The long way around

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.

7 thoughts on “The long way around

  • April 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    great post, ang! and these pictures are just breathtaking.

    i wonder did you get any close-up shots of the flamingos? if so, i’d love to talk about buying one or two. let me know? lots of love!

  • April 25, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Great photos! We found it cold up there, but never had any snow…
    Would this mean that you used our camping spot? Aguas Calientes near Tambo, Cusco – Puno road, S 14°27.068′, W071°04.344′ @ 4046m = glad to be of some help!

    BRW: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you can find a selection of good camping stoves in Cusco. Shame that Helmie doesn’t live at the campground anymore, as he would have known. But on occasions we found the tourist information helpful, or try the area around the central produce market. I found several car spare parts there which I couldn’t get elsewhere, although a couple I had to order; if you do so before going to the Sacred Valley they should be ready for pick up when you return… Good Luck!

  • April 25, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    the rear view mirror shot is a winner. gotta scrape off whats left of that blind spot mirror though. Man, Peru just looks breathtaking. Every snapshot looks like a postcard.

  • April 26, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Stunning photos in this particular post. I really like this set a lot. Peru looks absolutely amazing, and what a stark contrast again from the desert shots. Peru seems to be the land of stark contrasts. Amazing! I’m very jealous I’m not there to see these breathtaking landscapes in person.

  • April 26, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    now you know how i feel when i light your stove in alameda ; )

  • April 27, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Juergen- Although our French friends told us about this camping spot, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was from your site. The dare2go camping list is quite popular with everyone! Thanks!

  • April 28, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    I have to agree with Nick – that side mirror shot is incredible! All of the photos are great. Beautiful scenery.

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