Down to the west coast

Farewelling Machu Picchu, from Ollantyambo the GPS showed about 1000kms to Chincha on the Pacific Coast. We had planned that this would take us around 2 days. It was our destination for the weekend as Harry, the brother of a friend of ours, is a teacher in Lima and organises his students to fundraise and build houses for families still living in emergency accommodation after the earthquake in 2008.


We left Ollanta and headed up the hill towards the Salinas, where we stopped breifly to look at the salt pans from which families harvest salt. Then it was westwards as far as we could get. The scenery led from deep valleys to high mountain passes. At dusk we were atop a mountain looking down into the town of Abancay 1500m below. The winding road took a while to negotiate and once in town, we happened across Hotel Touristica. It was a very grand and old white colonial style building with a secure parking. Not the cheapest ($70USD for a 4 bed rooom) but clean and relatively well appointed and hot showers!


The next day was long and tiring. We only made it to Ayachuco, about half way to the coast. Twice we found ourselves at over 4000m after passing through valleys of less than 2000m. Our total climb for the day was over 7000m, with an average speed of 45kmh… But beautiful scenery and lots of `mummy scary roads`!


Ayachuco was a busy place and again we found a good clean hotel with parking for a similar price. The town was our introduction to the western peruvian obsession with chickens. Pollerias (hot chicken shops) were everywhere. We lost count of how many we saw, and ended up in one for dinner. A 1/4 roast chicken, rice and hot chips and salad came to $4 a person.

From Ayachuco, the road headed up again across geological faultlines that buckle the roads and westwards over the high plateau before descending steeply down into the Pacific coast. The grass in the high desert disappeared and the valley walls were bereft of life. The only signs of vegetation were on the valley floor where corn, grapes and other crops were growing on the green blanket in stark contrast to the barren walls.


Soon, we hit the sand dunes and the barren Pacific coast. There is so little rain here as the current up the west coast of Chile and Peru is cold, and the onshore winds can´t carry enough moisture to rain. We hit Chincha after lunch and got to work house building soon after.

Harry is an Australian teacher at Markham College in Lima has been organising groups of students to house build in Chincha for the last few years. The students have to fundraise for the materials. It costs around $1000 to build one house. This year, the project was to build 9 houses.


The family for whom we built a house had two young children who loved playing with our kids. Ben gave the boy his lego car, and Holly gave the young girl a toy car.

By Sunday afternoon, the house was complete and the students headed back to Lima and we headed southwards to Pisco for what is the final stage of our journey, one month south to Santiago



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