Man, I am glad I "liked" you guys on facebook. The mini updates are great in between the full blown blog posts. I had to use my wife's FB since I don't have an account so the added benefit is she is starting to ask me questions about overlanding (evil grin). Glad to hear you're back on the road.
If you are interested in more check out: http://homeonthehighway.com
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We settled into to life at our apartment. It was nice to have some routine after being on the move for so long. We would wake up in the morning, make some coffee, and hang out on the roof of our apartment watching the waves, the sun, and life waking up in our little town of Huanchaco.
It didn't take long for word to trickle out on the streets that "Home on the Highway" had a sweet beach pad and the visitors soon started rolling in.
Our first friends who came were our Canadian buds we had recently met in Ecuador. We spent lots of time strolling the town together, drinking Trujillo beers, and sitting on the beach. Standard Hunachaco life.
We paid a visit to Trujillo's largest ruin, the infamous CHAN-CHAN... ChanChan is a massive ruin covering over 20KM of land. It is actually the largest Pre-Columbian ruin in all of South America. The main complex is surrounded by giant adobe walls and divided up into various sections inside for ceremony, farming, and everyday life. At its peak over 30,000 people lived in this city. It was the capital of the Chimu empire.
The adobe walls are full of intricate patterns occasionally depicting animals as well.
ChanChan was kind of cool at first, however, after strolling along through the mud hallways eventually it gets pretty damn boring. We usually shy away from guides and prefer to discover a place by ourselves, I feel ChanChan needs a guide to do it justice.
We are headed out of the mud fortress when we come across a Peruvian family who has drug its 2-year old little boy out to see the mud. Surprisingly, the boy is not at all interested in staring at brown walls for hours at a time and its throwing a straight up tantrum as his clearly annoyed parents continue to drag him through the ruins.
At one point the crying kid walks in front of me and plops down directly in front of my feet as I am walking, not thinking much of it and not wanting to punt the kid, I just step over him and keep on strolling.
Looking back... perhaps that wasn't the best move.
A few seconds later I hear loud shouting behind me, I turn around and find a red-faced 5ft tall Peruvian man holding his kid in his arms screaming his *** off at me. His overweight equally red-faced wife behind him also yelling. Surprisingly, for the first time all day, the baby is silent...
I glean from the screaming that he is mad that I walked over his kid, I apologize but the man won't let us alone. He starts cursing at me, screaming about how Americans come to their country and disrespect them. Lo Siento Senor, No queiro problemas. At this point his loud shouting had gathered quite a crowd all standing around to watch the show. I stand there a while more getting threatened by this little red-faced man until a security guard comes over and tells us our group of 4 gringos we should probably leave. As I eyeballed 20 Peruvian males all around us itching to let out some pent-up aggression, I agreed.
We all hauled *** outta ChanChan laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Hey, at least we got some excitement out of the place!
Our Canadian friends hit the road and our next set of visitors arrived, the infamous Team LifeRemotely.
We had not seen each other since Costa Rica, and had lots of catching up to do. We quickly fell back into our routine of gluttony and excessive libations.
Jared went crazy finally having access to a real full sized kitchen and cooked up all kinds of deliciousness. Kobus busted out his world-famous empanadas, while Lauren and Jessica provided moral-support from the sidelines, their enthusiasm fueled by the finest of boxed red wine ("Gato" is the finest if you were wondering...)
It was during Life Remotely's visit that we first discovered our downstairs neighbor had recently acquired a new kitten.
Unfortunately my neighbor is not home much and the very young kitten was left on the backpatio alone for most of the day and night. He spent most of his time meowing and crying for some attention. I would sling down some tunafish from the second-story window from time to time to shut him up, but inevitably he would start back up again. Eventually the cat would cry himself hoarse and start doing this weird squeaking noise. Hence we named this random cat whom we had never actually met, Squeakers.
It was a combination of being tired of listening to Squeakers whine all damn day, a lot of rum, and Jared's comment of "If you don't rescue that cat soon he is going to have permanent severe mental problems" that sprung us into action.
Unable to access the first floor patio, we had to somehow catch him from the 2nd story. We rigged up a wicker basket, some rope, and a can of tuna fish trying to create a sort of trap for the cat. Hoping he would jump into the basket and we could pull him up.
We were able to get him into the basket but he would bonzai jump out as we were trying to bring him up to the second story. Not wanting to be a part of a kitty suicide we shelved the plan. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
The next day we waved goodbye to Life Remotely and waved hello to our pals from DriveNachoDrive
Brad and Sheena were onboard instantly with the cat rescue operation. We upgraded from our crappy wicker basket to a high-sided bin and soon enough. We had him!
