4th August – Peru is prone to earthquakes due to its location on a geological fault that spans the entire length of the country. During the earthquake of May 1970 tons of granite and ice fell from Huascaran’s north face, hurtling towards Yungay at over 190mph. It buried the entire village and almost all of its inhabitants. This original village of Yungay lies about 2km south of the present town. The site, now known as Campo Santo, has been made into a cemetery, whilst a large part of it has been made into a beautiful rose garden with paths and monuments in between.
The buried remains of a bus and part of the church are all that remain of the Plaza de Armas.
There are many graves amongst the long grass and at the far end, a huge, brick archway has been built. As we walk towards it, snow covered Huascaran can be seen through the upper windows. Standing in the archway, you are looking directly at the north face of Huascaran and it is clearly visible where the avalanche took place and the path that it took. It is a very humbling experience.
At the other end of the site, stands Yungay’s original circular Cementerio topped by the huge, white Cristo Redentor built in 1963 and which survived the earthquake. It is therefore considered to be immortal.
Some photos show the terrible devastation that took place here.
We leave Yungay and continue to Caraz at 2295m, one of the few places in this valley to be spared total destruction by earthquakes or avalanches. This little town is famous for its ‘manjar blanco’, very similar to dulce de leche that we have come across all over South America. Great for those with a very sweet tooth!
Whilst waiting for our friend Diego to arrive we check out Los Pinos Lodge where we hope to camp tonight. A very attractive, old building situated in a small, quiet square but only 5 mins. walk to the main plaza. Big gates enable us to drive into a garden area and park. There is laundry, wifi and one of the best showers that we have had for ages and we can also hook up to electricity……so it is perfect! Diego arrives on his motorbike in the attractive, colonial Plaza de Armas and although it is Sunday, we fortunately find a little restaurant open – Cafe Panes, which serves us an excellent meal….their fresh fruit juices and desserts are just amazing! We have a great evening with Diego, exchanging news and finally wishing him a safe journey back to Argentina. We hope our waves goodbye won’t be final ones and that one day we will meet up again!
8th August – We finally leave all the comforts at Los Pinos Lodge, the beautiful sunsets there and many more enjoyable meals at Cafe Panes.
We continue northwest toward the Canyon del Pato, a very narrow gorge between the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca. The Rio Santa is flowing below our narrow dirt track and in the wet season it must be a raging torrent, carrying along boulders and rocks that fall from above……a very risky place to drive then!
As the walls of the canyon get higher, it becomes very impressive and many tunnels have been hewn out of the rock, some quite long and very dark…..quite dangerous for cyclists I would think.
The mountains continue to soar above us until they widen out for the remote oasis town of Huallanca, chosen as the site for a huge, electricity generating/distribution centre. The mass of pylons as we descend into the town are very unattractive. After Huallanca, many of the mountains are coloured, their rocks containing various minerals.
Still in the farming valley near Yuramarca, there are many mango trees in flower….they must have a massive crop later in the year. The sheer walls of the canyon close in once again resulting in more tunnels. Fortunately we always seem to have a space to pull in to when we meet on-coming traffic. We are surprised at the length of this canyon, which has been quite spectacular, if not a little hair-raising at times!
Near Tablones however, we gradually leave the canyon behind and the farming valley takes over once more. Men are sorting piles of tomatoes by the roadside and when I ask if I can buy some, they simply fill a bag for me and refuse any money……I will have to make lots of tomato-based meals…..they look too good to waste!
Irrigation channels snake through the fertile valley, the Rio Santa finally emerging under the Puente Santa on its last stretch heading out to sea. We finally arrive at the Panamericana Norte and continue to Trujillo where we take a room at the 3* Hotel San Andres with secure parking for Moby.
9th August – Trujillo was once the main port of call for Spanish fleets. Today it is said to have one of the most impressive colonial centres in Peru, so before we leave for Chiclayo, we park in Trujillo’s main square – Plaza Mayor de Armas, which is surrounded by many beautiful, colonial buildings painted in bold colours. The city’s deep, yellow and white Catedral has been rebuilt following earthquake damage and dominates the square, along with a tall monument of Liberty built by a German sculptor.
Many of the buildings have beautifully restored ornate windows, doors and wooden balconies.
Once we leave the main square, sadly the remaining colonial buildings are in need of some restoration, their walls faded and peeling and the hectic and impatient driving takes over with a chorus of constant horn blowing. Hesitate and you will be in trouble, nobody waits for you…..Bill has turned into a typical Peruvian driver but it’s the only way to survive! We come across an amazing sight however, where drivers did wait. Two men are herding some geese with a number of small, yellow goslings in tow across a side street next to the main road……can’t imagine where they are all going but we hope they arrive safely!
