Justin and Silver Al

Peru
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Al and Llama Skull

Welcome To Peru

In the Desert

Thursday, March.  Pisco, Peru.    Sorry for the delay.  We are in Peru!  The border crossing didn't take too long, but it involved some of the nastiest and corrupt officials I have dealt with yet.  They ignored me while I sat in their office, until I paid them a bribe.  Next they treated me like an ass, sent me off for photo copies, and then told me I had gotten the wrong page in my passport copied. (the wrong page which they had instructed me to copy).  They were not in uniform and they just seemed like street thugs.
     In Peru we have spent on night in Surrena, one night in Tortuga and last night in Pisco (where I am writing to you now.)  Just about all of the drive has been through deserts.  Sand dunes and occasional rugged hills, sometimes along the pacific, sometimes not.  The roads are quite good and generally straight, so we cruise along at approx. 95 miles per hour.  We make good time until we hit a city and then get lost due to a lack of signage and lose our momentum for half an hour or so.
      The first town, Surrena, was just a place to crash.  We found a decent hotel, went out for a few drinks and a chicken and rice soup, got a little lost, asked directions, were told we were in deep danger, and then found our way, through dark, unlit streets, home.

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Northern Peru

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Just Across the Border

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Into the Desert 1

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Into the Desert 2

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Into the Desert 3

      Tortuga (turtle in Spanish) was a nice little resort/fishing bay just off the highway.  There were about three sentences about it in the LP guide, and that was enough for us after driving through nothing all day.  The town was dead, but we caught a beautiful sunset next to a group of kids parked nearby.  They were drinking beers and blaring their car stereo (first Cumbia music which was awesome but then, after seeing us, American rock and roll which kinda sucked.)  We found a nice room with a great view of the bay.  A large empty resort.  The room could have used a fan and had no running water, but the beds were comfortable.  Finding dinner in Tortuga was difficult and we walked quite a distance until we found some great ceviche and grilled fish.  The town was almost a ghost town, but you could tell that it must get going on weekends or holidays.  The next morning we arose early and got on the road.

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The Pacific

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Tortuga Sunset 1

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Tortuga Sunset 2

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Fishing Boats at Sunset (tortuga)

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Our Place in Tortuga

     Yesterday was an ugly day.  The cops, over and over again.  They would stop us, figure out how to take our money (without writing up a ticket, of course), radio ahead to the next ones waiting and then set us loose.  At times we would drive not 2 minutes before getting pulled over again.  The 'infraction' that they would generally find was not having a permit for our tinted windows or not having a strip of reflector tape on the back of the car.  Usually they would go through the process of looking over our papers and then slowly mull over what infraction they could get us on.  For the windows, they pointed to some fine print that said that they could seize our car, then they would let us go because they were 'our friend'.  At one point we got so low on money we had to beg them to leave us enough to make it through the next toll booth.  They knew just how much that was and that was all they left us.  One time, they didn't come up with any infraction, just shot the shit with us and then cut to the chase.  Money!   We were getting so frusterated, we started just flooring it past them and waving as they tried to flag us down.  It is at the toll booths where they can really get you, because you have to stop.  They are always at the toll booths.

Pulled Over by the Cops 1

Pulled Over by the Cops 2

Pulled Over by the Cops 3

Paying Up 1

Paying Up 2

Got Out of that One

Pulled Over Again

Frustration

In the Clear?

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On The Road Again

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Moving Along

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Driving

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Not Sure

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More Desert

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Construction Stop

      So now we have made it to Pisco (home of the grappa like liquor, Pisco)  The town appeared like a war zone as we drove in.  Turns out they were rocked by a powerful earthquake a few months ago.  6oo people killed.  We found a nice hostel here, and never left it.  They had a cafe open till 10 with a very friendly bar keeper and we drank Pisco sours for hours and hours (that has a nice ring to it, huh?) as well as a couple straight Piscos.  I slept well last night and dreamt of roller skating down steep hills in the swan formation (crouched down with one leg outstretched forward...I thought that was called the swan, I could be wrong) and helping a sick man who was clutching his gut, curled up on a couch in a darkly lit hostel, and laying in a bed in the broad daylight behind the Surfcomber while people stood around staring at me, and meeting up with strange people I had been traveling with in a different city than the one I had lost them in.  I haven't dreamt like that in a long time.
     For now, however, I have got to get on the road.  We are heading for Cusco, near Machu Picchu.  It should take two days to get there, and a lot of slowly winding up into the Andes behind trains of big slow trucks.  Internet has been tough to find in the towns we have been crashing in, but I know there will be plenty up in Cusco.  My laptop also finally kicked it (won't charge or work on AC power anymore) but I should be able to upload some pictures and audio directly off the camera and off the recorder in an internet cafe up in Cusco.
                          HOPE EVERYONE IS WELL! 

