The Mega Drive

Adventure driving at its finest is about the only way I can describe what we’ve been up to since our last post in Ecuador. After a gorgeous sunset, a full body massage at the spa in Vilcabamba (which is its own funny story…) and a few stimulating games of giant chess, we set out into the unknown in a big way. What would follow was over 1000 kilometers of dirt, mud, landslides, water crossings, bush camping, remote border crossings, construction, fog, rain and more taking us from the Amazon to the Andes to the Peruvian desert to the Pacific Ocean. I think we truly found the middle of nowhere during this adventure and couldn’t be happier with the Craggin’ Wagon’s ability to bring us through it all. Read More

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Peru

Border: Zumba, Ecuador – Peru

We drove from Vilcabamba south to Zumba and crossed at the more remote of the Peruvian borders. It was pretty gnarly driving in the dry season, I can’t even imagine how it would go in the rainy season. Plan on 2-3 days of adventure driving in the middle of nowhere before reaching Chachapoyas.

Ecuador Side

  • Several buildings, each labeled, in a row on the left before bridge.  First one is Aduanas, park right in front.
  • Need copies and originals of registration/title, license, vehicle permit.  (If you don’t have a copy of vehicle permit before border there is a copy place on the Peru side.)
  • Aduana’s will stamp the vehicle out.
  • Migracion next, for our stamps.  You should have an entry paper with you to hand over from the Ecuador entry.

Peru Side

  • Cross the bridge and park before gate on bridge.
  • Go to Migracion, which is the 3rd building on the left.  Fill out the form they give you, both parts.  (They will want your whole name on the form, anything that is included in your passport.)  There is a money amount that you are planning on spending.  They did not require us to fill this part out. If they do require you to fill this out, we have heard the amount you claim can dictate the number of days you can stay.
  • Walk left and down a gravel road to police building to have them validate everything.  He will enter stuff from passport into computer and stamp the form that they gave you.
  • Return to Migracion for passport stamp.  Keep exit portion of paper for exit out of the Peru.
  • Go back to first building that you are parked in front of for Aduanas.  You will need original and copy of registration/title, driver’s license, driver’s passport.
  • He will check plates, VIN number, and look in vehicle.  Then he will type a bunch of information into the computer and give you a vehicle permit.
  • Fill out another sheet of information with your email address and thumbprint. They keep with a copy of your permit.

We ran into at least 15 water crossings, some mud stretches that we could not have slowed or stopped in without getting stuck, and a lot of construction clearing numerous landslides and other things. The border was very chill though. We had been given the wrong information on our paperwork by the northern Ecuadorian border.  For some reason they had us exiting the same border we entered. Also you should be given an a slip of paperwork that you filled out at the northern border, they did not give us this. So the immigration office was very confused. However, everyone was very nice and worked everything out with us.

We had seen other blogs mention that insurance is mandatory, but nobody has mentioned it to us.  None is offered at the border. We’ve been stopped several times and were not required to show it during paperwork checks either. According to Life Remotely, if you have a valid insurance policy in your home country, this can count as well. As a precaution I printed the law Life Remotely quoted on their site and my insurance from home an keep it with our vehicle paperwork.

Our Route

Peru Tips

  • Driving from Zumba to San Ignacio is a pretty long drive after a border crossing due to dirt roads and twisty mountains. We stayed in Jaen at a hostel right as we got into town. Right next to hostel Diamond. The place we stayed at only charged 25S and had secure parking.
  • Instead of going all the way to Chachapoyas, we should have stopped prior at the city of Gocta for the large waterfall (we had to backtrack from Chachapoyas to see it). Here there is a nice lodge and plenty of places to park. Ticket entrance for the hike is 10S per person. The rules do say you need a guide but we just started to follow people down the road and went for the very obvious hike without one as many other people did.
  • You could skip Chachapoyas by staying at the Gocta Falls and then driving straight to the Kuelap ruins and camping there before the long, long drive to Cajamarca.
  • Kuelap ruins is 70-80 km from Chachapoyas. We camped for free after paying the admission fee to the ruins. The people there directed our car to be under the lights. The bathrooms at the office are locked at night. Entrance fee was S. 15 pp.
  • Huanchaco is the place to go if you want to surf or be by the sea. Overlanders can get electricity and camping at a place called Haunchaco Gardens and RV park. Fee is 20S per person. You get showers, bathrooms, a great chill spot, good WIFI, and electricity is 2 extra soles.  We then moved to camp in front of another excellent hostel in the same town called La Gringa owned by a gal named Julia from Kansas. You can camp on the beach or parked in front of her hostel and use services as well. It was S.15 for both of us per day. Also hit up Surf Burger for a proper US style burger. You get a burger with whatever you want on it, including bacon and eggs, french fries (that are awesome), a shot of whatever alcohol he has on hand, and a soda; all for S.15. The guy is from New York and is a biker as well, so here is a shout out for him!

