Return to Van Life – Canada to Peru

We are back in Vanna again. Although the rainy season will begin soon, it is sunny and warm today.

In May, when we arrived home in Manitoba we were reacquainted with the beauty and bounty. Long evenings, magnificent  sunsets, wide open spaces, orderly traffic, and plenty of wildlife. One evening a fox ran across our lawn, the deer wander freely, many types of birds and  hawks and the occasional bear sighting in the park.  No wonder that people think Canada is beautiful.

Sunset, Manitoba, Canada

We enjoyed our time at home visiting friends and family, had a canoe trip in Quetico with Dave and Sally, and then sold our home of 30 years, packed up our belongings and moved out. We will miss living there for sure.

After Thanksgiving with family, and a birthday visit with our son Brett, we drove to Calgary to stay with our daughter Kelsey and our almost son in law Chris. More good visits and last minute shopping for car parts, a few gifts, and yet another drugstore run. A stock up of things like ibuprofen, Advil liquid gel, vitamin B12, and After bite cream, all of  which you may or may not find in SA. 

Having booked a morning flight, Kelsey dropped us at the airport in Calgary at 6:30 AM on Wednesday. We landed in Cusco, Peru on Thursday at 11:30 AM.  It was a bit long.

Stone carvings, Calgary Airport, Alberta, Canada

Our first stop was the small Terminal 4 in Cancún, where the Canadians land on their quest for a warm vacation. Needless to say the mood in the plane was exuberant. Our luggage came around the carousel first, which never happens. So we were grinning as we headed down a wide hallway, the exit doors in sight. Not so fast señor. Bob was randomly selected by some uniformed hallway intelligence to be pulled over for a bag inspection. That resulted in a $50 Cdn tax on all the car parts. We explained several times that we were not staying even 1 night in Mexico. No arguments accepted. These are the regulations. Pay the money.

After that we took a shuttle to Terminal 2, a multi floor building full of international shops and restaurants. It was a long wait for our overnight flight to Lima. We arrived in Lima in the early morning, expecting to pay some kind of Peruvian entrance fees or tax. But we were not even given a form to fill out. As we headed for the exit we had a choice.  An Items to Declare line or No Items to Declare line. The first was full of tables of opened luggage. We didn’t hesitate. In seconds we were out the exit and legally into Peru …with nothing to declare.

Next was  a one hour flight into Cusco and a friendly cab driver who was familiar with the location of our Quinta Lala campground. We had a joyful reunion with Millie the campground manager. Bob had Vanna running in no time and we moved her out of the storage area and into a camp spot. Everything in the van was just as we left it, neat and orderly. Now there are piles of stuff that we brought back, more clothes, medicine, first aid, new indoor lights, a stainless steel coffee press, etc. We keep moving the piles around thinking we will find a spot for them soon. Ha.

Vanna and friends, Quinta Lala campground, Cusco , Peru

We had suspended our vehicle permit in May and now we have to unsuspend it. Levantamiento de Suspensión. Millie explained that we had to start the process on Thursday since both Friday and Monday are holidays here.

It’s  the Day of the Dead weekend.

So after a short nap and a shower we took a cab into town to the SUNAT. First we were to obtain a photocopy  of the document that Millie had prepared. Across the street from SUNAT was a sign which read Impresión. Sounded like photocopy to us. So we went inside. The woman at the desk shook her head and pointed up a short stairway. We went up but that room was bare. We went out a side door to another office. The man shook his head and pointed to the right. We went that way to another office. This guy said no and pointed forward. In that office an American woman said “This is a travel agency. We don’t sell photocopies, but we will certainly make you a copy”.

We have learned this is common navigation system in South American. Each person points you on to another location, which is the wrong place, and you do this repeatedly until you find the right place. Weird but it works.

We stayed in town, shopping at the San Pedro market for fruit and vegetables. Then we perched on white wooden benches and ate savoury home made chicken soup, served by women wearing white aprons over sweaters and blue jeans.  A battery transistor radio belted out Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers while we ate.

Special breads for Day of the Dead, San Pedro market, Cusco, Peru
San Pedro market, Cusco, Peru

Later we hung  out at the Plaza de Armas which serves as a large outdoor community center. It was Halloween evening and the square was full of local families, moms and dads escorting little goblins, butterflies, cowboys, and superheros. There was cotton candy, balloons, entertainers, and music. The niños carry small orange plastic pumpkin pails, and earlier we saw them walking from shop to shop, holding the bucket out at the entrances where they received one tiny treat each.

Hallowe’en in the plaza, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas at night, Cusco, Peru

We plan to hang out here for a week or so. The next step in our vehicle process is that the police will come to the campground for a van inspection on Tuesday. Until then we will relax and acclimatize to this altitude. (Cusco 3400 meters; Calgary 1045 meters). We generally feel ok but get out of breath randomly. Walking uphill from town on Friday we felt fine, but later I got out of breath just getting in to bed.

The campground is full of the vans, RVs and truck campers belonging to travellers from France, Germany, US, and a couple from Argentina who formerly lived in Calgary. The facilities include a library, a small kitchen with stove and sink, and 2 washrooms with shower, flush toilets and sinks. The tap water is cold only, but the showers are warm. Not many toilets for the number of people here but some rigs have their own of everything.  As a bonus, there is an outdoor clothes washing station with 2 large sinks, cold tap water, and a clothes line. Free.

Quinta Lala campground, Cusco, Peru
Library at Quinta Lala campground, Cusco, Peru

There are quite a few kids in camp right now. The family beside us are from France and this morning we both have our doors wide open. I can hear the kids doing their homework in English, French and Spanish, arguing with their mom who is patiently answering. I wish the kids linguistic skills would rub off on me.

Meeting other campers is always interesting. Yesterday we finally met a woman who has been following Bobs Instagram. Funny we were following her travel app comments last winter. It was nice to finally say hello in person. And George, the Germán fellow I talked with last night said he had shipped his rig to Halifax, and over a year and a half had crossed Canada, driven up to Alaska and now down to Peru. He is headed to Argentina and expressed concerns about travelling in Bolivia. There are political demonstrations there, as well as in Chile.

Both of those countries are on our route. We will have to keep our ears open and our eyes on Google.

Metal Christmas llama, purchased from street vender, Cusco, Peru,

Cartagena, Colombia

We had anticipated a grungy port city, enduring long days waiting for the van to arrive. But Cartagena turned out to be a joy to visit almost from the time we arrived. I say almost because there was that moment at the airport. Going through customs, we were surprised to see a short line just for Canadians. Wow! We skipped up to the window with the red maple leaf sticker. How nice to get special service. Our smiles quickly faded when we learned that incoming Canadians are slapped with a reciprocity fee of $80 US each. Continue reading “Cartagena, Colombia”