Lachay, Huanchaco and Piura

After navigating the Lima traffic we were treated to more of the same apocalyptic landscape – huge dunes and sand as far as the eye can see.

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Another uneventful day of driving, for the most part, except for the frequent road-sharing with the scary-looking chassis drivers. They seemed to be transporting frames of trucks up and down the coast of Peru, but each driver was also covered from head to toe to protect from the sand and sun, including ski masks and other crazy garb. As a result, they looked like something out of Mad Max – masked bad guys driving crazy machinery maniacally through the desert.

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The day was miserably hot so we stopped for cold drinks and a bit of air conditioned grocery shopping at a mall in Ica. It was like heaven. By late afternoon we were starting to think about where to go for the night and settled on Reserva Nacional Lomas de Lachay. One constant throughout the day had been the police checkpoints – just asking about our destinations and reviewing our permit. At one checkpoint the cop affirmed our destination was a good choice for camping, which sealed the deal for us.

Pulling into Lachay just before the park closed for the night, we were excited by the change of scenery — even though it wasn’t much more than low brush and a few trees, it was still different enough from the endless sand dunes on the coast to be interesting.

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We were certainly the only ones camping that night, and perhaps the first ones to visit the park in weeks, so we had plenty of camping options to choose from. The fog rolling in from the coast settled on the hills around us and suddenly we were all alone, and it was completely quiet except for the sounds of birds and bugs and the little forest creatures that we assumed must be all around us.

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After a quick walk to check out the surrounding area we settled into our usual routine for another quiet night.

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The next morning we continued north, passing tons of trucks laden down to the point that they seemed to have mullets.

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Stopping for lunch in Tortugas, the ocean breeze felt amazing after another day of driving through the desert.

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Our destination for the night was Huanchaco, a fishing village and surf mecca near colonial Trujillo. During our time in Lima we had finalized a few plans for the next month of our trip, including booking a trip to the Galapagos Islands (!!!) and arranging when and where in Ecuador to meet Wolf’s parents (!!!!). So now we had a deadline to meet, and in order to arrive in time for our Galapagos tour we had to get north pretty quickly. For me, coastal Peru turned out to be the perfect place to just fly through. It just wasn’t my happy place – the whole area felt somewhat desolate and lost to me. I can appreciate that perhaps dessert-lovers would adore it here.

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The one thing we decided to stop for was a tire rotation. Nearly everywhere in South America, we’ve been happy to see a plethora of roadside mechanics, especially tire guys. They’ve always got hundreds of used tires lying around the side of the road so they’re easy to spot. Not wanting to head into the chaos of Trujillo without addressing our tire issues, we finally stumbled across one that seemed to be available. We pulled up and, as usual, chatted in our usual horrible Spanish about what we’re doing and where we were headed. And as usual, these guys didn’t quite know what to make of us and our weird camper van. But they agreed to help us out. The whole thing turned out to be comedy. First, before the guy started working, he excitedly brought us inside his shop to show us his collection of guinea pigs which, presumably, would turn into the evening’s dinner.

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Slow roasted guinea pig is all the rage here. And of course, this guy on the side of the road isn’t putting our car up on a lift, so instead, between our little jack and his additional little jack, it’s a bit of a slow and awkward process to rotate all four tires.

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So the guy would try to jack up our car and Wolf would get concerned about where he chose to place the jack, and then they’d both try to communicate about how to go about the project… for me it was mostly funny.

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Right up until I watched our van start teetering backwards on the jack, at which point both Wolf and I lunged forward to hold it up until our new friend revised his technique and stabilized our car. In a moment I saw the future flashing before my eyes, and in this future, our car had crashed to the ground, tire-less, never again to leave the Peruvian coast. In the end, the project was a success. And for $7, it felt like a bargain.

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From there we drove on towards Trujillo, where we’d read about a beautiful colonial city, but were disappointed to see a lot of chaos and grime on the way into town.

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We pulled into Huanchaco just in time to catch the sunset over the water and to find out campsite with a bit of sunlight left.

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After chatting with a couple of French overlanders staying at the same place, we headed to the local vegetarian joint for dinner. Our last activity before calling it a night was feeding the local cat some of the cat food we’d been carting around for weeks. Lucky kitty :)

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In the morning we checked out our little village of Huanchaco and then headed out to Chan Chan.

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An archaeological site, once home to the Moche people, the Chan Chan complex was huge, supposedly the largest pre-Columbian complex in the Americas, although much of it a reconstruction. We wandered through the series of temples and houses and city buildings. It was a great, easy morning activity and we headed out before it got too hot.

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The road that day was long and straight and sandy and windy. And not much else. Occasionally a sand storm would whip up enough sand to make it difficult to see, and it was constantly sailing across our path.

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We had hoped to make it a bit further that night, but by the time evening rolled around we were close to the city of Piura and started looking for somewhere to stay. With no indication of any camping options available, we settled on looking for a hotel with parking. Driving into the city we found it odd that all the traffic lights were off, but figured perhaps it was just a fluke. Once we found a hotel though, we realized that power was off throughout the entire city. Our hotel assured us that power would be back on soon, and in the meantime set up a candle in the room. After cold showers we headed out for a walk and to see if we could find something to eat. Walking down the main streets and through the main square was bizarre – hordes of people were out and about but, and by this time it was dark, everything was dark, with the exception of a few banks and, conveniently, one hotel in the center of town.

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And thank goodness for that one hotel and their diesel generators. We needed cold beers and we needed them stat. We sat and enjoyed, hoping that at some point we’d look out the window and see the main square light up again, but to no avail. Eventually we gave up and walked back to our hotel in the dark, only taking a few harmless wrong turns in the process.

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