The 4Runner Revolts – Day 2

Tossed and turned all night wondering what pleasures tomorrow would bring. I eventually saw the sun come up, kissed Lauren goodbye and hiked out the road.

Not much traffic flowing by at sunrise but eventually a lone tuk-tuk comes puttering along. As I was running him down he gave me a crazy look probably wondering what this greasy gringo was doing standing out in the middle of the desert at sunrise. I explained the situation in my craptastic spanish and asked him if he could pull our truck into town. I showed him our 4Runner stuck out in the sand and he laughed.

“No puedo!” (I cant!)

Come on man you could definitely pull my truck out of the sand, up a hill with you 125CC moto-taxi. Look at that raw power!
tuktuk2

I eventually settled on just a lift into town instead. 30 minutes of puttering along and we arrived into the “blessed” town of “Ciudad de Dios”. A true 1-horse town scratched out of the sands of the Peruvian desert. The dusty pueblo is huddled around a small trickle of life-giving water running down from the Andes mountains.
ciudaddedios

The entire town was still asleep but the mototaxi driver knew of a mechanic in town and took me to him.

We banged on his front-door for a while which eventually produced a groggy man in greasy cover-alls. He yelled at the driver for waking him up and told us to hold on.

When the mechanic returned to the door he said he would be able to help me but we needed to get a taxi because he did not own a car himself. In any other place I would think twice about a mechanic who did not actually own a car… but hell I was desperate.

I sent the moto-taxi driver off to find us a real taxi. He soon returned full-size taxi in tow. We all piled into the car (including the mototaxi driver who said he didn’t have anything better to do!) and headed back out into the desert to our stranded 4Runner.

Back at the dump site, the mechanic and I futz around for a while, first trying a futile jump start that lead us nowhere. I showed him all the troubleshooting steps I had taken the night before. He agreed that it was an issue with the fuel pump and asked if I had checked the fuel pump fuse.

I laughed in his direction and proudly proclaimed “It was the first thing I checked!”. He then asked if I had re-checked it after mucking around slicing all the wiring leading to the fuel pump.

I sheepishly replied no… pulled the fuse and sure enough. It was popped. DAMNIT!!!! We grabbed a new fuse, popped it in, got another jump, and I could hear the fuel pump whir to life. The truck turned over on first crank.

Back in business!!

We shook hands and exchanged hugs. The creepy cab driver hugging Lauren just a bit longer than seemed necessary.. and set off on our merry way.

Wind in our hair, we were only a few hours behind schedule. Things were looking good.

We rolled into another minuscule town and I remember thinking “This would be a crappy place to break-down”

Sure enough… 10 seconds later the 4Runner lost all power. I calmly pulled the truck over to the side of the road in front of a small dusty shack.

Lauren gave me the look… “Fuel pump?”

Yep.

I jumped out and popped the hood, she starts unloading all the stuff from behind the passenger seat so that I can go through the whole removal process again.

A small crowd quickly gathers around the strange gringos in the silver truck.

As I am wrenching on the fuel pump, a small Peruvian man exclaims that he knows a mechanic in town and runs off to find him. OK, Sure.

I am underneath the truck trying to crack the fuel lines so that I can remove the fuel pump and get a better look at it when the man returns with the mechanic. I meet him and he seems like a nice enough guy, I tell him I am having trouble getting these fuel lines off and ask for his help. He says no problem.

I get underneath the truck to get a good angle on one of the fuel line bolts from below and he is wrenching from the top. Problem is; I can’t see what he is doing and by the time I realize that he is actually wrenching and twisting the steel fuel lines in circles, instead of working the bolt, the damage is done. Now we have a dead fuel pump and a cracked fuel line.

I cursed for a long while… especially when out of desperation I cranked the truck and the fuel pump sprang to life, spewing fuel all over the inside of the truck through the cracked fuel line. What the hell is up with this moody damn pump!! One second it works, the next its dead.

