April 2023

Early April we arrived in Peru which wasn’t a great experience. Nevertheless we spend some time at the coast as we had a few things planned there. First was Los Organos. Here you can swim with turtles. I had a few doubts about doing this since I had also read that it had become too touristy with not enough consideration for the turtles. Not something I wanted to contribute to. However while camping at the Lobitos beach a few days earlier we talked to a German guy who now runs a surf hostel there and knows the area. He told us that the first location, Nuro, indeed was exploiting the turtles but the second location, at Los Organos itself, was still a good place to swim with turtles, so we went there. I took the tour (Kilian didn’t want to) and indeed got to swim with the turtles. However I also felt they don’t respect the turtles here either. Not just because there were too many people but because my guide decided to grab a turtle for a nice photo. I tried to explain I didn’t want that but wasn’t very successful. So I have very mixed feelings about this experience. Yes I got to swim with several turtles (fishermen clean the fish nearby so there’s plenty of food) and the turtles are free to come and go as they please, but I still feel they are being exploited and there should definitely be a “no touch” rule. So I wouldn’t do it again. I really love seeing animals in the wild but it has to be done respectful.

After this we drove South and I made Kilian suddenly stop the van because I saw a black kitten on the side of the road. I searched the area for a mother since she was only about 8 weeks old, but she was alone and starving, overheated and dehydrated. So of course we took her with us. We found a nice spot in the dunes where we stayed a few days so the kitten could receive some intensive care and luckily there was a reasonable vet not to far away. Unfortunately Binkie really disliked her and wouldn’t go near her, which is unusual behaviour for him. She also wasn’t used to a litter box obviously, so all in all not a very good situation in a tiny van. Luckily after a few days I managed to find her a shelter who took her in, but it turned out she had liver problems and sadly she died a few days later. Perhaps Binkie had sensed something wrong with her because he is normally social to other cats.

We did some shopping in the first big city, Piura, and from there the plan was to drive in to the mountains. But because of all the rain, this plan came to nothing. Too many roads were washed away or blocked because of a landslide and after two days we had no other option than to drive out of the mountains the same way we had driven in. So we were back at the hot, dusty and dirty coast again, still not loving Peru. We really needed a break and drove to a hostel that also allowed camping in the garden. Unfortunately this wasn’t the break we were looking for either. The bathroom was disgusting, the owners were a bit strange and their crazy untrained, cat chasing, puppy was our problem; they even left him in the garden with us without a word for a whole day while going away… So we left earlier than planned and by now were considering cutting our time in Peru short. Fortunately by now we were able to drive in to the mountains and decided to do so on our way south. Our first stop was Canyon del Pato which was absolutely worth it. And then we were in the beautiful highlands of Huaraz. And we definitely enjoyed travelling here. Finally we got to enjoy the good things Peru also has to offer. Our first stop was Laguna Paron, a beautiful azure blue lake surrounded by high snow topped mountains. This lake is situated at an altitude of about 4.000 masl. By now we are pretty used to the altitude as we regularly spent time at about 3.000 masl or higher. However any exercise like climbing a hill is still harder than at sea level. We enjoyed a quiet night here, hiked up to a view point and walked along a part of the lake.

From the lake we drove in to Huascaran national park.

We stayed in the mountainous area and camped at several other beautiful lakes, always at an altitude of 3.500-4.000 masl. When the sun was out the temperature was nice enough for some summer clothes but as soon as the sun went down we had to change in to winter clothes, such a huge difference. Binkie also enjoyed these campsites as it was always very quiet and he enjoys the cooler temperatures.

Peru has a lot of mines and one of the biggest open mines in the world; Antamina. Here they mainly mine for copper and sink. It was an impressive site to see and part of the public road goes through the mining area. All the trucks and other mining vehicles gave us right of way. That is definitely not something we are used to in Peru (and most other countries on this continent). Usually the bigger and older vehicle has, or more accurately, takes, right of way. We expect they were given extremely strict instructions on how to behave on the public road, it was a nice change for us. We were hoping to come across one of those huge trucks, where the wheels are practically bigger than our van but we only got to see them from afar. Although the mining site was pretty impressive, it of course also has a huge negative impact on the landscape and the environment. Especially the residual waste that is highly contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals. The waste is stored in huge basins that have a protective foil on the bottom. I spoke to a couple of guys who were taking water samples to check for pollution and they explained about the foil. My Spanish is too limited to really get to the bottom of the way they protect the environment. However we have read that in Lima (which is south-west of the mining area) the drinking water is contaminated with heavy metals that come from the mining process. But of course these mines aren’t just somebody’s hobby, there is a demand for whatever is being mined. And thanks to the mining companies there is a (somewhat) decent road there and for many people in the mountains it is a form of income. We also saw lots of little mines where only a few people were working, digging for coal that is still being used to heat the houses in the mountains.

After the mining area we drove on to La Union, a bigger village in the area. Just before La Union we found a nice place to spend the night. The next morning we wanted to drive off to do some shopping, however the van wouldn’t start. Not even a coughing sound, nothing at all. The battery was fine. After some research Kilian thought the starting motor was the problem and more precise the solenoid. So he took the start motor out, but could not find an obvious failure. So Kilian put everything back and tried to start again, bypassing the solenoid. Now the start motor was running, but of course the solenoid did not push out the pinion, because it was bypassed so the car engine still wouldn’t start. Then he tried starting it the normal way and this time it miraculously worked. With the engine running we drove to La Union, 10km away, to try and find replacement parts there. Kilian waited with the engine running while I hurried to some small shops to buy food for a few days, it was now late afternoon. We found a good spot just outside of the village where we could stay a few days if needed. The next morning Kilian took out the start motor and went to the village in search for parts. That wasn’t possible, but there was guy that was able to revise the start motor. It became clear that the shaft had developed too much play which caused an interruption of the electrical contacts. Replacement of bearings and a good cleaning solved it. This was very fortunate as some internet research had shown that a new solenoid would have to be imported and that could take up to 3 months.

With the engine working again we continued through the mountains, along more lakes and a few more mining operations on our way to Lima. We arrived in Lima, the capital of Peru on the first of May, so more about this city next month.

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