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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

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THE ROUTE

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  • The Odyssey to Cusco

    Posted on February 26th, 2010 Sergio No comments
    Dan takes photographs of the mysterious Nazca lines

    Dan takes photographs of the mysterious Nazca lines

    As usual now, it has been a long time since my last post. I can’t say it’s getting easier to get an internet access, and the last few days have been very busy, as you will read.

    When we arrived in Lima, we checked in a backpacker hotel in the Miraflores district. It was the simplest solution, since opening our tent in the center of Lima would have been challenging.

    Miraflores District, Lima

    Miraflores District, Lima

    We stayed two nights there (US$5 in any backpacker hotel, nowhere specific to recommend, god luck to get hot water), and I tried to get on top of things I had to do, like photo editing, or writing down notes for the blog. Dan and Nadia enjoyed the very cosmopolite area of the city a lot, and we took advantage of it by getting pizza in the neighborhood Italian street.

    City center

    City center

    The second day, we went for a visit of the city center. Because of the heavy traffic there, it is not considered a very relaxing experience to drive through, as we experienced.

    Huacachina dunes

    Huacachina dunes

    Out of the city, we followed the route south, and sped to Huacachina, a small oasis surrounded by huge sand dunes. We spent a night there, and in the morning, went for a buggy tour in the dunes, as well as some sand surfing. We then went to get food for the upcoming days, and we were back on the road.

    Symbols in Nazca

    Symbols in Nazca

    Nazca, our next stop, is famous for its giant lines and geometric symbols drawn on the ground. Spread across 500 square kilometers (200 sq. mi.) in the pampa, the cryptic symbols are still a mystery, as it is not know who created them, and why. As mystified as others, we spent the night in the nearby city.

    Peruvian pigs may be used as horses

    Peruvian pigs may be used as horses

    At this point, we knew the easy time was finished. Ahead of us, we had three days of road going up the mountain to reach the city of Cusco. Cusco is known for being the place people leave to go visit the Machu Picchu, unfortunately closed this year because of rain and landslides.

    Going up

    Going up

    We heard from travelers that the road was cut close to the city, because of the same weather related issues, and that we may not be able to reach it.  Regardless, we decided to give it a try, and one sunny morning, early, we went east toward the mountains.

    People in the mountains live out of time

    People in the mountains live out of time

    The road was in good shape, the scenery amazing, and the first day, we were able to drive 200 kilometers (125 mi.) of the 640 we would have to do.

    Unreal scenery, could be in Scotland

    Unreal scenery, could be in Scotland

    12_lama

    Scotland with Llamas

    Around 6 p.m., as we had reached an altitude of 4,400 meters (14,500 feet), we discovered a large lake and decided to leave the main road to get closer to it and set camp for the night. At this altitude, the highland soil is like a sponge full of water, and I failed to notice the danger of getting trapped. As we got closer to the lake, the soil got more unstable, and finally, as we were passing a small water arm, the truck got caught deep in the mud.

    At this point, we went out of the vehicle, got rocks to put under the tires, dug out wagons of mud, but could not get the truck out of the pond.

    Our next bright idea was to try to get help from the road. I thought it would be hard to find someone who would risk to come down to help us out, but we tried. Few minutes after, we had our suicidal candidates. Two Peruvian truck drivers decided to let their trailer up on the road, and come down to try to haul us out.

    Nadia goes out of the tent in the morning in a great mood and a lake of mud

    Nadia goes out of the tent in the morning in a great mood and a lake of mud

    Soon enough, they were in the exact same situation than we were, unable to move an inch in any direction. For few hours and as night was falling, we dug again, tried to build ramps of rocks, piled wood sticks under the wheels of the heavy truck with no success.

    By then, we knew what would be our next problem. Altitude. Several times during our trip, we had to go pretty high, and had no problems with that, so we assumed we got acclimated to higher ground, and that altitude sickness could not get us.  But this time was different. We were now higher than 4,000 meters, which seemed to trigger a stronger reaction. We were exhausted after spending hours moving rocks and digging, and felt terrible headaches and chest pain. It was pitch black and the temperature was falling quickly as we opened the tent in the hole of mud to try to get some sleep. The Peruvians were also going to sleep in the cabin of their truck.

    We were still really sick in the morning, and continued the work to push the Peruvian truck out of the mud. Eventually, they were able to get out, but of course, after twelve hours in hell, they would not try to help us out another time.
    All morning we tried to dig out my truck with no success. Every half hour, I would just collapse on the ground, and wait for my body to let me know I was still alive. Nadia was on the road, trying to stop a truck that could help us out. Around noon, an Argentinean family stopped in a Toyota truck, and gave it a try, but my truck would not move at all.

    Finally out!

    Finally out!

    A bit after the Argentinians left, they were able to alert road workers down the road, and at 1 p.m., they came over with one of their machines, and finally got us out of our hole. You can only imagine how happy we were to be back on the asphalt, and how happy the workers were to see the green colors of American banknotes. Soon after, we went down in altitude and were feeling better.

     Able to enjoy again the mountain scenery

    Able to enjoy again the mountain scenery

    At night, we camped in a village along the river and spent time with kids down there. The morning was rainy, which was a concern since rocks were constantly falling off the mountain.