As luck would have it our neighbor came home just as we are stealing the cat. As Lauren and Sheena pull the cat up into our apartment. I run downstairs to explain to our confused neighbor why she sees her cat being carted away to the 2nd floor in some old plastic bin....
I don't think she really understood my horrible spanish but she got that jist that we had just stole her cat and she didn't seem to mind too much. OK?
He was one dirty and pissed off cat, the girls, of course, instantly fell in love.
We put a shine on him and he cleaned up pretty good, I usually HATE cats, but even I had to admit he was pretty damn cute.
We burned through the days playing cards, taking advantage of having an oven, and playing with the cat.
Rooftop Card Sesh. Sheena is the worlds fastest card player. Brad, antsy to throw down his last card and call Rummy.
Brad is a master Nacho chef. He loves them so much his blog is named after them. Well not really, but the man does love some nachos.
We said goodbye to Brad and Sheena and prepared for our next adventure. Lauren's friend is flying into Lima in just a few days. We will meet her there and then drive to Machu Picchu.
First leg of the trip... the 9 hour drive from Huanchaco to Lima.
We hit the road south and soon were cruising through giant sand dunes and the beautiful desolate shoreline of the Peruvian coast.
Next post is about machu picchu, getting there was 1/2 the damn battle.
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Driving through Central America is pretty cool, you can drive from one side of a country to the other in a single day or decide to stay a month or more really getting to know a place.
South America, is a bit different. Most of the countries on this continent are MASSIVE. You really need to adjust your scales when thinking of driving distances in South America vs Central America.
Sometime back in Panama we were speaking with our friend Vanessa about coming down to visit. We weren't exactly sure WHEN but we knew we would eventually make it Peru, home of Machu Picchu. The quintessential tourist destination in South America. A quasi-gameplan was set for Vanessa to fly into Lima, Peru where we would pick her up and then drive to Machu Picchu. I quickly glanced at the map online, Lima to Machu Picchu was only like 1.5 inches on the map. No big deal. A tentative date was set, plane tickets were purchased and we didn't really think about it further.
As our friends arrival date approached I finally starting looking into the logistics of this upcoming excursion. From our homebase here in Huanchaco it was a 9-hour drive to Lima. From Lima it was a nice and easy... TWENTY HOUR drive from Lima to Cusco.
That's 2 solid days of driving on either side of the trip, effectively knocking her 7 day vacation down to a 3-day vacation.
We started scrambling for alternatives, we looked into flights from Huanchaco to Lima and Lima to Cusco. The last minute flights were going to be expensive, more than we could afford on our dwindling budget. I crafted a solution I like to call...
1. Wake up buttcrack early in Huanchaco
2. Drive 9 hours to Lima
3. Pick up Vanessa from Lima airport at 10PM
4. Drive 7 hours from Lima to Nazca throughout the night.
6. Arrive in Nazca, if the sun is not up yet, sleep for a few minutes.
7. Once there is enough light, hit the hairpinned highway up into the mountains towards Cusco, drive drive drive drive 13 hours.
8. Arrive in Cusco. Collapse into lifeless ball on ground.
Close to 30 hours of driving in a span of 48 hours. It sounded do-able, certainly not fun but I knew the 4Runner could handle it, if I could. Lauren called me crazy, she said we should just take our time. But now that "The Gauntlet" was crafted in my mind there would be no turning back. It was "Me VS The Road"
We packed up the truck and hit the road south.
We passed beautiful coastline and expansive deserts on our way to Lima.
Peru is jammed with so much history that occasionally you just randomly stumble across it. This adobe fortress rises up out of the desert on the side of the PanAmerican highway. I later learned that is it is the Fortress of Paramonga, part of the Chimu empire. We visited the Chimu capital, ChanChan, in our last post.
After a long day of driving we finally made it to Lima. Ugh. I hate driving in cities, especially Peruvian cities. Peruvian drivers are the WORST we have encountered on the trip thus far. Driving in Lima is truly a no-holds-barred grudge match. I have seen more than 1 public bus swap paint with a taxi cab while jockeying for position. Luckily we drive a big rusted/dented truck with gnarly steel bumpers on either end, add in the fact that I also drive like a madman and we have our own dog in the fight.
We posted up in Lima, caught some quick winks, and headed to the airport. The 10PM airport pickup went off without a hitch. We threw Vanessa in the back of the truck and hit the road. Lauren climbed back there as well and the ladies started chatting away about girly things.
I wasn't paying attention. I was focused. The Gauntlet has no time for chatting.
Eventually the girls talked themselves to sleep. I was alone. The 4Runner slipping through the inky black night of the Peruvian desert like a grey wolf hunting his prey. I continually pressed my face against the windshield ogling the billions of stars that blanketed the sky above us.
