Mountains and mud – Day 281 (20,346 miles)

Our first day in Peru took us to the Amazonas region, although we are not talking jungle here.  We were only on the edge of the region and it was more hilly and chilly than you might expect.  We stopped for the night in the small village of Tingo Nuevo.  We had heard there was a small basic campsite in the village but we couldn’t find it and none of the locals had any idea where we meant.  A kind Peruvian/French family invited us to park near their house and use their bathroom.  So this was our first night in Peru.

Although the village is tiny at the moment there is an excited buzz about the future.  A week before we arrived the very 1st cable car in Peru was opened.  It was also a Peruvian/French project and links the village via the 4km of cable which rises by 670m in places to the ancient site of Kuelap.  Fingers crossed for the locals that this move away from the long hike for visitors will increase the numbers of tourists visiting.

Kuelap is the biggest pre-Columbian stone build city in South America and is 6 centuries older than Machu Picchu!  There is still a lot excavation work in progress but it is an interesting site to visit and the cable car is an amazing bit of engineering.

Llama pic for Dave G (and all other llama fans).

Sightseeing is exhausting!

When we got down to the cable car entrance we met another John (it was one of those ‘should have take a photo’ moments) who is a volunteer at the Horizons Unlimited travel event in the UK that we attend some years.  Harry, I think you have entered the slow bike race?  John runs this event.  Will, Kate, Lee not sure whether you’ve done this event?  We had walked passed him and my John had said “I know that guy”, I had given him that “yes dear” look and carried on walking.  Outside there were 2 motorbikes with UK plates so we went back to say hello which turned into an enjoyable long chat.  That old small world thing.

The scenery is still as stunning.

A night camping in the rather bleak car park of a shabby hotel.  The plus side was a level hard surface that John utilised to swap the wheels around before we left.

Hats or sombreros as I should call them are BIG here, both in numbers and size!  I have to admit they are so big I did giggle a bit when I first saw them!

They even had a bandstand with a hat shaped roof!!

We had been hearing reports of flooding in some of the coastal areas and knew the water was originating from rivers further inland in the mountains.  We were just hoping we would get lucky and miss any problems.  But, on this day we reached a point where the road was blocked and a kind mototaxi driver signalled for us to follow him on an alternative route.

It took about an hour and half to cover 30km and there where times when we were about to get out and push the mototaxi as it slipped around in the mud, amazingly the driver always managed to get moving again.

A loo with a view.

Just loving these hats.

There are noticeably fewer  cars and trucks in rural Peru, motortaxi’s are definitely the preferred transport choice.

We wild camped in this spot, behind Juanita was a bank of rocks which separated us from the river below which was rather swollen and fast flowing.

Luckily there was no rain overnight, we may have been forced to move on a bit quick if there had been.

So where did the road go?

This was going to be the day when we really understood have many mud/landslides, collapsed roads and floods there were.

Although the travelling was slow and difficult we were still seeing beautiful and interesting places.  It is a good job Juanita is so petite, she just fitted down this little lane.

Topiary in a Peruvian mountain village, who would have thought?

This road gang shovelled like mad to clear the way through for us.

Not a great pic but Juanita had taken a bit of a bashing, we had gone through a river crossing that appeared to be fairly shallow but caught us by surprise with a deeper bit containing a rock that bent the front bumper and also the bash plate underneath.  You can just see that bumper was now higher on one side and just a couple of cm’s from the wheel so in need of some attention.

After sitting at a road block for 90 mins unable to go forwards or backwards, we followed this convoy of vehicles.  We had to pass shifting banks of rock until we were all stopped and told that was as far as we could go.  There was no alternative route.  It was only about 6pm and there would be no news until 7am the next day.  We had been lucky, the silver van in front of us had been hit by some stones and lost a side window and a good percentage of it’s windscreen.

We woke at 6am to find most of the other vehicles had gone!  Oh well we wouldn’t be first but hopefully the road was clear.

Well it was for about 1km until we reached this lorry completely stuck and blocking the road.  With bits of wood, rock and manpower this group of travellers got it moving within about 15mins.

So, we carried on for a few more minutes until the next obstacle, a rockslide had covered the narrow road and destroyed the safety barrier.  A boulder about a metre round was right in the middle of what was left of the now even narrower route through.

When we got there a group of locals were digging all the loose gravel away but as they dug more just fell down to replace it, no one was addressing the issue of the boulder.  John took our 2 tow ropes to them and suggested towing the rock out of the way with a large coach that had no chance of getting through

It took a while before they were convinced it would work but eventually they got it moved and….

We and anything else about our size could go.  The big coaches would just have to wait until the road repair teams got to them.

We turned south onto the PanAmerican highway at Chimbote and immediately began to see the devastation the water coming of the mountains had caused.  So many village buildings destroyed.

With the help of fellow travellers Serge and Tanya we found a place to camp and wait.  We had been told we could go nowhere until a bridge had been repaired at the southern end of the small town we were staying in.  Local people and the hundreds of truck drivers stranded as well were great at keeping us informed.  Supplied of some foods and bottled water were starting to run short and the electricity and phone/data comms were disrupted so ATM’s weren’t working but everyone was calm, helpful and hopeful things would improve soon.  The only trucks moving through the town were laden with big rocks and were heading for the broken bridge area, basically they were building a temporary crossing over the river out of rocks to get the traffic flowing again.


About 6.00pm and 30 hours after arriving we got word that the road was passable and joined the 100’s of other vehicles trying to get out of town.  The lorry drivers and Police were great and let the smaller vehicles like us jump the queue.  It still took about 2 hours to get moving but could have been so much worse.  We broke our rule of not driving at night but were travelling with Serge and Tanya so headed south with all things crossed, hoping we could make it to Lima.


9 thoughts on “Mountains and mud – Day 281 (20,346 miles)”

  1. Phewy, the actions hotting up! (Will here on Kate’s iPad). John, I can recommend a good psychiatrist in the next city. You must be deeply troubled and mentally scared due not only the damage to your beloved motor but, she’s so dirty Mr John, so dirty???

  2. Well done! I hope you soon will have better roads and weather. Keep on posting your story
    it’s soo interesting to follow you two. Take care! Johan & Britt

  3. You do not realise the full extent of damage caused by weather. Watching it on TV is not quite the same. This trip will give you memories you would not have anticipated. Don’t forget to add Samaritan to your cv. There must have been some hairy moments. Take care.xx

  4. What an amazing journey you are on. Seems like the scenery and people keep getting better and better. John looked a little red in the gondola, might want to get him a big hat.

  5. It’s like another world. I’m loving John’s DIY SOS approach to moving boulders and obstacles along your route- forever an engineer and never one to sit back!
    Im glad you are both safe.

  6. Wow that sounded hairy at times. Thank goodness you are okay. Makes me think how lucky we are living here with very few of these extreme weather problems xx

  7. Sometimes I think we should have travelled slower through Peru along the coast. But then we missed all that damaging water by only 3-4 days while driving nearly straight through to Chile. Only in Arequipa we had to detour a little due to road closures – a friendly police woman on a motorbike showed us the way through town.
    Greetings from Germany!

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