Saturday, 7 July 2012

The deserts south of Lima, Peru

The next morning was a 5.30 am start, with our guide from Lima, Alejandro Tello, who works in conservation, and our driver Henri. Our vehicle was an enormous old once luxurious van which looked like the “Mystery Van” in Scooby Doo but which had been "pimped up" and which Birdgirl called the “Hippy Van”. It was great, with big fully reclining seats and very comfortable. We loved it. Maybe we can get one with beds inside?

Birdgirl with the great "Hippy Van"

The whole of the area west of the Andes in Peru is very dry and does not rain.  Everything is covered in dust and not very pleasant looking. We were driving south east of Lima to bird on the dry desert mountain to Tinijas.  Our big targets were the endemic Cactus Canastero, Streaked Tit-Tyrant and White-Throated Earthcreeper.  We had seen the first two, when there was problems with leaking break fluid on a steep mountain road.  Fortunately, Henri was able to do a temporary fix and we were able to continue the 10 minutes up the road, where we had to climb a mountain side to see White-Throated Earthcreeper, a near endemic and a lifer for us all including Alejandro.

We headed back to Lima, where we got a taxi back to our accommodation and Henri headed off to a garage to get the leak fixed ready for the morning. With the luxury of time to shower and laze around before heading out for dinner, we left our hotel in a pretty relaxed state to walk the 10 minutes walk to the nearest main road. Gunnar had recommended Chinese restaurants for good veggie food. We were pleased with ourselves at remembering to make a note of landmarks on the complicated route and decided to walk up and down the road to find our best option. Chinese or Italian? This was our first meal out in South America without a guide (except at a couple of airports where we could order chips or point) and our lack of Spanish started to make us nervous. We decided that it was going to be impossible to order pizza without tomato sauce or spaghetti with nothing on it for Birdgirl, so opted for the first Chinese restaurant that we had passed. They fortunately had vegetarian options on the menu and we managed to order some soup for Birdgirl. Our food arrived and was twice as much as we needed, which always seem to happen when you first arrive somewhere.

Just as we had started to eat, a familiar face appeared at the door, which is strange when it happens in an unknown city. Gunnar had been to the hotel and been told that we had left to walk to a restaurant. He had guessed that we would go for a Chinese and gone into the first one he saw. He was touching base with us before we headed off on the first section of our tour and had brought Birdgirl a children’s photo book of Peruvian birds, telling her that she would have to learn some of the names in Spanish before the trip was over. She was very pleased. Gunnar had also brought some biscuits and crackers for Birdgirl to try out to see if she liked them before he bought more for her. His 6 year old daughter was a fussy eater and he understood the problem (though Birdgirl you are 10 not 6 years old!).

We also tried out the 4x4 that we were travelling with the next day, which was newer but not as much character as the "Hippy Van".


  1. I remember Cactus Canastero as it was my very first real desert bird in SA - goodness that was a long time ago Peru in 2005.

    I need to refresh my memory as its full of African birds, long time since I was in SAmerica.
    Next trip there for me will be Argentina and Chile.
    I shall follow your trip with interest I loved Peru!

    1. Argentina and Chile sound great. They are on the list for South America after another trip to Brasil.

  2. The Van is a 8 cylinder Dogde Ram which our driver/mechanic Julio has elevated the body, put in larger tires, changed transmission from automatic to manual 4WD, converted to dual liquid gas system and petrol, etc. It has been a fantastic work-horse for us. But it is getting into its last lap, so we are forced to look for other alternatives, although in terms of 4WD vans, there are no alternatives. We will restore it as much as possible, use it over the winter and then sell it next season around April-May.
    Our third car is a Hyundai H1 2010 minibus.

  3. Gunnar, we fell in love with the Dodge Ram. Presumably it is American. Maybe if we are back in South America next year we can buy it off you and put bunks in!