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  • Defender on a dirt track in the Andes.

    Peru: A Breathtaking Journey More Than 
    4,000 m Above Sea Level

    Karo, Philipp and Maya from The Sunnyside took to the Andes in their converted Land Rover Defender in early 2019. In this article, they recall a typical day on their trip.

    Let’s all forget about the virus for a brief moment and join them on their travels. We hope you have fun dreaming with us!

  • Let The Adventure Begin: Off To The Cordillera Blanca!

    We drive through a small border crossing in the south of Ecuador to Peru. By we, we mean Phil, Karo, our dog Maya, and our Defender Willi. We plan to explore Peru’s northernmost mountain range: the Cordillera Blanca.

    With more than 50 five- and six-thousanders, it is both the highest mountain range on the American continent and the tropics.

  • The Height Packs A Punch. Planning Is Everything

    Philipp Wülfing from The Sunnyside holds Maya the dog as he stands in front of an information board with Lake Parón in the background. Made it! Philipp and Maya enjoy the views.

    We have been planning our route through the Andes for a long time and are excited about the epic adventure ahead of us: the Andes stretch from the Caribbean coast down to Tierra del Fuego, sweeping across the entire South American continent. That’s more than 7,500 km!

    When planning our trip, we always had to take sea level into consideration, as this information reveals the kind of temperatures we will be greeted with at our destination.

    For example, temperatures can hit 40 °C at sea level, with very high humidity. We would only be able to withstand these kinds of temperatures for a very short period of time in our little Defender without air con.

  • The Rocky Roads To Lake Parón

    The very first thing we want to do is see Lake Parón. The largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca is situated 4,100 meters above sea level in Huascarán National Park.

    The journey there, across the seemingly endless winding rocky roads in our Defender, is an experience in itself because most of the surfaces aren’t tarmacked and not properly constructed.

    But our Willi manages the increase in altitude with ease, despite the bumpy terrain. We’re proud of him.

    On the way to Lake Parón, we come across many day-trippers who approach us in their cars. Pulling in on the narrow road up the mountain isn’t actually an issue: there are plenty of places to stop and allow oncoming traffic to pass.

  • It’s the afternoon by the time we reach the top, and the lake sparkles in breathtaking shades of light and dark blue. The snow-capped summits of the surrounding 5,000 and 6,000 m mountains tower over us.

    Campsite at Lake Parón Defender Willi is happy to put up with the bumpy ride for these amazing views.
  • The Thin Air Makes Our Hike Short But Sweet

    Karolin Wülfing and Maya the dog from The Sunnyside at a vantage point by Lake Parón. The effort was worth it! Karo and Maya enjoy the spectacular Lake Parón with the snow-capped mountains in the background.

    We park the Land Rover Defender and follow a path. It takes us to a vantage point where we enjoy amazing views of the entire lake.

    The air here is very thin, but this doesn’t surprise us. We know that air pressure drops by around 25% at a sea level of 2,500 m or more and that our bodies need to get used to the altitude: the body increases its breathing and heart rate to compensate for the lower oxygen content in our blood, and its performance is reduced.

    At this altitude, many people suffer from headaches, nausea, discomfort or dizziness.

  • But fortunately for us, we have already acclimatized to it, as we have spent most of our time more than 2,500 m above sea level since our stay in Colombia: our route through South America winds its way along the Andes and many of the towns and cities we have visited are at a similar altitude. 

    The thin air is noticeable nevertheless. At more than 4,000 m above sea level, our heartbeat increases significantly and we reach our physical limits much faster when hiking.

    Everything takes a little bit longer. Our movement slows. But we have been spared the headaches and other symptoms.

    Maya also seems to tolerate the altitude as she shows absolutely no signs of feeling unwell. She happily plays and runs around everywhere.

  • Cozy Campfire And The Comfortable Warmth Of The Defender

    After our short but strenuous hike, we try to find a secluded spot where we can stay overnight – with views of the lake, of course. We’re totally alone here at night. But we did find a small restaurant with accommodation options for motorcyclists and hikers by the lake. During the day, you can hire a boat and sail on the lake, weather permitting.

    As it gets so cold at night, we make ourselves a cozy fire in our fire pit. We also cook on it. Today we’re having meat and potatoes.

    Our stomachs are full as we look forward to warming up and chilling out. Willi awaits, and we're so glad he’s already cozy and warm thanks to his parking heater. We make ourselves comfortable, relax, and watch a film in the warmth.

    Karolin and Philipp Wülfing from The Sunnyside in front of their Defender in the Andes at night. After a good meal by the crackling fire, Karo and Philipp look forward to the pleasant warmth within their Land Rover Defender.
  • Pot on the fire pit. A delicious breakfast in the morning, then on with our journey!

    The next morning, we couldn’t be happier that we fitted Willi with a boiler as well as an air heater and a water heater, as after a coffee to kick-start us and a delicious breakfast, it takes us no time at all to heat the water to clean our dirty dishes.

    Willi’s engine also purrs to life thanks to the parking heater – even at an altitude of more than 4,100 m!

  • The Rest Of Our Route

    From Lake Parón, we continue along the Andes to Huaraz, then down to the Pacific Ocean and on to Lima, the capital of Peru.

    We plan to do a bit of sightseeing here, before climbing back up to an altitude of 3,400 m to the city of Cusco, our next destination in the center of the Andean highlands in Peru.

    From there, we are planning a weekend trip to Machu Picchu, the Incan citadel. After that, we stop off several times before heading to Lake Titicaca, where we take the ferry to Bolivia.

    But that’s a story for another time...

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