Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sky, sand, sea

Desert spilling on to the Pan-American Highway

We were pleasantly surprised by the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima. With a manicured park snaking along dramatic coastal cliffs, Whole Foods quality grocery stores, hipster bars, clubs, and restaurants, along with the cool weather and ever-present fog, we felt like we were in San Francisco (minus the homeless people). After resting for a week in Lima and catching up on some online work, we were ready to hit the road again. 16 hours of Pan-American highway separate Lima from Arequipa, our next destination. We quickly left the depressing slums and shanty-towns that encircle Lima and entered the hypnotic dessert that stretched on our right to the ocean and on our left to the Andes. Hours of dunes and desert were first punctuated by the enigmatic Nazca lines. Viewable only from above, the drawings of mystical creatures and geometrical designs were etched into the desert 2000 years ago by the Nazca culture. They removed the dark red stones covering the white sand to create drawings that may have been intended for gods in the sky or used as sacred paths leading to places to worship. Since this desert is one of the driest in the world with little wind, the drawings have lasted millennium.

Nazca lines etched into the arid desert

We continued south as the desert sand slithered across the highway and dunes took over whole lanes. The sun was setting when we rolled into the weird world that is Puerto Inka. A dirt road from the Pan-American goes 2 km to the ancient coastal Incan port with some of the strangest camping we've experienced. The temperature plummeted as darkness inked out the arid landscape and waves crashed on the narrow bay's rocky beach. We popped up the camper and were grateful for our down sleeping bags. Just as the pre-dawn sky began to lighten, I had to answer the call of nature and was crouched by the car without my glasses. Squinting in the distance I saw someone (or something) white moving very quickly back and forth along the edge of the small cliff that separates the beach from the camping area. In record time I was back in the camper to put on my glasses but the mysterious apparition had already disappeared. I am not usually 'that kind of person' but seriously, I saw something strange.

Remains of homes in Puerto Inka

We spent some time later that morning wandering through the foundations of homes, remains of tombs, and store-room area the Incas used centuries ago for drying seafood and seaweed. These products were then brought to Cusco on an Inca road that still cuts across today's modern landscape. Human bones and remains of cloth lay in the partially opened tombs and ancient llama corrals spread over the hills behind the village. While some excavation of this site was evident, the small signs marking the area weren't very informative and there doesn't appear to be much information available online, so we still don't know much about this site. After searching fruitlessly for my crepuscular llama ghost among the remains, we then hit the road again for another 8 hours of driving through desolate desert and dunes before climbing into the Andes to arrive in Arequpipa.

Snow capped mountains by Arequipa


  1. Nice photography you guys!

  2. Hey hope you two are all up to date on your rabies shots. What a drag huh! I have a question. I am a USC and will be insuring my car with Sanborn's Central and South America policy for 3 months but plan on being on the road for 6 (its like $1500 for 6 months). I am thinking it may be cheaper to insure in each country. What do you think? Is it better to keep it insured with Sanborns the entire time? My car is worth about $15,000 US. Thanks. Looking forward to your typical Friday post.

  3. Yes, thankfully we are now all up to date on our rabies shots. As for your question, let me refer you to a wiki we have built with some fellow travelers -
    We have lots of information on driving, border crossings, other roadtrippers, etc.

    We have Sanborns as well, and you probably know it doesn't cover some countries, so in those countries you need to buy insurance when you arrive. In Colombia and I believe Belize it is only possible to buy third-party coverage, leaving you with a bit of a risk if your car was stolen or totaled by someone who doesn't have insurance. In Nicaragua you can buy additional insurance but it is expensive. See the Your Vehicle section of Drive the Americas for more specifics on insurance in Colombia, Belize, and Nicaragua.

    Personally, I thought it was a bit of a hassle to deal with insurance in Belize, Nicaragua, and Colombia, so I would opt to get complete coverage with Sanborns and call it done so you don't have to do it in every country you visit. Also, it's a bit of an unknown what kind of coverage you will be able to buy in these other countries (if any). I was a little nervous about our lack of coverage in Colombia, but it worked out fine for us so most likely your travels will be trouble free whatever you decide.

    Drop us a note when you do start your travels - we'd love to profile you on Drive the Americas.


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