Days 005 - 007
05.10.2012 - 07.10.2012 -5 °C
DAY 5: PAMPA GALERAS – PUQUIO – LAGUNA YAURIHURI
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.
DAY 6: LAGUNA YAURIHURI – CHALHUANCA
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!
DAY 7: CHALHUANCA
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.
A FEW TIPS FOR OUR FELLOW TRAVELLERS:
→ 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.