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We reached the Peruvian border in no time. Unfortunately it took several hours to actually get through correctly. We stayed on the Panamerican until we hit the Peruvian border checkin. "Where is the Ecuador checkout?" "Oh, a couple miles back. Take the left at the first town". So we head back and in a few minutes we find where to get our Ecuadorian passports checked out. Then we start searching for the customs office to turn in the bike permit. Everyone is telling us somewhere different and we spend a few hours riding around till we finally find it a few more miles up the road.
We passed this sign several times before we actually were ready to sign into Peru. Peru was free to enter, just like Colombia and Ecuador. Gotta love South America.
We stop in Tumbes to pull out the Peruvian currency, the nuevo soles (2.8soles = $1usd). We eat a mediocre lunch at an overpriced restaraunt. 7 soles per person! You must be joking! It's funny how our standards have changed over the course of the trip. Back in Mexico a meal for $2.50 was a bargain. Now it's extortion.
The Panamerican highway in this area is great. It runs between the desert and the sea. Hot, flat and fast. Nice change.
A few hours down the road we pulled off so I could put earplugs in and Michelle could put her ipod on. There we met Antonio aka El Patagonio aka El Chamaco. He was an older Mexican man riding a little honda 125cc scooter. He was just seeing if we needed any help. Then he told us his story. He had quit his job as an architect in Guadalajara and decided to travel the world. Sold everything and began his trip. He went from Mexico to Alaska, then to Tierra Del Fuego and back up to Brazil. 80,000kms on the little scooter he was riding right now. He had traveled for three years, and now he was in Peru doing some contracting jobs to save up for his next adventure (Asia).
Here is a terrible pictures of us three and the two bikes.
He said we should go stop at "Waltako", one of a thousand little cabanas on the side of the road on the beach (the north coast of Peru is apparently a big vacation spot for Peruvians). He had helped build these cabanas and he was staying there. He assured us that if we told Rodrigo the owner that we were friends of Antonio we would be well taken care of.
He wasn't lying. We spent the next four days staying for free in a beautiful cabana on the beach. Empty beach, beautiful ocean, hammocks, cable, wifi. Really peaceful place. Not much to do, just lounge around, head to the little town up the street and go to the one little store in town to buy food. Perfect.
The Cabana we stayed in:
The most delicious mangos in the world, in season. These were about 17 cents per piece at the store, which is dirt cheap compared to the US. Venessa said she had bought 45 mangos for 3 soles a few weeks before.
Lots of chess in the shade
That's not to say it was all relaxation. Rodrigo and Venessa (his girlfriend) are working on some trails, campsites and future cabanas out in the desert. Lots of work, and every morning they hike into the desert behind the cabanas to clear brush and build trails. Of course we offered to help, and we spent many hours helping them with the project.
(Rodrigo in yellow)
Waltako trees, from which the Cabanas get their name. When we started this whole area was filled with dead brush.
Hard work, blistered hands, but very fulfilling. The daily routine was to work for 4 hours in the morning, come home, immediately change into a bathing suit and jump into the cool ocean for a minute to get the dust off, rinse off, then enjoy lunch with Rodrigo and Venessa on the porch or head a few minutes into town to have some fish in the pueblo. Then we'd buy mangos and spend the rest of the day laying in the hammocks, playing chess on the porch or watching poorly dubbed movies on TV. Man, what a life.
We were very sad to go, but Antonio had hooked us up with some motorcycle clubs along our paths, and one was waiting for our arrival in Lima on Saturday.
Venessa and Jade (her daughter):
Venessa was born in Brazil, but she moved to the US for a few years. She was a successful designer working for "hush puppies" (shoes I think), but she decided that the pace of life in the US was too stressful for her, and she didn't get to spend enough time with her daughter, so she moved to Peru and is now happy. She speaks perfect, fluent english.
If you are coming down the Panamerican through Tumbes, I highly recommend stopping at Waltako. Bienvenidos a Waltako Beach Town.......
