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Pan American highway to Lima

Written on: Wednesday August 29th, 2007

A journal entry from: Bolivia, Peru, and the Galapagos!

Today we drove from Nazca to Lima along the Pan American highway. Before the earthquake two weeks ago, we had been scheduled to spend a night in Pisco between Nazca and Lima, but the earthquake destroyed most of the town so we instead spent an extra night in Nazca. While driving along the Pan American, we saw towns that had been affected by the quake and also encountered some people along the highway begging for food (the government still hadn't manage to get supplies to all the small towns). Fortunately, before we left Nazca, we made a stop at a grocery store and we each bought some water, crackers, and cookies to hand out to the people as we drove past.

The first major town we encountered was Ica. It didn't seem that the town was too terribly hit by the earthquake, however, some mud brick structures had tumbled, but the red brick and concrete buildings stood proud. Unfortunately, however, this town should have been filled with tourists, but most tour groups had chosen to stay away from this area of Peru because of the quake, so there wasn't a single gringo to be seen. But it didn't stop us, and we happily took advantage of the town's major tourist attraction, a large expanse of sand dunes. We took an hour long dune buggy ride and also spent some time sandboarding. It was a great experience despite the large amounts of sand that became lodged in every one of my body orifices.

After the sand experience, we continued north along the Pan American. This is a major agriculture area for Peru, which was hard to believe since the soil seemed to be mostly sand. But somehow, vegetable plants, orchards, and grape vines thrived in the shadows of the sand dunes.

The further we traveled north along the Pan American highway, the deeper we came into the earthquake zone. We saw endless adobe structures reduced to piles of rubble. But we also saw areas where extensive cleanup had already happened, which left behind empty city blocks with temporary grass huts or more modern camping tents as shelter. In between some of the towns we handed out food to children begging along the road. I had to hold back tears while we handed water and crackers to the children from our van window. I could never imagine being so desperate for food that I would have to beg from tourists along the highway.