The giant snow rabbit was just behind the hill
Based on yesterday, today should be fun. We were going to drive 360km to Trujillo
(pronounced Troo-ghee-yo) of which, the first 80km is on a red road, the next 100-120km is on yellow “road” and the rest is back onto red.
Trujillo is on the coast and is, based on the guidebooks, Peru’s second biggest city at somewhere ranging from 600,000 to 1,2m people (you can see that statistics are not always the same in the 2 books).
As a result of Trujillo being on the coast this would be a nice descent down a mountain pass from our current 3,100m. The area that we were driving through is noted in the guidebooks as being about 100-200 years back in terms of level of civilisation so it should be quite scenic too.
All started well and we were making good progress until we got to the town of Casac. As I mentioned previously, road signs and directions are not something that is the done thing here (often towns don’t even have a name and roads certainly don’t). So we drove in and followed the logical path of getting in, trying to find the plaza and then looking for the biggest road going in the direction that we want to go (if you can’t follow a bus that is). Problem number 1 – plaza closed due to some procession. The main road that we found came to a fairly dead end and turned into 2 dirt tracks. One led to a bridge which was under construction (did not exist) and the other back into town. Time to try an alternate route. Up the hill and head in the right direction. This turned out to be an even worse road although we did find a bridge that was operating.
They may be telling you something Anta - actually this is a little town which is not on the map. They have something called the Minitry de Salut which is the equivalent of "Ministry of Cheers" - I like it.
Got to a patch of “road” that we did not think the car would make so we had to turn around.
Now a bit of a lesson. Along the way we had stopped to ask 3 people directions. All had pointed us to the original road that we had taken that ended at the bridge under construction. Finally I stopped next to a guy washing his car and he explained to us where we had gone wrong (well he spoke in Spanish and we figured out the directions and what we had done). So the lesson is – when asking for directions, ask someone who drives as the other people assume that the roads are fine. When we finally got to the other side of town there was a single sign saying detour (very helpful when you are not coming from that side). Our joyride around and around in town had taken us 1.
Once on the other side things were ok again until we got to the dirt road section. Something the guy had said when I asked for directions to the next town and he said it was a nice drive and would take an hour was sticking in my head. It was only 25km away. Hmmmm. I guess this was the start of the yellow section.
Many people who have been to South America talk of the “Most Dangerous Road in the World” which is the tagline for a road in Bolivia where you go down 3400m from about 4700m on a bicycle. I have seen photos and spoken to people about is and I think that this road must challenge it. From 3000m down to sea level in about 80km on very rough gravel, stone and soft sand. Single lane, cliff on one side, sheer drop in the other (typically down a couple of hundred metres) and lots of tunnels through rock.
Lots of greenery
The main problem with the road, though, is that the typical vehicles that travel it (buses, 4x4’s and large trucks) have very high ground clearance so they can stay on the track, but they just make the tyre grooves deeper and spit more stone and sand into the middle. So you get a nice W shaped road. In a little 1300cc Toyota, we don’t have ground clearance, so the option is: scrape the bottom of the car the entire way and risk pulling something off on the rocks, or try and ride on the side and middle ridges which consist of loose stones. Clearly option 2 is the only possibility, but it is not quite so easy.
As a result, our speed was down at 20-25 km/h for the entire duration of the yellow section of “road” and included the joy of a burst tyre with about 30km of rough stuff to go.
This is my happy face. Note BOO's new nose job.
Anyway, we got out of that, but compared to previous driving experiences, this is the most extreme. Patches were actually terrifying.
By now the sun has started to set and we still had 200km to go on better roads to get to Trujillo. As mentioned before, road signs are not the greatest but we managed – just follow the buses and look for the biggest road you can find.
As you can imagine, entering a large city, with no road names and seemingly no traffic rules, can be a bit of a challenge. The roads don’t seem to have been planned in any particular structure so much as evolved into something resembling a labyrinth. After driving around for about 20 minutes in the town we stopped at a petrol station and managed to get directions to the main plaza and found a nice hotel, the Libertador.
A river runs through
The plaza is beautiful and there is an enormous cathedral on one side and an impressive statue in the centre.
So, shattered from the day’s experience, we sat in the hotel bar, sipped on a couple of pisco sours, sampled the local ceviche (raw fish with lemon juice – pretty tasty) and made some rules for the rest of the journey.
1. No more yellow roads
2. No more arriving in towns late at night
3. As soon as we have handed the car back in Lima
– never drive in Peru again.