Home Top

Peru – Land of the Incas

Read the original post and follow Home on the Highway's overland adventures on their website: Home on the Highway.

Up and on the road the next morning we quickly approached the Ecuadorian side of the border, turned in our paperwork, got our passports stamped out and jumped back in the truck. A few miles further the large Peruvian tourism logo greeted us. Welcome to PERU! Country #12.

375894 337068823053012 1159766825 n Peru – Land of the Incas

It took us about an hour to clear through the entry paperwork. We encountered the standard hiccups which we are used to by now. Note to future overlanders, If your car title has your license plate number listed, make sure it actually matches the tag on your truck…. Our original plates were stolen back in Baja, we were issued new ones and have the proper registration paperwork but it always causes a snag when they see the title and the registration don’t match up. Just a tip!

Paperwork completed, we were free and clear for 90-days of fun in Peru!

We scooted on down through the sketchy border town of Tumbes and were soon cruising some of the best blacktop we have seen the entire trip.
292019 337069699719591 983619381 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Suprisingly, the landscape also quickly changed from the low-lying coastal jungle of Ecuador to straight Peruvian desert. I soon learned the entire coastline of Peru is actually a giant desert, appropriately nicknamed “The Egypt of South America”. The dunes rose up out of the earth towering everything in sight. Bundle in the lower range of the Andes directly behind them and you get jaw-dropping scenery unlike anything we had ever seen before.

547320 337125189714042 933313658 n Peru – Land of the Incas
579910 337125209714040 796351706 n Peru – Land of the Incas
293175 337070093052885 440415259 n Peru – Land of the Incas
547362 337068853053009 707439867 n Peru – Land of the Incas
260416 337161716377056 451838122 n Peru – Land of the Incas
292475 337125039714057 2115494287 n Peru – Land of the Incas

As we cruised along the coastline, we checked in with our friends SprinterLife for some Peruvian travel tips. SprinterLife gave us the downlow that the mountains are actually the perfect place to be right now. We cut up from the desert coast and started heading into the Andes. Closer towards the low-range of the Andes we saw the desert transform from a lifeless sandbox to lush green fields and rivers.
533246 337070133052881 719878523 n Peru – Land of the Incas
578749 337070206386207 1314169800 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Climbing further up the mountain we soon discovered the source of the greenery below. A giant dam has been constructed here to collect water from the mountain snows/rains and slowly disperse it to the farms in the valleys below.
424601 337070256386202 350940753 n Peru – Land of the Incas

It’s a dam lake
183674 337070459719515 2113422128 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We crept further and further into the mountains until eventually arriving at a small city named Cajamarca. Cajamarca sits around 9000FT. The city has a very rich history dating back thousands of years to pre-Chavin culture. The Incas took up residence here for a while as well, before being conquered by the bloody Spainards. It has a lovely colonial style town-square, we found a cheap hostel and setup shop.
196809 337070846386143 987557528 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We strolled around the town taking in the beautiful colonial churches, hospitals and various other historical sites. SprinterLife had been right, the weather was perfect up here the mountains.
546554 337071026386125 834342847 n Peru – Land of the Incas
255422 337071086386119 1118450961 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Located just outside of Cajamarca are the “Banos del Inca” (Inca Baths). Here there are naturally occuring hot springs that the Inca elite used for bathing and ceremonial purposes. Nowadays even regular Joe’s can swim or bathe in the waters. The Peruvians have constructed a large complex of various showers, pools, and baths. You can get even get a massage on site. The baths are cheap, around $2. An hour long massage only running $10 or so.

Steaming thermal pool
533106 337071199719441 891686090 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Lauren testing the water in one of the ancient Inca bath houses. Yep, its hot!
255475 337071319719429 334740325 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We paid our soles and got our own private bathroom where they pipe in the thermal waters. The water was insanely hot straight from the tap, luckily you could regulate the temp with a series of valves. Even so, after 20 minutes of being in there we felt pretty light headed. Lauren actually had to quickly step outside and sit on a bench before she fainted.

Ladies, Try your best not to swoon.
403993 337071153052779 1251316171 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We explored the hills around Cajamarca, passing through many small Andean villages, seeing people go about their daily lives.
402964 337071613052733 1265184290 n Peru – Land of the Incas
208682 337071813052713 1674048565 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Cruising these backroads you often come across locals trudging up the mountain towards their homes. One guy flagged us down and jumped on the sliders. He let me wear his sweet ass hat so it wouldnt blow off in the wind. I was pretty excited as you can see.
225038 337071846386043 614810414 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Currently Cajamarca and the surrounding villages are in a huge battle against large foreign gold-mining interests who have been destroying their land, rivers, and food sources. There are daily protests, roadblocks, and there have even have been some attacks on the miners by locals. Read more about the situation here.

Unfortunately, we managed to get mixed up in a roadblock where the villagers mistook our large Toyota truck as being a “Mining truck”. Things got a little intense as we approached about 20 villagers including grandmas, children, and pregnant ladies all armed to the teeth with various implements of destruction. Rakes, hoes, pickaxes, and other farming tools take the place of guns here. As we approached the roadblock they started screaming and banging on the sides of the truck. I yelled out the windows that we were “solo touristas!” and pointed to the innocent looking Lauren as proof that we were in fact NOT greasy miners. Once they realized we were just a bunch of dumb gringos, they yelled at us to get the hell outta the way so they could finish their roadblock! Whew, that was a close one! Sorry no pics.

