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.