Day 64 Desert, more desert and yet more desert

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South America » Peru » Arequipa » Arequipa
July 31st 2015
Published: August 1st 2015
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Distance driven today: 348miles/560km

Cumulative distance driven: 11,560 miles / 18,604 km

Today’s trip: Nazca to Arequipa, Peru

We left Nazca early this morning, with the feeling that we could easily have spent a few days there, exploring the region and signing up for a variety of tours. Some of the thing to do around the Nazca region include dune sandboarding, various trekking tours, a full day of touring archaeological sites, desert rides with 4-wheel-drive dune buggies, countryside biking tours etc. However, our schedule does not unfortunately allow us to spend extra days around the region. We lost two days in Lima due to the malfunctioning electronics (which we think is the result of the sudden extreme ascend and descend) and the long Independence Day holiday. Taking extra days to explore surroundings is something that we instead want to do in Patagonia.

Leaving Nazca we immediately hit the desert and had to make sure that we were properly dressed, as the temperature in the early morning was just a few degrees above freezing. We rode for a couple of hours along the desert before we reached the next city, and there was literally not a single sign of human civilization in between. The desert here is desolate and harsh, and it does clearly not permit for anything to grow on it, let alone any people to make it their home. As we reached the Pacific Coast, we discovered that the desert just continues, but now under a different name! Essentially we rode for the bigger part of the day along the coast, while the desert kept being our companion, reaching all the way out to the sea. The villages along the road were far and few in between, and when they did show up they were really small, often with only a couple of dozen houses

A couple of hours of driving along the coast, the road suddenly ascended a few hundred meters, but continued to run literally next to the sea, being squeezed into the side of the rock that is stretching all the way out to the sea. With no protective barriers, lots of sharp bends, and hundreds of meters of vertical drop down to the sea, it is hard to not call this part of the PanAmerican highway tough and difficult to drive. Exactly how tough it part of the road is, can best be summarized by the multitude of road side memorials visible. In fact, during the first hour, we counted over a hundred of these memorials, many of which have 3, or sometimes up to 5 crosses on each. That’s a lot of drivers that have plunged to their death, down the steep and unprotected road side. Needless to say that these memorials also have a pretty good deterring effect on the rest of us driving on this road, making us drive extra slowly and carefully.

At a rest stop at a tiny fishing village along the roughed coastline, we met two Colombian adventure bikers who were headed for Chile. Like a well-rehearsed ritual, we exchanged stories about the roads we had passed, inspected each other’s bikes, and generally talked about the PanAmerican highway.

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