Say you're friends of Jordan and Michelle, and you'd be happy to volunteer, and you will be taken care of. You might even meet up with El Patagonio, and you should definitely have a chat with him.
One last shot of the two motorcycles far from home:
By the time we had finished packing up and saying goodbye to everyone it was already 4pm, so we didn't make it far. We camped outside of Mancora, in the desert. The great thing about Peru, whether in the mountains or in the desert, is that there always seems to be tons of stealth camping to be found.
My first time riding in deep sand. Challenging, to say the least.
Riding through the desert was way cool. We had changed scenery from the lush green mountains of Ecuador to the sand dunes and seas of the Peruvian west.
Michelle had a friend who was working for the Peace Corps in a town outside of Piura, the next big city. He had a meeting in Lima, and was going to be in Piura that day, so we headed in and waited in the plaza for him. Enjoyed a peruvian "ceviche". Different than other ceviches, Peruvian ceviche is raw fish heavily marinated in lime and served with a small assortment of salad and toasted corn.
Omar has been working in Peru for over a year now. I am seriously considering peace corps, and it was definitely enlightening to talk with him about his experience here. One problem though, he said the peace corps forbids it's workers from riding motorcycles while in the service. Uh oh, potential deal breaker there.
Great time talking with Omar.
We didn't see any need to pay for a hotel when there was so much open desert, so once Omar left on his train we headed out of town and got ourselves some more stealth camping.
Political rally while going through Chiclayo. Apparently it's presidential election time, and every flat surface seems to be covered with campaign ads. There are 13 candidates, and apparently they're all about equal in popularity. Very much unlike the US's 2 party system. Voting is also mandatory here, if you don't vote you get fined.
Bad shot of some moto taxis. One thing of note in Peru, especially the coast, is there is a TON OF MOTOTAXIS. These little chinese 3 wheeled, chain driven, 1wd motorcycles are everywhere on the coast. You can easily see how the factory just takes 1 front end and two back ends to make these little things. In the mountains they use more specialized 2wd mototaxis. No matter where you are, Peru is moving around almost exclusively on 3 wheels.
Man, I just love the desolation out here.
Village of sand:
We stop three days in Trujillo. It's actually surprisingly chilly at this point. Too bad our budget doesn't allow for hot-shower hotels. Trujillo is a cool city. It's got a lot of history and cool colonial architecture.
More political rallies:
There are two main ruins near Trujillo. One is Huaca Del Sol y Luna. Built by the Moche, a costal tribe that predated the incas. The site is two pyramids, with what was once a city seperating the two.
Huaca Del Sol is a very well preserved pyramid. Apparently every 100 years they would build a new pyramid on top of the old one, and they did this 5 years before their civilization came to an end in that area. The result is that the outer layer was erroded by time, but archeologists can easily dig into the 4th and 3rd layers to discover almost perfectly intact frescas and architecture. The paint on the walls is still in great shape and is completely unrestored. Most of it is now covered by huge awnings to protect it from rain and wind.
And very close here is Huaca del Luna. As yet completely unrestored. You can actually climb up this one.
The other ruin is Chan Chan, a huge adobe city on the outskirts of town. It was a city built by the Chimu people, another costal tribe that is thought to have evolved out of the Moche.
Chan Chan has several huge palaces still standing, and the whole area of the city is 28 square kilometers.
Like I said, massive palaces in various states of restoration. Not nearly as well preserved as Huaca Del Sol y Luna, but much much bigger.
The best part of Chan Chan is that it's essentially the remains of an ancient adobe city, and although it is now a protected archeological zone there is no gates or anything to keep you from riding in. The locals still use the area for argriculture in some places (utilizing the ancient sink holes that the Chimu culture used to get water from the ground), so there are plenty of little roads and trails going all around.
We spent a good amount of time riding around some incredibly fun trails before it got dark. It blew my mind. Riding a motorcycle around the ruins of an ancient city. Wow. This trip just keeps getting better.
