After the border crossing into Peru the route heads for Piura, where we rest, before making our way to the coast and on to the large city of Chiclayo. Near this city archaeologists discovered the only royal burial in Peru to escape the tomb robbers. The Lord of Sipan, ruler of the Mochica civilization, was buried with 200 pieces of pottery and 100 pieces of gold, silver and copper jewellery. A half day has been allotted to investigate the original site, the artefacts now displayed in a huge new museum, or the nearby pyramids constructed of adobe bricks which are now heavily weathered. Chiclayo also has a famous ‘witchdoctors market’ selling herbal remedies.
We continue to Trujillo where we have a half day to visit the vast adobe city built by the Chimu, who were eventually conquered by the Inca. The urban centre covers six square kilometres and once had 30,000 inhabitants. One royal area has been restored for visitors. There are other Chimu sites close to the city included in your Chan Chan ticket, and also near the town is an older heavily-weathered Moche pyramid built with 140 million adobe bricks.
The route heads south staying close to the Peruvian coast, with a night stop in the fashionable resort area of Miraflores in Lima before continuing on the Panamericana to Nasca for a rest day. Flights to view the famous lines can be arranged and there will be time for some relaxation before tackling the uplands.
We have a two day climb to the former capital of the Inca Empire at Cusco. Here there are three rest days to allow plenty of time to service the vehicles and to acclimatise to the altitude (3400 m at Cusco) with coca leaf tea at an excellent hotel. The city itself has many buildings with the remains of precisely cut Inca stone walls for foundations. It is overlooked by the massive walled complex of Sacsayhuaman. Trips can be made to the pretty town of Pisac, with its own ruins, its market brightened by the colourful costumes of the indigenous population. Other popular excursions include a trip to the small town of Ollantaytambo, with its Inca fortress, and a train ride to the remote ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu sitting in the clouds above the Urubamba River.
The route travels over the Raya Pass (4300m) to our Puno hotel set on a headland overlooking Lake Titicaca, where the reed boats that were the inspiration for the Kon-Tiki can still be seen. We take a leisurely drive along the lakeside and may take the tiny ferry across the narrows of the lake on the way to La Paz in Bolivia.
We travel through the heart of the Bolvian altiplano to the highest city in the World at Potosi (4090m) which at the peak of the silver mining activities in the seventeenth to eighteenth century had the same population as London. A wealth of colonial architecture remains to remind visitors of its glory days, including the superb eighteenth century Royal Mint which has an excellent museum. After enjoying the city we move on to the edge of the World’s largest salt lake, the Salar de Uyuni. The circuitous route taken at this stage is to avoid the many dirt roads of Bolivia which have trashed the vehicles of many adventurers. We are sticking to tarmac where possible.
A fleece is now essential as temperatures on the altiplano can reach 30C during the day and -25C at night. Our only venture off the hard
roads is to travel over the pristine white surface of the salt flat for a few hours and then on a short section of unmade road to regain the newly metalled
road to another old silver town, Oruro. We then take a high pass through the Sajama National Park, which was created to protect the vicuna, and
cross the border into Chile to reach the sea at Africa with a rest day on the beach.