Thursday, 20 November 2014

0149 Nazca to Huashuccasa

16th Nov

Slept in a little, so the lazy day started well.  When I came out of the car I saw all the tents from the tour group were gone – They had already packed up and left.  Bother – I was going to ask the 4WD coach drivers some questions about secure parking in Santiago.   No big deal, so I started fiddling with a few things, had breakfast, and was still fiddling with things when I noticed Andre and Monique packing up – What was going on ?  Then Janet came down from the lobby area and said that everyone was leaving because there was a major power failure in town that would not be repaired before 4 pm that day, so there would be no charging of computers, and of course no wifi.  So no point in staying here then !  So I grabbed a quick shower before the hot water ran out too !  But it was 10.15 by the time we packed up, and 10.30 before we hit the road after getting fuel, and we knew we had a long drive ahead across some major mountain passes, with not much civilisation in between, so we were going to have an interesting time finding somewhere to sleep tonight ! 

We hadn’t got out of Nazca more than 5 minutes when we saw a lone cyclist with panniers – Obviously an expat !!  We slowly came alongside and introduced ourselves – He was Ed Sutton and was from England.  We stopped and chatted about our journeys (he had been on the road for some 18 months already) made sure he had enough water and gave him a pear and some coffee sweets we carry, and after a couple of photos, went on our respective ways.  He said he reckoned it would take him at least 7 days to reach Cuzco – We were planning on maybe 2 days.  He is on Facebook as thirstycyclist  which seems like a good name for someone doing what he is doing !

Almost immediately the road started climbing.  Nazca was only at about 300 metres, and within an hour we were at 2200 metres after an amazing climb up into the mountains. On our right we passed what is known as possibly the highest sand dune in the world called Cerro Blanco, at 2078 metres.  It was still a bleak and dry desert environment – Just raised up 2000 metres !  But then it just kept going up hill – 45 minutes later we passed 3600 metres, which was about the highest we had been on the trip so far.  The land levelled out a bit and became more like flat moorland with short tuffty grasses, but the temps had dropped down to about 10 deg C, and it started to rain at times and was very bleak and misty – I think it is called the Pampa Galeras, and part of it is a national park. We came to a sign saying “Caution – Animals Crossing”, and right on cue (for once) some animals crossed right in front of us ! (Normally Animal signs mean you WON’T see animals !)  “Llamas” shouted Janet.  “Too small for llamas, they must be Alpacas” I shouted.  “No, too big for Alpacas, they must be vicunas” said Janet, and she was right.  Apparently there is a herd of vicuna here in this National Park, and we had found them !  They were gorgeous, and it was exciting to see truly wild animals again – We hadn’t really seen much since Alaska some 5 months ago.

The road was still climbing, and the scenery was getting bleaker and mistier – By the time we passed the NP headquarters at just 12.30, only 2 hours after we had left Nazca,  we were at 4020 metres and still climbing.  We saw no more vicuna, but did start to see large herds of wild Alpacas – Before long they were so frequent that we stopped taking photos !  They seem to vary in size and quite often you thing they are just sheep until you see their longer necks and legs. The scenery really was getting quite wild now, and when we stopped for lunch (they have places where you can pull off the road in Peru !!), it was overlooking an big valley, and just under our stopping place was a ramshackle series of mud brick buildings in various poor states of repair and we assumed they were derelict.  But as we munched on our wraps we inspected more closely and noticed a shiny brass padlock on a rickety front door on one shed with a roof on !  Obviously the farmer was out in the fields with his herd !!  The idea of him being out in his fields for several days fits with both the increasing number of farm people you see with their animals in the fields, and also the number of small stonewall compounds we see along the way – some even with a rudimentary hut in the centre for the shepherd - Obviously places into which the farmers can herd their flocks at night to keep them safe from predators.

We dropped into small valleys occasionally, but not ever seeming to lose any altitude – At 3.30 pm we were over 4440 metres and it was still cold and bleak.  By now we realised we weren’t going to get much further as we were very tired from the altitude and the long days driving on twisty, and we had just passed some rather stunning lakes beside the road that seemed to be deserted. We had driven a little past them when we decided that would be as good a place as any to stop, so we did a U turn and went back – Only to find a police car in the area near the lake !  So we pulled up beside them – They were rugged up in scarves and jackets and balaclavas against the cold – and asked if we could camp there, and they said no problem !  So we drove down to the edge of the lake which was somewhat sheltered from any road noise and visibility, which was good, but it was bitterly cold, and a cold wind was blowing – Temps about 3 deg C or so. We didn’t bother to put the rear tent up in the wind, but just cooked something light on our little cooker inside, and then got all our warm sleeping gear out, and turned in.   

Photos here :-

1 comment:

  1. 4400 metres ... that's seriously high. I can see that the humans just barely cope with it, but how does the Troopie cope with the altitude?

    But these blokes on bicycles amaze me. No matter where you go ... top of the Andes or centre of Australian deserts ... the cyclists are there.