The mechanic apologized profusely. He then explained to me that he is actually a moto-taxi mechanic and doesn’t really know much about cars… DOH

With not many options for repair here I decide to try and JBWeld up the cracked fuel line. JBWeld job completed we now play the waiting game for it to set up.

The Moto mechanic offers to give us a tour of the town in his mototaxi, with nothing much better to do we agree and are skated off around the town in his sweet Batman tuk-tuk

Eventually we end up at a local bar, the mechanic buys us sympathy beers and we swap stories of life. He has spent his entire life in this little town but we are surprised to find out that he has 2 children who are studying medicine in Lima. When we explained that is where we are headed he insisted that we look them up when arrived and gave us their info.

We had about 4 hours to kill at the bar waiting for the JBWeld to setup, needless to say we were all feeling good by the time we returned to the truck to see if our rig had worked.

Back to the truck, I work the ignition while the mechanic watches the line. I crank and hear GAHHHHH as the mechanic spit fuel out of his mouth, I knew the fix had not worked :(

OK, time to regroup here. My rookie mechanics skills have just dug us deeper into a mechanical black-hole. I asked the mechanic where the next real town is, he explained that is about 30 minutes up the road. After spending 15 minutes trying to figure out the Spanish word for “Tow-Truck” (FYI: its “grua”) We eventually arranged for a farmer to tow us into town the next morning.

Now the last thing left to do was reassemble all the crap I had removed during troubleshooting phase #2. I crawled into the back of the truck and started moving some wires around the fuel pump when suddenly…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

WOOOSH GIANT FLAME!!!

OH SHIT!!!!! OH SHIT!! OH SHITT!!!!

I reeled as giant flames leaped from the exposed fuel pump hatch, I stared through the flames and saw 17 gallons of freshly pumped gas directly underneath. My mind processed that I must have sparked the recently hackjob fuel pump wires together and then processed WELL NOW IM GOING TO DIE!

I look up and see Lauren at the drivers door who is singing along with my chorus of OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT

I am frantically grabbing for something to throw onto the flames to extinguish them, unfortunately the only thing readily available is the trucks title and all our important paperwork. Not good fire squelching equipment.

In a moment of completely idiotic desperation I get the bright idea to try and BLOW out the fire. Ok… yes I know. Looking back that was the dumbest thing I could possibly do. But I was freaking out here!!

I blow on the flames and WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH the fire gets 10 times bigger, the flames licking the plywood hatch above it and singeing the actual roof of the 4Runner. BAD IDEA!!!

I scream to Lauren “WE NEED TO RUN!!!”

As I look over at her I see her grabbing something red. I realize its the friggin FIRE EXTINGUISHER we had recently purchased at a hardware store in Huanchaco. DUH! Thank God Lauren has a much cooler head than me, it did not even cross my mind.

She tosses it to me, I fumble with the crazy Peruvian safety mechanism cursing the bastards who designed this thing. With my beast-mode adrenaline strength I completely rip the plastic safety lever apart and start going to TOWN on the interior of the truck.

fire extinguisher

I lit that thing up like the 4th of July. Spraying the white extinguishing dust all over the place, I did not let up until it was a white Christmas inside of the 4Runner.

Fire extinguished, Crises adverted. My adrenaline dumped and I begin shaking uncontrollably as I turn around and see a group of about 15 men, women, and children who had no idea how close they all just came to being blown to smithereens.

Lauren ran around the truck and we hugged each other laughing and crying interchangeably for 10 minutes as the clueless Peruvians wondered what the hell was up with these weirdos.

I tried to explain to them the gravity of the situation but it must have been lost in translation as they simply shrugged and walked away.

After all the calamity we asked the man who owned the shack where we broke down if we could spend the night in front of his place. He was very friendly and quickly agreed, also offering up the use of his shower/bathroom if we needed.