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Sand

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You know...the road

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Chicks, a Dude and a Dog

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The Watermelon Man

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Still got fruit, even in the desert

Saturday March ?, in Cusco, Peru.  We have arrived in Cusco.  We actually drove...or I should say Eli drove 14 hours straight from Pisco to Cusco, arriving in Cusco on Thursday night around 1 AM.  The drive went well.  As we slowly headed up and off the coast, things got green and mountainous.  It also got cold quickly and we bundled up in our hats and warm clothes.  Early into the drive we had a bit of gasoline anxiety.  There was just nothing for hours and no sign of anything to come.  We even used our reserve can.  There were very few towns on the drive to Cusco.  Hours of beautiful nothingness stretching on forever.  There were some big banks of thick fog we had to venture through and a number of streams that ran across the road.  We stopped for a soup that I think might have been turkey in one small town.  At that point we made the decision to break rule number one and drive through the night, so we stopped to load up on snacks for ride.  We also did a little home-school repair on the left front headlight which had, up to now, been shining not onto the road but rather up and into the eyes of the oncoming drivers.  A few jagged stones wedged into the right spots trained it down and suddenly night driving became a much more pleasant experience.  We snacked nonstop to Cusco...crackers, a couple chocolate bars, a bunch of chips and coca cola.  Definitely the most junk food I've eaten in a long time.  Naturally, it got dark around 6 or so...after that we didn't see the cliffs and valleys, but we knew that they were there.  We had been told we should expect to arrive in Cusco around 4 AM, so Eli made great time.
 

En Route to Cusco

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Men with Hats (going up and getting colder)

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Finally things start getting green again

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Cusco

The one little price that we paid for making such great time to Cusco, was launching off an unmarked speed bump just as we began our descent into the city.  The brakes have not been the same since.  We took the car to the friendliest and cheapest mechanic I have ever met yesterday.  He worked on the front left brake for hours, through rain and shine, (having trouble finding the problem, but finally figuring it must just be a dirty brake pushing whatsy-notsit) and he even fixed our troublesome hood latch which two other mechanics have failed to be able to do.  Unfortunately, as it turned out, we had told him the wrong brake to work on, which we realized as we returned back to our hotel.  It is actually the left rear brake that is grinding...pretty bad too.  We are going to take the tire off this afternoon and see what we can see.  The mechanic only charged us 20 soles (6 or 7 USD) for all the work he did yesterday, but he is closed until Monday and we want to keep mobile. 

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Mechanic in Cusco

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Mechanics Rock!

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Run over by bus

So yesterday we used up pretty well at the mechanics, switching hotels and getting our laundry done.  After chores we had a great Mexican meal at a Mexican restaurant that I had frequented here years ago.  El Cuate.  The place hadn't changed in the least and the food was as great as ever.  We gorged ourselves on flavorful, colorful and abundant plates of food.  Eli has alpaca fajitas.  I had a set menu of a soup, a stuffed avocado, some meat fajitas, a beer, a chocolate soupy substance and a coffee.  So great to finally escape what has been weeks of bland chicken, french fries and rice.  I forgot to take a picture of the food yesterday, but I'll go back there for sure....what time is it anyway? 