We got lost eventually (the Chimu civilization didn't leave street signs) and followed a friendly local on a bicycle out.
I liked huaca Del Sol y Luna more from an archeological perspective. So well preserved, but Chan Chan is definitely a must if you're on a motorcycle and in that area. It's epic.
El Patagonio, the (RTW scooter rider) had put us in contact with Peru Moto Turismo, a group of motorcyclists in Lima who tour around beautiful Peru in their spare time. He had recommended we show up on a weekend, so we had to make the trip from Trujillo to Lima in 1 day. We were rolling out of the hotel garage at 6am, and trucking along the beautiful Peruvian coast all day.
Here is that day in pictures:
Fog in the desert. Pretty much the only moisture that this area gets.
Ruins in the desert.
An hour outside of town we were intercepted by Manuel and Daniel, two of the friendliest people I have ever met. And that's stiff competition on this trip.
Danny rides the red fuel injected Yamaha XTZ250, and Manuel rides the blue Topaz 250cc.
Danny works as welder (and a very good one at that) and Manuel works for Cisco Systems in Peru. Manuel took us to the store his wife runs, where we were treated to refreshments. Then, he insisted we stay at the hotel next to his apartment... and he pay for it. We protested heavily, but they insisted it was the Peruvian custom and they would be offended if we didn't except it. We didn't buy it, but obviously there was no changing their minds. Manuel rushed ahead so we couldn't try anything funny.
A very nice hotel awaited us. Hot water, cable, the works. Manuel suggested we rest a little while, then we could come and meet some more motorcyclists at his place.
We were introduced to a whole bunch of motorcyclists that night. Some were from the Moto Turismo club, some were from the Pulsar club.
(Pulsar, for those in the USA, are made by bajaj, an Indian company. They sell them from 135cc to 220cc. The rider's I've met claim reliability equal to Japanese motorcycles, and they are definitely pretty trick little bikes.)
We were taken of a tour of town, followed by a delicious meal of roasted chicken.
We were also given club shirts and patches from both the Moto Turismo and the Pulsar clubs.
During our time in Lima and with the help of our new friends, we do a little bike maintaining.
New Pirelli Sport Demon tire, $50 with our substantial discount. The owner of the Pirelli shop was friends with Manuel, and we were well treated. Even got a pair of Pirelli T shirts!
Changed oil and replaced front brake pads. Danny knew all the places for parts and amazingly we were able to find the exact same EBC pads I would have ordered at home, for the same price! Amazing!
Enjoying dinner with the gang.
Watched the Peruvian "changing of the guard", which happens every day at noon. Elaborate 30 minute ceremony with full brass band and colorguard. Pretty awesome. Must see if you're in Peru. Crazy they do it every single day.
Inside of Museum.
Danny is a welder by profession. A very good one (hard to find down here). At one point I talked to him about my rear rack, with it's cracking mounting bolts. "Ugly, but it works" I said. Danny took a look and decided no, it wasn't going to work. He would take it home for the night and bring it back reinforced. "You sure? That sounds like a lot of work." "Childsplay. Give me the keys."
The next day he came back with that beautifully crafted rack. It mounts the rear luggage rack to the passenger footpegs with another lateral brace running above the tail-light. And, it now keeps the soft luggage from crushing the rear turn signals. He claims it was easy, but I'm sure he was up late at night working on my bike. Of course he refused payment.
Enjoying the "Pisco Sour". Pisco is a grape-based liquor made in Peru.
Javier is a member of the moto club, and he drives a 1980 cb750. Beast of a motorcycle here, he's had it for over a decade. He put different suspension on it to raise it up and make it better for the roads here. Frankenstien motorcycle. So badass.
To celebrate our time in Peru, Manuel gave us a Peruvian flag. Everyone we meet down here is now required to sign it.