That night Lauren and I sat on the tailgate, drinking cheap box wine, watching the traffic fly by on the Pan-American highway contemplating life and death. We agreed that after all the “dangerous” places and things we have done on this trip, it would be pretty ironic for us to blow our own damnselves up.

Later, as we lay in our extinguisher dust covered bed completely caked from head to toe in dust, dirt, and gasoline we could not help but laugh hysterically at our pathetic situation.

It is not the beautiful beaches, tall mountains, and rum drinks that we will remember when we are old and gray. It is the parts of this journey when we are at our lowest, when most people would give up and walk away, when we question why the hell we ever started this damn trip in the first place. These are the times that stick with you. These are the times that draw us closer. These are the times that we are happy we have chosen one other for this journey. We are in this thing together, thick and thin, and we would not have it any other way.

Oh well, Tonight we sleep and we shall see what tomorrow brings. Don’t forget we are still trying to make it to Lima and the clock is tick tick ticking!

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The 4Runner Revolts – Day 1

This is the first part of a series of my hilariously rookie mistakes in the world of car mechanics…

It was a seemingly simply affair, pop up to Ecuador, renew our vehicle permits and passports for another 90 days, jet down to Lima to watch our buddies SprinterLife’s hound-dog for a few weeks while they introduce their new baby to friends/family back in the States. But as we should know by now about best laid plans in the world of overlanding…

Like ourselves, the 4runner does not take to kindly to schedules and as we teared north out of Huanchaco we joked that the last time we set a “deadline” for ourselves we ended up with a big ol’ mess on our hands. This time we decided to give ourselves a big cushion of time. SprinterLife was not planning to fly out for 5 days from our starting date. It was technically an easy 3-day trip from Huanchaco-Ecuador-Lima, but we gave ourselves 2 spare days just in case something goes wrong…

Day 1:

It felt nice to stretch the 4Runners legs again, too long had she been idling in front of the apartment only to be driven to the grocery store or some other lame domestic chore. This was not the life of our truck, she was born for the road. Now we all flew happily up the blacktop towards Ecuador diving deeper and deeper into some of the most remote desert landscape this side of the Sahara. Things felt right again.

After a few hours Lauren hollers that she needs to pee (Sorry babe, the devil is in the details!) We follow a dirt-track down to a roadside garbage pit (all too common along the coastline of Peru). With her lady business complete I went to start the truck to get back on the road.

Crank-Turn over-Die… Hmm that’s odd.
Crank-Turn over-Die. Weird.
Crank-crank-crank. No turn over.
Come on girl… Crank-crank-crank-crank. Nothing.

Shit.

I jump out of the truck and pop the hood. The 4Runner has been known to randomly decide she doesn’t like a sensor or two from time to time and chuck the plugs willy-nilly off of her engine block. This time though, all sensor plugs checked out. I look for loose hoses, all accounted for. Check Battery strength 12.5 Volts. This all seems fine. Check oil and coolant, Ok all good there. Lets crank her again just for giggles. Still nothing.

Alright so we got a no turn-over situation. My mind goes into my amateur mechanic diagnostic mode; I figure our problem is likely no spark or no fuel. I pull the plug wires and jam a screwdriver in there and have Lauren crank the truck. From the electric shock I receive in my spasm’ng palm, I assume we got spark.

I pop the Cold-Start Fuel valve and have her crank the truck. Now that I am half-blinded by gas in my eyes I assume we have fuel. OK… so now what.

I decide to bust out the Orange bible AKA the “1987 Toyota 4Runner Factory Service Manual”. This badboy is the go-to-guide for Toyota service factory technicians; Weighing in at close to 8 pounds, 900 pages, and almost a foot thick. If the answer was not in here, it might not be anywhere.

Today I follow the trouble-shooting path for a no turn-over situation.Check sensors, Check spark, Check fuel. I decide to recheck everything, just in case. Sensors good, Spark good, Shield my eyes for the fuel check. Expecting a face fuel of gas I am surprised this time when nothing spurts out of the Cold-Start Injector. I have Lauren crank again, still nothing.

