“The Avenue of Volcanoes”, stretch the length of Sth America. Fabulous vistas, everywhere.
We cross the border from Ecuador into Peru at the remote crossing at Zumba and spend 1 hour waiting for lunch to finish, (Peruvian way of life), and a further 2 hours while the customs guard tries to get Wiggie onto the Immigration and Customs computer system so that a Temporary Import Permit can be issued for Wiggy. The system seemed not to like our Country of Origin or our “Placa” (Registration) plate as we have no numbers. Just “ERWEGO”. We finally succeed in this with the assistance of a Canadian who spoke better Spanish than us and appeared to know the Peru immigration software better than the processing officer. Can be a totally frustrating experience but we draw on our inner Karma and know that all will be well. Eventually!
We travel through the mountains to cover 300 kms and arrive at San Ignatio, it’s late and is dusk. Our Rule No1 is never drive at night. Animals/Pedestrian/Pot holes/Motor cycles without lights are all a very real hazard. We stay overnight in the lovely little San Ignatio Plaza.
From here to El Dragon del Maranoa and San Pablo.
San Pablo has the 3rd highest waterfall in the world at 700 mts. Gacto Falls. It is a tiny town perched high in the mountains. We camped in Wiggy once again in the town plaza. It is Mandatory to have a guide to take us to the falls (only form of income for these folks). 4 hour hike to waterfall with a guide named Hitler. Peruvians love to name their offspring after famous or infamous Europeans! We’ve met Hitler, Napoleon, Darwin and Winston!
Lots of lovely children in the Wiggie .How many Peruvians fit in a Wiggie? We had twelve San Ignatio children. They drew little pictures for us of their families.
Chachapoyas. 3rd Inca Town conquered by the Spanish in Peru. The Name derives from the Chachpoya people and translates as People of the Clouds. 44kms in 4 hrs. Tough mountain roads with steep drop of and no safety barriers and little room for 2 vehicles to pass. In Chachapoyas we had to get Hotel room as no camping allowed.
All Countries we visit require 3rd party Insurance. Impossible to insure Wiggy for damage or loss. Our little border crossing didn’t have an Insurance office so we have to search Chachas for Insurance cover.
Heading South alongside beautiful rivers we arrive in Leimabamba and have to park on a dodgy looking soccer field. Police wouldn’t let us stay in the town Centre. Lots of mangy local dogs and filthy kids in a very poverty stricken area, the morning we left we had some hard boiled eggs and handed them out for their breakfast.
Wiggy not steering to well at all! We arrive at Cajamarca after another tough driving day and see a Chevrolet dealership and workshop, they put us over a service pit and show us our front suspension. We have a snapped suspension leaf!!!!!
Our suspension is of specific Oz design and manufacture, no replacement anywhere outside of Australia. Contact via email made to Wiggies Manufacturers who will ship us a whole new front suspension to Lima, 800 klms to the South. No pressure on time to get to Lima as our shipment was going to take 10days.
We spend 6 days at Cajamarca. Organising weld and replacement suspension.
Important for us to reach the Panamericano Hwy and hopefully some reasonably flat surface to drive on. 200 klms we now hugging the coast and travelling at a safe speed. Our temporary weld is holding and steering feels good. No need to push into Lima so we camped at some lovely little towns and beaches as we made our way South along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
We reach the northern sprawling outskirts of Lima, industrial, dusty and dirty. Finally hit an obviously new 4 lane Highway that our offline maps directs us to join which we very happy to do, easy road, lots of traffic but we moving very nicely. Too nicely! We are pulled over by Police and discover that no trucks are allowed on this Highway, day or night! They instruct us to leave at the first available off ramp, after our profuse apologies they wave us off. No fine !
Our first available off ramp drops us at a point where our 2 hour route takes us through the centre of Lima, to the very fashionable suburb of Mirraflores and the Hitchikers Hostel. We stay in Wiggie within the Hostal tiny enclosure with 4 other Overland vehicles. We wait for our Suspension to arrive, at the excellent workshop we had found a few days before on the internet and recommendation of a fellow overlander.
