PeruPosted by Malin Fri, August 26, 2011 00:12:09

After a long time on the road we felt like it was time to go home to Norway for a couple of weeks to visit family and friends. To be able to go home we had to find a safe place to park the car, and that we found at Quinta Lala in Cusco.

We realized that Oslo, Norway, is not the center of the universe when our flight from Cusco ended up like this Cusco-Lima-Madrid-London Heathrow-Oslo, and took us 28 hours.

It was really nice to see family and friends again, and when we meet them it did not feel like we had been gone for so long. The only way to notice that we had been gone for a while was that all the kids had doubled in size.

One of the major differences we noticed by being in Norway is that all toilets have a toilet seat and paper, and for the first time since we left USA in November 2010 we could again throw the paper in the toilet and flush. The only thing that is not so good with being back in Norway is the price level.

One liter of fuel cost 14,14 NOK (2, 6 USD) per liter. One personal Italian pizza in a normal restaurant is 30 USD and 0, 5 beer is from 11 USD and up to 15 USD, that I heard someone paid at a festival.

Everyone at home complained that it had been raining the whole summer, but we were lucky to have some nice summer days. It was really good to have a nice long summer evening again. At 21.30 the sun was still shining. So far in Central and South America it has been dark, really dark, around 18.00. When the weather is good in Norway it is a great place to be. Here are a few photos to show it:

Finse, the highest railway station in Norway at 1222 meters above sea level.

Hiking in the mountains.

The Oslo fjord

Along the main street, Karl Johan, in Oslo some lines from Henrik Ibsen’s plays has been selected and engraved into the sidewalk.

This one says: “Vi ejer tiden, men tiden ejer ogsaa os” – “ We own the time, but the time also own us”

Three days after we arrived in Oslo the terrorist attack happened where 79 people got killed by a crazy man. We left Oslo four hours before it happened to visit my (Malin) parents. This was the first time since we started travelling that Espen had to call his family to tell them he was ok and safe as they knew we were in the area. It felt strange after travelling through countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia never experiencing anything bad, and then this happened in “safe” Norway.

Three weeks after the attack people still put down flowers outside the cathedral in Oslo to show their respect to the victims and their families.

After some good and relaxing weeks in Norway we packed our bags (including a jerry can), more warm clothes, new books and a selection of Norwegian food, and were ready to explore the world again.


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Machu Picchu

PeruPosted by Malin Thu, August 25, 2011 23:40:42

Of course you can drive to Machu Picchu, or at least close enough to walk the last part. We had heard that it should be possible to drive in to a village called Santa Teresa and leave the car there. From Santa Teresa it should be about two hours to walk up to a hydro energy power plant, or take a taxi. Take a taxi? Right, if a taxi can drive up to Hidroelectrica, so can we! From Hidroelectrica it is a 25 minutes train ride, or a two hours walk along the tracks to Aguas Calientes which is the nearest town to Machu Picchu.

It was a great drive up to Hidroelectrica through a narrow valley.

After about 25 minutes we saw what must be the end of the road. There was a gate and an officially looking booth, and we were told that the road went about 100 meters further to the train station, but was only for official vehicles and taxies. We were not allowed to park anywhere near the entrance, as this was a Natural and Historical zone. Sure, we took this picture of the area from Machu Picchu. Very natural and historical…

Just before the entrance boot is a bridge across the river, and on the other side was a house. We asked and were allowed to park the car there for 10 soles per day (about 3 usd). At four thirty we were on our way to Aguas Calientes along the railway tracks. It is a nice and easy walk, and there are even two restaurants along the way (first is about two thirds in). Exactly 2 hours and one minute later we were in Aguas Calientes. Seemed to be plenty of guest houses, and we were asked several times if we needed accommodation as we walked through the town center. We paid 35 soles for a double with bathroom at Hostal One. Not too nice, but ok for a night. Early next morning we bought a one way ticket for the bus going up to the entrance of Machu Picchu (8 usd per person!). You can walk up in an hour and a half, but as we had planned to walk back out to the car the same day, we went for the bus.