We eventually made it to our destination “Ventanillas de Otuzco”(Little Windows). The ancient Cajamarca cultures dug these small crypts out of the side of the mountain. Inside they would place the bones of deceased leaders along with tools, gold, and other important items much needed in the afterlife. Pretty cool, unfortunately looters had pillaged most everything before scientists ever got a chance to get in there.
418972 337071989719362 1547475751 n Peru – Land of the Incas

After spending a few more days enjoying the area we hit the road back towards the coast. We picked a random road that led back towards Trujillo. Though slow going, the winding roads provided us with never-ending stunning vistas. We spent a lot of time pulled over just gawking at the beauty around us.
599265 337077756385452 1513554427 n Peru – Land of the Incas
558531 337077886385439 1833777428 n Peru – Land of the Incas
216051 337078026385425 1361590505 n Peru – Land of the Incas
547070 337078093052085 1691104281 n Peru – Land of the Incas
554780 337078206385407 2027951756 n Peru – Land of the Incas

My favorite part about traveling overland is you never know what you might stumble upon. While we were searching for a place to camp we randomly discovered this rarely visited Pre-Inca ruin. Markahuamachuco is a huge archeological complex, over 5KM long. It is the largest set of ruins in Northern Peru, and perhaps in all of Peru. Referred to as the “Machu Picchu of the North” archeologists and scientists actually prefer this ruin over Machu Picchu for its relevance as a political, cultural, and military hub of pre-Inca Peru.
523443 337095936383634 1776082701 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We followed the dirt track as it wound up the mountainside. I had to stop myself a few times from staring at the epic sunset over the mountains, the road was barely wide enough for the 4Runner with a sheer 1000Ft drop on the other side. Pay attention James!
530970 337078276385400 1796927907 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We found a nice flat spot to setup camp and take in the sunset over the valley floor.
309214 337078346385393 1670413702 n Peru – Land of the Incas
304858 337078299718731 738265881 n Peru – Land of the Incas

After a wonderful nights rest, we were up early and into the ruins. We were the first people there and had the entire place all to ourselves.
208685 337092416383986 1207890984 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We wandered through the site exploring countless buildings and marveling at how in the hell an ancient culture built this gigantic complex way up on top of the mountain.
527981 337090003050894 1656564658 n Peru – Land of the Incas
555493 337090123050882 1552534048 n Peru – Land of the Incas
293143 337090989717462 1899069071 n Peru – Land of the Incas

The majority of the site was surrounded by a 20-ft tall, double-layered fortification wall. Come at me hordes!
402848 337090953050799 1784993618 n Peru – Land of the Incas
561512 337090276384200 1768330645 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Outside of the wall there are large circular buildings, visually similar to a bull-fighting arena. However, these circular complexes were actually used as housing for families. There was only one small entrance to the large complex. Perfect for defending.
549593 337090389717522 1542793176 n Peru – Land of the Incas
431460 337090419717519 647602872 n Peru – Land of the Incas

The one and only entrance to the living quarters.
524557 337090889717472 1113351674 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Inside of the circular walls, we find the ruins of ancient family rooms, dining rooms, bed rooms, bathrooms, etc. Multiple families lived inside the thick walls.
527142 337090479717513 145042615 n Peru – Land of the Incas
228478 337090583050836 908577005 n Peru – Land of the Incas
527250 337090819717479 1540886598 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We spent most of the morning exploring the site, we never did see any other vistors or any people for that matter. The 5KM ruin was wide-open for us to explore. Eventually we returned to the truck and hit the road.
579863 337091069717454 1717646400 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We climbed up and over a 14,000FT pass in the Andes. Not much life up here, but it was beautiful in its own way. A few hardcore homesteaders didn’t seem to mind the biting temps and lack of oxyegen.
405561 337091183050776 416035653 n Peru – Land of the Incas

Driving down the other side of the mountains we eventually landed in Huanchaco, Peru. SprinterLife had just moved out of an apartment on the beach here and told us it was up for grabs. Needing a break from the road and some downtime to figure out our dwindling financial situation we took considered taking them up on the offer.

We pulled up to Huanchaco and cruised the beach, admiring our potential new hometown. We discover it is a surf town, popular with Peruvian tourists. A town where the fishermen still use the ancient Caballitos de totora (Reed boats) to haul in their catch. I find I can buy giant beers for $1 and a huge plate of Ceviche for $3. Ya… I think we will get along just fine here.
405324 337122126381015 1482827338 n Peru – Land of the Incas
huanchaco4 Peru – Land of the Incas

We double back up the beach and pull up to the apartment, an adorable Peruvian lady speaking the worlds fastest spanish showed us the apartment, we instantly loved it and with a handshake the contract was set. Welcome to our new home for the next month and maybe more?
562765 337091623050732 171455111 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We lugged our gear up from the truck, laughed when it all fit inside one of the bedroom closets with room to spare. And wondered what the hell we were going to do with all this space!? ~$300 a month gets us a 2-bedroom/2-bathroom fully furnished apartment, 1 block from the beach. With all utility’s and internet included!
542481 337114806381747 1414265732 n Peru – Land of the Incas
426703 337114926381735 495977375 n Peru – Land of the Incas
304647 337114853048409 1031115055 n Peru – Land of the Incas
559237 337115053048389 1212654944 n Peru – Land of the Incas
603409 337115169715044 1928178499 n Peru – Land of the Incas

We throw down our stuff, grab some $1 beers and walk 30 seconds to the sandy shoreline of Huanchacho’s beach. As we watch the golden sun drop below the ocean, we look at each other and smile.

We may not be on the road, but we can tell right here, right now, together, is exactly where we need to be…
298894 337122783047616 44325598 n Peru – Land of the Incas

About Home on the Highway

Trip Start: Trip End: .

No comments yet.
Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply