For the first time in seven months I am posting pictures with several days delay (note that the post only covers Jan. 29 until Feb. 2). All is well; the last week has simply been pretty packed. We are currently in Puno and plan to cross into Bolivia soon.
On January 28 la bestia ended up receiving five hours of customized care at the Toyota dealership in Huancayo. She had her brakes cleaned, engine oil changed, front axle lubricant renewed, Hella horn installed, and diagnostics run.
As always, the service was prompt, cordial and priced fairly. And I am now Facebook friends with both the senior mechanic (left) and the service manager (right).
The next morning (Jan. 29) we departed from our hilltop hotel near Huancayo and headed south toward Ayacucho.
We drove past sulfuric hot springs…
… and, of course, the typical obstacles facing overlanders everywhere in South America.
The paved but narrow and constantly winding road through the canyon rendered the drive rather demanding.
Thankfully the scenery made up for the road condition.
I’ve said it before: on this trip I am discovering…
… the beauty of mountains.
Note the road width — I frequently had to back up several hundred meters to let trucks and buses coming from the opposite direction pass.
The mix of sun and clouds created stunning contrasts…
… and highlighted nature’s beautiful colors.
A few rain showers in the afternoon enhanced the spectacle further.
Although fairly new and in decent condition, most bridges we crossed were rudimentary.
Still, other travelers had a even tougher time trying to get across. In this case all traffic had to wait for 15 minutes until the carga ancha (wide load) had made it to the other side without damaging the bridge.
We arrived in Ayacucho shortly after night had fallen and decided to stay in a hotel located half a block away from the central square.
The city struck me as one of the nicer urban centers in Peru. Most town and cities here are decidedly utilitarian, built along the main road and often dusty, dirty, and worn. In contrast, Ayacucho stretches across several hills and has preserved much of its rich historical heritage.
On Jan. 30 Harry and I took a stroll across the center; visible to the right is the terrace of Via Via Cafe where I had a fantastic meal (causitas andinas) with a view.
Ayacucho also boasts considerably more flora than most of its Peruvian urban siblings.
Traditionally clad ice cream vendors offered their fare on the central square.
Famous for its 33 churches (representing the 33 years of Jesus’ life), Ayacucho is also home to one of the more impressive triumphal arches celebrating Peruvian independence.
Before continuing our journey on Jan. 30, we stopped by the local Toyota garage. The folks in Huancayo had found a hole in la bestia‘s air intake hose which caused her engine to suddenly die when running low. However, neither they not their colleagues in Ayacucho had a spare hose that fit.
What followed was yet another impressive proof of service commitment: one of the mechanics (pictured above) agreed to accompany me–after the garage had already closed for the day!–to the city center where we would try to find a suitable spare part.
He knew exactly where to go, and within twenty minutes we had found a hose with the right diameter.
He offered to install it right away and took visible pride in ensuring that the replacement fit perfectly. When I asked him what I owed him, he just said, “Maybe you could give me a ride home?” Ten minutes later we had reached his house and I decided to give him 100 Soles (US$30). He looked at me incredulously. “That’s way too much!,” he exclaimed. I explained that I was very grateful that he had helped me in his free time and that I would have to pay considerably more for this service in the United States. He reluctantly took the bill. “Wherever you are in Peru,” he declared in a stern voice, “if you have any trouble with your car, you will call the garage and ask for me. I will always do what I can to help you.”
We continued our scenic drive to Cusco deeply impressed by so much selfless assistance.
It eventually became clear that we would have to wild-camp for the night, and when a massive thunderstorm drew nigh we quickly pulled over…
… in a village nestled between mountains where we were allowed to park in front of the convenience store.
We finally reached Cusco the following afternoon and were thrilled to meet other overlanders (from Canada, left, and Brazil, right) on the city’s only campground.
In total, it took us three days to get from Huancayo to Cusco, but we’d do it again!