Mummies, Mountain Roads & A Rude Awakening

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A little further south I stop in at the Leimebamba Museum, where mummies found at the nearby, very famous, Laguna de los Cóndores are now on display. I’m happy to see the entire museum is community owned and run and everyone around is beaming with pride. The unwrapped mummies are particularly cool.

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Photo of a photo of Laguna de los Cóndores

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One of the original mummies

In need of gas, I go hunting for the station I was told about numerous times. Somehow I can’t find it, even though there is only one road out of town. After being escorted by a friendly guy on a motorbike it turns out I couldn’t see it because it’s not a gas station at all, merely a guy on the side of the road selling 5 gallon containers, for the crazy price of US$5.25/gal. I’m a little concerned when I see him wiping out containers and funnels with a dirty old rag, though he assures me his homemade funnel has two different filters, and it’s all good. Riiight. After bypassing the little security latch on the filler in the Jeep, I hold the funnel steady while he slowly adds gas with a soup ladle, slowly being the key to actually make it go in, not all over my hands and flip-flops.
I think this takes the cake for the most expensive gas so far and also the most amusing.

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The mountain road, stuck to the side of the mountain

To swap to the other side of the Andes I take a crazy mountain road, apparently glued to the side of sheer cliffs. The views are breathtaking, though I try hard to keep my eyes on the road, a little gun shy of the inevitable suicidal truck drivers on the blind corners. Dropping down out of the mountains to sea level for the first time in many months is a crazy feeling, and I move from lush vegetation, through arid, barren mountainsides all the way down to lush green valleys where rice and tropical fruits are bountiful.

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Pure madness

Arriving at the Pan American highway is like a huge slap in the face – one I had no idea was coming. All around I see row upon row of crumbling shacks scattered with enormous piles of trash (some of them burning unattended), trucks and tuk-tuks spewing smoke and people throwing trash out car and bus windows. Even the trees and shrubs are collecting plastic blowing in the wind and where the earth has been turned over for farming, it’s also thick with trash. The air, too, is choked and disgusting – a combination of exhaust fumes, dust and burning trash. Each town I pass through is the same – an enormous dust bowl of crumbing buildings, overflowing with trucks and virtual mountains of trash.
Maybe being off the road for so long has made me soft, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen outright poverty like this since … well, … ever.
This is not the Peru I’ve heard and read about for so long. Somehow this part seems to get left out.

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Lush green, to arid mountains

There are, however, a couple of benefits to driving the Pan-Am – gas is noticeably cheaper, it’s almost impossible to get lost (The Pan-Am is by far the biggest road around) and I can comfortably sit on about 90km/h, a speed I’ve not seen for a while. After a couple of hours of extremely flat, windswept desert landscape I turn off and happily head back up into the mountains.
As I climb up once again, the scenery plays out much like the morning in reverse; from dusty filth, to lush green valleys, to arid mountain rockiness.

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What's that I spy in the distance?

-Dan

11 Responses

  1. Be safe!!! We’re praying for you!!! Can’t wait to see more pictures!!!

  2. Gloria Maria says:

    Dan,
    What an amazing trip. Gracias for sharing it. Enjoy El Peru. What do you spy in the distance? Maybe the Cordillera?

  3. Alin says:

    Dan!
    I’ve recently come across your site and been looking through it the past few days. I love what you’re doing and If I had known you I would have totally gone with you!

    Take care!!

  4. James says:

    woosh! i blew through your entire blog in 2 days, dude this trip is awesome! i added you to facebook as well.

    my gf and i are planning on doing the same trip and the more i read the more i realize just how possible it really is and just ludicrous it would be putting a “1 year” timeline on such a trip. We are saving now and hope to have enough saved in about 6-9 months to make it to tierra del fuego. Ive downloaded Rosetta Stone and some spanish audio CDs, Im waiting for a cheap 1997-2000 4×4 4runner or tacoma to come up for sale and then will start building out a sleeping platform in the back. one of the things youve continually mentioned is how you wish you could sleep in your truck.

    your blog has given me tons of insight and info on this trip and gotten me stoked! i might have to steal that map on the hood idea, seems like its an open invitation to make friends!

    anyway, hope peru is treating you well my friend i will be following your trip closely now.

    thanks for sharing this amazing journey with us

    • Dan says:

      James, great to hear from you man. I am so happy my blog is helping, and getting you out on the trail.
      Great choice on the 4runner or tacoma, that will be a great choice. It would be wicked to get a diesel, so much cheaper.

      If there are any specific questions you have, or anything that I can do to help in any way, please ask and I will do everything I can to get you out on the road. Let me know how the planning goes.

      Awesome. I am grinning like an idiot in a tiny little town in Peru right now…
      -Dan

      • James says:

        Hey bud, Was reading back over your site for stuff to see in Peru, stumbled upon my first comment I made on your blog almost 2 years ago :)

        Cant believe I am sitting in Peru now. Due in part, a great deal, to you my friend!

        Were in Cajamarca now, headed town to Huanacho just outside of Trujillo on the coast. The coffers are running low so we are renting a house and I am going to try to pick up some work via the internet.

        • Dan says:

          Great to hear from you guys.
          I’m so happy you’re down there living the dream! I check your site all the time, it’s so cool to see all those places through your eyes.

          I’m saving money faster than I ever have in my life, dreaming really big this time :)

          All the best James. Really, really, really soak it in!

          I’m sure we’ll catch up for a cold beer sometime, somewhere. (Hopefully at ~Peru prices)

          -Dan

  5. paula gustafson says:

    near Machu Pichu? these pics are amazing-your living my jeep adventure! thanks, Dan!

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