In the afternoon we say goodbye to the children in Mollendo and continue up the Panamericana for the remainder of the daylight. On a small beach next to the road we find a couple of fishermen and a pleasant place to stay. Leon has a lot of fun playing in the sand and with the shells on the beach. We change his wet pants a few times. The cold water of the Pacific on his feet doesn’t bother him.
We’re not the only ones on the beach at sunset. A couple of men came by car and took out their fishing gear. Leon is fascinated by what they make and the men are happy to show the little one their craft.
We’re finally on the coast, with the mighty Pacific Ocean at our side and the legendary Pan-American Highway in front of us. The longest highway in the world, broken only by the Darien Gap, the road runs 45,000 kilometers from Deadhorse in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina.
The Panamericana is not as busy as I feared. At least not in this section. We have the winding coastal road to ourselves most of the time. Sometimes we drive close to the beach, sometimes it goes up steeply and along the edge of deep cliffs. Again and again we see bird cliffs off the coast.
It’s not difficult to find places for the night. The highway runs along the coast and there are numerous opportunities to drive to the beach. Sometimes we meet fishermen there, see fishermen’s shelters or we are alone.
Only a few gulls and cormorants accompany us into the night. The breaking waves accompany us to sleep and greet us in the morning.
We follow the route for days and have the impression of having landed on Mars. Or in a post-apocalyptic world. There are no plants anywhere. Just ocean, sand and wind. From time to time we pass through small places without a soul. Small houses and electric poles give no indication as to why anyone would want to live here.
Like a revelation, we suddenly see something green after all. Shrubs grow along rivers from the mountains and people grow rice.
The route is again a new stage on our journey. But Peru is long and I wonder when the wasteland will become a burden.
Sara would like to come to a small town in the evening to celebrate Leon’s birthday. But after a few hundred meters we reach the end of the green valley full of rice fields and then it’s over again. A long traffic jam. I wonder what could be the reason for the traffic jam here and since only trucks are jammed I wonder if that doesn’t affect us at all. Since there is hardly any oncoming traffic, I modestly sneak past the queue. We come to the town of Ocoña and the line continues. Do they want to go to the gas station and the diesel is empty, like in Bolivia? I pass the gas station, but the traffic jam continues. There are restaurants left and right, after all. I almost reach the end of the town, then I see the roadblock. I park the car in front of a restaurant and learn from the police officer at the barrier that the road is closed for construction work and won’t reopen for an hour and a half.
OK, we have plenty of time. We use them in the restaurant for a coffee and a visit to the toilet. We buy local rice and let Leon practice walking in the empty dining room. At the promised hour we are in the car and ready. The barrier opens with a little delay and I’m one of the first through. With the slow trucks, I don’t have a guilty conscience for pushing ahead.
We will often encounter such hour-long construction sites on the Panamericana of South America.
We are on the Panamericana and although the landscape is barren, there are always surprises. We meet one of them on the beach: whales!