Peru

Peru – Lima, Nazca, Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Charles has started up his own blog. You can find it at www.milestogobeforeisleep.us

Headed back to sea level from Huaraz to Lima – there are some beautiful twisty roads.

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In Lima, I checked in with Riccardo at Moto Imports Peru. I met Riccardo  a few days ago in Huanchaco and he offered me to stop by his shop. His mechanics gave the bike the best cleaning I think it’s ever seen (and it was much needed after all those dirt/mud roads) and I also cleaned the air filter (lots of desert = lots of sand = clogged air filter). Thanks Riccardo and crew!

Lima (Moto Performance Peru - Riccardo) 003

Leaving Lima it’s more desert. Another 400 kilometers or so to Nazca (but it’s fast). On the way down another motorcyclist came up next to me waving me over. I pulled over and we chatted for a bit. He’s Peruvian and suggested I stop into the town of Huacachina which is literally an oasis – a lake in the middle of the desert sand dunes.

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Huacachina

Just before the town I stopped at the Mirador for a view of some of the famous Nazca Lines – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 2 soles ($0.75 USD) gets my ticket and I’m ready to climb up.

 Nazca 001

The view is a little underwhelming but still a cool experience and much cheaper than renting a plane to fly overhead. The 800+ geoglyphs were created between 900 BC and AD 600. No one knows for sure why they were made. You can’t appreciate them fully until you’re in the sky and there weren’t that many planes back then…. Perhaps they were made as a show for the gods.

From the mirador there’s a sketchy view of a few figures.

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I also liked the funnel cloud coming our way.

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Now I’ve got good news and bad news for the rest of the days ride. The good news is that I narrowly missed running over a dog (you’re welcome, Jessi). The bad news is that I ran over a cat… No pictures… Oh, and the next day I almost hit a woman who ran into the road from behind a parked bus (that could have been bad). Also, what’s the deal with birds… They have the whole sky to fly in and yet they always from within 5 feet from the ground when crossing the road. Yup, I hit another one. It smacked me right in the knee and packed a punch when riding at 60 mph.

Once in the hotel I ran into another motorcyclist. Fernando is riding a 250 CC bike doing a loop from Santiago, Chile. He’s doing the whole ride in sandals!

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The next day was a long one. I woke up at 5 am and hit the road by 6 in order to attempt the route to Cusco, 660 km (420 miles) away. Unlike the the fast straight coast, this was up in the windy mountains. It was beautiful to see the sunrise coming over the mountains. So I hit the road and quickly climbed up over 4000 meters to the altiplano. It’s cold up here! I stopped to put on my winter clothes just as a bunch of llamas were roaming around. These guys are quirky and all over the high plains.

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The landscape is spectacular buy unforgiving up here. The people who live on the altiplano are as rugged as they come. Eventually I dropped into a valley and the temps warmed up. In the small towns of Peru you’ll find lots of rickshaws.

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But the valley didn’t last forever and soon enough I was climbing again. I tried to put to use all the knowledge that Charles shared with me about better cornering. Every minute will count on today’s ride.

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This land is so beautiful!

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Late in the afternoon I was tired but making good progress towards Cusco. Then I ran into road construction… They had closed down the road, allowing traffic to pass only every 2 hours and I had just missed the cut off. If I waited I ‘d surely be riding at night. I negotiated with the traffic guard for a while and eventually convinced him to let me through. I told him that I’ve been through many construction zones and I always pass safely because my motorcycle is small and I can go around easily. He let me pass and about a mile down the road I see what all the commotion is about. The river had flooded from heavy rains and knocked out a the road completely. The bulldozer is tearing away the mountainside to make a new path. I wait a while and then ask him to clear out so I can continue. It’s a rough stretch and I nearly dumped it many times. Thankfully I made it through and continued on. There were a few more of these sections further down the road.

