Lima to Nazca
21 January 2012
Having seen Lima’s traffic in action for a couple of days I was hesitant to rent a car. Maybe it would be more honest to say that I was scared to attempt to drive in Lima, but I convinced myself that by renting in Miraflores I would would be on the far southern edge of the city and would not have to go through the heart of downtown (or indeed anywhere near downtown) in order to find a major highway out of the city. For although I was impressed by the cleanliness of Lima’s downtown when I walked it yesterday, the taxi ride into downtown was something else again. My driver seemed to me more skilled than a Formula One driver in negotiating the moving obstacles of other vehicles in the chaos that is Lima traffic. In short, I was impressed, and didn’t see myself as equal to the task.
Working in my favor was the fact that it is Saturday, and traffic in Miraflores was noticeably less crazy than what I saw on the weekdays. There was some minor craziness in escaping the city (for example, I was very nearly involved in a collision), but once out of the city it was smooth sailing along the autopista. Also after leaving the city, the Panamericana runs along the ocean with the water in sight of the freeway, which makes for some dramatically beautiful views. I was reminded both of Oregon’s coastal highway 101 and the Panamericana futher south in Chile, where the highway also runs in parallel with the ocean. I stopped at one beach, took off my shoes, and walked into the surf. I feel robbed of an experience if I go the beach without getting my feet wet in the ocean. Although the ocean water here was in no sense “warm,” it was noticeably warmer than the waters of the Pacific that lap on the shores of Oregon.
The highway from Lima to Chincha was in wonderful repair, and looked pretty new — it is a divided highway with two lanes running in each direction. It is easy to make good time on this stretch of road. The road narrows to one lane in each direction at Chincha and continues in this way to Nazca, although still in excellent repair — no potholes, visible lines painted on the road, a highway patrol car on the side of the road at regular intervals, emergency telephones, and reasonably good signage. Peru’s recent years of economic growth are here on display in visible infrastructure improvements, and the highway carries a steady stream of commerce in the form of truck traffic. From Ica to Nazca, however, the road involves many serpentine curves which slows down the traffic quite a bit, but that is due to the nature of the landscape and not the condition of the road.
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