iKamper blog: Episode 12: Peru tour
Eclectic, delicious cuisine and ancient Incan ruins found in the Andes’ high peaks attracts foodies and adventure seekers from all over the world to none other than Peru. We crossed into Peru from Ecuador, crossing a long stretch of desert, and sticking to the Pan-Am highway. But after sampling the fresh ceviche and arroz chaufa at Huanchaco beach, we headed straight for those high peaks, toward theCordillera Blanca (white mountain range). In addition to its food and lost cities, Peru is known for some of the world’s most dangerous roads, cutting through the Andes mountains on exposed, unpaved paths with steep cliffs and steep up-hill. We heard about an exclusive turquoise lake called Lago Parón, the largest lake in theCordillera Blanca, only accessible by the brave, the fearless, and the 4 wheel drivers. We were intrigued.
In order to get to this magical spot, you have to pass through the infamous “Cañón del Pato” (Duck Canyon) , a windy 12 mile path, crossing through more than 40 tunnels, most of them dark one-way tunnels cut into solid stone mountainside. Every time we neared one of these one-way tunnels, we honked our horn, flashed our lights, and held our breath, (maybe whispering a little prayer) until we crossed safely over to the other side. It was both terrifying and exciting, and once we got into the groove, we whipped through those tunnels (with only a few close calls). After emerging from the hand cut tunnels, we put VUELTA1 into gear and inched up the edge of the steep mountain. After numerous curvy turns and twists up the cliff, we finally arrived to Lago Parón, 4,135 mts above sea level. Not only was this the highest we had driven so far, but also the highest point we would SLEEP. We pulled right up to the lake and was greeted with a huge blanket of white fog. We couldn’t even see the lake. The minute we stepped out of the car, we realized: it was COLD. At this point, beautiful scenery would was the least of our worries.
Game plan. Base layers, top layers, double socks, hats, gloves… You heat up the water… I’ll get the blankets… You pop up the tent… I’ll get our dishes . Our fancy Peruvian cuisine that night consisted of a cup of ramen noodles, garnished with the little seasoning package it comes with, and served with a cup of hot coca tea (which Incas claim to alleviate high altitude sickness). We looked at the tent and looked at each other. Tonight was going to be the night we needed the insulation layer.
As a helpful hit, I’d like to suggest testing out the insulation layer before your fingers become ice. But even with frozen fingers and the sun quickly setting, it only took a few quick clicks and the layer was fastened in tight. Honestly, when we first saw that thin insulation layer, we were both suspicious of its effectiveness. How could this plastic sheet make a difference in the Peruvian mountains at 4k meters above sea level? We grabbed our laptop for a bedtime movie and snuggled into our sleeping bags. Within mins, we could feel the difference. Somehow, the inner layer insulated our heat and acted like a shield against the cold mountain winds… a shield with super powers. We were amazed. As the movie progressed, we even found that we could even shed some layers.
We had read that the view of the lake was best in the morning, so we set our alarms. At 5:30am, it was still pretty dark. Back to sleep. But at 6:15am, we woke up to a scene out of a movie, the bright blue lake stretched out before us with the sharp white peaks standing out behind. It was stunning. We were completely alone and if we didn’t have our camera, wouldn’t have believed it existed. We spent all day hiking around the lake and enjoying the magical paradise all to ourselves. We rejoined the PanAm Highway along most of the coast of central Peru to then turn back into the mountains, toward Lago Titicaca. Peru, with all your curves and lakes and cliffs and mountains, you’re going to be one hell of a ride. Bring it on.