May - July 2011
TACNA - Modern buildings with very friendly staff but all rather confusing. The forms you should have bought on the Chilean side need to be completed here - one form must be stamped by 4 different people - all of them wandering around the area! You will see the large building when you park up - the centre of this building is painted a red colour - make sure you go into the door on the LEFT of the red centre - do not join the bus passenger queue at the other doors. We were given a 3 month visa for us and a 3 month import for the truck. There are food controls at this border but the staff disagreed on what is allowed and what is not! FRESH fruit, vegetables, cheese, butter and meats are NOT allowed. Our frozen chicken was looked at closely - one officer said it was okay, the other said no. Luckily for us it was allowed through after a polite discussion.
(There is a Super Vea supermarket in Tacna where you can stock up - S18.01764  W070.25201)
NAMBALLE - North of Jaen. A quiet border. Our passport man was delightful but the aduana man was a horror. Internet access is poor here and the staff let us leave the country without checking our paperwork on the computer. Unfortunately the internet came on as we sat at the Ecuador side and our Peru aduana man demanded we return to Peru because there was a problem. The import form filled in at Tacna did not have enough boxes to completely fill in our plate number. Dave refused point blank to return and said it was Tacna problem not ours!

The laws change frequently in Peru - at the moment you should be aware that you can only ‘import’ your vehicle for a maximum of 3 months unless you have a carnet de passage. This makes visa extension a waste of time. For official up to date info check this site - we have linked it to the correct page.
Frequent police roadside checks are common - usually they see you are foreign and wave you on or they ask to see your driving licence or they simply ask if all is ‘tranquilo’. Like us you should have no problems - the police have been strictly told not to harass tourists but you should make sure all of your paperwork is in order or else you will be open to harassment and bribery. Seat belts are compulsory.
Are not good. In most countries the biggest vehicle on the road rules but here in Peru it’s the ‘boldest’ vehicle. We have seen small tuk tuks try to force large trucks off the road! Peruvian drivers are well trained in using their horns but not much else - the buses and trucks commonly come around blind corners on the wrong side.
Ironically we never felt at risk in ‘dangerous’ Brasil yet in Peru we did at times feel nervous about our safety. There clearly is a problem in this country and it’s not contained to the usual large towns or cities - we have been very strongly warned by locals not to stay in some small villages! The sad truth is that Peru is a victim of it’s success - it is the top tourist destination in South America and tourists attract thieves. Our guidebook reads like a horror story, a A-Z of criminality that could easily induce sleepless nights, but the chances are, that like us, you will have a uneventful trip. We have commented on crime and safety in places where relevant on our ‘places to stay’ section.
We could never withdraw more than £90 a time and we wondered if this is because of the problems with ‘express kidnapping’ - where people kidnap you to empty your bank account. Whatever the reason, it is easier to go into the bank and either exchange money or to withdraw large sums using your VISA card. ALWAYS ask for U.S dollars as the rate is much better and you may even make some money by then going to the Exchange shops to change your Dollars into Soles.
Not easy to find in some places. NEVER use GRIFO fuel stations - they have very poor quality fuel with a high water content - not what you want for a high altitude cold morning start! We used Petro Peru in the south and we suspect they water down their fuel as Nessie was not happy in the cold mornings at altitude. We then used Rimax fuel and our next cold high altitude start was back to being no problem at all. If you get really stuck for fuel in a remote area people sell fuel from small containers in their homes - just ask around but don’t expect good quality or cheap prices.
Peru has Mercedes garages called Divemotor - we believe they are in most large cities and they have a good reputation for work. Parts for our truck are usually easily found or they can be ordered from DIVE garages to be flown from Lima at no extra charge for next day delivery.
Arequipa has a good reputation for high standards of mechanics and metal workshops. And there is a good mechanic in Lima who charges only 10 soles per hour. Cusco has a overland truck service (see Cusco section).
You could easily drive from one end of Peru to the other and never leave asphalt but where would the fun be in that? Coming off asphalt the conditions can range from not bad to bloody awful and a lot is dependant on the season - Peru is made of perfect landslide soil so many roads can be closed during the rainy season. Read our diary pages for stories of road conditions.
Lots of toll booths on the asphalt routes - prices range from 3 soles to 23 soles. Below are our costs -
Tacna - Cusco = 46s    Cusco - Lima = 61s    Lima - Trujillo = 58s    Trujillo - Chiclayo - Cajamarca = 68s
Super Vea, Metro and Tottus are the big names. Super Vea can usually be found in towns with a population of more than a 100,000. Metro and Tottus are for the really big cities and everywhere else you need to use the individual little stores or street vendors and stalls.
The excellent Sodimac stores can be found in Arequipa (by the Mall Plaza), Ica near the centre, Lima near the crossroads of Via expresa and AvJavier Prado Este (the road for the Museo Nacion), Trujillo in the Adventura Mall nearby Chan Chan ruins.
We used Clinica Arequipa in Arequipa city. We had no wait to see a doctor and the cost was 60s for a service we were happy with. Most people wait until Lima for health care of a international standard.
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Moquegua - A quiet plaza hidden from the road - security drives by regularly.  S17.19080  W070.94977