Salkantay & Machu Picchu Tips

  • The Inka trail requires booking in advance, the Salkantay can easily be booked when you arrive.
  • Machu Picchu + Huayana requires booking a few weeks in advance, Machu Picchu + MP Mountain can be booked when you arrive.
  • The Salkantay could be done self supported a lot easier than we initially thought. Each camp is at a little town, more or less, with tiendas selling basic snacks and drinks. This would significantly reduce pack weight not needing 3-5 days worth of food up front.
  • To shorten the Salkantay but not miss the best parts, take transports all the way to Soraypampa, spend the night there, and hike the pass to Chaullay on day 1. From here you can take transports all the way to Hydroelectrica if you desire. Personally, I would continue hiking from Chaullay to Playa or Santa Teresa on day 2 – there’s a nice trail. From there you’re on the main road to Hydroelectrica, hike or transport.
  • If you do hike the entire thing, stay an extra day in Aguas Calientes and book your MP ticket for the following day – you’ll have more fun at Machu Picchu if you’re not exhausted and your legs are fresh. Plus, Aguas Calientes is a pretty unique town to see.
  • For details of our experience, photos, and stats, see our two part blog post: Salkantay & Machu Picchu.

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Mexico

Border: USA – Tiajuana, Mexico

  • Be careful not to just drive right through, they will often wave you through and ask for nothing if you have American plates.
  • Pull over where they check peoples cars and get your passport stamped in the building. You can change money here too.
  • You can import your vehicle here if you like or wait till the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. Cost is approx. $200, returned to you once you successfully export it out of the country.
  • You’ll need to stop somewhere before you cross into the Baja Sur and purchase mandatory insurance for the country.

Our Route

USA and The Baja


View Larger Map

Mainland


View Larger Map

Mexico Tips

Coming soon…

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Colombia

Border: Colon – Cartagena

For shipping information refer to our The Darien Gap – Shipping Your Rig section. The border here is a piece of cake if you sail the San Blas Islands. Basically, the vehicle export part is handled during the shipping process. The passports are handed over to the captain for sailing and when you get them back in Cartagena, they’re all stamped up and ready to go. Easy.

Our Route

Colombia Tips

  • Colombia is not the Colombia of 10 years ago you will hear horror stories about. The people are amazing, the roads are safe to drive with numerous checkpoints, and there are lots of places to camp and hostels/hotels that will accommodate for good prices.
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of money at the peajes! Virtually every road you can drive on in Colombia is a toll road. We went through dozens and dozens of them and they range from $4 to $7 a pop. We spent well over $100, prob closer to $200 just driving.
  • The Refugio de la Roca at the La Mojarra climbing area–whether you climb or not–is one of the most beautifully stunning hostel/camping places we have ever laid eyes on. Amazing place, exquisite views, and it’s built right on the side of the cliff. It’s between Bucaramanga and San Gil. Amazing, go there.
  • Suesca is the best climbing in Colombia and not to be missed if you have trad gear.
  • If you hike Monte Cerade in Bogota, don’t bring anything you care about with you (see our The Most Expensive Picture I’ve Ever Taken – Ups and Downs on the Road post)
  • Seemed like south of Cali it’s best to find a hotel or hostel with parking if you’re going to lay up in a city. Stealth camping on the streets of this area would be risky (and we stealth camped 100% of Mexico’s entirety). You look at the street during the night and not a single car will be seen anywhere. Everything is locked up tight behind iron and spikes. Fortunately, you can get a hotel room with private bath for $10 in this next of the woods. Take advantage, it’s a nice change of pace from camping and hostels.

