Way back when we were planning this trip, we thought we would get to Argentina sometime this May. Well we won’t make it. But never mind. We have a new plan. We will get to Argentina eventually, but right now, we need a time out.
New plan. Store the van in Peru, go back to Canada for the summer and then resume our adventure in the fall. Our Canadian health care will expire if we do not return soon. And we need all those the fun things like dental cleaning, Colon check, and the ever enjoyable mammogram.
Seeing family and friends will be stupendous.
From Nasca we headed east into the Andes mountains on PE30A. The road was good and driving was easy as there was very little traffic. Over the next 2 days we made long climbs and long descents passing through three stunning gorges.
We topped out at 14,500 feet, before descending to Cusco at 11,200 feet. We stopped often for photos.
The rewards were endless. A condor sailing high over a gorge, a flat alpine meadow spread before us with a snow capped peak in the distance, herds of grazing alpaca, holding their long necks high, like royalty.
An overturned semi reinforced to us the hazards of these curvy mountain roads.
Remembering the problems with Vanna in the mountains of Colombia, we worried that she would not take to the climbs very well. There are no major towns on this route, and help might be harder to find.
Sure enough within a few hours, she started to sputter on a long uphill grade, and then died. Bob checked the engine and retightened the battery. Off we went again but the problem continued. She would just stop running. So right there on the roadside Bob decided to change out the fuel filter again. We had one left from the two that Brett had brought us in February.
Now Bob does not make a habit of doing vehicle repair. So I was sceptical. We were far from any large center so if the install didn’t work we were out of ideas. No help close by and no phone. I watched and worried.
But Yay Bob, after an hour he had it replaced and Vanna seemed happier.
Just before dark we pulled into the town of Chalhuanca., which we knew had one fairly new hotel. Luckily Vanna just slipped under the overhead gate by a few inches. They gave us a large room with a terrace and a TV and lousy wifi. It was pricey at about $60 Cdn, but clean and spacious. The desk clerk proudly announced that the price included an “American style” breakfast. As far as I can tell that seems to mean eggs, bread, fruit and coffee.
Over breakfast we enjoyed a good chat with a friendly energetic German couple Elke and Harald. They are bicycling from Argentina to Alaska. It made our trip look soft. Since leaving Cusco 3 days prior, they had ridden up and down through 2 huge gorges. And they were still smiling.
About 4 pm on day two, Vanna sailed into Cusco. True to form, our lead navigator ( that would be me) immediately directed us down a narrow cobblestone street, with a steep downward pitch. Which turned out to be a one way street and yes of course we were going the wrong way.
Bob had to drive up on the sidewalk to let the oncoming traffic by. Awkward.
With relief we reached Quinta Lala campground, located on a hill near the ruins of Saqsaywaman, just above the city. Managed by a Peruvian couple, Millie and Edgar, it has a large grassy area, edged by tall dark pine trees. The air was fresh with the smell of the pine, and at night the lights of Cusco twinkled below. A lovely restful spot.
Why Cusco? Ecuador and Colombia do not allow vehicle permit suspension. If you leave the country you are required to take the van with you. However, in Peru you are allowed to suspend your permit, and store your van. But you need to get permission and it is a two day process. That’s where Millie came in. She had agreed to store the van for 6 months, and to assist with the suspension.
For two days we took taxis back and forth to town. With a stack of papers under one arm and nine month old Michaela under the other, Millie accompanied us to the police station. Bob and I sat on chairs by the wall, watching Millie skilfully negotiate the Peruvian logistics, speaking with one police officer after another. It took a long time. Thankfully we did not have to answer any questions. The officers barely looked at us.
Next, we returned to the campground for the van inspection. Two stern police officers, an older man and a young woman, followed us in a second taxi. The inspection was a 2 minute walk around. Not sure what they were looking for. Then we all got back into the taxis and returned to the police station. Next came signatures and fingerprinting. That was it for day one. The next day we returned with Millie to pick up the police report, and make more photocopies. Then it was on to the clerk at the Aduana. And suddenly we were finished. Permission granted.
Although it was a lovely setting, we were freezing in the campground. It would not warm up until 10 in the morning, and by 4 pm the cold would envelope us again. To stay warm we had to sit in the van. At night we needed all of our blankets plus our cold weather sleeping bags. To pass the days we sorted and cleaned, searched for cheap flights home, and shopped for gifts.
In the city center there were way more tourists than when we were here in February. But in spite of the crowds, it is an infinitely charming city.
A real regret was not meeting up with friends Don and Dianne who would arrive in Cusco the next week. But the timing just didn’t work.
The Plan. Spend the summer in Canada, and return to Peru next October. By then summer will be returning to the southern part of South America. And we will resume our mission to get to Ushuaia Argentina.
Hasta luego amigos!
Note: Manitoba Health allowed us 7 months away from the province,. We left the province on October 13, and arrived back May 13. Exactly 7 months, whew!