Peru on a Shoestring

No Transport , No Money 28th February 2003

Driving through endless kilometres of golden sand desert with black jagged mountains rising up in the distance we felt as though we were back in Balluchistan. I always thought of Peru and imagined green mountains and inka ruins but there´s a whole lot more to discover in the country. Not only the huge deserts of the north west but also the harsh barren mountains following the Rio Santa made me have to keep reminding myself, this is Peru!

The rolling hilly landscape over 3500m could have been Scotland (except for the llamas). No matter where we were, the scenery was breathtaking. Our van was also breath taken at over 4800m but fought bravely through the thin air and we made it with our last strength over the mighty passes of the Huascaran National Park.

  driving up the Rio Santa

Laguna Paron in Huascaran N.P.

The children didn´t notice the altitude at all and Yannik wandered up to the Pastoruri glacier at 5000m as if taking a sunday walk through the park!
Looking back now, maybe the high passes of the sierra weren´t such a good idea for the poor van as we were about to find out.

It all started, or should I say it all stopped, 20kms before Huanuco. The mountains were green, littered with patchwork fields, the perfect place for a photo. Also, our van decided, the perfect place to stop and refuse to start again. Even after Rupert had fixed our frequent starter problem all we were rewarded with was a "clunk" and no roaring engine.
Luckily for us Huanuco is situated at the bottom of a valley so after rolling down countless serpentines we only had to be pulled the last 5kms by a local bus.

On arriving in the city we quickly found a VW garage and brought the starter to them. Whilst the mechanics rebuilt our starter like new Rupert busied himself cleaning the carburator, changing the sparkplugs etc. By late afternoon we were ready to hit the road again.


The 50 children who´d spent all afternoon watching Rupert now came in useful. With cries of delight and shrieks of laughter we were pushed by the power of 100 little hands all the way across the city.............back to the mechanics.
The battery was recharged, the starter checked again but it was soon clear that something more major was wrong with our van.}

rolling down to Huanuco

The next day was one of those days when you wished you´d stayed in bed. We found out that one of the connecting rod bearings (Pleullager) was broken and IF there was a spare part for a german volkswagen then it would only be in Lima and if driving a car which doesn´t start 400kms over a 5000m pass to Lima wasn´t a big enough problem, doing it with only 3 soles (90cents) in our pocket made it even more complicated.

With a bankcard waiting for us at the Austrian Consulate in Cusco (the old one expired at the end of 2002) we only had mastercard and Thomas Cook travellers cheques, enough you would think but not when the only bank to accept them is also in Lima.

So we were stuck, without transport and money in Huanuco. Fortunately the people of Peru are incredibly friendly, helpful and generous. As the locals began to realise our problem we were immediately invited for food and drink, three times in the space of 1 hour and a lovely lady lent us enough money for an emergency phonecall to Austria.

The next morning one of our problems was solved, thanks to Ruperts parents and the efficiency of the western union money transfer we could now at least pay our way to Lima, we just needed to find a lorry.
Three days and three impossibly expensive offers later (200 dollars upwards) we found our lorry. It didn´t take long to attatch the van with a wooden pole and rope and then we were off!!!

The joy at being on the road again lasted exactly 12 kms. That´s where the transit police were waiting for us to tell us it´s illegal for a lorry to tow a van. Only after smiling a lot and telling them how wonderful Peru is with such friendly people and of course friendly policemen was it possible for us to continue.
So onwards to Lima we were towed with an average speen of 20kmh (driving down the pass we didn´t even make the average and needed 6 hours for 100kms).
After 26 hours we arrived.

Our first experience in Lima was again with the police, after seeing us and the van they offered to find us a mechanic but only after making sure we were properly equipt.
So there we stood on a side street in Lima, Rupert guarding the van with a police truncheon (Schlagstock).

Now, 13 days later, things are looking brighter. After many hours of work by Rupert and the VW team and many hours of sightseeing by Bridge and the children team we are ready to leave Lima tomorrow, the 1st of March.

guards at the government palace