Our final day we head out with Danny as our guide. It's so nice to have people to follow around hugely complicated cities. So much less stress. We were out of Lima in 30 minutes. It would have taken hours on our own.
Huge thanks to Peru Moto Turismo. Such an amazing group of people. Truly lucky to have met them. If you're ever in Lima I highly recommend you drop these guys a line.
Next destination was Cusco. We had plans to meet with a Pulsar motorcycle club there, and possibly another motorcyclist we had met along the way.
Headed out of Lima down the Panamerican towards Ica, where there were rumors of a motorcycle club meeting us.
Once we got to Pisco we called the number we were given but had no luck reaching anyone, so our plans were open. We had been instructed to go to Nasca, and then cut east towards Cusco. We had bought a terrible South America map in Lima, and as we looked at it we thought hey, it looks shorter to go through Ayacucho instead of Nasca. And thus began the next leg of the trip, which turned what could have been an easy 3 day ride into a 2 week odyssey.
The road started out well enough. Nice pavement through the desert. Fertile valleys
We camped that night out in a dusty mountain clearing.
The next morning, leaving the campsite. More offroading. Any bike can be a dirtbike if you need it to.
The desert hills soon became rich green mountains.
And before we knew it we were in the Peruvian highlands.
The road conditions deteriorated rapidly, but the rate of elevation change made it a non-issue. I was struggling to hold 30mph on a flat road. At 12,000 feet the bike sputtered badly, but there was a smooth spot between 6,500 and 7,000rpm that I could shoot for. Once we were above 14,000 everything was rough. Nothing to be done but sputter on slowly.
After a few hours we stopped to take a break and Michelle realized suddenly that her purse was gone. Most of the stuff was replaceable, but her notebook (the same notebook that we had lost and found in Ecuador) was a prized possesion. I knew it would take us all day to backtrack, but there was nothing else to be done. We turned around and rode back, checking each place we had stopped. Eventually we made it back to last night's campsite, and it wasn't there either.
Since it was already approaching dusk we decided to spend the night in the same place.
The next morning we decide to wait around a little while to see if we could find anyone who knew anything. The area looked pretty deserted but we were pretty sure it had been left there. The purse had nothing of any practical value, just sentimental value. Michelle tried to track down some info from the neighbors while I took the carb off. I was hoping to adjust the idle screws to try and make the bike run better at altitude.
Michelle had no luck finding her purse, and I finished putting the ninja back together, so we headed away from the campsite (again).
Started out going through the same lower mountain region. Waterfalls spouting out around every other turn.
Sputtering through 14,000' tundra for the snow-capped mountains and the llamas.
Well, my adjustments didn't do any good. The bike was still sputtering along pitifully. It was hard to be stressed about the bike with given the surroundings. This was the Andes.
We had gone from scorching desert to frigid tundra in less than a few hours.
A few hours into the route we had realized that this was not a main thoroughfare like it appeared on our awesome 1 page map. We were buying fuel out of barrels at this point. The road had almost no traffic, and when we did meet another vehicle it seemed they were struggling with altitude as hard as we were. Even at 25mph I was passing almost everyone.
We rode until the sun started going down. We were above 15,000 feet at this point, and the temperature was rapidly approaching freezing. Good test of our 3 season tent and sleeping bags.
We camped that night in the ruins of what must have been an old house. The Quechua people in these isolated mountains still build and live pretty much exactly like they were 500 years ago. Alpacas, llamas, potatoes, houses built by piling rocks together. An unimaginably baren existence, but achingly beautiful.
That night was a rough one for me. I had felt a little under the weather the past two days, and that night in the below-freezing temperatures definitely did not help. I have no sleeping pad (Michelle does) which is normally tolerable, but the ground was just so rediculously cold. I barely slept at all that night, very happy when the sun came up.
Oh well, nowhere to go but forward.
We passed this thing.
We have no idea what it is. It looked like water was running over part of it. Anybody know what this is?
Average Andean town.
