Disaster strikes-but we are over it
Trip Start Unknown
39Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Hitchhikers Backpackers Lima Hostel
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
S12⁰ 07.351ī W77⁰
Well, I guess there was a statistical chance on this trip through south and other bits of the
Americas that we would be unfortunate and hit a big problem. And so we did!
The warning signs were there when we came to the Peruvian border shortly after we left Copacobana on the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca. The Peruvian border guys were to a man crooked, looking to throw some imagined misdemeanor at us which to put right would have involved a bribe. We had been warned about this trait on the part of Peruvian officials, especially at borders, so were having nothing to do with this corrupt behaviour. We just looked dumb, shook our heads and stood our ground as each one tried a new angle for a hand out. What we didnīt realize at the time was that this was a harbinger of bigger, much bigger problems to come not far down the road along the western shore of Lake Titicaca.
We arrived in the town of Puno where we thought we could maybe camp but beforehand we needed some cash so drove into the town centre to find an ATM. It became very obvious that we couldnīt get the car that close to where the banks and ATMs were located as there was a very big protest march made up of thousands of chanting teachers demonstrating for pay increases in progress when we arrived in Puno. So we parked on the street as close as we could get to the central part of town. It was broad daylight, there were plenty of decent looking people on the street but no sign of any police as they were all seemingly engaged in shadowing the marching teachers as they made their way through the town centre not far from where we parked Jambo.
We locked the car and as usual checked that there was nothing tempting in sight inside to steal. We knew the ATMs were but a few minutes walk up the street so locked the car on
the central locking with the key, intentionally not activating the alarm as it has a tendency to go off for no reason. We were just 10 minutes away from the car in all whilst we drew money from an ATM but when we got back and unlocked it Diana immediately said in a scared voice, “Bryan, the cameras”! Immediately I looked behind the front seats between the fridge and the cool box and saw that both our still and video cameras were missing, and then to my horror I realized that our laptop computer, a pair of really nice Pentax binoculars that used to belong to my Mum and my First Ascent rain jacket were also missing. At that moment we both just put our hands to our mouths and almost wept with a mixture of despair, fury and a huge sense of loss. We later came to realize that possessions such as laptops and cameras can of course be replaced even if doing so causes much disruption and of course involves unneeded and unplanned costs. But the biggest tragedy of all was that the laptop had almost all of the still photos we had taken on the trip on its hard drive, and apart from the few
we had used on our blog to date and about half of the ones taken in Argentina which had already been burnt onto a DVD the rest were now lost for good. It was a nasty twist of fate that I was about to burn the remaining pictures to disc at about the time we were robbed. In addition to the photos on the laptop and still on both cameras all of our GPS mapping for the countries we still had to travel through, waypoints gleaned earlier from dozens of sources such as other overlanders, and stacks of other vital info such as contacts and telephone
numbers, addresses etc were on the computer. As if that was not enough to really knock us down even further our “Black Book” in which we also kept a mass of useful and important info and which is usually kept in the laptopīs carry bag had of course also been stolen.
To say that suddenly our world had imploded did not really fully describe how we felt at that
moment. To cut a long and sad story down to the bare essentials we got the local police involved, and being more than slightly convinced that some men working inside the building next to where we parked if not guilty of the theft themselves that at least they must have seen what happened, tried to get the police on scene to investigate without any success. We ended up having to walk to the Tourist Police office in the townīs main square where we were told that before a case could be opened (and we could obtain the vital police case number we would need for an insurance claim), we would HAVE TO GO TO THE NATIONAL BANK OF PERU AND DEPOSIT THREE, YES JUST THREE, SOLES (about nine Rands!) into the Police bank account and then bring the deposit slip back to the Tourist Police offices! So along with a tour guide, one of whose clients had also been robbed of a camera that day, we stood in a queue in the bank for about 40 minutes to lodge this huge amount of money. After that it was another hour and more whilst the police flaffed around in a most disorganized manner producing endless bits of paper before we could leave with what we needed – a reference number. At no time did the police think to fingerprint the car or interrogate the builders near the car. A complete and utter disaster in all respcts.
