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Monday, January 30, 2012

FROM COAST TO CANYONS

After a few nights on the beach at Lima (not really as lovely as it sounds – these guys here party hard & leave their rubbish behind) trying to extract a parcel from the Peruvian customs, we head north along the coastline. We have already travelled part of this route, so we zoom by lots of towns & beaches, stopping only to camp overnight at a beach. Nice quiet spot except the security guards who drive by every 4 hours with lights flashing & sirens blasting.

We pass through lots of desert areas, interspersed with cropped fertile valleys. Here there are lots of old mud brick ruins, mostly crumbling away. The lifestyle here is pretty basic, but the amazing thing is that when you get to a large town there are really modern supermarkets and huge new shopping malls that would be up there with Chermside.

We plan to visit the ancient site of Chan Chan the next day, so stop nearby at the beach, but the police move us on to the more touristy area of Huanchaco, a beach famous for its reed boats. It is Friday night and the locals are out partying, so it is rather noisy. So the next day we move to an “RV” park behind the hotels. All the locals out out on the beach, sunbathing, swimming, eating. We both go for rides on a reed boat – a very fun experience, and catch the local bus into town to see the raising of the flag and parade on Trujillo Plaza. The plaza is absolutely magnificent, and despite the lateness of the bus we make it in time for the very pompous ceremony. Oh, and yes, we did go to Chan Chan. The largest mud brick city in the world. The museum even had English writing and the complex itself had a restored section with lots of carvings.

Next stop is the city of Chichalayo, where we visit the local markets – a massive area selling everything from fruit, fish, and meat to witches potions & herbs. Then it is on to gawk at the amazing old tombs at Sipan. Actually the museum was better because we could see copies of the golden jewelry found in the tombs.

This is as far north as we plan to come this time. We are 800km south of the Equator. No more sunsets over the ocean. We now head east into the mountains via Mango valley (our name because it is full of Mango trees heavy with ripe fruit. Yum) There is also lots of rice paddies still being planted by hand. Finally we reach the pass and head down into Cajamarca, a large country town where the locals wear huge straw hats and the women are busy spinning, knitting and crocheting. Here we visit the very impressive El Complejo de Belen (church & hospital) with a gorgeous cathedral – no photos allowed, so you will have to believe me. We followed this with a set lunch at a little restaurant. We had 3 courses & freshly squeezed juice for the princely sum of 8 soles each ($3). Then it is on through amazingly hilly farmland. Crops, cottages & villages everywhere.

When we stop at a very unexciting gravel pit for the night (land is all used here) another camper van pulls up and we are joined by Friso & Wera (a German couple in a 4x4 Mercedes van). We travel together as we are both going via the mountains to Cusco.

The next few days sees us going up and down massive mountainsides on a real mixture of roads. Some narrow seal, some good wide seal, many narrow gravel, and even more simply goat tracks. The goat tracks in the rain were the worst- narrow & slippery with sheer vertical drops, no guard rails and plenty of oncoming buses & trucks. Despite all of this the scenery is magical. Just look at the photos. Gorge after amazing gorge. Scary road after scary road. We finally reach the Canon del Pato where the Cordillera Blanca meets the Cordillera Negra (black & white mtn ranges) – it is very nearly 2 sheer rock walls colliding. The road is a mere strip of dirt/gravel cut into the rock face with 35 rock tunnels. Phew! Finally we reach a wide tarseal road. It is cloudy, but by the next morning we are surrounded by massive snowy peaks. What a sight.

Adios Amigos

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