Arequipa places and information -
Las Mercedes - superb hostel with wifi, hot showers and toilets in the camping area. Very close to centre and beside a Super Vea. GPS point is for a safe place to park on the road while you wait for gates to be opened - entrance is 50 metres further along the road. S16.40092  W071.54259  Costs 44s per night.
Top sights to visit are the Cathedral and it’s museum with it’s amazing gold and diamond items, the superb Monasterio de Santa Catalina (do not go at night - candle light only so bad for photo’s) and the Claustros de la Compania - beautiful white stone building.

Canon del Colca places and information -
Lluta turn - a quiet field near the road - no problems. S16.02075  W072.13480  3,246 metres.
Cabanaconde - plaza - noisy weekends.  S15.62238  W071.98092   3,321 metres.
Yanque - plaza - noisy weekends.  S15.64981  W071.65897  3,444 metres.
We drove in from the south and exited the canon from the north - so we were not charged the 37.50 sole entrance fee at Chivay.
There is no good fuel for sale in the canon so be sure to fuel up in either La Reparticion, Arequipa or Santa Lucia depending on which way you drive.
Parking at the condor view point or the termas in Chivay are also options.

Puno places and information -
Uros field - For ONE night this felt safe with great sunset views of the floating islands.  3,835 metres                                                            S15.81506 W069.99347
Sonesta Pousada Inka - Expensive! $20 for a car park with wifi, electric and shower. S15.82395 W070.00545 You should NEVER leave your vehicle unattended in Puno town - thefts are very, very common - this is why we used this pousada so we could go to the islands and not worry about our truck.
Juliaca has a Super Vea - S15.49444 W70.13120

Sillustani - Very lovely lake with views. Quiet with no problems. S15.72094  W070.14971  3,855 metres.
Lampa - You could park in the village plaza or by the municipal buildings. Bad weather pushed us off a small hilltop site to this farmers field. Quiet with no problems. S15.25704  W070.33698   3,858 metres.
Tanijani Canon - Really lovely place. Quiet with no problems. S15.00392  W070.57606  3,958 metres.
Raqchi - Quiet lane near ruins - no problems.  S14.17367  W071.37144  3,505 metres.
Ccatca hill - Desolate and cold. Expect poor children to ask for money. S13.57465 W071.59426  4,046 metres.
Paucartambo - A football field. Quiet with no problems. S13.29554  W071.60130  2,923 metres.
Another option would be the Tres Cruces turn or viewpoint at the top of the Manu road.

