Scouting an Expedition into the Inca Empire
Laying down the foundation for the Land Rover Experience Tour to Peru. See the entire Tour on Atameo
Expeditions are hard. The routes we take on the Land Rover Experience Tour are challenging to master with just a small group. But planning an expedition that involves 15–20 vehicles including extensive media coverage is a completely different ballgame. The first decision we have to make is the destination. This typically happens on the last night of the tour when someone drops the question: “So, where do we go next?” When considering destinations we are looking for places that are still full of true adventure and have unique stories to tell.
Peru has been on the list for years. It’s one of the most diverse countries in the world. Out of 32 climate zones that our planet features, 30(!) can be found in Peru. Combine that with the rich ancient culture of the Inca empire and you have the perfect mix for a hair-raising adventure.
Once the decision had been made, we took a closer look at what we’re in for and flew out to Peru. Our mission was to built the foundation for what was to become a logistical nightmare. Each tour comes with it’s own set of challenges. We just had to find a way to predict these challenges as early as possible to steer our resources into the right direction.
One of the most important activities at this stage is to set up a local backbone - a support network that helps us, before, during and after the expedition. Back in Germany we got in touch with G-Adventures, one of the largest adventure tour operators in the world. Their network and set-up in Peru is astounding. With a team of over 200 people in Peru they have some of the best guides in the country and know their way around better than most.
Through them we meet with local offroad specialists, expedition experts and community guides. In long talks, we conveyed the spirit of the tour: to leave the beaten path and explore parts of the country that tourists or even locals rarely have access to. It took some rethinking, but eventually we were on the same page and made great progress, together.
Then we make our way to a place that we will inevitably pass through: Cusco - the ancient heart of the once mighty Inca empire before it fell to European conquerors. Today Cusco is a vibrant, yet mystical city that combines its indigenous roots with Spanish colonial influence. It’s the kind of place where you accidentally get stuck for a week, when travelling the continent. It’s also the base for Machu Picchu, a place so unique that Anthony Bourdain described it as “one of the most extraordinary experiences one can have in this life“.
After talking to locals we wanted to explore a new track we heard of from Cusco to the base of Machu Picchu. It was significantly longer and gnarlier, but would take us to a community of traditional weavers that was supported by G-Adventures. We were shown how they dyed textiles with natural colours and how much work goes into making traditional attire. It was a magical experience, and we explored the idea of adding this community as an official stop on our tour.
After inviting us to a meal of Peruvian corn and coca tea and , we continued our scouting mission. After several bumpy hours on the road. We made rest at what can only be described as the coolest truck-stop I ever stumbled upon. Looking for a simple cup of coffee we walked into an obscure dark shanty on the side of the road. A confident Peruvian mum was serving hot soup and coffee to local workers. She allowed us into her kitchen and served us a bowl each. To this day I have no idea what was in that bowl, but when you are a guest and the host offers you food? You eat it.
After a couple of days on winding mountain roads we finally arrive at a small train station, squeezed between two mountainsides. From here you can only reach Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu, by train. But the gods of local transportation have different plans. The train we were planning to take was cancelled. With every hour we waited at the station, our quick visit to Machu Picchu was less likely. But that’s what travelling is like: We made the best of it and indulged in local street food to kill time.
Eventually we caught a train that would take us to Aguas Calientes - exactly 10 min late. The gates to Machu Picchu were closed. But, even without the ancient Inca ruins Aguas Calientes, aka “Machu Picchu Pueblo”, is worth a visit. A cute and vibrant little town hosting travellers from all over the world. We checked out several Hotels and restaurants to explore whether the town would work as a potential exchange point (Where we can fly journalists in and out of the convoy between two legs)
Next morning we flew from Cusco back to Lima, where we met a local offroad-enthusiast to take us to Ica. In a day we went from the jungle, over the mountains, to the coast and into the desert. That’s Peru for you!
Ica lies on the border of the Atacama desert -the driest desert on the planet. Close by the city lies the Huacachina Oasis: A picture perfect oasis hidden in sand dunes that attract offroaders from all over the continent. All we can see is a gigantic playground. And so the fun begins…
After thoroughly testing the dunes for their worthiness to be part of our expedition, we make it back to Lima. Here we wrap up what we have learned and gathered and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. We don’t have all the pieces yet, but the picture is starting to become clearer. We have managed to pinpoint some core challenges and made huge steps towards setting up the basic logistical framework for this expedition.
But there is still a lot of work to do.