We made it through rain, hail and mud to complete the Santa Cruz trek last week. It was a tough 4 days and 3 nights but the scenery and spectacular views made it all worthwhile. Well for the most part! We started out early on Good Friday and took a collectivo (minibus) to the starting point about 1.5 hours away.
We then had a full day of climbing with lots of mud and rivers to jump across. Or in Christine’s case – not quite jump across one river and wallow in it with her pack weighing her down and only eventually being able to get up with Dave’s help. No physical harm was done, but she was soaked right through and a lot of her pack was wet too.
Thankfully it was only a short distance to the first nights campsite which even had a little shelter, which was great because it had started raining again. In one of the rain breaks we managed to get the tent set up and returned to the shelter to do the cooking. An early night to bed!
The next day started with sunshine and we got a late start because we were enjoying it and trying to get Christine’s stuff dry. Again a lot of uphill with a few rain showers thrown in. We got to our second camp late in the afternoon and had to wait under the cover of a dilapitated pit toilet for a break in the rain. Finally a short break in which we got the tent up and jumped inside with our gear. We continued waiting for another break in the rain to cook our dinner, but it never came. We ended up eating our next days lunch instead, tuna and crackers for dinner while sitting in our sleeping bags in the dryness of the tent.
A soggy start the next day, which was also the big pass day where we’d climb up to 4750m and over the mountain range. It was exhausting and took us all day.
The view from the top to the next valley was amazing and thankfully the weather was crystal clear (unlike days before and after).
We headed down the other side and didn’t get quite as far as planned before it started pelting down balls of hail! Ouch. Thankfully Dave found a decent flat, non soggy spot where we could hunker down. The hail was replaced by rain but this time we got our poncho’s and raingear on and toughed it out in the rain to cook dinner.
The fourth and final day started out just plain wet, cold and miserable. We packed up everything soaking wet knowing that we’d be in the comfort of Ginger Lee soon enough! It took us about 6 hours to walk out to the nearest town where we got a bus back to Caraz. The 2 different buses we needed took about 3 hours and went up and over mountains with incredible scenerey. Heck if we had of known that we would have skipped the trek and just gone with the bus ride! Kidding but we have both decided that we want our next trek to be a nice low altitude, warm weather, flat trail!
We recovered from the mountains with our regular post-trek celebratory dinner of pizza and beers.
On Tuesday we managed to dry all our gear out, washed a load of laundry and prepared for the next few weeks. Wednesday we got on the road early and headed to Lachay National Park, which is about 100km north of the capital, Lima.
It was quite a dry and barren place right on the border of the desert. We of course had the place all to ourselves, well except for the rats that came out at night.
Thursday we bypassed Lima and made it south to Paracas National Park, which is about 245km south of Lima. This was a cool, deserty and very windy place right on the ocean.
We had a nice walk along the water but sadly saw lots of garbage and debris along with dead birds and even a dead seal. The next day we went to the park museum (just to use their toilets) and were pleasantly surprised by how well their exhibitions were done. We think we maybe even learned a few things!
On a not so good note we did have an encounter with a couple of Peruvian Police. We were pulled over and told that we didn’t have our lights on. Apparently Peruvian law requires them to be on all the time when on the highways, and we just happen to have a headlight out at the moment so aren’t using them. The policeman nicely told us this was a serious infraction and we were required to pay a fine. He took all our papers, showed us his book with the price of the infraction and even wrote out a ticket. When we asked where to pay he said a bank, but then suggested that we could pay him directly for half as much. We had decided before starting our travels that we would do all we could not to pay any police bribes, and so far during our travels we’ve managed to talk our way out of other similar situations with minimal trouble, but this day we were tired and were just not on our game or prepared. After a bit of debating we decided to pay him right there and then. Of course he took the money in his little book and let us go without any proof of a ticket or a receipt… We felt awful and knew that we should have insisted on paying at a bank but what can we do now! Sorry to all the other travelers, as we would never intentionally perpetuate this behaviour.
Nazca and the famous Nazca lines were next on our list. We got a taste of them as we drove along the PanAmerican Highway where we stopped to climb a tower for a view over two of the geoglyphs.
The next morning we got up early and walked over to the little airport and signed up for a 30 minute/$85US flight to see the Nazca lines at their best. Christine was nervous as the last small plane flight in Nepal was a disaster for her. However, she was prepared this time and took some prophylactic gravol/anti-nauseant and tried to remain calm.
The flight seats are determined by weight so poor Christine was stuck at the back of the plane all by herself! Perhaps a good thing.
After about 20 minutes of criss crossing the desert with the plane often on its side, the drugs gave out and so did Christine’s stomach. She was in quite a bit of distress but once down on the ground recovered quickly. Dave had a stronger stomach but by the end of it was feeling pretty ill too. However he managed to get some great shots and overall we were both happy to have taken the flight to see the nazca lines from above. Scientists know how the lines and geoglyphs were made, but still don’t know why they were made. Offering to the gods? Or to aliens? Apparently the earlier works are the animals, and the more recent symbols are the lines and geometric patterns. Once in the air above the plains you can see that there are literally thousands of lines and patterns created across the desert.
After a second breakfast and a little recovery nap we decided to hit the road and start the long drive towards Cusco. Machu Picchu was waiting for us! We drove for quite a few hours, climbing above 4,000m elevation again, and then found a little camouflaged spot on the side of the road for the night. We headed out early again the next morning and still only made it to Cusco well after dark. A long drive of non-stop switchbacks up and down mountains.
We finally found the campsite and discovered 6 other overlanders here too! This is the most we’ve seen in months!
We had a great day today exploring the cool city of Cusco and planning our trip up to Machu Picchu. Christine has been there before but we are both looking forward to this highlight of Peru and South America!