Cusco and information -
Quinta Lala - A good campsite with wifi, hot showers, electric and very helpful staff - 41 soles. This site is notoriously hard to find! From Pisac you should ignore the first sign for Saqsaywaman - take the second turn and follow the back of the ruins all the way around then look for a sign on your right. From Cusco find your way to the Plaza de Armas and then take the Plateros road out of the west corner this leads to the Saphi road and you should follow this all the way to the top.  S13.50576  W071.98494  3,600 metres.
Around the Saqsaywaman area there appears to be lots of great bush camping but we felt it was not safe to bushcamp in Cusco.
The mercado central at San Pedro has hundreds of stalls selling excellent fruit, vegetables and meats. For supermarket shopping you should visit Avenida Garcilaso where you can find two big supermarkets but be aware that parking is very difficult - better to take a taxi.
Mechanical problems can be taken to either the DIVE Mercedes garage, or to the ‘Overland truck service’ but we found them to be massively overpriced for hourly rates and they tend to add on ‘commission’ costs to parts so you should order and pay for your own parts here. Work standards did however appear to be good.
Buying the boleta touristica is not necessary. You can clearly see Saqsaywaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo from the roadside. The Incan ruins of Qorikancha in Cusco were worthy of a visit and you can pay at the entrance.
Gas bottles can be filled at Llamagas - visit campsite for details.

Sacred Valley and information -
We tried to visit Moray but could not get through the village because of election crowds. We did visit Salinas on the way to Ollantaytambo - staying there overnight is not allowed.
Ollantaytambo Lodge - Hot showers, wifi, electric - 35s  The entrance would be difficult for vehicles longer than 7 metres. S13.26011  W072.26180  2,865 metres.
There is also a campsite at Santa Theresa called Genaro Moscoso Latorre and from there you can take the ‘back’ way into Machu Picchu - more information is given by the campsite in Cusco.
We decided to take the train from Ollantaytambo - we caught the 6.10am expedition train for $37 per person. Our return train was a vistadome for $57 per person. But we could not get the return time we wanted (3pm) due to high demand and had to take the 1.30pm train instead. On the morning train we got free coffee only but there is a little cafe right by the station where you can buy breakfast as you wait. On the return trip we got a small cold meal and a drink. We really enjoyed the train trip - for us it was a little holiday from driving!
You can buy your tickets in Ollantaytambo for the train, the cheapest trains are run by PERU RAIL - there is another train line called INCA RAIL but they are more expensive. You can find parking by the rail offices but we do not know the costs or how good the security is.
For Machu Picchu - we bought our bus tickets $15.50 per person and site entrance tickets $18 per person on arrival in Aguas Calientes. It took us 3.5 hours just to walk around the site and to do a short walk to the Inca drawbridge. If you want to go up Wayna Picchu you should add another 2 hours and be aware that only 500 people a day are allowed up this hill and entrance to this gate closes at 11am.
Carry your passports - they are scanned to buy all your tickets and are checked at each point!

Road to Nasca and Nasca information -
Make sure you buy fuel in Cusco or Abancay - it was the last non Grifo we found before Nasca.
Cconoc Termas - Follow a dirt track down a steep 3 km drop to a very pretty river where otters fish and the cliffs are multi coloured. Waters are only warm and toilets are available - 6s.  S13.54288  W072.6385
Tampumayu - A pretty hotel where you can park for the night if you buy a meal. S14.17373  W073.32293
We saw a sign for termas in Chalhuanca so this may be another option but after this the land is high altitude. Nasca Petro Peru as you enter town is a quiet place to stay for the night. Or the Repsol garage as you leave Nasca driving north is another good place which offers free hot showers but you must pay the night security guard 3 soles - noisy from 5am.
If you book a flight you can stay overnight in the airport for 5 soles or you can pay to stay in the Swiss Hotel opposite the airport but they wanted $20 more for a flight AND they also charged for camping! Friends parked behind the cemetery as you enter town from Cusco for 5 safe and quiet nights and we found a flat field near the aqueducts that looked good - S14.82688  W74.91346  Another option is to drive to the lines at Chichictara (50km’s north of town) and stay there - S14.59233 W75.19875
I paid $90 (normally $125) for a flight after some strong negotiations - being alone and light weight helped.

