The Long Way to Cusco, Perú

About 2300km from Huaraz to Cusco, including our side trip to Nazca and the backroad via Ayacucho. Some quite long drives, crossing the Cordillera several times, along the Pacific thru the Coastal Desert bypassing Perú’s capital Lima.

Huaraz 2 Cusco

Huacho,  17th September

Our last evening in Huaraz. Thus, our final square meal: Jalea – a plate of deep-fried monsters from the sea. Initially, we planned to stay a little longer. To make the Santa Cruz Trek – a few days sneaking thru the Cordillera Blanca. But finally, we have to go without it. It simply rains every afternoon – and we’re not too keen on getting webbed during the trek. We should have done this a few weeks earlier.

The next morning we’re on our way to Huacho at the Pacific coast. Some 270 km, 5h. The road: pretty good, except for a 20km long construction site.

The 1st part on the páramo, between 3500 and 4000m. Passing Cordillera Huayhuash.

Then the long descent to finally reach the coast.

Huacho: definitely not the dream destination for an extended beach holiday. Still, ok for a night after driving down from the highland.

We meet 3 German bikers. They highly recommend us to buy as quickly as possible tickets for Machu Picchu. It seems everything is getting sold out. So, we’re busy doing that. No idea why we’re not able to get these tickets on the website of the Allmighty-Machu-Picchu-Ticketing-Authority. Finally, we have to book thru getyourguide. Even if they are significantly more expensive. But they promise us to send the tickets within 48h.

Huacachina, 18th September

The next morning; a Sunday. It’s foggy and pretty cold. The typical weather along Perú’s Coastal Desert during this time of the year. We absolutely want to take advantage of quieter traffic thru Lima on a Sunday to finally reach Ica. Some 450km to the south. Fortunately, all 2-line highways.

On the way some extremely foggy areas. Approaching Lima’s northern suburbs traffic gets pretty chaotic and aggressive. Especially, the drivers of all these minibuses do their level best to convert driving without accident into a game.

Approaching the city limits, traffic calms down and we drive quite quickly thru Perú’s proud capital. Just astonished at how dirty it is along the Panamericana. How much garbage they have everywhere on the roadsides.

Whatever, in less than an hour we cross the town. On other days people need at least half a day for that.

Still, a couple of hours left to reach Ica. Along the Pacific coast. By-passing deserted beach resorts waiting for warmer temperatures. Then the last leg – the road turns inland. And the sun is back.

In the afternoon we arrive in Ica. We just continue a few km to Huacachina. Perú’s oasis in the dunes. Often described as the country’s most romantic place, a small palm-fringed lake surrounded by huge sand dunes.

Well, nowadays tourist industry took over.  Mainly backpacky- oriented hotels, many eateries offering all the same stuff, souvenir shops with whatever China produces, and a little out in the dunes 100s of roaring carts to drive you through the sand. To this – especially as it’s a Sunday – 1000s of local visitors on a day trip.

The place immediately let Monika think of suicide, while Martin rather searches for ultimate pics of people in their very best selfie-pose.

Whatever, after the long drive we take the opportunity to climb the highest dune.

Quite a number of people climb up as well. Of course, most of them to post today’s selfie of their life on Insta, and a few even to admire the view.

Later we discover a pretty cool watering hole cum eatery. To celebrate that so many tourists visit Perú’s paradise on earth.

Nazca, 19th September

Next morning, we early move on. To Nazca, some 150km to the east. A pretty good road thru the desert. Many trucks.  Unfortunately, a few construction sites causing severe traffic jams.  

On the way, we discover a lonely steel tower allowing us to see the 1st petroglyphs on a hill.

Nazca: a pretty ugly town. A lot of sleeperies. Many of them for package tours. And all kinds of tourists sneaking around in the street especially dedicated to them.

We quickly buy sightseeing flights for tomorrow, then we head for the Necropolis of Chauchillo some 15km out of town.

The cemetery was used some 1500 – 2000 years ago by the Nazca Culture. Nowadays, remain a lot of mummies in their graves and scattered bones all over the graveyard. A place maybe not to everybody’s taste, but still very extraordinary to visit.  Especially as you never know if you don’t stare at your great-great-….-great-grandmother at the bottom of a grave.

Paracas, 20th September

Early next morning we’re ready for our flight to see the famous Nazca Lines. Before we start, all passengers have to be weighted, then they have to pay all kinds of airport and conservation taxes. We have the impression of a pretty unclear definition of this issue, but all of them with a high inflation rate and a clear interest to take advantage of all these tourists booking flights. Somehow you may consider it a kind of an officially approved robbery. Thus, difficult to avoid.

We fly with Air Brag. Never heard of Air Brag? Really nothing to worry about, nor did we. Looks like they just have 1 Cessna flying many times every day these 30′ over the Nazca petroglyphs with a couple of tourists. And that probably for many decades. At least you can be sure that the pilot knows his way.

After 1/2h we’re back on the ground and the plane is ready for the next tourists. We’ve seen the famous lines and about a dozen of petroglyphs. Probably you would even not recognize them when sneaking thru the desert.

Then we’re on the way back to Ica and on to Paracas on the Pacific coast.

