Fischers in Peru

The gentle subject of huaycos...

17 Apr 2024

If you do a lot of travelling in el campo ('the countryside') here in Peru, you really should be doing it in a 4WD.

Above: The mighty Hilux in the Paracas desert, on our way back from the Feb. 2023 SIM 'Spiritual Life Conference' in Lima.

Now we Australians are fairly familiar with 4-wheel driving; it's part of what we do.  I spent some of my youth on the farm putting the old '72 Landrover through its paces on the steep shaley hills in the bush backblock, and like most of us I've had the pleasure of digging out a few thoroughly bogged 4WD's (and one bus here in Peru, but that's another story).  So whether it's 'bush bashing' or going on off-road holidays or getting around on the land, we Australians feel pretty familiar with the Australian terrain.

The danger, we have discovered, is when you get into unfamiliar terrain with a 4WD.  Like the Andes mountains, for example.  It's easy to see the dirt roads, the river crossings, and the semi-desert countryside as something we understand, and therefore we just assume we know what we're doing.  But therein lies the trap!  Because Peru has one thing we don't really get in Australia: the huayco (pronounced 'wai-co'), aka the landslide.

We came across this landslide (below) while taking a break down Quillabamba way last October, out the back of Cusco towards the jungle.  It was on a dirt road that winds up the mountains a few kilometres east of the famous Machu Picchu.  Now, thanks to a load of unseasonal rain, a few landslides had started happening.  And so it was that we came across this beauty:

Now, yours truly took one look at this and said, "No worries, we can get over that!" and then hopped out of the car, levelled it off a bit by pulling a few rocks and small boulders out of the way, popped the Hilux into low range 4WD, and over we went.  But a couple of bends later, we found that the road was completely washed away -- and there was no getting around that!

And then it dawned on me the dangerous situation we were in.  There were small rocks still trickling down from the mountain slopes above, and we needed to get out of there.  With Kerry guiding me, I managed to keep clear of the soft edges and do a 15-point turn in the Hilux, and then we headed back to the landslide we had just crossed.  This time I got Kerry and Megan to get out of the car while I drove it back over the pile of mud and rocks.

But as I was crossing it this time, the boulders under the rear wheels suddenly slipped sideways, and for a moment there I thought I was going over the edge and into the river a hundred meters (or so) below.  But thankfully (very thankfully) the rocks stopped rolling, and I got the Hilux over the pile and back onto the road.  Kerry and Megan clambered back in, and we headed back the way we had come.  A few minutes later Kerry asked, "That was a close one, was it?"  "Yeah," I said with the usual degree of Australian understatement about these things, "it was a bit ropey!"

A month or so ago there was this landslide (video below) in Peru.  You just won't believe the violence and power of these things until you see the video.  Thankfully both truck drivers survived, but their trucks were utterly trashed.

So anyway, now that we're a bit wiser about travelling in Peru, we can travel a bit more safely.  Just remember: the real danger is the danger you don't recognise. ;-)