Places on the way to Lima -
Huacachina - Tall sand dunes surround a green lake. Quiet but uninspiring. S14.08744  W75.76142
DO NOT miss the museum at Ica - excellent! And there are  Super Vea and Tottus supermarkets nearby.
NP Paracas - Desolate sand and beach scenery. Stay overnight in the park or stay nearby in quiet Paracas.
Cerro Azul - A favourite of ours. Very pleasant street parking watching dolphins race the surfers by the pier. Possibly noisy at weekends - S13.02865  W76.48524
Santa Rosa - A gated beach community. The guard will let you in if you explain it is just for one night. Quiet with no problems but may be busy in peak season.  S12.37929  W76.78921

Lima places and information -
Hitch hikers Hostel - Excellent. Hot showers, electric, wifi, well equipped kitchen, huge selection of DVD’s but limited parking - 4 vehicles maximum. We recommend you drive in because the courtyard tables are for smokers and our bed area was right beside these tables where people sat laughing and chatting until 5am!!!! $6 per person per night.  S12.12244  W77.03596
If this hostel is full then we did see this place as we drove out of the city - Anthony Hostel on Pardo Jose - it has parking but the gate looked to have a height restriction on it. S12.11868  W77.04005
Other possible options for one night ‘emergency’ parking -
Outside the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera - S12.07211  W77.07100
Or the garages the Malecon Cisneros - this road follows the Circuito de Playas route but it’s at the top of the hill near Hitch hikers.
Or hidden in the back road of this street we saw - S12.09698  W77.05973
Or on the San Isidro Municipal carpark - S12.10858  W77.05393
We slept in none of these locations. Be very careful in this city and ask the Hitch hiker staff what they think about these options.
Supermarkets - Vivanda is very nearby the hostel but a cheaper and bigger supermarket is called METRO and it can be found 2 blocks down from Miraflores Parque Kennedy.
Sodimac - S12.09001  W77.02114    and   Tottus - S12.09629  W77.02586
Mechanic - Our friends used this recommended mechanic in Lima -
We found the city traffic to be crazy and therefore we didn’t do our usual driving around and finding useful GPS points. For buses to the centre just jump on any bus marked Tacna from Miraflores Parque Kennedy.
RN Lachay - A very wet microclimate hillside. Not worth the entrance fee, no views and no facilities - 20s
Caral - We missed the turn from the south so we took the turn from Supe. The turn is S10.87384  W77.53760 but this involves a wet river crossing. Overnight parking at the ruins is forbidden and you will have to park by the archaeological casa instead. Walking up the pyramids is also now forbidden - not the best site in Peru.

Cordillera Blanca information -
East or West?
The West side of the mountains has good snowcapped mountain views, colourfully dressed traditional women and better services linked by a asphalt road.
The East side has only Grifo fuel, poor services, plainly dressed women, no snowcapped mountain views and is linked by a terrible road.
The choice is yours................
West side info -
Huaraz - Colomba Hotel offers parking only in a secure area for 30s - not a bargain. The friendly owner has plans to develop full campsite facilities in the next year but we wonder at what cost?! S09.52218 W77.52671
Much better would be to drive to the Way Inn which should afford good mountain views and facilities. Hard to find so we strongly recommend you look here for directions -  - links to directions page.
Yungay - We tried to street camp but it was clear we were being watched by a group of young robbers, so we moved to the 24hr garage for the night at the north end of the village. They charge 10s per night!!
Another option would be to drive up to Lagunas Llanganuco where a large flat grass camping area with toilets sits by the lake - S09.05250  W77.61909 The road is not great and the only place to get great snow capped mountain views is to drive a further 1,000 metres up a corkscrew track to the very top of the pass - S09.05026 W77.58920  A LONG way to go for a view!
Possibly a drive to Laguna Paron (east of Caraz) would be best of all but we were told by a local that this route was not suitable for trucks - we would recommend you check this information.
East side info -
A flat field by Huascaran park entrance - S09.73727  W77.34111
The asphalt road to Chavin de Huantar is badly broken for long stretches. Expect to find locals filling the holes and blockading the road for money. We were warned by all not to stay in Chavin overnight but to carry on to the safer village of San Marcos - we parked on a dead-end collapsed road that was being rebuilt. S09.51762 W77.15481
San Luis felt good and the plaza would make a good week day overnight stay. S09.09466 W77.32942
Blanca Field - the edge of a football field in a friendly quiet area before Yanama. S08.99925 W77.43193
Chalhua was a church area maybe one hour north of our field - there is a perfect large open area in front of a church and it’s buildings - I think this is the mark for it - S09.03251  W77.48503
And north of Yanama there are quite a few places where you could pull off and park for the night.