On the way a few stops to see a little more of these Nazca Lines. Now from hills or towers.

Late afternoon we arrive in Paracas. An exceptional nice beach resort in Perú. Still, we have a headache: to find a safe place for Prado. It looks like only guests in really expensive hotels need it. Finally, a pretty expensive hotel is our solution. Just we don’t need to stay there as they collaborate with another sleepery.

A look at the beach – maybe not exactly the Maledives. There are definitely too many fishing boats just off the shores. Maybe you better head for their great shopping opportunities along the beach – should you be addicted to that.

Finally, please have dinner at El Delfin Dorado. An excellent munchery for fishy things.

Later in the evening, we’re back to really boring stuff. Our tickets for Machu Picchu we ordered thru getyourguide a few days ago are confirmed, but not sent to us. The local agent even doesn’t reply. Thus, we try again to book directly thru the website of the Allmighty-Machu-Picchu-Ticketing-Authority. After a couple of trial’n’error attempts on how to outsmart the deficiencies of their website and their paying system we finally fully succeed to buy 2 tickets. And then cancel the whole stuff with getyourguide. Difficult to believe – getyourguide tried to charge about double the official price. Even if claiming to be the cheapest. Well, shame on you, guys.

Ayacucho, 23rd September

Next morning, we have to leave pretty early. We’re on our way to Ayacucho in Central Perú. Some 350km over the Cordillera. 7-8h driving.

The 1st 40 or 50km thru Perú’s Coastal Desert, then along the valleys of the cordillera. Followed by a long drive on the páramo … 

… to finally cross the cordillera at more than 4500m. An area full of colorful mountains. 

Late afternoon we reach Ayacucho. After nearly 9h of driving.

Just on time for a beer. Of course, at ViaVia’s with a view on Plaza de Armas.

The next morning we’re sneaking thru the town’s historic center. Pretty nice. Hard to believe it’s a town in Perú.

The next day we visit the turquoise waters of Millpu. Unfortunately, it takes at least 4h to reach this remote place. 

As we’ve been driving quite a lot in the past few days, we opt for a tour. 15 tourists perched into a minibus. 4h to reach Millpu and 4h to get back to Ayacucho.

After 1h time for breakfast. We’re pretty astonished at how many minibuses are already there. On the way to such a remote place.

Then on. Up’n’down thru the Peruvian highlands. The road: ok, but pretty narrow and winding, only the last 20km unpaved.

In a village a lot of people. Waiting for a local politician campaigning for next week’s local elections. Probably all keen to listen to his promises he’ll never fulfill. And to get a free beer.

In Millpu it quickly becomes clear, we’re not the only 1s visiting. 5 or 6 other minibuses had the very same idea. 

We get exactly 2h to visit the place, then exactly 40′ to munch a trout before we’ll be on the way back. True, that’s life on a tour. No need to complain, we knew it all.

We have to sneak some 15′ to a viewpoint, then a little more to a waterfall, and on the way back down to the water.

Down to the water basins. True, they look wonderful. Still, for most visitors just the opportunity to take the ultimate pic for Insta.

The 2h are up. We’re in the restaurant for our 40′ lunch. They have a pretty easy menu: grilled trout or Ceviche de Trucha. Well, we had the very worst grilled trout of our life.

Then we’re back to our minibus, ready for the 4h to Ayacucho.

And that’s the tour. Would we do it again? Yeah, but probably with our car. And in 2 days. Would be definitely better and much more relaxed.

Cusco, 25th September

Time to leave beautiful Ayacucho. We’re on the way to Andahuaylas. An intermediate stopover on the way to Cusco. Today just 240km, a little more than 5h. All on a good paved road. After a short distance the 1st pass: Abra Huamina at 4250m. Then quite some time on the highland and down to cross a river before reaching the 2nd pass of about the same altitude, before descending to our today’s destination.

Andahuaylas – quite a small town. Definitely not on the Gringo-Trail. We quickly find a sleepery – maybe it already crossed the zenith of its best performance, but ok. Surprisingly also a decent place for Prado.

A look at the town center about to be converted into a pedestrian zone. Still a lot under construction.

And really amazing it’s a town with an astonishingly great number of good watering holes and eateries. 

Next morning, we definitely plan to arrive in Cusco. Some 350km, 8h to drive. At least the road is pretty good.

Soon after Andahuaylas, the road climbs again to 4100m. To Abra Huayllaccasa. An opportunity to see the snow-covered mountains of Choquequirao Conservancy

After the pass, the long descend to the town of Abancay at 2500m. Just to climb again to over 4000m. By now on the main road connecting Nazca to Cusco. 

A truck’n’bus infested highway with a lot of opportunities for many drivers to overtake slow traffic even without seeing any oncoming traffic.

Late afternoon we finally arrive in Cusco. And just head for the Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado for a pint of IPA.

Well, guys, the pic of these wonderful pints is the very last 1 of this post.

By now, you need to wait jealously for the next 1. About Perús ultimate tourist hotspot and Disneyland: Cusco and Valle Sagrado. An area we hesitated quite a long time to visit.



Perú's Cordillera Blanca
Over-Tourism in Perú - Cusco'n'Machu Picchu