How did they get the stuff out of the car with no sign of forcible entry? We are now sure that the rear side door nearest the pavement did not lock when activated by the central locking. On checking immediately afterwards we found that the circuit in that door that links to the locking solenoid was faulty and that the door was not locking as it should. But at the time we were totally unaware of this. However it must be said that some time previously back in South Africa we had experienced a similar problem which was due to typically shoddy Land Rover assembly or design standards where the wiring loom to that door had pulled apart preventing the door locking solenoid from doing its job. It had been fixed by our service agents then and there but it seems the repair was short lived. All we know is we lost most of our treasured trip photos, lots of vital data, an expensive laptop with all its accessories, our all important “Black Book”, and a high quality rain jacket. A black day indeed and the main reason for the delay in updating this blog. We were so despondent that evening in Puno that we took ourselves to the Sonesta Posada Hotel next to Lake Titicaca just outside the town and paid a hefty sum in USD to stay the night in a warm bedroom and to have someone else do the cooking for supper and breakfast. They kindly gave us a a reduced price for a nice bedroom looking out onto Lake Titicaca and two of the ancient ships brought in pieces in the 1860s to operate on the lake. The following morning we tried an idea that had occurred to me the previous evening. Contact the local newspapers and try and get them to publish an article on who we are and what had happened to us at the hands of the city’s criminals with an offer of a reward to the thieves to return at least the laptop and our book should they see the article. The hotel spent a long time tracking down a phone number for the local media and when finally they got through there was a negative response saying the paper would not come to us for the article, we would have to go to them. There was no way we were going back into Puno so we ditched the idea and that morning drove out of this city that held such a sad memory for us with no wish to return. Peru, you need to clean up these places. As for the local police and the need to deposit money into their account to open a case....As a postscript, we were emailed by the Puno police a week or so later to tell us the case was closed! I'm not even sure it was ever actually opened.
We headed north initially following the western shore of Lake Titicaca. Still smarting from the
theft we really didn’t take in a lot of our surroundings which was a pity as Titicaca is pretty amazing with its azure blue water and its sheer size. After the equally uninviting and scruffy sprawl that is the town of Juliaca we eventually found our way to Cusco. We had debated long and hard about the rigours of remaining at relatively high altitude with its accompanying chilly temperatures and of course the stress it still put on our respiratory systems which we would have to put up with if we wanted to include the big drawcard of Machu Pichu in our itinerary. It was indeed tempting to make a duck for the coast as soon as possible for some warmer weather and thicker air! But to have come this far and not visit Machu Pichu, possibly one of the great sights (and sites) of the world would have been a major disappointment. So we persevered and got ourselves to Cusco and the so called overlanders retreat of Quintalala high up on the hills above the city.
We had been in touch with the Dutch owners of Quintalala prior to leaving RSA and again just before getting to Cusco to check they had space for us. Even though there was a big
annual festival on at the time of our visit they assured us there would be space and could accommodate us. We had as one does a preconceived vision of the place which was one of a nice, rural, well sorted place to stay a few days outside the city and its possible attendant risks.
We soon found out that the Dutch owners were not there but in Guatemala and had left the site to be run by Mili, a local lass who lived in a somewhat run down looking house in one
corner of the site. A collection of dogs (presumably belonging to the owners) ran around the site for much of the day chasing the chickens and probably peeing on any of our belongings on the ground. The site only got any morning sunshine quite late in the day so was chilly for those of us in vehicles without fancy interior heating systems. We paid the 15 Soles (about 45 Rands) each per night for staying at Quintalala but honestly felt if they had spent some time, effort and money tidying the place up and providing some better ablutions we would have happily paid more. Disappointing yes, but it is at present the only place at which to camp in or around Cusco….
The city of Cusco, at least that part of it close to the main Plaza de Armas, is very attractive
The classic way is via the multiday Inca trail, a strenuous hike over several steep ascents and one which we honestly felt was a bit beyond us suffering as we had been from the effects of the altitude and to a lesser extent from the cold night time temperatures. So we took the “soft option” and elected to drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo some distance down the Sacred Valley and basically as far as one can take a vehicle. There we would camp for the night at a parking lot we had heard about and then take the train from there to Agua Calientes at the end of the line which was rated as one of the great scenic train rides in the world. From Agua Calientes we could get a bus up the mountain road to the top of the surrounding mountains and Machu Pichu perched on the top.