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Finally made it to Cusco as the sunset. Found a hotel, grabbed some dinner and a beer at the famous Norton Rats Tavern (another motorcycle joint) and passed out!

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The next morning I’m refreshed and ready to see the town. For starters, how do you like the decorations in my hotel room? I sort of like the contrast. Dragon Ball Z and some man in a dress with a gun…

Cusco

Cusco is a beautiful colonial town with a rich Inca history. Here’s a few sights from around town.

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Man washing clothes in the main plaza’s fountain.

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Now time to see some Inca sites. A big let down is that Machu Picchu is closed. The heavy rains a few weeks back knocked out the railroad and the famous Inca Trail. Tourists were stranded at the site for days. I asked around to everyone in every circle to try and find some backdoor into the site; I had no luck. I’m really bummed that I came all this way and can’t see Machu Picchu. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to come back again :)

Instead, I did a whirlwind trip to see many of the Inca sites in the Sacred Valley. Starting with Sacsayhuaman just north of Cusco. The heaviest of blocks weigh over 70 tons! The style is very different from the Mayan ruins I saw in Mexico and Central America.

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Much of this site is gone. The Spanish stole the blocks and used them to build their churches and homes. They also built a giant Jebus near the site just to show everyone who’s the boss (kinda looks like Tony Danza).

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The view over Cusco is beautiful from up here.

Cusco Panorama

A short ride up the road and it’s Q’uenqo. A small site with some cool tunnels.

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A quick stop into Puka Pukara.

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And I’m off toward Pisaq. But the bridge is out! Looks like there’s barely enough room to squeak by. Gotta love motorcycle travel.

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The Pisaq ruins.

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Ollantaytambo.

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Traffic jam on the way to Moray. A 6 year old boy was tending to this herd of sheep. Note the houses made from bricks of mud.

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Moray ruins. The concentric amphitheatre farming terraces are thought to have been an agricultural laboratory.

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Most tourists do this loop over a 10 day period hitting up even more sights. I’m on the move so it was a quick overview. I could have enjoyed a guide at each site and hours of exploring.

Time to keep on moving on. Headed to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Not only is the lake’s name fun to say it’s also one of the worlds highest navigable lakes at 3820 meters (12,400 feet).

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Of course what trip to Peru would be complete without a Pisco Sour and an Inca Kola.

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And one final question before I leave Peru… Why do all the bathrooms have toilet paper holders if none of them have toilet paper??? Never mind the lack of seat, I’ve gotten used to that…

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Off to Bolivia. Stay tuned!

Categories: Peru | 2 Comments

Peru – Border, Chiclayo, Huanchaco, Canon del Pato, Huaraz

Bienvenidos al Peru!

Border

Entering a new country is always exciting and Peru is no different. The mountains quickly give way to flat roads descending down towards sea level. 2 hours after leaving the border I arrive in Piura. It’s 2:30 pm and I decide to push it to Chiclayo which is about another 2 hours away.

I continuously ask people on the street how far it is to the next big town. It’s fun and I always get different answers. Many times they have no idea what the road is like but rather than feeling dumb for not knowing, they make up an answer. I’m long gone by the time I find out they had no idea what they were talking about.

I always arrive sooner than their predictions. The locals aren’t accustomed to the massive power and speed of the KLR. Back in the States I’d be more interested to know the distance than the time. But down here no one knows distances. And times are more practical especially when talking about rough twisty mountain roads. I find that I usually do it in 2/3 the time that cars/buses do.

The landscape south from Piura changes swiftly. All of a sudden I’m in a desert with steady cross winds. It’s exhausting and I’m getting dehydrated. I get into Chiclayo, find a nice hotel, and get some a fine Peruvian dinner – Chinese food :) Here’s the view of the city from the hotel roof.

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The next day I’m still feeling a bit off so I sleep in and eventually leave for Trujillo. Again, another 2 hours of desert. Straight, flat, and windy.