Aha! No Fuel!

I remember troubleshooting a fuel pump issue on my old Firebird and ran back to the tank to listen for the tell-tale whirring sound of a functioning fuel pump. I have Lauren crank the truck. The fuel tank lays silent. I have her crank again. Still nothing.

OK. So there is our problem. Fuel pump.

I go back to the bible and follow the Fuel Pump troubleshooting steps. Check the Fuel pump fuse. I pull the fuse, looks fine. I replace it anyway just in case. Same Problem. Next, there is a Fuel Pump override jumper switch under the hood that I can enable with a simple paperclip (Welcome to 1987 baby!) that might overcome any random sensor or relay issues. Same problem. Now I start to think maybe the paperclip isn’t overriding all the relays that head to the fuel pump so I start ripping apart the dash and taking apart random relays, inspecting them, and reinstalling them. Same problem. Crap.

We might be broke down, but at least we got beers!

I decide the problem must be with the fuel pump itself. So let’s check out the fuel pump directly. Our only problem is the fuel pump is inside the damn gas tank (Thanks Toyota!) and to access it you either

A. Need to drop the entire fuel tank
B. Access it via a hatch located under the rear passenger seat

Now, in a normal truck this hatch would not be so hard to access, but in our situation where we have removed the rear passenger seat and constructed a gigantic immobile wooden sleeping platform, it is quite a pain in the ass.

Lauren takes on the fun task of removing our entire lives from the truck and neatly stacking it in a pile among the garbage dump of our new found desert home.

Our lives removed from the truck I can now prop up the wooden beams just enough to allow me to wiggle underneath and access the hatch.

My new workspace for the foreseeable future. Comfy!

I rip up the carpet, cut up the insulation, and remove the bolts to the hatch. Now I am staring at the culprit, well at least the wires to the culprit. Thinking there might be some sort of wiring issue between the fuel pump and the brains of the truck I decide to snip the wires leading to the fuel pump and apply direct 12 Volts from my jumper box to see if I can get the pump to crank to life. I hesitantly slice the wires and apply 12 volts of juice directly to them. Nothing.

Damnnit! Must be a completely dead pump.

Now what? Were in a garbage dump in the middle of friggin nowhere desert. The sun is setting and I have a completely dead fuel pump.

I decide my only option is to pull the fuel pump out tonight and hope to hitch a ride from some passing car in the morning to a town to try to track down a new one.

So that’s what I do. I unbolt the fuel pump carrier, slide it up and unbolt the fuel pump from the carrier. (This only took me 1 sentence to explain but probably took my rookie ass 2 hours to do…) Now that I have the fuel pump out of the truck I decide, for fun, to try and apply 12 Volts directly to the fuel pump terminals. To my complete surprise, the damn thing whirs to life without a care in the world, spurting gasoline giddily into my eyes and face yet again.

What the F! I yell into the hot desert night spitting gas out of my mouth. (Note: By this time, Lauren is serenely reading a book by headlamp, occasionally asking if I need anything but mostly just keeping out of the way while I curse the Japanese bastards who decided inside of the fuel tank was the best place to locate this blasted pump)

After washing my eyes out with water, I think, well maybe the electric leads from the fuel pump were just loose? I remove them and reinstall them tightly, then test them directly. Pump works just fine.

Awesome!! Problem solved!

I yell to Lauren, well be getting back on the road soon! She looks up and smiles sweetly, then continues reading.

I slap the whole thing back together, splice the cut wires up with some electrical tape, and go to the start the truck, dreaming of the hot shower that I will soon be locating to wash the grease and gasoline from my hair.

Crank-Turnover-Die. OK… maybe she just needs to prime up a bit.
I turn the key to the ON position for a few seconds then crank again.
Crank-Turnover-Die. WTF
Crank-Crank-Crank. Nothing! What the hell!