Fleeing alpaca not amused by the ninja's exhaust.
We made it to Ayacucho and spent the night there.
Ayacucho means "City of Blood" in the indiginous tongue, and coincidentally it was the head base of the Shining Path rebel group in the 1980s. One of the members of the motorcycle club was actually involved in a massacre (military side) of students in Ayacucho.
The road had been paved up until this point, but further on from Ayacucho it was said to be all dirt. We were warned that the road ahead was "rough" and might have a collapsed bridge. Well, let's go find out then...
The road out of town was dusty with traffic.
About half an hour later we arrived at a fork in the road. Left for Andahuaylas, right for Vilcashuaman. Andahuaylas was were we needed to go to get to Cusco, but we'd heard of Vilcashuaman somewhere too. There happened to be a police at the intersection, so we asked him. He said the bridge to Andahuaylas had collapsed, and there was a boat taking people across but he wasn't sure about motorcycles. We asked him if we could get around that bridge by going right to Vilcashuaman. After a few minutes he made up his mind that yes, we could. Didn't have a lot of confidence in his directions, but we didn't care. Looks like fun either way.
So off we went towards Vilcashuaman. Weather did not look promising.
The rain was minutes away. We stopped and put on our rain gear. The rain wasn't so bad, but the constant stream of mud shooting from my knobby, un-fendered front tire was a little annoying.
When the beautiful little dirt road got wet it turned, obviously, into mud. I had pretty much no mud-riding experience at this point. It's pretty terrifying. Like ice I imagine, though I've never ridden on ice either. I just skated around the hairpins, waiting for the inevitable crash, comforting myself that we were crawling along at such a slow pace that we'd probably just get dirty.
We didn't tip. Came around a downhill left hander and the back tire lost it in the sludge. Back end started coming around, I thought for sure we were going down. By some miracle I managed to muscle the around and to a stop perpendicular in the middle of the road. It was like a sweet powerslide stop. Michelle was highly amused.
Within a few miles the rain had cleared up and the road had changed from a crappy mud road to a crappy dirt road. Much better. Still not one of those smooth roads that you can cruise at 30mph on, but better. I was cranking a steady 15mph, and the overloaded rear suspension was being pushed to the limit.
This is adventure riding paradise.
Desolate dirt road in an exotic country. No map and no plan.
That night we camped between a stream and some fields. Not all that stealthy, but it was getting dark quickly and we weren't too worried about safety in this area.
Scariest thing was a cow meandering through the campsite in the pitch black.
Such a great climate here. Cold, but beautiful.
There was a natural spring flowing out of the rocks on the side. First thing in the morning I rinsed my face with the frigid waterfall water.
Next morning I did a little early morning mechanical rundown just to see how the bike was handling the rough stuff. All was well except for a hole that had worn in through the rear fender. Apparently the rear shock had seen better days, and with 400lbs of payload and an oversized rear tire, things were starting to make contact. Had a nice groove carved into the tire as well. Just have to be more careful I guess.
We packed up early and got going. An hour later we hit a sign pointing up a steep rocky sideroad that said "INTIHUATANA 2.2KM". A sign indicated ruins that way so we decided to head that direction. Michelle had her doubts though.
"Uhh... I don't think we can make it up that."
"Sure we can, just need a head start."
So I turned around, went back 100 feet, and got up some speed and went for it.
(View going downhill)
Working the clutch, keeping my speed up and completely disregarding the mechanical health of the bike, we made it up. Michelle held on for dear life.
Obviously it doesn't look like much in the picture, but it was definitely the toughest climb of the trip.
So we arrived at Intihuatana, a village comprised of a few houses and a few fields. The ruins were Banos Del Inca, apparently a vacation home for the Inca royalty built above a mountain lake. Paid our 2 soles per person (~$1.50 total) to a farmer who was hanging around the area and took a look around. We were the only people there.
View of the lake (or large pond, whichever):
Stairs carved into sold rock leading into the water.
