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.
We were faced with the fact that we could either…
A. Haul ass straight to Ushuaia, see nothing, and basically be broke at the end of the trip.
B. Try to hunker down and figure out a way to make money in Peru to keep the trip going.
We figured worse case scenario we had enough cash to float us for 2 months in Huanchaco and then we could stash the truck, fly home, work for a bit and fly back.
We REALLY did not want to go back the U.S.A. yet. The thought of dickhead bosses, daily commutes, and Applebees sampler platters are enough to turn my stomach. We got started searching for work.
We made some friends in Huanchacho who told us there was plenty of work teaching english classes to locals. We looked into it and to do it legally, you were required to sign up for a fairly large time commitment and the pay was less than stellar (around $7/hour after taxes). No thanks.
Back in the states I worked as an IT Consultant, 95% of my job was done remotely. I figured it would be easy to call up some old contacts and find some temporary work. Well… most of my friends had moved on to new gigs where they didn’t pull much weight or their bosses wanted me to be available for onsite calls as well. Kind of hard to do from Peru.
Desperate, I picked up some shady craiglist gig doing Midnight shift end-user remote support for some Motel internet support company. The calls were from the deepest levels of hell (You can imagine the type of person calling you up from the Big 8 Motel at 3AM trying to get porntube.com working…) and at only $8/hr. I lasted about a week.
Talking with a buddy of mine (What up B-rats!!) about the situation he told me about a remote IT support gig his friends were doing. He said they were making decent money and it was 100% remote. It sounded to good to be true but I signed up anyway and went through an interview process. About 2 weeks later I started taking calls. With this job you were able to work as much or as little as you want, no set schedules, no bosses. Straight 1099 Contractor pay. It was absolutely perfect for us. Lauren found another online job that was bringing in cash as well. We were sitting pretty!
I would work from about 9AM to around 10PM at night, 6 days a week. The calls were horribly mind-numbing but the pay was great and I was able to do it in my underwear sittin’ on the roof of our apartment looking out over the beaches of Peru. I could not complain at all.
View from my office, Ignore the 3rd world ghetto TV antennas and you can see the Pacific!
After the first month I received a legit paycheck deposited into our Paypal account. It was enough to keep us on the road for at least another 2 months.
We had figured it out. In the face of adversity and a dwindling bank account we made it work financially here in Peru and along the way we discovered how to technically extend our travels indefinitely.
Elated, We buckled the hell down and grinded out 3 months of solid work in Huanchaco.
It wasn’t all work and no play though. Laurens sister, Carly, flew into Lima, caught a bus to Huanchaco and hung with us for 2 weeks. We partied it up in our hometown of Huanchaco and toured tons of Peru with her.
She was a hit with all of our Peruvian friends of course.
With Carly around we all of the sudden became the most popular people in Huanchaco. Dinner invitations and parties every night!
During one drunken night we were talking about going sandboarding. Our best buddy in Huanchaco, Pinky, knew some folks who rented boards, and also knew a spot that we could 4×4 too and sandboard for free. This sounded like a lot more fun than paying for some dopey gringo tour. The next morning, hungover as hell, we loaded up the boards and bounced across the deserts of Peru to some towering sand dunes.
Trekking through some farms to get to the dunes.
The one downside to doing this the locals way is you gotta hike your butt up to the top of the dune. Hard work indeed!
Pinky gave us a few quick lessons and away we went! Sort of…
The girls were much better than I.
But I make this stuff look good!
After 2 hikes up the dune we were spent. While I originally thought sandboarding was going to be kind of lame, it was actually a load of fun. It was way easier than snowboarding and a lot less painful when you wipe out. Plus you can do it in a bathing suit rather than 100Lbs of cold weather gear. Highly recommended.
After a few days of fun in the Huanchaco sun we loaded up the 4Runner and hit the road, headed to the Andes.
Sorry Carly, only 2 seats in the 4Runner. We convert it into a Cama-bus for passengers.
Adios beaches. Hello mountains!
We cut up from the coast and soon entered into the famed “Canyon del Pato” (Canyon of the Duck). Canyon Del Pato runs between two gigantic Peruvian mountain ranges, the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra (The latter being the second highest mountain range in the world, only defeated by the mighty Himalayas). The route is a dirt road originally built to mine the mountains out here. It has over 35+ tunnels hand-carved straight out of the face of the mountain with the raging Rio Santa always at your side. It is an amazing trek and a must-do for any overlanders.
Many of the longer tunnels are completely blind and only wide enough for 1 vehicle. You have to “Tocar Bocina” AKA honk your horn constantly and listen for another car/truck coming the other way.
As you can see, not much clearance if you happen to be coming the other direction.
We setup camp in the Canyon and enjoy the quiet night all to ourselves.
Up and on the road again the next morning we leave the canyon and drive into the small town of Caraz. We bump up the road into the mountains above the town passing standard Peruvian village life along the way.
We eventually arrive at our destination. Parque Paron. Unfortunately no one is home to actually open to the gate. Luckily they do not actually lock it so I just removed the chains and raised it, closing it behind us.
We started driving through a deep gorge, sheer cliffs on either side of us with waterfalls seeping from their walls.
These mountains looked omininous, jagged, cloudy, and dark.
We crawled up switch-back after switch-back watching the altimeter climb. Eventually reaching 13,681 feet and the end of the road at Laguna Paron, our destination.
Did not seem anyone was home at the ranger-shack here either. We went ahead and setup camp and took in the views of this majestic glacial lagoon and the surrounding glaciers themselves.
We made dinner and the girls bundled up for a sleep. We were up at 13K+ feet, temp dropped way below freezing, AND we were sleeping 3 deep in the back of the 4Runner. Needless to say no one got much sleep that night.
We awoke the next morning to find 2 Peruvian guys hanging out in our camping chairs. Come to find out they were the park attendants and had been sleeping when we arrived yesterday. They were super friendly and informed us they work up here for 3 weeks straight and seldom see any tourists in the off-season. (Its currently too late in the season to climb any glaciers) They were stoked to have some company and took us on a VIP tour of their lake.
Sadly they informed us that the lake water level has been drastically reduced by the power company using the water for hydroelectric. The surrounding villagers rallied to save their lagoon and have successfully reduced the drainage and the lake is every so slolwy rising back to its original levels.
Can you spy the 4Runner?
After our tour we waved goodbye to our friends and headed back down to the main road. We had much more of Peru to explore with Carly. Stay tuned for the next part of this blog.