I have Lauren crank the truck as I lie in the garbagey sand listening for the fuel pump in the tank. Nothing!

What the F!!

I pull off all the electric tape on the wires and apply 12V directly to the pump again, it whirs to life!

Blahrlabhalghhlbah What the hell!!

OK so now its midnight, I’m exhausted. I decide there must be some sort of wiring issue between the trucks electronics and the fuel pump.

I decide I am going to rig the 12V jumpbox directly to the fuel-pump and run it that way. I rig it up nicely and it is running the pump just fine. I go to crank the truck and receive the tell-tale fast CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK of a battery that has been run to low to turn the damn motor over.

I can hear my curses ricochet off the desert cliffs. A far-off coyote returns my expletive calls of the wild.

I get the idea that I can run the fuel-pump from my auxiliary battery (My poor Aux batt is too dead to start the truck at this point in the trip) if I wire it up directly, only problem is the only spare wire I have long enough to reach is speaker-wire, which proves to be useless as it melts the second I apply 12V current to it.

At this point I realize I can run the fuel pump OR jump-start the truck off the jump-box, but can’t do both at the same time, so I determine I am at the end of my troubleshooting rope.

Completely exhausted, sweaty, sandy, and soaked in gasoline, I pour myself a super-sized rum and coke, slide into bed, and wonder what the hell I am going to do tomorrow.

Lauren smiles sweetly, sips her large cup of wine, tells me everything is going to be OK, and continues reading her book as the desert breeze blows serenely through our garbage-dump camp…

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Adios Huanchaco!

One of my main goals before we left our apartment in Huanchaco was to finally get caught up on our perpetually lolly-gagging blog. Well… needless to say that didn’t happen. In fact our blog is now hitting an almost laughable 4-month delay compared to real-time. To all my faithful readers I apologize!

If you are interested in receiving real-time updates then you should check out our facebook page at http://facebook.com/homeonthehighway

Life continued pretty normally in Huanchaco, hanging out with our buds, working, drinking beers, and watching sunsets. We really love our lives here in Huanchaco but we were starting to feel that itch to get back on the road. We finally made the decision to tell our landlord that November would be our last month in the apartment.

Just a few weeks before our departure date we got some more visitors. Jed and Megan from Adventure Americas are fellow Americans who drove their Toyota Tacoma with a Phoenix Pop-up camper all the way from Wyoming down to Peru. They too are headed to Ushaia. When they showed up to the house with 8 liters of beer and a box of wine, we knew we would soon be becoming best friends.

We hung around the house a few days cooking, grubbing, and getting to know each other.

One night we let it slip that we had not been camping in over 4 weeks. Fearing that they were hanging out with a bunch of sissy housecats the plan was made to go camping the next night. We jumped on Google Earth and found some nice 4×4 desert roads from Huanchaco that led out to a canyon that looked great for camping.

We headed out the next morning.

Having a little fun in the soft desert sands

Along the way we picked up two of Jed and Megans friends from Austrailia. The Australians flew to California, purchased two KLR 650′s and headed south. We all agree they are much more hardcore than we are.

We eventually found the perfect spot and setup camp.


Many beers were drank, bullshit road stories swapped, and good times had by all around the fire that night.

The next day was Thanksgiving. Them being Aussies and all; our friends had no idea what lie in store for them when we invited them to a good ol’ fashion USA Thanksgiving feast.

The next day we headed up to the store to try to find a turkey. Interestingly enough… Peruvians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving so it was harder to track down a Turkey than we thought. We eventually manage to find a breast and some legs. We combined the pieces into a Frankenstein turkey with 6 legs, since thats everyone’s favorite part anyway. We also bought all the fixin’s we could find corn, sweet potatoes, green beans, butter, etc etc. We got home and hit the kitchen.


