So where were we……?
After packing Lodzi we navigated our way out of Lima north along the Panamericana.
Now this stretch of the Pan Americana is very infamous for the abundance of police road blocks that stop mainly tourist vehicles. We were not to be disappointed as the following 200km saw us stopped 7 times in all. At one of the stops the officer tried to fine us for having a right hand drive vehicle in Peru, at another we were asked to produce Peruvian insurance documents, 3 emergency triangles, a fire extinguisher, a full emergency medical kit, and a spare tyre. Now we are pretty sure ALL the local vehicles do not comply but disappointing to the officer we actually had all that he asked for. He was at a bit of a loss for words and finally just asked if we could spare a few cigarettes! Another blank as we do not smoke. We were sent swiftly on our way with the advice to tell any more officers we encountered we had everything required by Peruvian police! Yeah right!
Our following stop north was Huaraz, a tourist town nestled in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra, a range of the Andes holding the highest peaks in the tropics, over 100 peaks over 5000m high with the highest just short of 6800m. This is also allegedly South Americas finest trekking and rock climbing Mecca. After 2 days rock climbing we departed on a recommended circuit of about 250km that takes you in a large circle east around the peaks and then over a 4800m pass surrounded by glaciers while passing turquoise blue lakes. This trip took us 3 days in all with our second night camped at 4000m. A little nippy at night all made much better by the prospect of hot pancakes for breakfast. We however picked up our second puncture on our second "new" rear Dunlop tyre. They are extremely soft and we are desperately missing our sturdy BFs. James used our tyre repair kit for the first time and all is well so far.
We then spent a night camped in the car park of a small hostel in the town of Caraz where we did a full reorganisation of the back of Lodzi and also clean 7 months worth of dust from some of the "never used" compartments in the back.
A bone shattering two day drive ensued through the rest of the Cordillera Blanca passing through Canyon del Pato (duck canyon), with over 1km high granite faces on either side of the narrow road following a river and taking you through 36 tunnels in all, a spectacular setting which we both loved.
The bad road took its toll on Lodzi and when James did the second day vehicle check discovering the front right side shock absorber had been leaking a lot of oil and would need replacement very soon. We also needed to replace the front brake pads as they are fairly worn since setting out over 7 months ago. However on inspection of our spares we found we were given two sets of spare rear pads instead of a front and rear set. Lesson learnt - check everything!
Next on the agenda was the tourist village of Huanchaco on the Pacific coast, just 10km north of Trujillo, Peru's 3rd largest city. After chilling out for a day and undertaking some bush mechanic maintenance, James removed the front brake pads and both front shock absorbers for replacement. Luckily we managed to locate some Monroe shocks to replace the front but were unable to get new front brake pads. We settled for getting them repadded for a fraction of the price. Fortunately we did not manage to locate a replacement BF tyre as they came in almost USD230 EACH!!!!
After refitting the new parts to Lodzi, we once again packed up and continued our journey north.
While in Huanchaco an amazing "small world" liaison was made. We bumped into some Aussies from a very small town in South Australia called Mount Gambia. First they were very surprised we knew where that was; we visited the town when we toured Oz so not too hard. Then James recalled having worked once with a girl from Mt Gambia 7 years ago. After remembering her name she used to be the next door neighbour and baby sitter to the two brothers we met! A small world after all!!
This area is quite famous for its surfing which we were going to give a go. But lack of sun, cold sea, brown water and the mention of human turds on the beach sort of put us off.
Our journey took us about 120km north before heading east towards the town of Cajamarca where we camped about 25km east of the main town. A full day's drive over once again some of the roughest road up and down we had encountered made very slow going and saw us through 2 valleys, about 130km. We eventually found a on the side of the road in full view but with a stunning sunset view. Being such a bad road we were extremely lucky to only encounter one car the whole night and morning.
Continuing east we arrived in Leimabamba, a small town at the base of a chain of mountains famous for its late 1990's ancient discovery of Chullpa's. A burial chain of caves set in a mountain side overlooking a lake located at over 3500m - Laguna de Los Condores. We visited the famous museum describing the history of the Chachapoyan culture and the collection of 224 mummies over 500yrs old. Very freaky as they still had skin and hair on them.
45km further down the road we started an upward climb to Kuelap, Peru's other famous ruins very similar to the Great Zimbabwe ruins. After camping the night in the ruins car park we enjoyed strolling through the ruins set at the top of a mountain and still covered in trees and vegetation. We spent hours watching the numerous Humming Birds visiting all the flowers and just soaked in the beautiful views.
Chachapoyas city was our next stop where we managed to locate a nice little hotel with secure parking and pulled our usual, camped in the car park while using all the facilities. After chilling out for a couple of days we hit the road again heading for the town of Jaen, on the way north to the Ecuadorian border. On arriving in Jaen, we did not manage to locate a decent hotel to camp in and the town did not look particularly inviting. We opted to continue. 5km south of the border we located a small lodge run by an English lady. Luck was on our side. Once again after camping in the car park we used the lavish bathroom facilities and had an excellent, well deserved hot shower.
The next morning, we arrived at the border post nice and early. We knew this was a border post not often used so were expecting the worst. Starting on the Peruvian side, immigration was a breeze with the passports rapidly stamped and we were on our way to Customs. Being only the 8th private foreign vehicle through the border this year and the first exiting Peru we were not encouraged. The first official could not read, so we waited for another to show up. He was friendly and after assisting him complete HIS paperwork and ours correctly we entered Ecuador.
................. Into Ecuador