Machu Picchu

Yes, we know it is a cheesy picture, but it is kind of the standard tourist picture of the site. We had to… And we even had to get in line to get the picture. The picture is taken from the Warden Hut overlooking the city.

There are about 2500 tourists visiting Machu Picchu EVERY day in the high season (which was now...).

Fortunately, the site is quite big, and it absorbed the masses very good. And even if it is a little crowded, it still is a magical place. I would say it is one of the few places in the world that you see, and still have problems believing…

To get away from the masses for a while we found a small trail leading away from the site. It ended in The Inca Bridge, which once took people of Machu Picchu along this steep mountain side.

Some of the architecture in Machu Picchu is quite interesting, and the Incas were experts of “using” the terrain in their buildings, terraces, and plazas.

We had almost a full day in Machu Picchu. To make it all the way back to the Patrol before dark, we left around two in the afternoon. From the ruins, it took us about three and a half hours to walk back out, including a late lunch at the restaurant on the way.

The train didn’t stop. It would of course have been an option, as there are three departures a day to Hidroelectrica. Price is 18 usd per person each way.

We drove out from the parking, and continued down the road to Santa Teresa for about a kilometer. There we got off the road, popped the tent, and cooked dinner. Nice and quiet place with no people around. Coordinates for parking and camp site to be posted on www.unurban.no soon.


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New road to Cusco

PeruPosted by Espen Thu, August 18, 2011 04:19:19

It was not in any of our maps, but the idea of a road cutting right through the jungle and to the roads north of Cusco was so appealing (would save us hundreds of kilometers) that we kept asking in every town as we drove further south. In Ayacucho we got the answer we wanted from a guy at iPeru, and he even printed us a map (we later discovered that the road now is in Google Maps). The first and the last part of this route were in the GPS maps, it was only about a hundred kms missing between them. With the new information we set out early one morning towards San Francisco in the Peruvian jungle. To get there we drove from Ayacucho at 2761 meters up to a pass at 3814and from there decended more than 3400 meters to San Francisco at about 400 meters. Phew...

San Francisco. We spent the night at a guesthouse here. The road in our maps stopped just across this river...

And there was a new road. In the beginning it was just a narrow, rough, dirt road, and we were for a while worried that we were on the wrong way. After a few kilometers the brush along the road opened up, and so did the road. It was no doubt that this was the new road.

But even if this road supposedly was only a year or two old, the jungle had already started to try to take it back. Massive landslides had taken out the road in several places. Some scarier than others...

We met maybe 5-6 cars during the whole day of driving. Not a very crowded road, but at least it looked like all the vehicles we saw that day made it through...

Eventually we came through a few villages, and we realized that we were back on more established roads. More traffic, people and houses. We were getting closer to Santa Teresa and Machu Picchu. Malin noticed that several of the houses along the road had decorations on the roofs. Never got around to aks what they actually means, though.

We didn't make it all the way to Santa Teresa this day, so we spent the night in a town called Quillabamba. We couldn't find a good place to camp so Malin persuaded the local Chief of Police to let us park in their parking lot, and we went and booked a room at a hostel.

Enjoying a well deserved refreshing Inca Kola! And the next morning: To Machu Picchu!!


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Huanuco Viejo and the road south

PeruPosted by Espen Mon, August 15, 2011 23:17:55

When we arrived in La Union, east of Cordillera Blanca, it was already getting dark. The town itself did not look very cosy, and we were debating our options. There is normally a hotel or a hostel in all towns, but as parking can be a hassle we like to find a place where we can camp. The reason we wanted to stop in La Union was the ruins of Huanaco Viejo, an old Inca administrative center for the area. After checking our GPS we actually found coordinates for the site in the POI list. Other than “close to La Union”, we had no idea where these ruins were supposed to be, so we hesitated driving towards these coordinates as it was getting dark. But as the town didn’t look too promising we went for it. The road out of town climbed up some steep, narrow dirt roads, and at the top we entered an area that looked like pampas. After a while we saw a sign to the ruins, and we felt we were on the right way. The problem was that there were no roads going to where the GPS told us that the site should be. And it was now pitch black.