Our Australian friends wondering where all the butter keeps going, as I run to the store for the 3rd time to buy MORE. Oh if they only knew…

Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet potato pie.

Not pictured is the turkey, but here is the aftermath of our feast. The Aussies said they had never eaten that much food in their lives.

In the morning we waved goodbye to Adventure the Americas and started packing up the house. It took us a grand total of 1.5 hours to relocate our entire lives back into the truck. Definitely a nice perk of traveling light.

People have been asking ask what will happen to our newly found kitten Squeakers? Well… We tried taking him out with us a few times on the road but between him throwing endless squeel fests, being scared crapless, and jumping out the window of the moving 4runner we decided he might not be fit for the hard life on the road. Lauren still wanted to take him but she agreed it wouldn’t be fair to drag along the cat if it was not interested in this overlanding life of ours. It was a difficult decision to leave the little dude behind, but after the hellish week you will read about in our next post we were convinced we made the right decision.

Goodbye Huanchaco. We hope to return someday.

Next we head back to the Ecuadorian border yet again to renew our vehicle permits and then off to Lima to do some dog-sitting for our buddies at SprinterLife. We gave ourselves 6-days to complete this 3-day trip. Plenty of time right!?

Wrong…

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Carly comes to visit! Part 2 – Laguna LLaganuco, Chavin Ruins, y mas!

We cruised down the bumpy road heading towards the town of Yungay.

Along the way we stopped to have some lunch. They had a full menu of Andes treats. Guinea Pigs, Stream trout, pork, and hen.

They also had Alpaca on the menu but after seeing these cute dudes roaming around in the backyard of the place. I just couldn’t pull the trigger.

Plenty of Canchas (Kind of a Peruvian popcorn) and Coca tea were consumed though. It really does help with the altitude sickness at these heights.

We ate up and headed down the road to the town of Yungay.

Yungay while seemingly a thriving town today, has a very sad history. It was here in Yungay that 25,000 people lost their lives during the great earthquake of 1970. The quake dislodged 1/4 of the mountain top sending 50 million cubic meters of debris flying down the hillside at speeds over 400 KMH. The entire town was buried alive before they even knew what hit them. Only the tops of a few tall palms remained after the landslide.

We followed a small dirt road up above the new town headed towards Llaganuco Lodge. Passing more rural life along the way.

Sheep pelts drying in the sun… and a satellite dish of course. You don’t want to miss the latest “YO SOY!”. The Peruvian version of American Idol. Which, if you can imagine, is somehow even worse than that drivel they put on in the states.

We arrive at the LLaganuco Lodge… after getting lost for about an hour. Hey Charlie, invest in a sign will ya!?

We posted up camp and explored the beautiful grounds. Charlie really has an amazing slice of land wayyyy off the grid up here in the highlands just below the Lagunas Llaganuco.

Who needs a newspaper with views like these?

We hung out with Charlies’ 2 Rodesian Ridgebacks. They do a good job of keeping the property safe.

Next morning we headed up the trail on foot to the lagunas, located about an hour walk from the lodge.

At the lake info center they had a creepy display of some native animals. Including this horribly stuffed mountain derp lion.

Luckily the lake itself more than made up for the derp lion.

The steep gorge walls plunged directly into the azure glacial waters. Quite a sight.

After exploring the lake a bit we took a small footpath through a forest of Queñoa trees. They are more popularly known as Polyepis trees and are native to the Andes mountains. Their flaky red bark and twisting shapes reminded me of the Manzanita trees back home in the Sierra mountains.

Lauren climbed up a huge boulder for a better look down the valley.

Carly soon joined

We spotted some tarantulas crawling around too! I have read that Tarantulas cant really bite you and are mainly harmless. I still am to chicken to pick one up.

Like I mentioned in our last blog, we are up in the mountains in the off-season so the weather is kind of poor. Back at the lodge we all huddle in the dining room, drinking wine, and swapping stories with other travelers. We met some great people there and made some long-term friendships.

