Cuzco to Nazca

Only three more days to go before we hand over the car to Simon and Maddy in Lima.  After 14,000 km and a bit of tweaking along the way it’s running better than ever and with a rebuilt starter we feel confident about making it to Lima alone after we leave the rest of the group in Nazca.   The run from Cuzco to Nazca is over two days with an overnight stop in Abancay which still needs to discover something exciting before it becomes a tourist destination – or maybe they are happy to be left alone.  The town just happens to be located in a valley between two 4000m passes which wind through some of the most beautiful lush scenery imaginable.  Like the NSW North Coast but with slightly higher mountains.  The only vegetation which looks out of place are the eucalypts which dominate the mountain sides even up to 4000m.  It seems remarkable that they have taken over from so many local species in each of the countries we have passed through from Chile and Argentina to Bolivia and now Peru.  They are used for structural timber and firewood but no-one seems too fussed about their effect on the environment.  Fortunately they haven’t yet intruded far into the Sacred Valley around Machu Pichu but they are only around 20 km away.

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That evening in Abancay we are treated to the sounds of a band marching down the street preceded by groups of dancers in elaborate and colourful costumes.  An extension of Carnival, the procession is held each year to mark the start of Lent so everyone is getting into it before the chill of whatever abstinence takes their fancy.

The next day’s drive through to Nazca on the coast is our last with the group so we get the honours of taking the lead.  You would have though by now that we would have gone with instinct rather than the GPS but no, we were Garmined again leaving Abancay.  Still, most agreed that it was an interesting drive down an ever narrowing rutted track before, with the encouragement of a few locals, we finally arrived back at the main road.  Boring!  But as we climbed further to around 4550m the road became more interesting .  Very challenging with many hair pin bends, no safety Armco and sheer drops to the valley below.  Beautiful scenery, snow covered peaks in the distance and flocks of Alpaca’s.  We reached over 4500m three times over the next 250 km, sharing the road with trucks and road-repairing vehicles.  We managed to avoid a number of recent rock falls and saw more accidents in one day than we had seen the last two months, including 2 overturned semi’s and a burnt out tourist bus.  The last part of the drive into Nazca involved a drop of 3000m in 30 kms, mostly through thick fog.  We were now at around 500m and in the Atacama Desert – reportedly the driest region anywhere in the world.

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Nazca is a dusty desert town and on first sight not very appealing, full of trucks, buses, Tuk Tuk’s and bikes.  We were on the hunt for fuel, some cars more desperate than others.  Red and Green cars had already run out and topped up from their jerry cans.  Then the most important and often the most challenging part of the day – finding the accommodation.  It wasn’t where the Garmin suggested, so we asked at the servo.  It was in a hacienda a few kms out of town, accessed via an unmade road (of course!).  Will have to leave cleaning the car to Lima now.

This was our last evening together and the others are leaving early in the morning to fly over the famous Nazca Lines.  Lots of good wishes and toasts on both sides – for everyone else who is continuing to the US and Canada and for us as we head for Lima and the Galapagos.  We’re all looking forward to the get together back in Australia when it is all over.

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