Peru – Lima, Nazca, Cusco and the Sacred Valley

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

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

Huaraz 025

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.

Nazca 012


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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Nazca 002

I also liked the funnel cloud coming our way.

Nazca 005

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!

Nazca 017

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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Nazca to Cusco 004

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.

Nazca to Cusco 010

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!

Cusco 009

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 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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Saqsaywaman 003

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).

Saqsaywaman 009

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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 Q'enqo 003

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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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.

 Moray 001

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

Moray 004

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.

Puno 002 

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…

Puno 001

Off to Bolivia. Stay tuned!

Categories: Peru | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Peru – Lima, Nazca, Cusco and the Sacred Valley

  1. My Spanish tutor in Chicago was Peruvian (she remains so, I suppose …), so I’ve had a special fascination with the place. Jealous about the Nazca line drawings, and, more oddly, Inka Cola. I’m debating trying to get down there on this trip, but I think it will be logistically insane.

  2. Haley

    Sucks about Machu Pichu, but it looks like some of the other ruins are impressive in their own right. That amphitheater at Moray is amazing!

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