Yesterday night we went out drinking.  We started out at an Irish pub that I had also been to years ago.  We treated ourselves to a Guinness each.  (The third Guinness of our trip for me...yum)  It was so good I couldn't even join Eli for the car bomb shot.  We also had a couple other beers...Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale, Green King.  There were a couple boxing matches on the television and I won a bet with Eli that scored me a shot of Jim Beam.  (They had Jim Beam, but no ginger ale...you know how I like my Jim and Gingys).  (Eli had a shot of Jack, but somehow managed to cough some up his nose, which treated him poorly)  The Irish bar filled up quickly with other gringos and we decided to escape.  (Gringos there shall be plenty of when this becomes a dream of the past).  We went back to the bar where we had had a couple beers and a couple pisco sours the night that we rolled into town.  The same friendly bartenderess was holding down the fort and we finished up our night there talking, drawing little pictures on scrap paper and drinking piscos and beers and a couple free drinks that she had mis-poured for other people.  One was grenadine, oj and menthe.  It layers itself and you drink from a straw, slowly raising the straw through the layers as you go.  Pretty horrible...but free. 
     

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In Cusco

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    We ended up getting pretty well snookered in that second bar.  The altitude played its alcohol trick on us and I ended up sleeping in all my warm clothes on top of the bed.  This morning we slept to noon.  I took a shower and shocked myself on the electric in-line shower heater.  It is common in many parts of the world to have these wired up shower heads that actually heat the water in the shower head. There are electric wires coming out of the wall and into the shower head.  the lower you turn down the water pressure, the hotter the water gets.  It has always seemed scary to have this water and electricity combination hanging over your head, but I have gotten used to them over the years.  This was the first time I got shocked.  It actually started making a noise so I tried to adjust a knob on it and I saw a little spark inside the large plastic wired head.  That should have been the warning sign, but in my complacency with the dangers of second and third world life, I didn't get out but rather whacked the thing.  Zap.  Good thing it was on a breaker, or I might still be in that shower.

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Cusco

    So our plan is to get up to Machu Picchu.  The problem has been missing the proper times to purchase the necessary train ticket.  Yesterday evening we missed the office by only a few minutes and today, I just caught a cab there and it was closed again.  We need to get up to Machu Picchu.  I hope we can maybe just show up tomorrow, but we have been told people usually buy their tickets in advance so I don't know.  Anyway, today will be another down day in Cusco. 
    By the way, how about those pictures I got up today.  Pretty dry and bland, huh?  The desert life is so drab compared to the jungles earlier on.  I'm pretty sure it will be a lot of arid landscape through most of Chile, so we have got to get used to it.  Up here, however, it is rugged and green and often rainy.  (Luckily I have my Adidas rain coat that I bought here years ago.)  I'll try to get some good pictures from around here to balance out the desert ones.  (Also, I've got some good audio clips to upload (cops, border crossings, desert driving, ect.), but I just discovered that I will need to recharge my batteries in my recorder, before I can do any uploads.  Be prepared!
    There is good internet here, so I'll keep you all posted. 

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These pictures don't come for free

Ugh, just lost a huge update for you all.  Must have hit the wrong key.  Anyway, now you are going to get the ugly summary, cuz I'm not going to try to write all that over again.
 
1. We made it to Machu Picchu today.
2.  Machu Picchu is impossible to describe with words so go there yourself.
3. Bought train tickets just as our train left, so had to take a long taxi ride to intercept train.
4.  Great weather at Machu Picchu until moments before we had to leave.
5.  Had a first class seat for the return and played cards with a French fellow and a Peruvian.  (Rummy)
6.  Upon return to our hotel, we discovered that they 'checked us out' per some confusion.
7.  All of our stuff had been packed up in bags and put in a storage closet.  (Pity the person who had to pack all our stuff up).
8.  Our room was rented, but they had a smaller room available, which we took.
9.  Just had a great Peruvian dinner, but Eli wimped out on the Roast Cuay (Guinea Pig) (He had Alpaca ((again)).  (I'm way too wimpy to order Cuay, so it is not an issue for me.  Eli, however, had a lot more pride in his exotic eating portfolio, so I think I can beat him up a bit over not eating the Cuay after he said that he definitely was) (So send him some taunting messages y'all.) 
10. Had enough Piscos to say 'let's not go out tonight because we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow'
11. What else?  Nothing much. Tomorrow we leave Cusco after trying to get our breaks fixed.  I also have a custom Alpaca jacket being made for me (fleece liner, alpaca shell, hood, inside pocket, negro) which I can pick up tomorrow at 9 AM, so I'll get that as well.  Other than that, We are going to pick up a water and go back to our room for a smoke and a relax...no high altitude hangover tomorrow.  (High altitude hangovers are vicious. Eli claims the last one to be his worst hangover ever- probably the 8th time on this trip that he has had a 'worst hang over ever'.  It definitely ranked in my top 163 as well).  No fun!
 