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Ecuador

Border: Rumichaca, Colombia – Ecuador

Colombia Side

  • Drive past DIAN and immigration office to parking lot and park.
  • Go to DIAN and turn in temporary permit and copy of driver’s passport.
  • Go to immigration window and have passport stamped.

Ecuador Side

  • Before you get to the parking lot there is a military inspection point. We were inspected mostly out of curiosity than anything else. They will wave you to the parking lot.
  • Go to immigration and get stamped.
  • Go to aduana on the left corner of the building.
  • Hand over title/registration, color copy of driver’s passport, color copy of Ecuador passport stamp for driver, and a color copy of license. (When we crossed on a Sunday all copy places on Ecuador side were closed so we walked across the border and got copies there – cost a US $1).
  • They looked at VIN and car and then gave us a permit. Some people are asked to buy insurance but we were not.
  • Make sure they right down the correct border you plan to exit on your permit to avoid hassle leaving for Peru later.

We arrived Sunday, June 23, 2014 at 8:02am and were done on Colombia side at 8:27. We
were done by 9:16 with all border crossing. They used to do a dot matrix on the passports but
have since changed to stamping. The only thing that slowed us down was the need for color
copies and since we needed the passport stamp too we still would have had to do that part
anyway.

Our Route

Ecuador Tips

  • The roads are generally in excellent shape here. The gas, as I’m sure you know, is incredibly cheap ($1.48 p/gallon at time of writing). The occasional toll road only cost $1.
  • SuperMaxi tends to be a reliably good place to get grocery-store-style supplies that you won’t find at mercados and other typical vendors.
  • Quito has a great brewery called Bandito about 5 blocks from the hostels in the old town area. Legit, American style IPAs and Porters for a good price. Tell Ryan we sent you. Great people there.
  • Also in Quito you will find the Guayunga Hostel which has parking for your rig INSIDE there hostel’s courtyard. It’s $5 per night for the car and $3.50 per person/per night to stay. Super nice people, it’s right next to the Secret Garden if you like to party, and the brewery is right down the street. $1.25 grande cervezas don’t hurt either. Wifi reaches the parking and they have electrical for you if you have an extension cord. Bam.
  • Drive the Quilotoa Loop, any vehicle will make it (see below for details).

Quilatoa Loop Info for Overlanders

We camped in a parqueadero in Latacunga, got and early start, and drove to Saquisili for the market to begin the loop.

  • The Thursday morning market is huge!
  • Plaza de Animales is on your right as you leve the town, but you must go there first and early if you want to see all the animals
  • The market really is rip roaring by 10-11am.  Every inch of side walks and streets besides the 8 plazas are taken up by this market
  • Plaza de Gran Colombia has the handicrafts like the stuff sold in Otovalo and the men with old fashioned singer sewing machines all in a row.
  • If you need fruits/vegs/fish wait for this market

Saquisili to Toacaso: 7km

Toacaso – Sigchos: 47 km

Sigchos – Chugchilan: 23 km

In Chugchilan a lot of people stop at the Cloud Forest hostel. Nice people, camping accommodations for overlanders (we opted to drive through to Quilotoa and stay there).

Chugchilan – Quilotoa: 23 km

Quilotoa

  • Crater Lake (Must SEE)
  • Plenty of hostels to stay at if needed.
  • $2 per person entry fee at the gate to the town
  • Camping is easy, free with entry into the town, and the people are helpful to point out places to do so.

Quilotoa – Zumbahua: 12.5km

Zumbahua – Latacunga: 67.5 km

We did the whole route easily on about half a tank of gas.  We filled up on the highway just outside of Latacunga before heading to Saquisili, however we did notice the occasional gas station along the way if you do need gas.

Rd report: Mostly paved roads, with some easy gravel parts until you hit Chugchilan where it turns to very bumpy dirt roads with construction.  This road will be pretty awesome in the next year though. We made the dirt road without any problem without 4 wd.

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