El Señor de Sipan (Drive Day 159: December 5th, 2003)

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After turning down a baggie of hallucinogenic San Pedrillo cactus from a vendor in what the guidebooks claim is one of the largest witches markets in South America, we make our way to another set of ruins.

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Photos by Gary Geboy

This time we are met by human guides but they’re kids. Who want to sell us bits and pieces of pottery they’ve scavenged from the ruins of Sipan. Twice in one day we’re declining things apparently most visitors don’t.

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But who needs hallucinogens when sunsets look like this in the magic hour of sunset and when, surely, taking anything other than photos results in some seriously bad karma. So instead, we buy the disappointed kids a round of foosball in town and inadvertently set off a stampede of would-be players.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

 

Canine companions of Tucume (Drive Day 158: December 4th, 2003)

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1204b.jpgWe arrive too late to find a human guard at the gates of the Tucume ruins. But two homeless, hungry hairless dogs make us feel more than welcome. More as in instantly heartsick: for them and for Wipeout. Nevertheless, they lead us through a break in the shrub fence where we can duck into the deserted ruins and to what looks like a giant termite mound. It’s actually one of the site’s 26 eroded pyramids basically carved out of a mountain, supported by beams and at one time plastered over with adobe. It’s spectacular and haunting all at once.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

 

Lost and found, cats and memories (Drive Day 157: December 3rd, 2003)

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We have to drive through the Desert of Sechura to follow the same route my parents drove in my first roadtrip down the Pan-American highway 30 years ago. And I remember this bleak stretch of highway like I drove it yesterday. It’s where we pulled over to make sandwiches for lunch and somehow let the cat escape. We didn’t discover we had left Pantera behind for hours and yet somehow convinced my father to turn around and go back. The cat was waiting in the same spot – it was so miraculous, on so many levels, that he took a picture of the spot.

Fast forward 30 years and we find ourselves staring at the exact same spot. The peaks and dunes align in perfect symmetry to my father’s photo. We take the same picture, and know at that instant these two images will become the cover of the book I will write about this journey.

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Photo by Gary Geboy

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

Bonjour and Bon Jovi (Drive Day 156: December 2nd, 2003)

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Landscape by Gary Geboy, see more in this photo book

If it is possible for two sides of a land border to be more different than Equador and Northern Peru I’ve never seen it. Leaving Vilcabamba we pass a scene that Gary captures in what is one of my favorite images of the roadtrip – a lone figure in teal walking through a timeless, massive landscape of breathtaking beauty.

The border crossing is so remote that the guards spend their days trying to decipher Bon Jovi CD liner notes. It is surprisingly easy to translate “on a steel horse I ride,”  when you are crossing into Peru in a silver Avion truck camper.

The other side? Bleak and desolate would be too glamourous to call these vistas. I’m actually happy to camp inside the gates of a dumpy hotel in the town of Sullana – the wind whips through the treeless landscape like punishment.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

Let’s sugar coat this (Drive Day 155: December 1st, 2003)

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Portrait by Gary Geboy, see more here

You probably twirled a little honey into your tea this morning, or bought Starbucks preloaded with sugar, not thinking about it more than the vague guilt of calories. But this guy – Eliades Garcia — he thinks about it all the time. It’s how he earns his living in Vilcabamba, Ecaudor, working for an absentee American owner of this mini sugar-factory. Only here they call it panela and it’s basically molten sugar cane, simmered and stirred for days until it cooks down into a syrup. That’s when Eliades’ wood paddle comes in – lifting and aerating the panela so that light passes through it and looks for all the world like liquid gold. When it gets to just the right consistency he pours it into round molds where it semi-hardens into a paste. Want some? Just head to a street market in South America and look for rough brown discs about the size of wax-coated cheese wheels.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

 

The fountain of youth (Drive Day 154: November 30th, 2003)

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photo by Gary Geboy

There’s even an Ecuadoran brand of bottled water celebrating Vilcabamba – reportedly the highest concentration of people older than one hundred in the world.

 

1130b.jpgThe thing is none of the oldsters we meet seem to know their own age, exactly, and they certainly don’t attribute their longevity to bottled water. We hear everything from loving the same woman does the trick, to rolling and smoking your own cigars each day.

The younger set seem to be smoking their own hand-rolled varieties. The town square is lined with genial drifters who juggle, strum guitars and sell Gary a ballpoint pen tattoo of a mermaid, in my honor.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Vilcabamba (Drive Day 153: November 29th, 2003)

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There seem to be two kinds of visitors to this lush mountain town known for the longevity of its residents: rasta backpackers in hostels or Europeans here for horseback tours to spa villas. We fit into neither camp, but one of the hostels allows us to camp in its yard and partake of its vegan-friendly fare. Even the stray dogs are friendly: one we nickname Spark joins us on a hike next to the river bed, bounding in front like a deer and politely departing our company after we share our picnic lunch.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.