Wishing you all our very best from Cusco, Peru!

Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu

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Up to Machu Picchu 1

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Up to Machu Picchu 2

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Up to Machu Picchu 3

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Up to Machu Picchu 4

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LLamas

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Llamas 2

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Machu Picchu

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Nice stones bud!

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Fancy

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Little Buddy

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In the Clouds

With the brakes fixed, we departed Cusco and made it to Jalipala, near Puno.  As we expected, our trusty mechanic could not find the proper 2001 VW brake pads, so he made some by cutting, grinding, gluing, welding and riveting different ones.  He did all four rear brake pads in less than two hours for 54 soles (under 20 bucks).  We needed to return once to bleed the lines, but now it is all systems go.  The drive yesterday was fairly straight.  We kept in the high planes between towering peaks and saw our first snow covered peaks of the trip.  The drive was a lot of fun, heightened by a game we made up called 'white Wagon'.  The roads here are over-run by white station wagons of various makes and models.  Calling out 'White Wagon' when you spot one scores you a point.  Calling out 'White Wagon' when it turns out to be a hatch back or pick-up or not a white car at all, loses you a point.  It is tricky because you are straining to be the first to call it.  After it started getting dark, head lights made on coming identification a real crap shoot.  Mistakes were made, but we both ended up with positive scores. 
     Naturally, once it got dark, the road went to hell and we had to slow way down and pick our way through pot holes and rocks, blinded by the on-coming trucks, until we made it here. 
      We found a nice room here ('nice', by our current standards, might leave you all with something to be desired, but this room had it all...two separate beds, a toilet seat and more ash trays than sheets of toilet paper on the roll.  We had a great dinner last night in a little restaurant.  The beers were right off the shelf, but cold.  In fact you could see your breath in the restaurant, which was run by a couple very hyper, very inquisitive, very young girls.  I don't think they see many of us whiteys around here.  Next we went to a bar in the upstairs of a casino and had a couple glasses of good rum.  Eli tried hard to chat it up with an overly friendly Bolivian fellow- a truck driver extremely proud of his CAT (caterpillar) vest and boots.  I listened to numerous lousy Karaoke renditions of popular Peruvian songs.  (Popular Peruvian music is way better than our pop music.  Loads of horns and percussion)  and I watch the accompanying videos to said songs on the TV above the bar.  (Popular Peruvian videos are trippy.  Guys in very traditional outfits standing in mountains with scantily clad chicas dancing all around them...the occasional insert of animated birds flying by, the cut away to a steamy bedroom scene and then back to Juan Carlos playing his pan-flute in his ornate poncho.  Just awesome).  After that bar, we had another drink at another Karaoke bar (the only apparent options) and there isn't too much to note regarding this place.  Older bar tender in white with black vest, tried, as usual, to slip Coca Cola into our rum but couldn't get away with it because we always watch and wait for this like hawks....like quetzals, big water tank on the bar next us us leaking all over the bar, drunk man staggering around in indecision about leaving or staying, People dancing up the stairs on the second floor...the stairs that smell of puke.  So that was that, we headed back to our room and crashed out...or I did anyway.  Eli had some problems getting to sleep he told me when I woke up sometime in the night.   I had great dreams again.  Log rolling down grassy mountain slopes, Silver Al honking as a guy with a boisterous tall hat drove her around and around a round-about (rotary), my hair falling out revealing a tattoo on my skull, Eli bringing me into a cave full of waterfalls and a giant chess table.  More dreams in one night than I have in a month...and I remember large bits of them.  This high altitude life is treating me well.
      Anyway, I ran out and grabbed a couple coffees para llevar (to go...to carry, actually).  The first place gave it to me in a plastic bag, but our room is sin vasos (without cups) so that was ditched and I found some in cups down the street.  Today we are heading back down to the coast.  I have no idea what kind of roads to expect, but there is one shown on the map.  Could...will....be a long day for sure.  We are just beginning what should be a good bunch of days of full-on driving...both hands on the wheel, shoulders reared back..driving.
 
