Drilling Deep: Monday, July 27, 2015 -- The road to the Andes

Layers of sediment from the bottom of Lake Junín, at an elevation of 13,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes, hold the record of climate change as far back as 200,000 years.
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Drilling Deep: Monday, July 27, 2015 -- The road to the Andes


  • Waiting to pass: a typical stretch of Peru’s Central Highway.Waiting to pass: a typical stretch of Peru’s Central Highway.
  • At almost 16,000 feet, Ticlio Pass is a spectacular stop on the Central Highway. It can also be the scene of snow-bound traffic jams.At almost 16,000 feet, Ticlio Pass is a spectacular stop on the Central Highway. It can also be the scene of snow-bound traffic jams.
  • In the “Pearl of the Andes,” residents of Tarma cultivate flowers and greens in small hillside plots.In the “Pearl of the Andes,” residents of Tarma cultivate flowers and greens in small hillside plots.

  Five days in Peru

Getting from Lima east to the central highlands of the Peruvian Andes – the locale of Lake Junín – requires an eight-hour ride over the twisty and mountainous Central Highway (Carretera Central). Or a 30-minute plane ride. This editor chose the former, a route that on the map looks like ribbon candy. The road is filled with a variety of vehicles – mining equipment, gasoline trucks, food delivery trucks, tour buses and cars. NASCAR has nothing on these daring drivers, who pass with precision around tight switchbacks. There is no shortage of roadside memorials, reminders that this is no Sunday drive. The Central Highway tops out at 16,000 feet over the Ticlio Pass, sometimes the site of snow-bound traffic jams.

Tarma, the base for scientists of the Lake Junín Drilling Project, is set in a mountain valley at about 9,000 feet above sea level. Known as the “Pearl of the Andes,” the town is dotted with garden plots where residents grow flowers and greens for export. The ride from Tarma to the drill site at Lake Junín, about 50 miles to the northwest, takes about 90 minutes.