So many people have asked me if I'm taking my Airstream to Peru. So, I decided to explore the pros and cons and what would be involved in actually taking my Classic Airstream 325 RV to Saqsaywaman.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm known as the Airstream Anthropologist because I use my Airstream to conduct research studies around the United States. Now, I'm getting ready to continue research on a site in Peru called Saqsaywaman. For more info about this study, go to my Stone & People webpage.
Pros: First of all, the Airstream is totally equipped as my mobile media lab. So, it would be a great to transport my office complete with all the tech needed to complete my ethnographic research on the Saqsaywaman site. I could upload project video to the internet via satellite. I could edit ethnographic film in-situ. I could entertain both community members and the Ministry of Culture by making Peruvian delights (like beef heart) in my gourmet kitchen. We could sit outside under the stars at night and, following in Ansel Adams's footsteps, setup a GoPro atop the Airstream to capture timelapse photography of the sun and moon rising above what used to be the Epicenter of the Inca Empire.
Another pro would be the fact that the Airstream has four solar panels, so I could live off the grid and keep my carbon footprint on the site to a minimum. The oversized water and holding tanks would also mean I could stay in-situ for long periods of time.
Other benefits would include having all my equipment in one safe environment protected by my
Ring system that alerts me on my phone when someone is near the Airstream or ringing my door bell.
Personally, I'd love to have the Airstream down at Saqsaywaman. It's been my home since I went back to school in 2011 at USC...and I love living in it. It fits my mobile lifestyle as the Airstream Anthropologist.
Getting The Airstream To Saqsaywaman
LOGISTICS: Getting my 1989 Airstream 325 to Saqsaywaman, Peru would involve some pretty long distances and test the vehicle's ability to climb the over 12,000' altitude gain. But, given that the Airstream has already been all across the United States, let's examine what would be involved in getting it to Peru.
There is precedence for this type of crazy endeavor by a filmmaker. Werner Herzog, during his ill-fated epic filming of Fitzcarraldo (the story of a man who dragged a steamship over a mountain and through the Peruvian Jungle), ran into amazing difficulties trying to recreate this story for film. If you want to read about the adventure Werner Herzog encountered, this article by Nick Thorpe "Herzog's Un-filmable Nightmare" is a good read.
Step #1) Vehicle Cargo Shipping By Boat: Yes, you can actually do this. I contacted a company based out of the Los Angeles Harbor and submitted my request (online) to ship my Airstream from LA to Lima, Peru. Cost estimate that I received back: $2700 + Insurance and duties.
So, the only thing I have to worry about is that someone on the boat will decide to take up residence in the Airstream and do damage/take parts while on the journey. Then there is the problem of rodents who've been known to eat everything including hoses and fan belts...let alone food (which I'd be sure isn't on board.)
Step #2) Permits & Licenses: I'd have to figure out what type of RV permits would be needed in Peru, as well as license the Airstream as a Peruvian vehicle. I'd also need to get permission for the Airstream to be parked somewhere on the Saqsaywaman archaeological park. Which, given that it's hard enough just to get an American ethnographic research/film crew on the site, this might be a BIG deal. Then again, they might like the publicity that would be generated by having the Airstream Anthropologist embedded on a UNESCO World Heritage site. Let's assume I will be granted a "Convenio" for the Airstream.
Step #3) Finding A Driver/Mechanic & Extra Parts: I would need to hire at least one great driver, who also has mechanical expertise with Airstream RVs. Why? Because, we are going to break down...if for no other reason than to make a great story. And, it's not like we are going to find an Airstream dealership with a parts department along the way. So, we will have to take some basic parts and lots of tools...which believe it or not, I have already on board.
Step #4) Preparations In Lima & Provisions: We'd need to stock up the Airstream after it's long boat ride, which would include filling the propane tank, getting fresh water into the holding tank, and making sure we have enough food for the trip from Lima to Cuzco. We'd need to give it a once over for the big drive and make sure all systems are ready to climb the Andes.
Step #4) Driving From Lima to Saqsaywaman: This drive, pictured below, is 931 miles if the roads indicated are available...which they probably won't be. So, let's just use this route and miles as a guesstimate. Google Maps estimates the trip to take 19 hours...Ha! Let's expect a week.
Fuel Expenses: Well, the Airstream currently gets a whopping 11 miles per gallon of regular gas in the US. (For those of you who don't own an RV...that's VERY good.) Given the extreme altitude gain, let's reduce the miles per gallon to 9...probably over estimating, but let's figure the Airstream is going to putt along slowly to get maximum mileage.
104 Gallons Of Fuel Needed: So, if the trip is 931 miles % 9 miles per gallons = 104 gallons of fuel will be needed.
$594.88 Will Be Cost of Fuel: Figuring out gas prices involves a currency exchange. The current gas price for regular gas in Lima is $4.84/gallon in Sols...the currency in Peru. In US dollars, the rate is $5.72/gallon...so 931 miles x $5.72 = $594.88 for gas. And...believe it or not, the Airstream has an 80 gallon gas tank...so, we could make it there on a tank and a half of gas with some to spare (if everything goes as planned...which it won't). What a vehicle!!
Weighing The Pros/Cons of Taking The Airstream To Peru
Overall, the costs of getting the Airstream to Peru might actually be worth it given the savings that would result from not having to rent a location for me and my crew. Last time we went down, it cost me almost $4K just for housing. And, we'd save money by being able to make our own meals in the Airstream.
Add to that the novelty and coolness factor of having an Airstream on an active archaeological dig where the researcher and her team live and work out of it....Wow! I'm sure there are Airstreams that have been used in the US on archaeological digs. But, I believe this would be the first time an Airstream would be used in Peru on an active dig high up in the Andes.
TOTAL COST ESTIMATE TO GET THE AIRSTREAM TO SAQSAYWAMAN $6,000 US
In conclusion, I think I'm going to give it a go! Then, the only thing I have to think about next is how I'm going to get it back...or does the Airstream stay permanently in Peru...and thus becoming the base of operation for the Stone & People project?
What do you think? Let me know...and, of course, make a donation if you can...definitely going to need it now.
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Visual Anthropologist now living in LA...next stop...Chaco Canyon...then Peru.