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The Patrialancha: The Highest Cadillac in the World

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Travel & Living in Peru took part in a daring trip from Lima to Oxapampa with the crew of the Patrialancha, a journey that included challenges like crossing the 4,818-meter Ticlio pass, curvy mountain roads, and yes, even failed brakes.

These challenges tested the classic 1973-built Cadillac to its limits.

And, oh my, did we encounter surprises along the road! Among the surprises came this discovery: the breaks were gone?! Here is the report of an epic trip through the high Andes to the greens of the Peruvian jungle.

This car makes everyone SMILE!

With a crew of three cars, we left Lima in a drizzling rain, encountering the first road-clutter at the PE22 turn leaving Lima. As the third car in line, I had an excellent view of people’s reactions to the Patrialancha; It sure is a car that gets noticed. I saw so many heads turning when the car cruised by and excited kids pointing and saying: ‘look, mom, look, look at that car!’.

Where ever the Patrialancha passes, it puts a big smile on everyone’s face.

A petrol stop with the Cadillac? That easily takes up to 25 extra minutes, as the whole village seems to run out to admire the car and get their selfies taken! Often, people were staring at a broad-grinning Owen who was having the trip of his life. Or was he?!

The High and the Low

Owen and Bruno planned this trip meticulously, knowing the engine and the breaks of the Cadillac would be put fully to the test. Well, once we arrived at our first chilly height, one could have baked an egg on the engine of the Patrialancha as it got hot, hot, hot!

We took frequent preventive breaks, popping the hood up and giving the engine time to cool off. It turned out that the Patrialancha was not only a thirsty car for gas, but also for water.
Steadily we progressed and set the record: The highest Cadillac in the world parked at 4,810 meters high on the chilly Ticlio pass. Owen was not dressed for the occasion, shorts and a short-sleeved country-looking shirt; Didn’t he realize it was cold?

With that high achievement in his pocket, we started the descent to Tarma to spend the night there. So far, all had been going well, but then we reached the outskirts of Tarma where the breaks of the Cadillac prematurely decided to “call it a day.” The breaks were out and we still had miles to covernot good!

Skilled driver Owen managed to get the Patrialancha safely parked at the hotel using the engine to break. The breaks were overheated and there was no way to make a proper damage assessment right away; so, it left us hanging.

Would this mean the end of the trip for the Patrialancha?

At the dinner table, Bruno and Owen discussed several scenarios to fix the break issue. With a bit of reassurance, we all went to bed for a well-deserved rest.

Oxapampa Country Fest, here we come!

Bruno and Owen were up early to try their hands at fixing the breaks.

Me? I was just waiting to hear, “We are good to go!”

By mid-morning we were able to continue our journey to the Oxapampa Country Fest.

Escaping the near disaster of aborting the trip, we were extra grateful to take in the scenery and enjoy the drive. What a beautiful road, wow!

When I told people that I was driving to Oxapampa, I got varied comments on the state of the road. Most were warnings about the road’s bad conditions and the damage caused by flooding.

Well, on the contrary, the road had good tarmac everywhere and the infamous stretch of road with water flooding is now fixed with a top-notch new tunnel!

Proven Fact: the road is in such good condition that even a 1973 Oldtimer can cruise smoothly to Oxapampa. With a road like this, Oxapampa is an excellent long-weekend destination! And yes, you can enjoyably drive it in one day as well!

Take Me Home, Country Roads

The big occasion for this trip was the Country Fest 2018 in Oxapampa. Throughout the drive, we got ourselves in the right mood by listening to country music playlists that attentive Owen had made for each car.

Entering Oxapampa, we immediately began with the band presentation press conference at the main square.

Making a grand entrance, the Patrialancha was among the many stars of the Country Fest 2018!

There was never a dull moment with the Caddy; Owen got himself a starring role in a video clip of Fabiola de Los Andes.

To focus back on country, Owen cruised around in style with real Oxapampa ‘Vaqueras’ for his own video, and, by the looks of it, just about every visitor of the festival took their selfie with the coolest car around.

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Unfortunately, no fun lasts forever, and the Patrialancha needed to get back home. The epic trip ended with a surprise. In the Lima streets, the Patrialancha got scouted, which led to a new adventure: a date to be featured in the magazine Carreras!

Road Stats & Facts

Lima (Barranco) to Oxapampa By Car:

Distance:

The distance to be covered from Barranco to Oxapampa is about 464 kilometers, with the highest altitude being the Ticlio Pass at 4,818 meters.

One- vs. Two-Day Trip:

One Day:

When driving a regular car, the trip is 8 to 9 hours of pure drive time; so, it is drive-able in one day. If you leave Lima really early, you can make short stops and still get to Oxapampa before dark.

Two Days:

The scenic views are well worth a stop, and the Ticlio Pass is breathtakingly stunning! To give yourself a leisurely drive with many touristy stops, Tarma is a lovely town with excellent hotels to spend the night. So, on the second day, you will have the time to take in the scenery, buy some coffee at La Merced, stop at some waterfalls along the road, and have a leisurely drive.

A Tip: Be an early bird!

Leave Lima early, around 5:00 a.m., to be ahead of the morning traffic on your way outbound. After Lima, it is a relatively smooth drive, unless you have the good fortune of encountering an abundance of slow trucks on the road. However in most cases, leaving early will mean you are setting yourself up for a sunny afternoon in Oxapampa to enjoy.

On the way back, leaving Oxapampa at the crack of dawn without too many stops will get you to Lima before the evening traffic sets in.

Lima to Oxapampa By Bus:

There are several bus companies offering rides to Oxapampa. Most of the bands took the 8 p.m. overnight bus, arriving around 6:00 a.m. in Oxapampa. It’s also a comfortable way to travel if you don’t want to miss out on the beautiful scenery. There are daily buses as well, if overnight buses aren’t your thing.

Prices range from operator to operator and also depend on the seat you select, ranging from regular to VIP. For a rough guideline, you should be able to find a bus ticket to Oxapampa for around 70 to 125 soles one-way.

What Else?

The road is in good condition, and a state-of-the-art 1.1-km long tunnel fixed the apparently notorious issue of flooding. There are plenty of petrol stations and good roadside restaurants to grab a bite en route.

Note: ATM’s are not available everywhere on the road, so take cash to fill up your tank (if your driving) and your stomach!

Need a refresher on what this journey was all about? Read my preview on Crossing The Andes In An Oldtimer Cadillac.

All photos in this article are taken by Amara Photos.

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Cissy is a photo-journalist who loves exploring, enjoys culinary adventures and talking to everyone about their personal passions. Born and raised in Holland, she picked up her camera and started traveling after graduating with a degree in Marketing Communication. You can view Cissy's work at amaraphotos (amaraphotos.com) and catch up with her travel blogs at JurciTravel (jurcitravel.com).