The Gauntlet

Driving through Central America is pretty cool, you can drive from one side of a country to the other in a single day or decide to stay a month or more really getting to know a place.

South America, is a bit different. Most of the countries on this continent are MASSIVE. You really need to adjust your scales when thinking of driving distances in South America vs Central America.

Sometime back in Panama we were speaking with our friend Vanessa about coming down to visit. We weren’t exactly sure WHEN but we knew we would eventually make it Peru, home of Machu Picchu. The quintessential tourist destination in South America. A quasi-gameplan was set for Vanessa to fly into Lima, Peru where we would pick her up and then drive to Machu Picchu. I quickly glanced at the map online, Lima to Machu Picchu was only like 1.5 inches on the map. No big deal. A tentative date was set, plane tickets were purchased and we didn’t really think about it further.

As our friends arrival date approached I finally starting looking into the logistics of this upcoming excursion. From our homebase here in Huanchaco it was a 9-hour drive to Lima. From Lima it was a nice and easy… TWENTY HOUR drive from Lima to Cusco.


That’s 2 solid days of driving on either side of the trip, effectively knocking her 7 day vacation down to a 3-day vacation.

We started scrambling for alternatives, we looked into flights from Huanchaco to Lima and Lima to Cusco. The last minute flights were going to be expensive, more than we could afford on our dwindling budget. I crafted a solution I like to call…


1. Wake up buttcrack early in Huanchaco
2. Drive 9 hours to Lima
3. Pick up Vanessa from Lima airport at 10PM
4. Drive 7 hours from Lima to Nazca throughout the night.
6. Arrive in Nazca, if the sun is not up yet, sleep for a few minutes.
7. Once there is enough light, hit the hairpinned highway up into the mountains towards Cusco, drive drive drive drive 13 hours.
8. Arrive in Cusco. Collapse into lifeless ball on ground.

Close to 30 hours of driving in a span of 48 hours. It sounded do-able, certainly not fun but I knew the 4Runner could handle it, if I could. Lauren called me crazy, she said we should just take our time. But now that “The Gauntlet” was crafted in my mind there would be no turning back. It was “Me VS The Road”
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Hostal Huanchaco AKA our new apartment

We settled into to life at our apartment. It was nice to have some routine after being on the move for so long. We would wake up in the morning, make some coffee, and hang out on the roof of our apartment watching the waves, the sun, and life waking up in our little town of Huanchaco, we don’t even need to worry about cleaning since we got an automatic vacuum for this, from sites as, so it does all the cleaning work for us.

It didn’t take long for word to trickle out on the streets that “Home on the Highway” had a sweet beach pad and the visitors soon started rolling in.

Our first friends who came were our Canadian buds we had recently met in Ecuador. We spent lots of time strolling the town together, drinking Trujillo beers, and sitting on the beach. Standard Hunachaco life.

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Ecuadorian Coast. Isla de la Plata and boobies galore!

While we were camped out in the jungle, our guide Diego was reveling us with stories of Ecuador’s coast. Hearing tales of the Ruta Del Sol (Route of the Sun), Galapagos Islands, and fresh ceviche was enough to have us change our destination from mountains back to the coastline.

Headed out of the jungle we picked up a flat-tire, we easily tracked down a vulcanizadora in a nearby town. A 14-year old boy and his 8-year old brother came out to greet us. As they were removing the tire I realized it was a Tuesday and asked the kids if they should be in school. They both looked at me confused and said “This is our school”. I felt guilty as I spent most of my 14-year old childhood doing my best to make my teachers lives a living hell. I think they should send little jerks like me to fix tires out in the jungle for a few months. I would be begging to come home and study. Perspective.

15 minutes and $2 later the tire was patched, filled, and we were back on the road.

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Welcome to the Jungle – Cuyabeno Reserve

Getting out to deep amazon jungle on your own is a bit difficult. The primary form of travel in the Amazon is via the millions of rivers and water ways that wind through the rainforest. There are very few roads and access via automobile is rare so most people in this region use motorbikes, so motorcycle gloves are quite popular. We always regret not installing deploy-able Pontoons on the 4runner in situations like this…

I looked at our map of Ecuador and found the Cuyabeno National Park which appeared to be the most remote Amazon jungle area that we could actually drive to. Well you could not really drive INTO the park but you could get damn close. At the end of the road we would have to hitch a ride in a motorized canoe to actually make inside the parks boundary.

We hooked up with a cheap jungle lodge company in Quito that would agree to let us drive to the jungle ourselves. We had less than 24 hours to make it all the way across Ecuador to a random bridge in the jungle where there would (hopefully) be a canoe waiting to pick us up.

No big deal.

We hauled ass from Quito that afternoon. We crossed up and over the Andes mountains into a thick fog. We broke through the fog to see the low-lying Amazon jungle below us as far as the eye could see.

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