So whilst in Cusco we went to the Peru Rail offices on the main square and booked our trip on the train along with paying for the entrance fee to Machu Pichu. It took a while as the over eager salesman messed up the calculations initially and had to redo the whole thing. We also shopped in the city centre and found the up till then elusive bencina (benzene) with which we now wanted to power our MSR camping stove. Till then we had been running it on diesel which with the appropriate jet installed it was designed to run on but didn’t do so reliably due to the jet clogging repeatedly because of the lousy, sulphur ridden local grade of diesel
in these parts.
A new still camera was needed to replace our much loved Panasonic Lumix nicked by Puno’s robbers and we found it in Cusco. A well designed Nikon looking much like the Lumix but
with a bit more resolution and the added bonus of built in GPS to help with working out with “where the hell was that”. As the Nikon could also do HD video we decided to forgo buying another video camera too. Even with the paltry payout we might get from our travel insurance policy in due course it was just too much additional and unplanned expense. We couldn’t go to Machu Pichu without a camera or for that matter do much more travelling without one so the Nikon was first on the shopping list.
As for finding another laptop we soon discovered that Cusco was not that well endowed with computer stores. Another overlander staying at Quintalala had also had his laptop stolen
whilst in Peru and had managed to find a well priced and suitable replacement in Lima. He gave us the name of the store and we decided to wait till we reached the capital so for the time being updating this blog was put on hold.
The parking lot where we knew we could rough camp overnight in Ollantaytambo was basically just that, a cleared site not far from the train station with a degree of security in the
form of walls and a gate but just a “hole in the floor” toilet. Ollantaytambo itself was like a scaled down version of Cusco – lots of tourist trap stalls and eating places mostly offering the same stuff which in the case of the eateries is very often headed by pizzas.
On 27th June we got up early in our car park camp, locked Jambo up and walked the short
distance down the hill to the train station to join the milling crowds also waiting to make the trip down the Sacred Valley to Agua Calientes.
We spent some four and half hours there wandering around the ancient stonework of the town, looking down first from above then descending to the same level as the centuries old
edifices overlooking the stunning mountain and gorge scenery. The numbers of arriving visitors increased minute by minute until by the time we were ready to leave after eating our picnic lunch the whole place was awash with bodies. The Peruvians must be making a tidy pile of cash out of Machu Pichu – we just hope they put the revenue to good use to avoid over exploitation of this very special place…..
After another night at the Ollantaytambo car park we headed back to Cusco and Quintalala for a last stopover and then it was time to say goodbye to Cusco and point Jambo’s nose west towards the Pacific coast some 450 kms away. We were overdue for some thicker air, hopefully a bit of real heat and a change of scenery. It was too far to make the coast in one day and the road whilst well surfaced and not too hectically busy was twisty and spent much of its time running up and down mountains.
We had picked up some info from other overlanders about a place in Nasca called La Maison Suisse where we understood we could camp in the car in their garden. This turned out to be true and in fact there were a couple of overland truck company trucks parked there along with a German couple in their camper. But that was about it because the supposed hot water showers didn’t materialize as with typical Peruvian efficiency the hot water system for those rooms whose bathrooms we were allowed to use had run out of gas. And in spite of endless chivvying to get the receptionist to find the right guy to change the empty cylinder for a new one it didn’t happen. Only when we threatened manslaughter to the next staff person who shook their head and did nothing more did we get allocated another room which DID have hot water in its bathroom!
One of the overland trucks parked at the hotel was from Dragoman, a company whose trucks we have encountered in several different parts of the world. We went to have a chat with their passengers and the two girls from Dragoman manning the truck. They kindly gave us some info on places to visit and stay further north. They were two very resourceful lasses piloting a big heavy truck through parts of south America with the added responsibility of carrying paying passengers and getting them safely to the end of their trip.
Nasca is the place where the famous “Nasca Lines” are located. There still seems to be some doubt about the origins and meaning of these strange geometrical markings that cover a huge tract of flat desert a few kms to the north of Nasca. There are straight lines as well as outlines of bird and animal like figures which are best viewed by paying a lot of money to go up in a light aircraft from Nasca and be flown over that part of the desert. Like many others we had met who had been to Nasca before us we didn’t fly over the lines but decided to stop off at a lookout hill close to the main road which passes next to the lines as we headed out of
Nasca the following day.
What DOES give it all some credibility however is that a few kms further to the north in the next town is the home and now museum dedicated to Maria Reich, a German researcher
who spent much of her life investigating and chronicling the Nasca Lines. However, it seems even she was never quite sure what they were or who formed them.
