Four o'clock was approaching. The time when we start searching the roadside for turnoffs that may lead to appropriate camping sites. We were still at altitude, surrounded by planted pine forests and mist, on our way from Cajamarca down to the coast.
After grasping an opportunity to collect a mass of felled wood, we drove on through a heard of cows, donkeys, sheep and goats that appeared out of the clouds. We spotted a grassy turnoff and ventured down it. We parked bus in the middle of some sparcely scattered baby pines and went off in search of the owners to request camping permission. Marta and Alex found two teenagers that didn't seem opposed to the idea, so we settled in.
Fresh trout, rice and vegetables were on the menu, but dinner proved to be more of a challenge than usual when we realised the propane gas was running low. The trout would have to be flame grilled. After a painstaking effort from the boys to light and burn down the wet wood, the food was finally cooked. The fish was delicious and the rhum we had been sipping whilst we waited made it all the more so.
A man appeared at our fire and asked us not to set the forest alite and invited us to a party 2km further along the seemingly deserted grassy planes. We drove down there to find a stage complete with live band, free beer and lots of curious and friendly locals. As we danced in circles with the small children in front of the stage we became the main attraction of the night. We taught them the shake and move dance. Marta and I danced on the stage and I noticed the semi circle of bemused locals that had formed around Kate, Mike and Mathias dancing in the middle. After a little drunken arguing, the night was finished back around our campfire with rhum, marvelling at the halo around the moon and eating cheese and marshmallows.
Our hangovers were greeted by bursts of intense sunshine through the clouds. We had a big general clean of the inside of the bus whilst clutching our aching heads and breakfasted of yoghurt, fruit, and cerreal. An unusual break from our usual egg and leftover gypsy feast which meant we could save the propane for the chili we had planned for later.
By 12.00 we were on the road again, and at the first town we encountered, we got out in search of snacks and toilets. After wondering around the well manicured park, we noticed the flat tyre. A well meaning passer-by took it upon himself to help us change to the bald spare tyre and after about an hour he took us to the tyre maestro to get it fixed. We all sat in the bus and watched as the maestro diagnosed the problem. He removed the inner tube and patched it up with what looked to be a bicycle repair kit. We decided to start prepairing the chili as we waited. We sat in bus chopping up various vegetables and throwing them in the pot. The maestro gave us confused looks and his wife appeared saying 'Oh! you're helping gringos! Hello gringos!' . A couple of hours and 15 soles later we were patched up and on our way.
One hour down the road a huge turquoise lake nestled in the surrounding mountains appeared around a corner. We found a turnoff, parked and set up our tents on the pebbly beach whilst admiring a spectacular sunset. The propane lasted whilst we cooked our gypsy chilli and potatoes and we sat full and satisfied in another breath-taking spot.
Photo by Marta Anglada