Canon  del Pato places and information -
What a fantastic drive! Almost 50 tunnels hand cut from sheer rock follow the river through this Canon - it was tremendous fun to drive. The tunnels are single lane but there are passing places before and after most of the tunnels. Height is not such a problem as width - in one tunnel we held our breath thinking the rocks were closing in on us - it was a optical illusion but the width is quite narrow. Rock fall is a danger but the chances of you being this unlucky are small. Driving from north to south gives the best views.
Driving south to north - there is a very good terra private mining road that saves you from having to drive down to Chimbote to then turn north. We missed the turn - again - but look for a bridge across the river with a locked gate near S08.66418  W78.30135
Driving north to south - turn left at S08.64892  W78.62059 to join the mining road shortcut to the Canon.
There are not many places to stay overnight in the Canon - we saw this good piece of land by the river S08.66002  W78.08816 or you can park just as the asphalt ends on the north side by a police office.
Santa Playa - A quiet village by the beach north of Chimbote. S08.99118  W78.65052

Trujillo information -
Sights to visit in this area - Chan Chan was excellent and the entrance ticket included visits to some other sites in the area and the Chan Chan museum which was hilariously bad!
Friends of ours visited the Temple of the Sun and Moon, just south of the city and they said it was great. We visited the lesser known temple of Huaca el Brujo which is north of the city S7.91360 W79.30455  It was great with a pyramid you could climb, friezes and a superb museum displaying the tattooed mummy and her gold.
The city centre is worth a stroll around with it’s lovely buildings and the huge Mall on the Huanchaco to Trujillo road has everything you could need.  S8.10398 W79.04888
We used this truck tyre place to get our wheels rotated and balanced - S8.09470 W79.03915
Huanchaco - RV camping. Wifi, hot showers, electric and a pool. 40s   S08.07305  W079.11846
Cao - We wanted to spend the night by the Brujo pyramid but it was not allowed. The staff told us to stay in Cao village by the plaza. It was unbelievably noisy - NOT recommended!

Chiclayo information -
Sights -  The city centre is disappointing but the is a huge Mall for all your needs - S6.77802 W79.83336   
The Tumbas Reales de Sipan museum is superb but you are searched for cameras/phones - NO photographs are possible. Aerial photographs of Tucume looked superb so it may be worth a visit.  Reserva Chaparri - Unfriendly staff here. Entrance fee is 10s per person but you must also pay for a ‘guide’. He comes in your vehicle and opens the gates - that’s it. He costs 70s!!! We did not go in.
Pimentel - We found a very nice place by the beach but locals warned us it was very dangerous for robbery at night. Other overlanders have been escorted away from the beach by the police! If you want to stay in here then you should park in Hostal Garuba - huge gates enter a locked carpark. 10s per night with toilet only. S06.83528  W079.93754
Lambayeque - Eco Hostal Mamita Helmita - Juan, the owner is a delight. You ask how much he charges to camp and he says what-ever you think!!! There is a pool and you get a key to a private toilet and shower area that also has electric plugs. Ask and he will give you wifi. Unbelievable. We paid 20s per night. S06.70198 W079.89566  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Routes - The road from Chiclayo to Cajamarca via Chota is being upgraded to apshalt. In July 2011 it was a disaster and NOT recommended but in another year the works should be complete. The road from Chiclayo to Cajamarca via Pacasmayo was good apshalt and it goes past a very nice lake.

Cajamarca information -
I loved this city but we really struggled to find a quiet place to park. There are haciendas in the Banos del Inca area (Hacienda San Antonio or Hostal Laguna Seca) but we did not visit these so we do not know if they offer camping or what the costs are. (Or you could park by the Banos del Inca baths.)
In the city centre we did find a cochera but we never found anyone to unlock the gate! You could park near the plaza by the police station but you are not always guaranteed a quiet night S7.15795 W78.51719  Where-ever you stay you should visit the city by day and at night - very pretty centre.
Local sights - To visit most of the surrounding sights you have to drive into the city to then drive out another road. Cumbe Mayo (20km’s south west), Ventanillas de Combayo (20km’s north east) and the Banos del Inca (6km’s east) are the main attractions  S7.16376 W78.46442.
A Mall with a supermarket is in the city as are a Michelin tyre place S7.16656 W78.50201  and a Mercedes garage  S7.16571 W78.50382.

