By 7:30am we had our wet clothes back on, we’d eaten breakfast and packed. There was still ice on the windshields of the cars outside. So, when a bus passed us heading back to Yanque we jumped on.
Soon the sun was warming us up and we were spotting condors from the bus. We’ve probably spotted a dozen or so over the past few days.
It was election day in Peru and every villager was heading to the polling places. We passed 2 on our bus ride and both had lines around the block. We’d been told that voting is required in Peru and when you vote you get some sort of mark on your identification card. They also don’t allow alcohol to be served for 2 days before the election. Elections are also on a Sunday – no doubt to allow the church some influence before people go off to vote.
We’ve been in Peru for a couple months now, and every remnant of brick wall space is painted over by one of the candidates. I wonder if they’ll repaint when the winner is declared?
Back at our bus, we made lunch and packed up. On the way out of town, we stopped at the police station in Chivay to get some driving advice. There are 2 roads to Cusco, “8” hours on dirt roads or 10 on a paved road. The 2 hours on dirt a couple days ago really shook me loose, but the paved road was back over the 4900 m pass. It was going to be a two day trip for us either way.
As you might imagine, Jason and I differed on what we thought would be best (or more fun, in Jason’s case) route. Hence, police intervention. So when asked this question, 3 policemen comically mimicked a bouncy road and told me to take the pista. They said we would destroy our car on the other road – Jason just rolled his eyes.
Back over not one, but two of our highest passes (4900 and 4500 meters). On the second pass, it started to snow a little. I looked out the window at the lagoons we were passing and spotted tons of… flamingos?! High-altitude cold weather flamingos? Who knew?
Flamingo, alpaca, llamas and vicuna and the scenery was stunning to boot. Lago Lagunillas was beautiful and completely undeveloped. I think there was one road down to a fishing pier that would have made a good boondock. We also saw a sign for hot springs near here. Still, we decided to forge ahead.
Then we got to Juliaca just north of Puno – a total dump – keep rolling. Jason was not thrilled that we had to drive nearly to Puno to go north to Cusco – and will later back-track this same route to Lake Titicaca. We’ve barely back-tracked a single road on this trip.
It was getting dark but we knew of a camping spot at a hot springs another 2 hours away. The last time we drove at night it nearly ended our marriage, not to mention our lives but since this highway was (for the most part) in better shape and less traveled than the Pan-Am we decided to go for it. Only buses on this stretch and it was pretty smooth sailing.
A couple hours later we found the aquas calientes and pulled into a dark parking lot. Jason knocked and yelled out but no one came. We started getting our dinner ready and eventually a guard came out and let us into the fenced yard of the hot springs. $0.75 USD entrance fee and the hot springs were open all night.
We made the easiest dinner possible – ramen noodles – and tried to keep the bus warm.
Back in Ecuador, our gasoline camp stove broke beyond repair (Jason had fixed it multiple times before, but this time it was a goner). We bought a fancy MSR gas stove from some fellow overlanders who had an extra. The problem is, I am terrified to use it, so Jason has to light it every time. He claims I just want him to cook (a somewhat justified claim, but this stove is scary). Tonight my apprehension was confirmed.
When Jason turned off the stove, the valve wasn’t working and the flame was still huge. He picked it up to adjust the valve but another flame lit from the leaking valve. He dropped it on the floor and had blown it out* before I could even open a bottle of water that was nearby. Really, it was a small thing and no big deal. But, when he lit that stove the next morning next to my head while I was sleeping, I was up like a flash.
*the fire extinguisher is behind the driver’s seat.