As we arrived into Peru a few days early, we took the time to enjoy our first campsite. Owned by a Swiss family, with a private view to an empty beach we spent 2 nights just relaxing! They also had good WiFi so we could catch up on blogs, photos etc. Two other campers were there, a French family and French couple who gave us plenty of tips on our drive south, and we gave them tips for their journey north!
We planned our route through Peru, with a few consecutive days of 8-10 hours of driving. After the Swiss Campground we had 2 days of 8 hour drives ahead of us. The first one overran a bit and we weren’t sure we were going to make our campsite in enough time. Also we’d heard some terrible things about armed robberies on Overlanders in the northern coast of Peru, so we were feeling a little on edge. To break the drive after the first day we found a power station where the guard, who was there all night, was more than happy to let us camp in the entrance. It turned out to be a great and free option!
The following day we had another long drive to Trujillo. This was the first big city we’d found in Peru and enjoyed finding a supermarket to stock up on our veggies! Also there was a mall complex where Mikey could find a replacement for his ripped jeans (not an easy feat when the average height of the population is not quite 6ft…) and grab a sim card. We then headed to the sleepy surf town of Huanchaco, which was a lovely return for Mikey as he visited the same beach town 4 years ago! The idea was to surf but after the 2 days of driving we just relaxed on the beach and in the campsite which even had a pool! We did happen to find papa rellenas (a stuffed potato treat we loved in Colombia) whilst on the beachfront though which made Annie particularly happy.
This was the last of the coastal heat we would see for a while, as our next stop was into the central highlands. Up there we knew we would be in for colder nights and shorter breath all round – but good practice for our Salkantay Trek coming up in a week! On our drive up we noticed a familiar click coming from the front right wheel. Luckily as time has gone on we’ve got better and better at identifying issues with the van, and had a hunch it was the wheel bearing. The last hour was pretty hairy, it was an absolutely gorgeous mountain road but unfortunately we were plagued with the clicking and terrified the bearing would give out at any minute!
Luckily we made it into the town and hobbled into a garage, telling them our suspicions. When we jacked up the car it was clear we were correct – and the parts were pretty worn! Unfortunately this was our first experience of South America service levels – ‘manana, we’ll look at it manana’. Obviously 4pm was too late to start any kind of job. We could however stay in the garage, which was super useful for us. The next morning the mechanic came in and lifted the car up on their lifts (which is always a terrifying experience, as they aren’t designed for vans!). We got the part off and knew we wouldn’t be driving away in the van.
Then the day was spent hunting for the part, and once again it would be arriving ‘tomorrow’ so we settled in for our second night in the garage. Luckily the part did materialise the next morning and we were on our way by the afternoon – however it had somewhat scuppered our plans. We were originally planning to head to Laguna Paron, a gorgeous blue lake and somewhat less famous than one further down the way. The drive was 2 hrs up and 2 hrs down, you could camp up there and it was £1 entry. We decided we didn’t have time anymore so headed towards the more famous Laguna 69.
There was a random brewery set up in a container right outside the national park. The combination of very tasty beers and 3,500m turned out to be incredibly dangerous! The following morning was a little tough for Mikey who partook in a few too many beers. Even so Annie made sure we got up at 5am to get into the national park before the rangers staffed the gate. Whilst we are happy to pay to go to national parks the cost was really steep considering where we were, so going in early meant we didn’t have to pay. Even driving into the national park was a picture of beauty, reminding us a lot of Yosemite national park in the USA.
Then we got some breakfast, got ready and started our hike at about 7am. The climb up took around 3.5 hours and was incredibly gruelling. The altitude starting at 3,800m and climbing to 4,600 was brutal – especially as the most part of the climbing was done at the end making it steep. Still, having left early we managed to miss all of the tour groups and had the trail to ourselves and were among the first people at the lake! We took our time going up, taking lots of breaks but finally we made it up and it was so incredibly beautiful. It’s hard to do justice just how blue the lake was but it was too inviting, so despite it being glacial and fed from snow-capped mountains just above Mikey decided to go for a swim! Probably a good idea as we hadn’t been particularly showering much in the nights in the mechanics…
We spent a good hour taking in the beauty of the lake and then started our descent. Needless to say the hike was a much gentler 2 hour walk down – and we were gobsmacked by how many tour groups we passed. It was definitely worth getting there early! Exhausted, we had a short drive to Huaraz for a night and then powering on to Cusco to meet Annie’s parents in just under a weeks time.