    The road is cut

    The road is cut

    Finally, we arrived to a location where the road was covered by rocks, and stones kept coming from high up. At the end we had no choice but go straight through the stone rain and hope for the best, as other were doing. Maybe because we had been unlucky earlier, this time, we went through without problem, as did Felix, who arrived with his RV few minutes after us. This was definitely the scariest moment of our way up to Cusco.

    11_second_day

    On the second of our four-day drive to Cusco

    But we were lucky only for a short time. Few hours later, 30 kilometers after Abancay and going up, I felt that the brakes were getting weaker and weaker. We decided to backtrack to the city in low range to have the brake looked at. Down there, at the Toyota garage, they decided some air probably got in the system, and they purged the circuit. It was now too late for us to get to Cusco, as the road was only open few hours every day, so we decided to check in an hotel, and got diner with Hector, a English-speaking Peruvian we met at the garage. Dan and I also went for drinks with him in one of the city discotheque. At the end, after few tea-pisco, we were happy to be stranded there.

    With Hector in a local restaurant

    With Hector in a local restaurant

    The morning after, at 6 a.m., we were leaving the city determined to make it to Cusco by the end of the day. Three hours after departure, we got to the difficult part where the road had been washed out, and drove in the mud for 20 kilometers.

    Getting closer to Cusco

    Getting closer to Cusco

    Everything went well, and after four days of travel, we arrived in the city, exhausted but happy to be alive. Dan will leave us on Thursday to get back to the U.S., and learn again to live like a normal person.

    Cusco

    Cusco

  • Hundred of miles across the desert to Lima

    Posted on February 19th, 2010 Sergio No comments
    Driving to Playa Tortugas

    Driving to Playa Tortugas

    In the evening, after cooking a pasta diner with some squid, we went out on the beach to see some traditional Peruvian dancing. At midnight we were in bed, and stayed around until 1 p.m., to take advantage of the beach. In the afternoon, we would go to Trujillo, and we knew it would be harder to find a good spot to camp in the more populated area. I did quick a interview for a Los Angeles radio show and we left to cover the 200-miles to the city.

    01_market

    Getting supplies at a market close to the Pacific Ocean

    On our way out, we stopped at a market to buy fish and vegetables and got back to the Pan-American. I am so surprised by Northern Peru. Little did I know that we would be traveling through the sand desert until Lima. Here and there, there are some artificially irrigated areas, but often, you will go 70-miles before seeing a town or hamlet. It is also a large country, and I imagined being in Lima earlier than we would be. It now looks like Dan will leave us in Cuzco to go back to work.

    Quick stop in the desert, on our way to Trujillo

    Quick stop in the desert, on our way to Trujillo

    And there is also a larger distance between gas stations we see. Now, we try to refuel each time there is 95-octane gasoline available, which is not that often.

    Trujillo

    Trujillo

    We stopped in Huanchaco, a town few miles outside of Trujillo. As I was working on uploading pictures to my website, I was surprised to ear screams behind me. When I turned, I saw the French guys we have been spending time with in Colombia. They just arrived at the same spot than us and saw me at once. It was great to see them again. Traveling with more people and several vehicles is always safer and more comfortable.

    Buying ice cream on the way south

    Buying ice cream on the way south

    We quickly agreed we would need some drinks to celebrate the event of having found each other, and soon we were having beers and eating ceviche (again). We decided to stick together for few days on our way south, and split before Lima, where they didn’t intend to spend time. With the kids, they travel at a slower pace than we do, since every afternoon they have to do homework. If you see families traveling for a long time in remote region, chances are that they are French. This is the only country at my knowledge that allows kids to not go to school for years, as long as they follow the governmental learning path, and send homework every few days by email.

    Chan Chan

    Chan Chan

    We stayed Huanchaco for two nights, and camped on the beach. We spent the daytime visiting the Trujillo historical center, doing groceries, and checking out Chan Chan, the largest pre-Colombian city in South America, constructed of adobe brick and covered with carved surface. The huge city of 10,000 dwellings was built around AD 850.

    Chan Chan

    Chan Chan

    Back on the road, we decided to drive and do an overnight stop in Tortugas, a small town in the desert, bordered by the Pacific Ocean.

    More desert

    More desert

    We gathered it was worth seeing it by a Peruvian barman we met in Playa Rochas. He was saying it was the most beautiful beach of the whole country.

    Looking for a spot along the beach

    Looking for a spot along the beach

    And indeed, we did find there the nicest place we saw so far in Peru. North of the fishing town was another bay, completely empty outside of a small fishing process plant. The site was gorgeous, huge and empty.

    Tortugas bay

    Tortugas bay

    We parked the trucks in a way I was protected from the wind, made a fire and opened a bottle of rum. What can I say, there’s not much more you can ask when you get this beautiful place for yourself.

    Ready for the night

    Ready for the night

    In the morning, Felix, one of our companions, cut my hair, as the US$1.50 haircut I got in Nicaragua was far behind, and the beatnik look is not necessary the best way to cross borders.

    Leaving in the morning

    Leaving in the morning

    Then we said good-bye again to the rest of the convoy, and the three of us were gone to Lima, a bit less than 300-miles away. Again, we crossed huge sand deserts.

    Mountains seem to be covered with snow, which end up to be pale sand

    Mountains seem to be covered with snow, which end up to be pale sand

    It is a pleasant drive, as long stretch are quite relaxing, unlike Lima which would be a giant automobile chocked metropolis.

    Entering Lima

    Entering Lima

    *Sergio is posting for Nick, who’s having trouble to access the internet.