Here is a creepy photo of me talking with my new buddy Enzo.

We encouraged Enzo to get the hell off this cold rainy mountain and down to Huanchaco to enjoy the sunshine. Well… It didn’t really take much convincing, he had one foot out the door already and we gave him a ride to town the next day. When we got back to Huanchaco he had already rented an apartment and setup shop! New neighbors! :)

We stopped by the same restaurant on the way out of town. Our sweet Llama friends turned nasty and tried to kick Carly. I think her spanish was off and she insulted him.

I didn’t feel bad about eating him any more :)

Sorry bud!

We briefly stopped in Huaraz to drop off Enzo and do some shopping around the town square. The city was pretty but seemed way too busy for my liking.

On our way out of town we noticed a lot of junk in the road, old tires, rocks, and street signs. Lots of police activity as well. Turns out we had just missed a protest that morning. Apparently there was some shady stuff going down in a nearby town regarding a college president and some misplaced funds. The locals were showing their disappointment with the situation by causing all kinds of grief for truckers and unfortunately tourists caught up in the mix.

We passed many many roadblocks, luckily none were manned by crazed protestors and we could easily drive around them.

I have no idea how they managed to move this giant friggin tree stump in the middle of the road.

Remnants of the roadblocks were frequent, most had been cleared. Note the donkey protestor. Fight the power, Donkey!

We soon came to a bridge where we encountered about 15 geared up police. They were wearing riot gear and stopping cars from crossing the bridge. From our view everything looked fine. We asked the police if we could cross, they said “Not today!”.

We sat around for a while waiting to see what was going on, we saw lots of villagers walking over the bridge but could not see what was happening. As we waited the line of cars and semis grew longer and longer. Truckers eventually got impatient and started blaring on their airhorns and pushing up onto the bridge. Peruvians love to use their horns and soon we had an entire orchestra going full bore. I pulled over to get the hell out of the way.

Note: the Peruvian using a damn bike pump to inflate his flat tire…

At one point about 15 youths came across the bridge and the riot police met them in the middle. I thought it was about to go down but they just had a brief chat, shook hands, and returned to their respective sides of the bridge. I could only imagine what would happen if someone tried to blockade I-10 or I-95 in the States… I am thinking lots of mace, tear gas, and rubber bullets. I admire the Peruvians ability to peacefully protest, at least in this case.

As we were waiting there, some shady looking villager kept coming up and telling us they knew a secret way around the bridge. If we just paid them 100 soles they would show us the way. Not wanting to get scammed we ignored them. Eventually Bike pump guy and about 7 other cars all pooled together their money and asked us if we wanted to get in on this shortcut action. We had been sitting there for 2 hours now and figured what the hell. We tossed 10 soles to the cause and joined the queue of renegades who wanted to get past this bridge. Villager dude jumped in Bike-pump guys truck and away we went with our convoy.

As we pulled up a dirt road next to the bridge we saw what all the commotion was… An entire town of people was on the other side of the bridge. They had gathered thousands of rocks, boulders, trees, and random other junk to block the road. This was the actual town where the shady college was located. They were pissed and this was their way of sticking it to the man. Blocking all cargo south out of Huaraz.

We scooted up the shortcut dirt road for a few miles, the unpassable river to our left following bike-pump guy wondering where the hell we were headed.

Eventually the convoy came to a stop. Everyone got out to do some sort of negotiations. Not wanting to get involved we just sat in the truck and watched from afar. Turns out this little town does have a bridge after all. However, they wanted to get their cut for us to pass it. The convoy collected up a few more soles to pay the villagers and away we went.

Yeehaw! Secret bridge!

The bridge popped us out way south of the town with the roadblock, Success!

About 10 minutes up the road we came to another bridge. BLOCKED! damnit! These crazy Peruvians and their roadblocks…

Luckily this river wasn’t flowing too deep. We locked the hubs and forwarded straight across it. Who needs a bridge!? Toyota 4×4 to the rescue!!