We continued northwards on the main Panamerica road
and which is largely desert. There are surprisingly green areas every few kms in the flatter parts of the landscape where obviously both the ground is fertile and there must be plenty of water for irrigation, probably from underground. As usual we had to contend with the antics of
Further north we came to the Paracas National Reserve, a pure desert peninsula that juts out from the mainland where we believed we could camp for the night. On one side there is a
large bay on which some ugly beachside holiday developments were rearing their heads. Further around the bay is a large and inaccessible commercial port which we guessed was an outlet for either the big commercial fishing companies based nearby or for perhaps oil shipments. On the other southern side of the reserve we found Lagunillas, a little group of buildings huddled around a fishing jetty next to a bay full of small, anchored fishing boats.
Pisco, a town further along the coast after which the national beverage Pisco is named, was largely destroyed in the massive 8.0 Richter Scale earthquake that spawned the tsunami. We hope we’re not around when one of these monsters unleashes itself on this earthquake zone.
We were headed for Lima still some way to the north so we made one more overnight stop in the coastal town of Cerro Azul, another place that 5 years down the line still appeared not to have fully recovered from the earthquake and tsunami with the remains of beachside buildings still forlornly standing on parts of the beach. We slept overnight at the Cerro Azul Hostal, really a hotel for all intents and purposes, managing to convince the manageress that breakfast Peruvian style (coffee, bread and jam) should be included in the room price. That evening we enjoyed a seafood supper in one of the almost totally deserted restaurants just
along the beach front – we did wonder when, if at all, the place got busy with visitors. The guide books said it was a popular surfing spot: we didn’t see one surfer!
From there it was the last few 100 kms here to Lima the capital of Peru where we planned on spending some time, buying a new laptop so we could get back on line, getting the blog
going again, getting a service for Jambo and generally kicking back a bit so that we could relax and plan our next moves northward. Luckily, we still had all of the detailed Peru GPS mapping on our Garmin GPS which had been downloaded from Perurut on the internet. Without getting into and around any big city like Lima is a nightmare as direction signs round these parts are scarce if not nonexistent. Sure enough, the GPS took us straight and without
one mistake to the front door of the Hitchhikers Backpackers Hostel in Calle Bolognesi where
The hostel is located in the embassy zone of Miraflores, an upmarket and very pleasant suburb of Lima, within walking distance of the sea as well as an excellent if pricey supermarket, a fast Laundromat and Parque Kennedy where we found Ripleys a smart department store where we found a new Lenovo laptop to replace our stolen one and at a price which I doubt we could have found it for back home. Furthermore, Andrea, the sweet and very capable sales assistant in their computer section, not only helped out with her good command of English in making sure we got what we wanted in terms of accessories and extra software but also succeeded a day or so later in getting MS Office which they had installed for us changed from Spanish to English after a long trawl through Microsoft’s website. Well
done, Andrea, you went “the extra mile” for us for which we are most grateful. We hope you enjoyed the chocolates!
We also managed to get a major service done on Jambo at British Motors, a non franchised LR agency owned by Antonio Talledo, a truly charming gentleman and a Land Rover
enthusiast of long standing whose father had started the business back in the days of Series1s.
Also having work done at British Motors on their Defender camper were the French family of
Jean-Francois, Estelle, Jeremie and Hugo Subrini whom we had first met on the side of the road when we were en route from Puno to Cusco. We met up again at Quintalala and then bumped into them when we were being naughty having a burger at the Burger King in Miraflores in Lima. They were in the process of settling in Peru after buying a rural property far inland from the coast, but initially had to live in Lima for a while and get their boys into a local school. Their Td5 needed some work doing plus some new shocks so they were waiting for Antonio to track down the parts which as always takes a few days especially as in their
case the vehicle was not exactly standard with its big and I guess quite hefty camper body on the back. I know one thing though – Estelle could certainly drive it at a good lick which we recalled when catching up with them on one of the passes before reaching Cusco!
located. The sky was for every day except one overcast which is apparently normal in Lima at this time of year but it was warm, around 20 degrees most days, and we enjoyed our stay here at the Hitchhikers Backpackers Hostel. We spent one day travelling by bus through the more chaotic and older parts of the city to the Plaza de Armas in the city centre with its bright yellow buildings and beautifully carved timber balconies
Ecuador, don’t disappoint us please.
Cheers from Lima.
Post your own travel photos for friends and family More Pictures
My Review Of The Place I Stayed