We continued on towards Vilcashuaman.
We rolled into Vilcashuaman a few hours later. Decided to stay at a hotel that night so we could enjoy the ruins and check our emails. Luckily, the Peruvian mountains are cheap!! Meals can be found for less than 4 soles all day, and you can find hotels for 10 soles in some places. Ours was 12. ($4.25 for a hotel room).
The owner of the hotel had a 60s honda that he has had for 30 years. He was excited to hear about our trip.
This was also the point in the trip where hotels stopped giving us towels (or soap). That kind of stuff is not normal in the lower end hotels, but we've got our camping towel so no worries.
I bought some cheese from a roadside stand. Soft, very delicious. Around $.35usd for a little wedge of it. Extremely delicious, best cheese I've ever had. Coupled with some bread you have a wonderful snack.
Searched around for internet (not an easy task), ate dinner and went to bed.
The next morning we checked out the ruins that were 2 blocks from our hotel. The town is literally built onto and next to the ruins.
The Incas carved little paths into the rocks that would flow with blood during religious ceremonies.
A "tortilla" as we know it in Mexico is very different in South America. This is a "tortilla de verduras" in South America.
This was the Catholic church in the center of town. Build right on top of Incan ruins. We saw this fairly often. The Catholic missionaries would build on older temples to comandeer the popular religious reverence evoked by those sacred places.
We packed up and got started again around noon. We asked around for the best route to get to Abancay, the main city on the way to Cusco. We got a variety of answers, but the consensus was we head toward a town called Concepcion and there we could find a way across the river.
The roads continued to be the roughest of the trip, but the isolation and the incredible scenery were definitely worth it.
More motorcycling paradise. Tiny dirt road around a Peruvian grand canyon.
When we got to the tiny village of Concepcion, we were told that there was no route to Abancay, it had been washed away. The only way to get to Abancay was to head towards the "main" route from Ayacucho and go over the river via boat. He wasn't sure if they would let me take my motorcycle. A woman pleaded with us not to go, saying that some people had died last month on the trip across the river. Well, it was either keep riding and take a chance on the river crossing or ride all the way back to to the Panamerican and take the "safe" route. Not even a decision really.
This stuff was rough.
They had "repaved" (dumped dirt) onto this section of the road, and apparently only a few people had crossed this area since. Trying to ride through the soft soil was very difficult given the altitude and weight we were carrying on the bike. Michelle had to get off and walk this section. Luckily it was less than a mile.
We made it back to the main route in a few hours. 4 days later, we're almost exactly where we started. The dirt roads were much nicer here though, we could go 30mph no problem.
More incredibly cold camping! I got a fever that night.
Next morning we continue towards our date with the river crossing. We descend a few thousand feet and notice a big difference.
Since there's only one boat taking people across the river, we're at great risk for price gouging. Tall gringo on a yellow sports bike? yea probably not gonna get a fair rate, and money is running low again. We've got a plan. We'll get close to the river, but I'll keep myself and the bike out of sight while Michelle negotiates a price. Michelle is too light skinned to pass as a local, but she'd be mistaken for somebody from Lima or Colombia no problem. She negotiates a price of 20 soles for two people and a 250cc motorcycle. We can afford that! I pull the bike out and drive it down the rocky shore to the boat area. The boat operator immediately goes back on his price, bumping it up to 30. Michelle does a Latina flare up, arguing vehemently with the man and appealing to all the other passengers. "Do you all think this is fair!?". He agrees on 20 once again.
I park the bike parallel to the boat. Me and a couple of guys have to lift the bike straight up and into the boat. The advantages of traveling with a smaller bike just keep piling up (although 350lbs is no cakewalk to dead lift). I had to straddle the bike and keep it from tipping off into the water while we crossed.
Mission accomplished! Should be smooth sailing to Cusco from here on out!
Stopped for a break and we met this indigenous woman. Michelle and her talked for a long time about textiles (note the knitting).