After leaving colourful Trujillo, the vast, grey desert gradually returns. What a contrast! At wind-blasted San Pedro, sand is drifting across the road and vehicles loom out of the dust and haze. The desert is a mass of wind-blown rubbish, it must be hellish to live here with the fierce wind off the ocean, the heat and the dust but no doubt the local people are used to it.
Arriving at Lambayeque there is no camping to be found, so we find another place to stay recommended by Diego, who has already passed through these towns. It will be Hotel el Sol for the night. It’s an OK hotel with such hot water that it is impossible to stand under the shower, as the cold tap does not produce enough water to cool it down but Moby has superb parking behind massive, metal gates at the back of the hotel and we have a great meal at Norkys just a short walk along the road. Definitely upmarket from the usual fast food chains!
10th August – Back on a very hot Panamericana Norte, we stop at a large car mechanic area and find oil for a later oil change. As we are leaving a guy runs alongside us waving his arms and pointing at a front wheel……what is going on? He is so persistent that we finally stop and he once again points to our wheel, producing a piece of very shiny and black, broken rubber. This of course is his downfall, as anything broken from underneath our vehicle will not be shiny and black and Bill knows that any problem with a wheel and he would have noticed it when driving. This guy realises he has not convinced us and disappears but this was obviously a ploy to hopefully get us into his workshop where he would find plenty wrong and earn himself some good money! First time we have been caught like that!
We are heading for Piura but first we stop to visit Tucume in the scorching, Lambayeque Valley, once an important site of the Sican culture and a region of numerous pyramids or ‘huacas’. This Valle de los Piramides (Valley of the Pyramids) consists of 26 adobe pyramids and mounds spread over a large area and in various states of erosion. Three little boys come rushing over, wanting to guard our Land Rover in the parking area for a few coins each. The displays in the small museum here are very interesting and there are many beautiful pots that were discovered inside burial chambers.
The local Shaman or ‘healer’. Building the pyramids – an enormous and lengthy task.
From Tucume we drive on to Pacora where we camp at Rancho Santana. Andrea from Switzerland and her Peruvian husband own this working farm with a number of horses, hens and rescued cats and dogs.
11th – 12th August – Andrea’s basket on the front of her bicycle is full of toilet rolls when she arrives back from shopping this morning, but it is also used for carrying back sick or stray dogs and cats that need looking after. It’s a hot and dry life here and some of the stories behind her many animals are very sad. Amazing to learn that very little rain falls here in a year but then they are on the eastern edge of the huge Desierto de Sechura that stretches from the northern coast, extending inland to the edge of the Cordillera de Guamani.
Every small town that we pass through is full of people, busy markets and streets choked with Motokars.
When we reach Piura we discover that Hotel Vicus does not have parking high enough for Moby, so it is a desperate search to find another reasonable hotel that does. This proves impossible so we have a night of luxury in the very beautiful Los Portales overlooking the Plaza de Armas. We are given a good discount on our room, have the treat of a luxurious bathroom with ‘real’ towels and Moby has guarded parking just around the corner. To think that yesterday we were camping in a dusty yard with chickens, 4 tethered horses and a number of dogs and picking our way with a torch to the loo in a wooden shed…….and now we have this! It’s strange what’s around the corner and many nights we are never sure where we will be camping, especially now we are further north.
We find Econogas to fill our empty gas bottle for cooking, which is a big relief and stock up at a good supermarket before we leave for Ecuador tomorrow.
13th August – We leave all our luxuries ( especially the bathroom and pie de liemon) and the really nice people here. Today we are heading for the border with Ecuador, we really want to be there in time to see the humpback whales, which have migrated to Ecuador’s west coast to mate and calve, before returning to the cold waters of the Antarctic in September.
On the way to the border at La Tina in Peru, we pass many mango trees in flower, banana and papaya trees, even vineyards and fields growing rice.
Beautiful Ceiba (Kapok) trees with their greenish bark and bulbous trunks, begin to stand out on the hillsides, their brown pods bursting open and releasing fluffy, cream clusters of seeds.
Nice and easy border crossings with pleasant and helpful border officials at both La TIna in Peru and at Macara in Ecuador.
And so we leave Peru behind us. It has been an enormous country of spectacular contrasts, amazing landscapes, interesting cultures, friendly people and fantastic food. We have both really enjoyed our time there.