Routes - The drive from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas is HIGHLY recommended. The non asphalt route is lovely smooth dirt and stone - you really should read our diary for the whole story of conditions etc. You should fill up with good quality fuel in Cajamarca before you drive north.
Celendin - Park by the big white hat as you enter OR by the police station - S6.87211 W78.14234
Balsas has places to park and on the south side of the river we saw a dirt track leading down to a white sand river beach.
Negro River - A lovely quiet place by the river.  No problems. S6.73011 W77.83118

Places to visit -
Leymebamba Museum - Should not be missed - even if you are full of mummies and museums - this place is astonishing. You may be able to stay here for the night?
Revash - Funerary buildings that are NOT near the town of Santo Tomas - do not trust your guide book! This site involves a trek. Most tourists get dropped off on the track leading up to Santo Tomas and then trek the last steep 4.5km’s. We drove around this area and if you turn off the main road toward Santo Tomas you will see the signs for the trekking path to Revash. The road continues over another bridge and then could come to a fork in the road - left takes you to Santo Tomas and AWAY from Revash but the right fork takes you to San Bartolo and TOWARD Revash. POSSIBLY if you drive up to San Bartolo it may take you closer to Revash and reduce your trekking time BUT we asked everybody in this area for information and they all gave us incorrect information!! If you are determined to see Revash you should ask the staff at the Leymebamba museum if San Bartolo village does reduce your trekking time - we would trust their information.
At Santo Tomas there is a car and horse track that leads you to a remote village called Tin Tin - we were told that there was an even bigger and more beautiful funerary site 30 minutes walk from Tin Tin. Who knows if this is true but if you want to be Indiana Jones for the day then maybe it is worth further investigation?
Kuelap - A stunning ancient Chachapoyas hilltop city. Preserved rather than restored it is a highlight of Peru that should not be missed. You can spend the night up here - it is lovely and quiet. Early mornings are best to visit the site before the sun chases the hillside clouds and rain up to the ruins. S6.42692 W77.92678
Karajia - The funerary site of sarcophagi near Cruz Pata. A okay non asphalt road takes you to Luya then onto Cohechon from there the last 6.5km’s are rough and will take 30 minutes with dry weather. At Cruz Pata there is a good grass area where you can park for the night and from there you walk down a steep track to the sarcophagi. A remarkable sight. S6.16184 W78.03079
We decided not to visit Chachapoyas and instead spent our next night by a river - Utcubamaba Rio - quiet with no problems  S5.91919 W78.11418
If you decide to cross into Ecuador from north of Jaen - Jaen is a large well serviced town with many mechanics and auto parts shops and the road to the border is good. But the Ecuador side is awful with rain - see Ecuador.
But if you have time we would recommend the route we had originally planned - drive west to the beaches of Mancora and the reserves of Tumbes then cross over there.
Or another option if you do not want to go north is to return south via Tarapoto. We had wanted to follow this Amazonian route all the way north but we were unable to find new information - the old information said that it was dangerous, full of drugs and bandits and that the bridges were blocked for larger vehicles.
This is no longer true. In Leymebamba we met people who live in Tarapoto and who have taken the road to Tingo Maria in the south recently - it is asphalt with good bridges and the drugs plus bandit problems of old are, at the moment, well controlled and no longer a issue.

BUDGET NEWS - £28 a day :  78 days and 5,956 km’s.

Fuel costs - Sold by the gallon - 3.54 litres per gallon. Cheapest was 11.50s per gallon in the south, the most expensive was near Huaraz (cordillera blanca area) 13.59s per gallon.  Average cost - 12.50s per gallon.
As usual - truck maintenance and health care costs are not included in our daily budget.
For travellers who want more details of our Peru budget -
Our main daily costs -
FOOD - £9.60  (We went out 10 times in Peru for lunch or dinner.)
FUEL - £8.69
CAMPING - £4.07
Exchange rate:
          4.5 soles =  £1.00
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