Crossing the border with Peru changed the landscape massively, from green coloured mountains to a desert in no time. This wasn’t the first border where the landscape changed drastically, from Mexico to Guatemala for example we experienced the exact same change. Just the other way around. Welcome to the dangerous and ugly desert.
The Peruvian coast (north of Lima) is not famous for being a highlight of the Pan American highway for most people. It’s a long stretch along the coast, full of nothingness. With the exception of a few sections, most of it is dirty and not interesting at all. Before we got here, I wasn’t so aware of such an gargantuan desert along the coast.
For a few people, it turned out to be the most memorable part of the trip. Unfortunately in a rather sad way. Based on the reports of iOverlander, this is the most dangerous part. A high number of warnings are posted, all reporting some kind of (armed) robbery. They all have one thing in common, they’re in the middle of nowhere… and the victims thought they were safe because they were alone.
This is how freedom camping is so counter intuitive, locals always know the area better than you do. These people have been seen, without them knowing they were seen. The results were the same; The criminals always had plenty of time to take all possessions and reload it in another vehicle. All without being disturbed because of the location.
Safety in the desert
We were very well aware of the situation and our approach was quite the opposite. We stayed at places with security all night and with a lot of traffic/people so nothing could happen unseen. All these places also have something in common; They sell gas.
Petrol stations maybe aren’t a romantic place to spend the night, and they’re not worth posting on Instagram. But they are overlander reality and they are safe. And, being entirely honest.. who cares about the surroundings if you’re in a tiny enclosed space with your eyes closed?
Another advantage is that you don’t see the dangerous and ugly desert around you…