I'll be sure to let you know.  PS: I know I have been neglecting the tips page, but I've got a few goods ones to add next time I get the chance.  This blow by blow blabber has taken precedent, I'm afraid, even if the tips are far more useful and far less subjective.  Es Vida.
PPS: I also have some great audio to put up soon too.  Without the laptop it is a little trickier, but I've figured it out now.  I've got cops and more cops and our reaction to the cops and messages from Machu Picchu and various roads.  I'll see what I can do in the next few days!! 

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Jalipala

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Silver Al and Lake Titicaca

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Mountain Folk

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Tending the Herd

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Andes Folk 2

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Andes Folk 3

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Family

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Mountain Home

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First Snow We Have Seen

The drive from Juliaca to Moquegua was legendary.  As we climber up into the mountains, towns became less and less frequent.  It started to get colder and colder.  Distant snow capped peaks jutted into the sky and steep towering hills of every color could be seen in every direction.  Green cliffs of copper, red cliffs of clay, gray cliffs and black hills.  The road, which two different folks assured us was a good one, started out well enough, but steadily deteriorated.  First an even cement road, then tar, then rutty wavy tar, then pothole.  The potholes grew in depth and length.  Driving around and through them took time and extreme concentration.  Then it started to rain.  Rain makes pothole driving a whole different storey because once potholes fill up with water, you cannot see how deep they are. 
      It rained harder and harder and there was lightning and thunder.  Then there was sleet which turned to hail.  Just as the hail started the tar road ended and in its place there was a dirt track.  Rutted, washboardy and at times, washed right out.  Still we drove on.  The question in our minds was whether or not we would be able to continue all the way, or if we would reach an impassable part.  Every once in a while the rain would left up and hide behind the mountains.  We stopped at these times to snap and take in the beautiful Andes all around us.  In one spot Eli discovered a piping hot geyser shooting a stream of water into a neighboring pool.  Another time we came across our first snow, dotted around the tundra.  I picked a patch to attempt a snow angel but it was too small.  Where there wasn't snow there was the stickiest and heaviest mud I have ever encountered.  It was yellow and green in color and clumped to the bottom of my feet so thickly I could hardly lift my legs.  Elis flip flops both got stuck and he had a hard time pulling them loose.  Even back at the car, cleaning the mud off was really hard.  I used rocks to scrape at it and some got on my hands.  Eventually we got enough of it off to properly function and we drove on, mud smeared everywhere. 
     Further down the road we came to a muddy section of road that stopped us in our tracks.  It was a red mud, not this weird sticky mud, but it was deep.  A huge truck happened to pass us just then and we studied it as it stopped, looked the mud bog over and hit it fast and hard.  Even with its high clearance is squirmed around as it revved through, only adding to the monstrous truck tire ruts that passed through it.  The mud trench was a solid 80 feet long, at least two feet deep...in the middle of nowhere, Peru.  It seemed ridiculous to try to drive Silver Al through it, but the thought of turning around at this point would be painful and then what?  Drive back to Cusco and then back to Nasca and then down the coast?   Then again, if we did make it through, what was next?  It was still raining.  Who is to say there wouldn't be another mud bog, and then another?  Who is to say if we did make it through, which seemed slim to begin with, that we would not have to turn around moments later?  And if we turned around then we would have to make it through this pit a second time.
     It was one of those head scratching moments, but decided to go for it.  After all, we are from Joppa Rd, Warner, NH.  Years ago we seeked this stuff out.  Only difference then would have been that we would have been in a four-wheel-drive trucks and had buddies with their trucks to call...or Mom and Dad to bail us out.  
     Eli jumped out and scoped out the best path.  The only chance was to ride on the raised sections between the truck tire ruts.  Slow was not an option.  The second the car lost its momentum, we were done...probably wouldn't even be able to open the doors.        The moment came and I gunned it.  I don't know exactly what happened but Silver Al lurched forward and screamed into the pit.  Mud flung everywhere. The steering took on a life of its own and I could feel the right path through it.  The car slid left and right.  It bounced up, splattered down, started to slow as the tires spun then regained traction with the twisting of the wheel.  There was never a crash of a rock on the oil pan.  Then it was bouncy, but fluid, like a white water raft.  It seemed like forever but was probably over in moments and we popped out the other side.  Another huge truck that had, in retrospect, probably been caravanning with the first truck had stopped behind us and the look on his face was priceless.  Silver Al, our little city car, in the land of big trucks had made the grade and for that we got a whooopp and a pulsing thumbs up and a huge smile from a truck driver that probably though, moments before, that he was seeing his day fall apart.  Two stupid gringos in their silly little car plugging up the road a hundred miles from anywhere.  Can you tell I am proud?  We don't have a photo, the thought never crossed our mind, but Eli watched it all and said if he had had a camera out, any shot of that muddy rampage could instantly make the cover of the hilly-billy-est, red-necky-est, badest-ass off-roading magazine the rural regions of North America could ever know...And I've got to say that I believe him.  Viva Silver AL 

