Bienvenidos al Peru!
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.
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.
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.
Kids fishing off the dock.
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.
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.
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).
Some tunnels are short but others are long and dark. My lights are terrible and I can’t see anything – just stay upright!
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!
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.
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!
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.
In the end, the arid desert valley…
…eventually gives way to a beautiful lush mountain valley complete with 6000 meter glacier covered summits.
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.
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.
Back to sea level tomorrow… Stay tuned!