The Cordillera Blanca is the highest mountain range outside of the Himalayas. There are 16 peaks over 6000 meters including Peru’s highest, the mighty Hauscaràn. Seeing as we like to hit the trail as often as possible we had looked forward to this section of the trip for as long as we can remember. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case the stars were not in line. Not only did we find ourselves in a bit of a time crunch but also an injured knee since Colombia made any multi-day trek a risky undertaking. However, we could not resist getting a small taste. We left our van at the trailhead while we hiked in to Laguna 69 to spend one night in our tent. Our feelings of regret caused by missing out on what most likely would have been our trek of choice, the famed Santa Cruz trek, were lessened when we met a fellow hiker just on his way back from the end of the circuit. He told us that although the Santa Cruz trek was gorgeous in every right, his favorite section of the entire park was Laguna 69. At least our small sample turned out to be the right one.
When we returned to our van, after a quick morning hike out from the lake we quickly found ourselves in a bit of dilemma. Marge’s fuel pump finally decided to go, leaving us stranded. Now, finding a mechanic in Latin America can be a crap shoot. We have found mechanics throughout an extremely VAST spectrum of competencies. In Huaraz we were fortunate enough to find one of the good ones. This was a huge relief as it did not seem like we would have too much of a selection. Barbar Chan ran a large shop with many employees, all of whom were extremely capable. After the cause of the problem had been determined we sent the part into Lima in order to find a replacement. Computer data bases are not commonplace so very often the only way to ensure the correct part is a side by side comparison. Although it would take less than 48 hours for the part to travel to Lima and back, throw a Sunday in-between and we were left with a full weekend in Huaraz. Fortunately, Barbar Chan was sympathetic to our situation and insisted we could stay with our van in the shop. Seeing as the fuel pump would not be free and that we could expect our budget to take a bit of a hit we said yes to his offer. We took full advantage of our down time and of all the tools lying around to tackle the long list of maintenance items that had been growing, a list that never seems to disappear.
I have always been a renter but I imagine this sentiment can be shared by homeowners. It seems like there is always something that needs some TLC with the van. Whether it be a small motor going out, an electrical short, or just a loose knob, as soon as we think everything is in working order another pesky little headache reveals itself. Ninety eight percent of the time a little superglue, duct tape or a zip tie is all that is needed to solve the problem. But the ones that require a bit more problem solving, or specific tools that we don’t carry with us, tend to build up. Sometimes the right part is just not available, specifically electrical connections. A Radioshack would be a godsend (there are Radioshacks down here but they only sell typical consumer goods, no hobby equipment). This can make doing the job right a difficult task. The one thing I’ve learned, specifically with things that get heavy use, is that it pays to complete the task right. Shortcuts will almost inevitably lead to double work as the task will almost certainly need another look not too far into the future. This is the key aspect I look for when trying to figure out if one of our mechanics is one of the goods ones or the other kind. A quick double check, or slight pause are sure signs a mechanic cares about the quality of their work. The process can very easily be a crapshoot but we’re learning to sniff the bad ones out before they get too intimate with our van.