food, but no menu, so we ended up spending 15 Soles for a main course (usually a menu including a soup and drink costs about 5 Soles!!).
Well after all we got fed and went on to search for a hostel for Melanie and for Sandboarding for the whole group. A nice and rather large hostel offered her the bed for 20 Soles and 2 hours sunset-sandboarding for 35 Soles. The trick is to book the sandboarding with a hostel and not with anyone on the street, because this way one gets to use the hostel’s showers and pool afterwards and most of them even lend you towels – all of this is really convenient after the sandboarding as one gets quite sweaty and (surprise surprise) sandy! :)
Parked the car in front of the hostel – where we were also allowed to stay overnight for free – and enjoyed the pool until the sandboarding started. Packed some water and put on the clothes that we cared least about (at least concerning the sand) and off we went in the buggy – if you ever want to do this: buckle up immediately! The guide/driver does not care if you are not buckled up and it gets super-bumpy!! Oh and try not to scream or laugh too much – you will get a whole lot of sand in your mouth :) But the whole experience was amazing! The buggy drivers race each other over the dunes and each one tries to go the bumpiest way. The stops for sandboarding are rather exhausting as you are usually dropped off somewhere where you can board over several dunes, but if you are not a good boarder you will get stuck somewhere in the middle and walking in the sand is rather difficult… but going down the dunes is fun! One can go the usual way – standing or sitting or lying down. Some of dunes get really steep and as I am not a snowboarder I rather laid down – it gets really f*** fast!!! But so much fun :)
2 hours are really more than enough (usually the tours only last for 1 or 1,5 hours – and are a little cheaper, 30 Soles at most) and afterwards we had to hurry up to get ready to drop off Guilherme and Joana in Ica at the Cruz del Sur to take the bus back to Lima.
Off to dinner and later beers with Melanie we also started our little ‘book of expenses’ and realized that we are not doing too well with our budget… but hello! It’s only day 2 and we already made over 300km and experienced so many great things …

Posted by ccontheroad 06:03 Archived in Peru Tagged huacachina sandboarding ica sandbuggy Comments (0)

Lima - Paracas

Day 001

sunny 30 °C
View South America on ccontheroad's travel map.

So October 1st was the day. Early morning we packed our stuff in the huge trunk of our car (and discovered that it’s not that huge after all – we hardly managed to fit in the two spare tires, our two backpacks, a box for food, water, a family-sized pack of toilet paper and anything else we might need…) and picked up Guilherme, Melanie and Joana, our colleagues from the Spanish school who would join us for the first part. And off we went.
The 5-hours-drive to Paracas, our first stop, was pretty unspectacular except for our first encounter with corrupt police. At the first of many controls (it’s quite common to be checked for papers on the highway) we were flagged down and the officer mentioned that our lights weren’t switched on – my fault, since I didn’t know that it’s obligatory all day on overland roads. He then asked for all the papers (which we had and are up-to-date) and then asked me to join him at the hood of his car. There he showed me in his handbook that this infracción means a charge of nearly S/.300 - about 100 €(!) and started writing the paper. He then explained me that this is his duty and kind of asked me what we should do about it. It took me a while to get his point, since he also carefully avoided the word propina (spa. tip) which is the common Peruvian slang for bribery, and I guess it’s hard for a policeman to explain a Gringo with limited Spanish skills that he’s expecting cash in order to drop the charge. However, when I understood what he’s asking me for and I said that I would not give him a propina, he kept talking me into it and stressed that it’s just “voluntary” for him and the other hard-working policemen… Well I calmly tried to explain him – on the edge of my Spanish abilities – that I would not support bribery and me as a guest in this country would not like to get involved in such illegal actions (making sure avoiding the word “illegal” just as he would have never talked about a “propina”), assured him that from now on I will always turn on the lights (what I do of course) and that I would sincerely appreciate it if he would drop it, but that it’s in his hands and if he charges me I would have to pay it. He somewhat hesitated, but finally gave me the papers back, wished me a nice trip and said that he appreciates my position and courage – I kind of like this paradox of morality in a corrupt police officer…
We then arrived in the small town of Paracas, looked for a hostel for our travel companions and the drove to the Reserva Nacional de Paracas, a huge piece of desert land directly on the coast, which offers an amazing landscape quite unique on this planet. The entrance fee is a moderate 5 Soles per person, and it was great that we had the car to drive around independently. We were also able to test for the first time the off-road abilities of the Dodge – which aren’t bad after all. Unfortunately we didn’t have too much time, we could have easily spent an entire day in the Reserva, but we had to bring the others back to Paracas and manage to re-enter the park before 6pm when they close the gates. It all worked out well and we drove back in just as the sun set, and managed to find the camping area at the tip of the peninsula. Only the next day we found out that you can also camp at the house of the guards at the red beach, which would have saved us the steep descent to the camping area. Anyways, we quite enjoyed the first night in our convertible car, although we still have to get used to the not so comfortable reclined seats.


Posted by ccontheroad 06:01 Archived in Peru Tagged reserva_nacional_paracas Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 16) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »