Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cusco to Caraz

From Cusco, we decided to continue westward to Curahuasi, where we met up again with the Apurimac River. Just outside Curahuasi is Casa Lena run by a Belgian woman with her Peruvian husband. They provide after-school activities for young children, especially also those with disabilities.
There is space for a few campers at Casa Lena, and the view is spectacular. Our's, unfortunately, was affected by the (illegal?) burning of vegetation in surrounding valleys. We did visit an overlook called Capitan Rumi with amazing views of the steep and deep Apurimac canyon.
apurimac region
Apurimac Mountains/Berge/Montañas
approaching curahuasi

It was time for us to decide if we wanted to continue in the high Andes or drive across the Altiplano plateau and down to Nasca. The extended weather forecast for the mountain route looked rainy (which we found out later was incorrect), and we were ready to descend to warmer weather, after having been around 13,000 feet elevation for about a month.
And promptly our departure from Curahuasi was delayed due to rain. We tacked on two days to our stay, which was not quite enough, and we ended up driving across the pass to Abancay in rain and dense fog. This really is a waste of energy and time and gas, because you can't see any of the spectacular scenery. So, instead of continuing, we stopped early at the friendly Quinta la Huerta.
view from casa lena
View from/Blick von/Vista desde Casa Lena
apurimac canyon

By the next day, the weather was clearing, and we had a very enjoyable drive up the Rio Pachachaca valley. It turned out to become a longer day for us, going up and down mountain sides and frequently topping out at over 13,000 feet. We stopped for the night at a small restaurant with a big parking lot outside the small village of Lucanas, from where we knew we would get to Nasca the following day.
yacca, Peru
Quinta La Huerta
andean valley

That day started out exceptional: after we had curved up to the high plain, the road straightened  out toward the western edge of the altiplano. Again we were at over 13,000 feet, when Marcela spotted an adult condor gliding several hundred feet off our right. I maintained a steady speed, and we figured the bird was cruising at about 30 mph.
The road became curvy again, and I thought we would lose the bird. But it slowed and crossed over the road, and when the road straightened again, it started cruising with us along our left side. When the condor started circling in a thermal, we stopped to watch; when it started to cruise again, we kept pace.
This went on all the way to the rather abrupt western edge of the altiplano. The bird had escorted us to the end of its habitat and we parted ways: it soared north along the edge, and we started our descend toward Nasca.
This drive down from over 13,000 feet to 1,700 feet simply is awe inspiring. As is the transition from the high-elevation landscape and climate down the hot and dry desert: Nasca receives about 0.17 inches of rain per year.
andean mountain road
Up and down/Auf und ab/Arriba y abajo los Andes
Andes highway

When we traveled south about eight months earlier, we liked Nasca and the Fundo San Rafael where we stayed. Now, things were different: the Fundo was a dusty and noisy construction site, where they were building a new pool and other structures. The town also appeared noisier and more hectic. We had planned on staying about a week but moved on after two nights.
Going north on the Panamericana is more about covering distance than traveling; but that's what we did. We stopped at the Paracas National Reserve, only to find it being a single gigantic construction site also: throughout the entire park, big construction machines were moving around building a new road system and new tourist facilities all over the reserve. Nobody mentioned that when we paid our entry fee, and so we left after visiting a few places within the reserve. 
volcanic ash
Volcanic Ash?/Vulkanasche?/Ceniza volcanica?
Ash formations

On we went to pick a Sunday morning to get through the vast traffic obstacle called Lima. We took the coastal route this time, and it did seem easier, but it again took us 2.5 hours for about 50 km.
With Lima in the rearview mirror, things got better. We spent our (for this round of our journey) last night at the Peruvian coast at Albufera Medio Mundo near where archeologists have uncovered the oldest urban centers of the Americas. They are about 5,000 years old, and the best known and most studied is Caral in the Supe Valley.
landscape colors
Many colors/Vielfarbig/Muchos colores

Heading back up the Andes, we spent a night behind a welcoming restaurant called Siki Rumi and looked for an archeological site by the same name. After a scenic hike through a boulder-strewn valley and not finding anything, we asked at the restaurant. They pointed to a peculiarly shaped rock formation next to their driveway...
high-altitude lakes
Up on top/Wieder ganz oben/En el tope
old lava flow
We left this friendly site at 2,000 feet and climbed back up to over 13,000 feet to the southern entrance of the "Callejón de Huaylas" and the headwaters of the Santa River. To the east of the Callejón rises the Cordillera Blanca where there are 33 mountains over 18,000 feet high; the highest, Huascarán, also is Peru's highest peak at 22,205 feet (6768).

We followed the Santa River downstream for 90 miles to the town of Caraz. Just north of town is Camping Guadalupe, an excellent site specifically built for overlanders like we. We stayed here two weeks and published the previous blog post from there.


Mike Baker said...

Amazing travelog.. thank you

Mike Baker said...

Amazing travelog.. thank you

Krista Shultz said...

The photos are stunning! Thanks for sharing!

Jerry Holcomb said...

Loved your account of the condor!

Marcela and Dieter, ShredAir said...

Thank you all for taking the time to comment!
Yes, the condor was special. It remindd us of good friends and times flying RC gliders cross-country around Montague, California.
Marcela and Dieter