We tried a road where the tracks disappeared driving out on the pampas. Some weak tracks eventually lead us to something that looked a little bit like a parking area, but it was hard to tell as we couldn’t see anything around us. We drove back and tried a couple of alternatives, but we didn’t see anything that looked like Inca ruins. We decided to go back to the first parking area and camp there for the night. And this turned out to be a good decision. We woke up to a stunning view!

And this was actually the parking area for the archeological site of Huanaco Viejo.

In the morning a couple of workers showed up, and these guys were the only people in the ruins this morning. We had it all to ourselves!

From the maps we had, it looked like it should be possible to drive on dirt roads over the mountains and hit a bigger road further south.

Heavy traffic in the high Andes...

It was a beautiful drive, and as many times before, the maps were quite unreliable. Some locals helped us to find the right road, and we were back on a main road late in the afternoon. Again we were racing the clock to find a good place for the night. We ended up in Huariaca where a guy running a local guesthouse let us camp for free. He even let us use his internet.

Town of Tarma

The next morning we kept heading south, and ended up at a German run hacienda in Tarma called Hacienda La Florida. A fantastic place where we wouldn’t mind staying longer! And a tip for the next travellers coming through, they take on volunteers to help on the farm…

From La Florida we had a LONG day’s drive to the old colonial town of Ayacucho. The road was mostly dirt and quite slow, but all in all very scenic. Arrived in town way too late and struggled finding a place where we wanted to camp. Being really tired and exhausted from the 12 hour drive, we splurged and checked in to a nice hotel with safe parking. Of course we would find a cheaper place the next day to safe money…. Rrrright – not!

Trip planning with pancakes...

We had a great time in Ayacucho, and this was also the place where we found out about our next little adventure: A jungle road from the north to Santa Teresa, where we could park within walking distance from Machu Picchu! More soon…


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Cordillera Blanca

PeruPosted by Espen Mon, August 08, 2011 00:57:15

If there is one thing that will blow you away in South America it is the mountain ranges. Yes, the Alps and the Rockies are impressive too, but the Andes make them look small. From the Pacific coast we headed back up into the mountains to camp at 4000 meters / 12000 ft + altitude. The shortcut up into the valley of Callejon de Huaylas take us through Canyon del Pato, and this is a spectacular drive.

The road is rough and at places carved out of the side of the canyon.

After a long day's drive from Trujillo we arrived in the town of Caraz in the evening. This is one of the towns at the base of the mountain range of Cordillera Blanca and is a starting point for mountaineers wanting to hike and climb in the area. As we didn’t have up-to-date info about camping in the national park, we spent the night in Caraz in the backyard of a hotel in the city center. The next morning we took off and drove up and up and up a narrow valley to Lago Peròn at 4200 meters where we popped the roof tent.

Above us were several 6000 meter / 18000 ft snow capped mountains.

We also wanted to drive across this mountain range, and a few kilometers south of Huaraz there are a couple of roads going up into and over the mountains. This is just south of the snow capped peaks, but if the weather is good you will have stunning views along these roads. Unfortunately, the weather turned on us just at the critical place, and we had no views of these peaks at all… But the road is still VERY scenic.

And it is amazing that you can see signs of farming even at this elevation. All fences are made of stone.

In this area is also a tree (which is actually in the pinapple family) found only a couple of places in the world.

At the highest pass on this road we were at 4878 meters above sea level. Engine and people still running, but at a slightly slower pace than normal…

Leaving the Cordillera Blanca we drove east to find an alternative route south towards Cuzco and Machu Picchu. More soon!


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