New suspension gets fitted and we are happy to Leave Lima. We now head to Cusco. Prior to our suspension problems we had forward booked accomodation and train travel for our highly anticipated trip to Machu Picchu. We knew at this stage that we would never make our intended itinerary and bookings. So we tried in vain to take the cancellation guarantees offered. Customer service for all was appalling and no reimbursement!.
Visit to the Nazca Lines running some 30miles long by 1 mile wide. It is thought these cleared rock lines were excavated by local Indian tribe some 1500 years ago and depict birds animals and men. We saw them from a viewing tower, others by light aircraft. They are clearly visible on Google Maps if you want to have a look.
Nazca to Cusco
After we left Nazca for Cusco some 650klm’s away we climbed to 15000ft our highest altitude to date across the Andes and a truly magnificent drive. Snow, sleet and rain were the least of our troubles.
Wiggy has a new Generation clean Diesel engine and regularly purges herself from horrible particle build up. Never designed to operate at these high altitudes. Our Diesel Filter air intakes couldn’t get enough air and lights came flashing on the dash. Even the STOP engine warning light came on ….Go directly to ISUZU!!! Freezing at 15000ft. We had no option but to keep going. 2 hours of very worrying driving
We descended to 9000ft to a campsite expecting engine to sieze or bits fall of. An absolute miracle we were able to get internet and make contact with Isuzu in Australia and tell them about our problems at altitude. No help at all, not one Isuzu person had any knowledge about Euro V Diesel engines at altitude.
Village mechanic came to our campground, called in Auto Electrician who ran a diagnostic and reset Wiggy computer. All appears good. Stressful day! We are half way to Cusco.
Off to beautiful Cusco 300 kms away to camp above this very old city at Quinta LaLa with our hostess Millie. A big enclosed paddock with basic facilities where Overlanders can leave their vehicles if they need to travel home. We will end up doing this. More of that later. We are able to catch up with friends from Alaska as they are in Cusco as special guests at a traditional wedding!
We spend 8 days in Cusco with quite bad altitude sickness (Cusco is 10,500 ft).. we can walk the 2 kms down to the town, but have to catch a local taxi back up to the site as it is too exhausting to walk .
From Cusco we head towards Machu Picchu with our new bookings and double cost. The little access town of Ollantaytambo is quite stunning, tucked away along the Sacred Valley… we park in the Municipal car park to get ready to catch a train to Aguas Calientes and then a 4am queue for buses to ferry us up to this iconic place. (Along with 2998 people, as only 3000 people per day allowed access).
At Machu Picchu Ian gets to cross off the No1 destination on my “places to see before I die” bucket list…… Machu Picchu. (Pens No1 is another place we shall be journeying to later).
Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes on the train, is regarded as one of the best 10 trains journeys in the World and was truly stunning. We travelled along the Sacred valley for the first section to “Olly”, now we complete the valley by train to the access point of Machu Picchu.
Having seen many many photos of Sacred Valley and Macchu Picchu over the years I was somewhat expecting that actually seeing these iconic places would be a little of an anti climax. It wasn’t, we had fabulous weather and the place is simply stunningly awesome.
I guess 99% of the people of come to Machu Picchu, fly into Cusco from wherever they live in the World. It very special feeling for us that to experience MP took two and a half years to drive here. Our choice been made even more special.
Altitude is affecting Pen pretty bad, we both have constant headaches but she gets bacterial infection of intestine and we stay very quiet for 3 days, when on 25th Sept Pen hears news that her Mother has had a severe stroke, and she needs to go home immediately. She flies out for Australia next day feeling pretty horrible. Unfortunately Pen doesn’t to get back to Australia in time to see her mum for the last time.
So all our plans change! 24 hrs later Pen has gone and Ian is left holding the fort, as we already have tickets booked to return to Oz 25th October, and paperwork has to be done to leave Wiggie legally in Peru.
Our in Cab heating doesn’t work at altitude so it very cold in Cusco, Peru.
We have nearly 3months in Australia when Ian arrives and on 11th January 2018 we return to Peru and continue our fabulous Journey. We’ll be heading towards Chile as the altitude problems for the truck make it impossible for us to consider Bolivia as altitudes in that country regularly exceed 15000ft.