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PAN AM HIGHWAY SOUTH•Peru 4×4 Expedition
|July 13, 2006 – Thursday
1000K in 1 Day – Lima to Ariquipa
|5am could not have come soon enough. The night clerk at Hitchhikers has called us a taxi (30 soles – $10) to lead us out of Lima, on roads where the underpasses are tall enough, and trucks are allowed. I don’t think either of us could sleep for the anticipation of today. We get to the Carretera Pan Americana Sur (Pan America Highway, South) at about 5:30. (It was a very quick trip through town). We collected no wires and re-positioned no bridges, so rather uneventful compared to our last week in Lima. We pay our 1st (of many) tolls, 22 soles, and head out across the blackness of the beyond. When it starts to get light, we are surprised at our surroundings of huge sand dunes. Sand, sand everywhere. Of course, we are along the Pacific Ocean and would expect a coastline, but there is sand INLAND as far as we can see. Occasionally there is a small shack, or collection of shacks.We had been warned of seeing “everything you can imagine, and more” on the Pan Am. Our 1st shocker was a family on a “cycle/moped/bicycle vacation”. If my eyes saw it right (Mike and I had discussions later as to what we actually saw), there was a Dad and Mom on a moped type of cycle. There was a child between them on a bicycle (?) pedaling his legs off going up a hill. The Dad had hold of the child’s handlebars helping to pull him up the hill. This was NOT a Peruvian family, which I am sure of. All had nice helmets on and all cycles were outfitted with 2 very nice luggage bags. I just could not imagine doing this for FUN!!! I’ll stick to our very posh Unimog for traveling.
Perhaps the most stirring soul we saw was a dear old hunchback man WALKING on the Pan Am, BAREFOOT. We could not bear the sight, and went back to give him some money for shoes. I tried to explain that it was for shoes, but my attempt was met with a blank stare. How lucky we are! or should I say blessed.
The famous Nasca Lines. Something I had always wanted to see. Well, we sort of got a glimpse today. We choose to skip a plane ride to see the lines, but do get a view from a lookout tower along the highway. You can see the “tree”, “hand,” and “lizard”, although the lizard has been cut in half by the highway. At the time the highway was built, no one knew about the lines. We bought the proper amount of souvenirs from the folks selling there (had to spend 100 soles because no one had any change – that’s always the case when it comes to tourist things.) We will come back hopefully on our return and give the Lines a proper visit! Also, this is the town where we would have turned northeast to go to Cusco and Machu Picchu, how sad to miss them. We will come back. Who wants to come back with us?
There were toll stops, about 6 today, but we were glad to pay to have a good road. We were able to do 60-70mph all day. Kolob has been running great! This is such an awesome vehicle to travel in!
The highway climbs way above the ocean with beautiful views of the sandy and rocky cliffs. Not a road for anyone with a fear of either heights or edges. I kept my window down and a camera to my eye to distract the thoughts of being on the edge.
In places the geography looked as if we were on the moon – there was NOTHING. There was sand and rocks, and that is it! There was not even 1 blade of grass. The highway was a bit inland here, so there was not any water to be seen. It was a very strange feeling. We had our 1st tunnel today, all was fine. It was a roughly carved one, and we stayed in the middle, as not to get caught on any rough edges.
| Every small village had a “carretara policia” – highway patrol. They usually got out of their vehicle to look as we went by smiling and waving at them. We found that the best way to deal with them was to act like they were long-lost friends and just wave our hands off at them. Not a single one made an effort to stop us. We were more of a curiosity to them. After hearing all the stories of bad driving, bad road, police stops, expect to see anything and everything – we did have several donkeys grazing at the road, we had a rather quiet day, not even very much traffic on the highway.
It was about 9pm when we pulled into Ariquipa. Michael is exhausted after the last 60k of steep mountain switchback roads. We ask a police where we can find a place to park and he gives us a full escort – flashing lights and everything to a hotel, Las Mercedes, Av. La Marina #1001 (51-54 213601), firstname.lastname@example.org. We park inside the gates and stay for $4 per person. We taxi to a mall, yes a real mall, and get KFC to eat. Michael orders an extra 8 piece with fixings to go for traveling the next day. Good idea!
Time to crash – we are beat!!!
July 14, 2006 – Friday
We are in Chile
(And it promises to be hot tamale)
This morning we wake to see that there is also an overlander tour bus parked at Las Mercedes. It has about 12-14 tourists, 1 driver, & 1 tour guide. It is “budgetexpeditions.com”.
Our parking fees also let us use their shower house, so we do to make less mess in the truck today.
We only drive about 360K today, but it gets us into Arica, Chile. On the way there, we stop in the biggest town, Tacna, to get a few groceries. We get some directions (this is always fun), and head off. As usual, the streets get narrower and narrower, and the electric lines strung like spider webs above the streets get lower and lower. We make it to the central plaza and could not find the place. We have found that the older people do not know any English, and are not very patient with a person who speaks very little Spanish. So, we ask a teenage school girl how to get to the grocery. She tells us, but then insists on showing us. We told her that we could do it on our own, but she was sure that us two gringo’s would never make it. She said that she could tell her teacher that she had been practicing her English if we allowed her to help us. So we did. Her and I rode in the seat to the “big market where everyone in Tacna goes”. It was a corner store, and not much more. We picked up a few things, and her a Coke and chocolate bar. We also had our huge windshield cleaned and side windows, and as much metal as the lady could reach for about 2 soles (we gave her 10). Our new friend, Mariaelana, then rode with us to where we could get back on the Pan American. She told Mike, “all you have to remember is STRAIGHT”. I’m not sure she thought we could even handle that.
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