As the hours ticked by the lines on the road slowly blurred into a one long streak.
Sometime around 2:00AM I felt my brain start shutting down. Oh no you don't brain! I reached into the passenger seat and grabbed one of the questionable stimulants I picked up at a late-night Peruvian truckstop. I slammed the sickly sweet tincture into my gullet and felt an instant headrush and boost of energy. WOOOOOOWWEEE! TAKE THAT GAUNTLET!
Throughout the night I was teetering somewhere on the edge of F1 Racecar driving perfection and crashing the truck into a giant fiery ball. It was a healthy balance.
I snapped back to reality at a police checkpoint entering Nazca. I glanced at the clock. 4:45 AM. I glanced at the passenger seat. It was littered with Oreo cookie wrappers, various truckstop uppers, and a few empty beer cans. Luckily, the cop paid no mind to this crazy gringo driving in the middle of the night with 2 girls passed out in the back and waved me through.
I pulled over in between a bunch of other 18-wheelers parked past the checkpoint, turned off the truck, and tilted the seat back to try to catch some sleep.
Who was I kidding? I was so cracked out on truckstop go-juice there would be no sleep for me. I rolled down the window and stared at the stars for a while, watching the black sky slowly turn purple as dawn approached. It was very beautiful, I couldn't recall the last time I had been up to see daybreak.
My calming dawn moment was soon interrupted by a cacophony of big rigs roaring to life all around me. It seems we all had the same idea and had been waiting for enough sunlight to hit the wild mountain roads.
Not wanting to end up stuck behind a slow-moving convoy, I cranked the truck and hit the road once more.
We were soon winding through the low-lying front range of the Andes. As the sun came up, so did the girls. Good morning!
This part of the long drive was amazing. We rose from the dusty desert at sea-level all the way up to ~15,000Ft driving along the high altiplano of the snow-peaked Andes.
At one point we crossed through a Vicuna (A smaller member of the Llama family) wildlife zone. These little dudes were everywhere, jumping across the road, grazing the short grass of the Altiplano.
We dipped into a low valley town, dropping out of the mountains down to around 4000FT. After the town it was a long switchbacked climb back up to 15,000 ft. We passed a few roadside cemeteries, perhaps foreshadowing of things to come?
It was on this long climb up that the 4Runner showed her first signs of rebellion against this slogging I had been giving her over the past 2 days. As we climbed I kept a steady eye on the temp gauge. She slowly started rising, I pulled over, checked the oil, checked the water, everything looked fine. Back on the road, I kept climbing. The gauge slowly creeping up into the danger-zone once again. It was holding fairly steady just above 1/2, hotter than normal but nothing to crazy.
Suddenly the motor bogged, I lost power, and the entire truck shut itself off. Fearing the worst (head gasket) out I pull off to the side of the road and pop the hood. Overflow tank is going full bore, steaming and gurgling. CRAP! Did I pop the HG!? I looked at the valley town far below us, nothing more than a dusty mountain pitstop. Not much chance of any decent mechanic down there. We were still 3 hours from Cusco. If the truck couldn't get us out of here we were going to be screwed. Oh well, at least we had a nice view to break down by.
Lauren assured Vanessa this kind of stuff is normal... and Vanessa went back to sleep. lol
After letting the truck cool off, I cross my fingers and cranked her up. She roared to life happy as a clam. Yeehaw! Not sure what that was all about... the truck displayed no other hiccups for the rest of the trip.
Snow on the mountain.
Cruising along the high Andes we encountered giant free-roaming herds of LLamas, Alpacas, and even more Vicunas. These guys were everywhere, you really had to be careful sweeping a blind curve up here.
Cruising at 4500 meters (15,000Ft)
Highest I have ever seen this altimeter roll-over!
High altitude lagoons dotted the landscape.
The ladies take turns sitting in the front seat. The bed is comfortable for sleeping, not the best for riding 20 hours on.
River pit-stop. We enjoyed a nice gas station soup which comprised mostly of boiled chicken feet. I ate Laurens for her...
IS THIS DRIVE GOING TO LAST FOREVER!!?
We pulled into Cusco right around sun-down.
We thought our journey was finally complete. Unfortunately it took us 2-hours of driving the maze-like streets of Cusco to finally find our campground.
Campground located. I park the truck, open the door, and collapse into a ball on the ground...
JAMES - 1
GAUNTLET - 0
Gauntlet didn't have a chance.
"For He so loved the world, that He sent His only son..."
2001 Isuzu Trooper:"Cabby"
2013 Chrysler T&C:[B]"Silver Surfer"
thanks for the update; anxiously awaiting more...