2007 Roadtrip: Peruvian Desert North to Trijillo

There is a lot of desert on the coast in Perú. It’s endless and only sometimes interesting. Our first stop north of Lima, however, was definitely very interesting.

We had heard about the Caral archeological site on a BBC Fasttrack, their travel show. We learned that at km 160 of the Panamericana Norte, there was a 23 km unpaved road in good condition that would take us to Caral.

We left Lima at 11 a.m. but didn’t arrive at Caral until 3:30 p.m. The unpaved road was very bad and so it took forever to get to the site.

We were pleased with an excellent guide, Segundo, and it was a very rewarding experience. Caral is 5000 years old. When the people of Caral were building their pyramids, the Egyptians were building theirs as well. Awesome. The site started being excavated in the 1990’s, the Peruvian sand and desert having preserved even the colors. The website is very well done too: www.caralperu.gob.pe

We were given the jubilados/seniors entrance fee rate of S/.2 (under US$1). We shared the price of the guide with another couple so it was an additional S/.10 for us (a little more than US$3). All in all it was a great detour even though a small section of our back bumper fell off during the rough road ride to Caral.
Audre and our guide, Segundo, walk towards the 5000 year old pyramid at Caral
We didn’t stop at the pyramid of Paramonga. We pressed on to Barranca to stay the night at the Hotel Chavin (Jr. Gálvez 222, fono: 235-2253, website: www.hotelchavin.com.pe). It was okay but only if you need a place for the night.
North of Lima the Panamericana Highway is routed through a series of small towns. After the first two times, the police stops started becoming quite annoying. Just past the toll booths or a the end of the towns, there was police vehicle and a policeman who would invariably waive us over. The first two times, the policeman said something like having bikes on top of the car was illegal. At first Dimitri was differential; then the third time he said something like “What do you mean? They are in a secure rack made specifically for bikes.” The policeman told us to drive carefully and let us go. Another policeman just stopped us, asked where we were going and then let us go.

In all of our driving in Perú, we found the section between Lima and Trujillo to be the absolute worst. On the way back to Lima from Northern Perú, when Audre was driving, one policeman took Audre’s driver’s license and wasn’t going to give it back until we paid US$100 in a town many kilometers away.Eventually, we think that when they realize we aren’t about to be “shaken down”, they let us go.
The drive from Barranca to Trujillo took 6 hours even though it was only 316 km. The walls of the mud brick buildings along the highway are often painted white and the political ads of the alcades/mayors are painted, garishly. It’s awful; we would never vote for anyone that despoiled the countryside. The farther we got from Lima, the poorer the people looked and the junkier the cars. But there was very little traffic and the road was good.