We finally made it past all the towns and into the remote altiplano. Not enough people or news services out here to get riled up about much.

It was an incredible high-altitude drive to Chavin.





We made into town right at sundown. We found the nearest bar and celebrated our crazy journey. I ordered the house special, did not realize it was going to be so fancy!

Grabbed some grub and hit the hay. Up the next day to check out the Chavin Ruins.

The Chavin de Huantar area has been occupied since at least 3000 BC. The major ruins date back to 1200 B.C. Longggg before any Incas ever existed. The site was a large central gathering place for many surrounding tribes and as such contained many relics and artifacts from civilizations long forgotten. It is full of temples, caves, and underground passageways where the artifacts where once stored. The majority have been moved to museums but you can still tour the grounds and tunnels.

Looking up at the main complex

Carvings of snakes, birds, jaguars, and other creatures.

Lauren and Carly exploring the underground tunnels.

Goofing around in ancient passageways

Tenon-head. These heads once surrounded the temple and showed a female figure in various forms of transformation from a human to a jaguar.

Artist recreation of the grounds.

The grounds and nearby museum were very interesting. But we were on a tight schedule and jetted out of Chavin quickly after looking around the place.

We had been in contact with our good buddies Felix and Toni. We had planned to meet up in the mountains to check out some sort of crazy plant called a Puya Raimondii (Yes, this is what we do with our free time… drive all over the place to look at weird plants). We reversed the journey back towards Yungay. Luckily roadblock free this time. Oddly, there wasn’t a stitch of evidence that this whole route had been a shitshow the day before. All bridges and roads completely clear. Fine with us.

With no clear meeting point other than “near the crazy plants on such and such road” we headed up into the mountains once again following a long series of switch points up into the Cordillera Negra.

The villagers here cultivate every last inch of land. How they can even walk to these plots without falling to their death is beyond me.

We got to the top of the mountain and enter a thick fog. Luckily we spy our friends coming back up from the other side of the mountain! They had picked up a hitchhiking Peruvian grandma who needed to go a little further than they had planned. Being the nice people that they are they went ahead and drove down the other side of the mountain to drop her off and then doubled-back to meet up with us.

We met up and headed straight to the stands of Puya on top of the mountain. I learned the Puya is a very rare plant that only grows in certain elevations of the Andes. It grows straight up for 40-60 years before finally flowering and releasing its seeds and pollen. After it has flowered it immediately dies. We had unfortunately just missed the flowering season by 1 month but it was still pretty awesome standing next to these weird giant plants.

Even more awesome was camping with our old pals who we had not seen since Guatemala!

Felix and Toni drove their Right-Hand drive 4×4 Mitsubishi Delica all the way from Canada to Peru and are headed to Ushuaia just like us. Their van rates as one of the most badass and offroad-capable vans I have seen thus far. This Delica can go anywhere and I would be happy to offroad with these dudes any day.

We setup camp on a high ridgeline overlooking the valley and the Cordillera Negra opposite from our mountain range. We shared the view with some wild pigs, flocks of sheep, and some ladybugs.


Sadly all good things must come to an end. We packed up the trucks and headed our separate ways. We hope to meet up again soon somewhere south!

Back in Huanchaco, we had one last party before sending Carly off. Knowing Carly, this won’t be the last time we see her in South America! Can’t wait for her to come again :)

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Carly comes to visit! Part 1 – Canon Del Pato & Laguna Paron

When we originally started out on the trip we had plan for it to take around 1-year to get down to Ushuaia. We had a quasi-budget and timeline that seemed reasonable.

Somewhere around Month #9 and the country of Peru we realized that our budget was way off. We really should have alotted more like 30-40% of our budget to booze and box wine instead of 15%… and given ourselves at least 1.5 years if not more for this trip.

Damn you Clos!! You know we cant resist.

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