From Lima we continued along the coast, which was beautiful and mostly deserted. We did see the beginnings of a few resorts and seaside communities being built but we could not believe that miles and miles of stunning coastline was not filled with hotels, resorts and seaside holiday homes. No complaining though, miles and miles of empty coastline is a welcome reprieve for the weary driver looking for a scenic and quiet place to camp for the night.
We were not planning on spending any time in Lima but after leaving the mountains the temperature soared and our AC was not working so we stopped in Lima to find a mechanic. While at a gas station we met Alessandro, a lawyer who lives in Lima and was coming back from his own road trip in a vintage mini pickup truck. This is the kindness and generosity we encounter frequently; he helped us find a mechanic, followed up by calling the mechanic to check on the progress, make sure everything was ok and that we were satisfied. Then, the mechanic working on our truck, Bruno, drove us into central Lima in the evening to see the Plaza de Armas which was fully decorated with Christmas lights.
Everyone we meet is so friendly and kind. Travel is not only a luxury for which we are extremely grateful, but an important part of our lives, because it puts things in perspective, reminds us to be grateful and confirms that people are kind and happy to help others.
Although we were only in Peru for sixteen days we had some fantastic experiences. We were still trying to get down to Patagonia so we mostly drove along the coast but we did go inland to spend several days exploring the Cordillera Blanca region in North central Peru and Huascaran National Park. WOW. A lot of people will miss this area as it is a long drive from Lima but it is all the better for that because it does not get the big crowds. Keen hikers will make their way to the area and the pay off is huge. But even the hikers that visit will probably miss out on the spectacular drive we did; the Pastoruri Glacier road is a dirt road which cuts through the Southern end of the Cordillera Blanca and it was the most spectacular drive we have ever done but I think I will be saying that several times on this trip. We miss out on the multi day treks because we cannot leave our pet but with the truck we get to drive some amazing roads.
Our introduction to Peru was not great. Crossing the border was no issue it was the garbage. Northern Peru is not prosperous and they do not seem to have a waste management system other than open air dumping and burning. Most of the garbage is plastic and burning plastic is not pleasant. It was frustrating to see, no South American country has banned plastic bags or single use plastics, Africa seems to be leading the way with this and I really hope that South America (and North America!) follows in their footsteps.
plastic garbage in Northern Peru
On our second day driving in Peru the world changed as we turned inland and drove through the Canon del Pato which was the most beautiful drive we had ever done. Single track road and well used by trucks with a raging river (Rio Santa) on one side and steep canyon walls on the other it had a pretty high “clench” factor. The total route involves over 40 tunnels and the road rises from 500m to over 2000m. It was an intense drive. Please click here to view our November Flickr album.
Despite the disappointment with our purchases in Otavalo we loved Ecuador, the roads were fantastic, the scenery incredible and the locals were friendly, kind and welcoming. Ecuador is a small country and we could have easily driven through it in a few days but there were a few places we wanted to visit. Wildlife, landscape and hiking are what excite us most and up until this point we had spent most of our time driving or in cities or visiting popular tourist destinations. When we camped in Cotopaxi National Park, all by ourselves, we realized how much we missed being somewhere beautiful away from crowds and the chaos of city life. We were the only people camped in Cotopaxi and we were lucky enough to see the volcano in full glory one morning. Sunrise was amazing, just us and a volcano.
It has been a challenge for us to balance getting to Patagonia for summer (Nov-April) and spending time exploring Colombia and Ecuador. I chose a few hikes for us to do that would give us a good taste of Ecuador; Rucu Pinchincha from Quito, Laguna Limpiopungo in Cotopaxi NP and the Cerro Mandango hike from the picturesque town of Vilcabamba. The hikes were all beautiful but the driving alone makes Ecuador worth the visit. If you are not driving past volcanoes you are going up mountains and then down and along incredible canyons. I don’t think there was a single day of driving that didn’t make us say “wow.”
Please click here to view our November Flickr album.
Our time in Ecuador had to include a day at the Otavalo market, I was so excited to see all the textiles for which the market is famous. We saw some beautiful wool items and what we thought were Alpaca items which turned out to be synthetic; fantastically soft, colorful and beautiful synthetic but synthetic none the less. After some research, which I should have done before visiting the market, I learned that Alpaca breed slowly and as such their fleece are quite expensive, a 100% Alpaca blanket will cost a few hundred dollars, at a minimum. We paid a measly $18 each for some blankets and confirmed they were synthetic with the “burn test.” The vendors told us the blankets and scarves we bought were Alpaca so we splurged, forgetting, “if it’s too good to be true…” and “buyer beware.” What added to my naivety about Alpaca is that I bought two blankets in Ottawa, from two of my favorite stores which I frequented often and have built a rapport and familiarity with the proprietors. I was told the blankets were Alpaca and the blankets l bought in Ottawa look and feel the same as the ones I bought in Otavalo. We were so excited with our purchases from Otavalo, most of them gifts, then we felt crushing disappointment upon the discovery of all the synthetic we had just purchased because we now know that as synthetics wear down they shed fibers that become microplastics. The last thing we wanted to do was put more plastic into our environment.
In our world of consumerism and greed, as consumers it is more important than ever to educate ourselves about the products we want to buy. Lesson learned.
After spending almost a year at home visiting with friends and family we were ready to hit the road. We had been planning South America for a few months, mapping out the places we wanted to visit, figuring out the logistics of shipping the truck and working with a tutor to pick up some basic Spanish. We were really excited to start this next chapter.
Joe spent a lot of time organizing the shipping of the truck. We ruled out shipping from Florida or Texas because of the extra driving from Ottawa. We chose to ship from Baltimore which was about the same price as Florida and allowed us to come back home while the truck was in transit. The shipping process in Baltimore was quick and straightforward, Joe made sure he had all the paperwork, the escort picked him up and took him to the office to sign off on everything and we were done in less than an hour.
The Heffalump safely delivered to the port in Cartagena.
We flew into Cartagena on Sept 25th we had to wait a week for the truck because the ship was delayed and it took a couple of days to get it released from the port. While in Cartagena we decided to hire a broker to help us through the importation process. This was a very good idea especially because our Spanish was very basic. Our broker held our hand through the whole process and it was a great comfort.
Please click here to view our latest Flickr album.