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First Snow Angel

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Stickiest Mud in the World

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Puno Police

Driving Through the Andes = Rough

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Road Gets Rough

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And Rougher

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And Rougher

An hour or so further down the road we were bouncing along and two men came running toward the road waving.  They needed a ride.  The back of the car was packed full of our junk, but it was raining and these little old men were cute and with some moving of things around and the tying of the spare onto the roof, we fit them in.  We talked a bit, but the focus it took to make it down the road dampened the conversation to a degree.  We fed them cookies and cigarettes and water.  They even had their own little water cups.  Most of the ride they were content just chitter-chattering in the back, but they became useful when the next obstacles arose.  Flooding!  Swollen rivers across the road.  These guys knew just where to cross them.  Sometimes it was straight on, but sometimes it was up the side of the river a ways and then across and then back.  If it wasn't for them we probably would have stalled out in a river and maybe even washed away.  After the flooded sections the road turned to sand.  First one sand track split to two and then two became four and soon, it was a free-frall.  It was all fine until two tracks split off in different directions, which happened frequently.  With no signs and no idea where we were, these guys saved us from getting completely lost. 
     As it turned out they needed a ride all the way to the town we were heading for...Moquegua, which was quite a haul.  Finally, and with no warning, the sand road reached a tar one and only then did we feel like we were actually going to make it.  Of course just as we thought that we were going to be able to drive faster than 3-13 miles per hour a blizzard set in.  When the blizzard subsided, fog almost as thick as the mud from a few hours before packed in all around us.  It was a long day, but just before nightfall we rolled into Moquegua! 

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And Deeper

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And Sandy

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And Then Wet And Sandy And Confusing

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And Finally Back to Tar

Making Friends

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Picking up Hitchhikers

Made it Out - Just Barely

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World Class

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But We Made It!

The town of Moquegua was much nicer than we expected and we got a decent room a couple blocks off the central plaza.  It took a while to find a place to park the car, but eventually that panned out as well.  After the epic drive we were ready for a beer or two and we found a brightly lit little joint that reminded me of what I might imagine an Elk's club to look like.  They had a drink special, 3 1-liter bottles for 11 Soles.  We had our three and then tried in vain to find Eli his Cuay dinner.  A taxi driver told us that they only eat cuay at lunchtime (?) and kept trying to sell us on a lasagna and pizza place.  (We had insisted on a place that had Pisco to drink). We sort-of reluctantly took the driver up on the pizza and lasagna place which had great ambiance but not very good food.  They actually didn't have a lot of the things on the menu, but we made due.  As it turned out, they didn't even have Pisco in their bar...because it was an Italian restaurant, I suppose  (even if Pisco is basically grappa).
       After the restaurant we found one of the coolest bars that we have seen on this trip.  It was called the 'Bandito Bar' and was just covered from inch to inch in retro cowboy themed posters and brick-a-brack.  They had a really good mix of music playing and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.  The bar tender was a cool kid and he made a mean jarro (pitcher) of Pisco sours.  We had three pitchers, paid our bill and then ordered an afterthought fourth.  This was our last night in Peru.  Tomorrow = Chile!

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