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Many riders say this is the most boring stretch of road on the way south. Ya, it’s not what I expected in Peru but I enjoy being in the middle of a vast desert. With the flat, straight roads, I can drive fast and let my mind rest a bit from the stressful focus of mountain riding. It give me a chance to listen to some podcasts and music as well as simply, think. I play around with a few business ideas and have to stop and right them down before I forget them.

I get my oil changed in Trujillo but it’s an industrial city so I decide to drive 15 minutes out to the beach, Huanchaco. It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert. The rooms are cheap, the waves are big and the water temperature is refreshing. Perfect time for a swim (and some hardcore bodysurfing)!

Famous cigar shaped boats.

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Kids fishing off the dock.

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Sunset.

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When the sun rises the next morning, I’m packing up. I’ve got a long ride ahead of me to the mountain town of Huaraz. 2 more hours of desert riding to the town of Santa then I turn off the panamaricana for a calm back road into the canyon.

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A nice change of scenery as I pass through rice paddies and other agriculture. The man at the gas station in Santa told me it was asphalt all the way to Huallanca. Clearly, he had never been there because after 20 minutes the pavement ended and the rough dirt began.

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I let some air out of my tires for better traction and enjoy the ride. The road hugs the river and there are many tunnels (I think 50 in all by the time I get to Huraz).

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Some tunnels are short but others are long and dark. My lights are terrible and I can’t see anything – just stay upright!

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The signs tell you to honk your horn before going through. Some tunnels were hundreds of meters in the dark. Only once did I find a bus in the middle. I hugged the side and it barely squeezed by me. I’m alive!

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Let’s not forget about the gorgeous waterfall and the many overhanging cliffs. There are lots of boulders in the road to remind you that the mountain does come crashing down from time to time.

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There were a few river crossings. These were easy. The mud pools of unknown depth were more challenging. One was higher than my footpegs. I gunned it and mud went flying up over my helmet!

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Then there’s this tower with a tyrolean to the other side of the valley. With a 100 meter drop I decided not to test my slacklining skills. but it did give a good perspective for a photo.

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In the end, the arid desert valley…

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…eventually gives way to a beautiful lush mountain valley complete with 6000 meter glacier covered summits.

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In one day I rode from sea level to over 3,000 meters! I don’t have one of those new fangled helmet talking picture cameras. But I was able to capture some video by hanging my camera from my neck while riding. I hope you can enjoy the video (if you don’t throw up from all the swaying).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those Adventure Riders out there looking for route details. Head south towards Chimbote. The town of Santa is just before Chimbote. Turn left at the sign for Huallanca (get gas before continuing). The road meanders through town so just ask locals for the way. Eventually the roads straightens out. There’s about 20 miles of tarmac and then the dirt starts. There are a few forks in the road – always take the path closest to the river.

Huanchaco/Trujillo – Santa/Chimbote: 2 hours

Santa – Huallanca: 3 hours

Huallanca – Caras: 1 hour

Caras – Huaraz: 1 hour

Total: 7 hours. This included lots of stops for pictures, lunch, and deflating/inflating tires. I think the bus time is 10-12 hours.

The next day in Huaraz I hired a climbing guide, Edwin. I haven’t climbed since Mexico and I was excited to get pumped. He took me to a sad looking wall called Chancos (I think). I was bummed at first and was hoping for something more scenic and interesting. The first two routes were basic but things turned around for the last three. They were challenging and thought provoking. We had some great climbs and joke about both of us being gordos (fatties). It’s a good thing the routes were short because I had no strength left to continue. Edwin works hard 6 months out of the year as an alpine guide but during the rainy season he’s not guiding much. Here’s a shot of Edwin rapping off a route.

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Sunset in Huaraz from the roof of the hotel. Look closely to see the glacier summit of a 6000+ meter mountain peeking through the clouds.

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Back to sea level tomorrow… Stay tuned!

Categories: Peru | 4 Comments

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