I was feeling pretty poorly at this point. The fever I had picked up the night before had not dissipated. We decided to stop at the next town and get a room so I could rest. We stopped in Andahuaylas? or what we thought was Andahuaylas. We found out when we left that we were actually in a town outside of Andahuaylas.
Michelle made friends with our hotel owner, and we got a room with a TV and the use of a hot water shower for 15 soles ($5.50usd). Steal of the trip I recon.
That night we went to an internet cafe in el centro. After a few hours of uploading photos and doing blogs I was just about insane, so I opted to wait outside while Michelle finished her hour.
As I sat on the sidewalk outside a huge mass of people start slowly pouring out of the church. Some sort of Catholic celebration, Semana Santa related I think. They're carrying two altars, one of Christ on the Cross and one of the Virgin Mary. There is a brass band playing a slow march.
As I'm sitting there enjoying the somber scene, a local woman in the notices me sitting on the sidewalk. She walks over and puts 5 soles on my knee. I protest, but she insists. I ask why, and she responds "Cuando caliente?" Then she's gone. Still not sure what she meant by "when hot" or what that was all about. I was raggedy as hell, but surely she didn't think the tall gringo was in need? The procession continued through the center, then it split into two groups. One group follows the Virgin down one street and the other group follows Jesus down another street. An hour later I saw them in another part of town still moving along.
My fever got worse. We ended up staying 4 days so I could get better. I was of the opinion that the best thing to do was keep moving, but Michelle insisted. She's probably the smarter one in the relationship.
Spent a bit of time at the internet cafe wasting time (1 sole) per hour. Not many foreigners through this part of Peru I think, because the kids were fascinated by me. Quite often there was a little kid next to me, shamelessly staring at me or the screen to see what I was doing. My gmail account is pretty interesting I guess. If I turned and asked if I could help they'd scatter.
Delicious smoothies, made with at least half a dozen different fruits, for the equivalent of $1.40usd for the jug. 7 or 8 glasses per jug. Awesome!
On the 3rd day of my fever, we decided to head to the local hospital and see a doctor. Maybe get some pills or a shot or something. After an hour wait I was given a prescription for a penicillin shot. I get extremely queasy around needles. Michelle was pre-med for a while, and she gave shots at a clinic she interned at, so she knows how to give a good shot. Anyway, I get my shot (in the butt), my right leg starts hurting, I get light-headed, lean against the counter to steady myself and then collapse on the ground. I have never passed out from a shot. Very weird, still not sure why that happened. Michelle said the shot was well placed but poorly administered (didn't pinch the skin to reduce the pain). So either the pain and my neverousness caused the collapsed, or I'm allergic to penicillin. They gave me another shot to offset the allergic reaction (just in case). I felt better the next day either way, and we were ready to move on.
The delightful town of Apurimac (not Andahuaylas!)
We left Andahuaylas and again continued the fun towards Cusco.
Still dirt roads. We take a detour towards a nice little lake
More epic riding.
Clouds and mountains.
Guy washing his bike in the stream in the road. Not a bad idea...
Seems like every single town in the Peruvian mountains has one of these Jesus statues overlooking the town.
It looked like Abancay (and therefore, our first paved road in 2 weeks) was close at hand. Then, minor disaster! We roll through this tiny Peruvian town and grab some gas for the trip to Abancay.
Name unknown. Google maps doesn't even have it. About 6km outside of this little town we get a flat in the rear tire. No problem, let me just pull out my tire patching kit and pump and we'll be good to go. I patch the tire and everything looked good. Pulled out my little hand pump and started pumping. It was pretty much impossible, the pump was broken. During the struggle to get just a little bit of air into the tire the valve stem breaks off.
I guess we'll be pushing it back towards town. 6kms only takes a couple of minutes to ride, but pushing is a bit more difficult. Together we slowly push the heavily laden bike up and down the mountain road. After a while I decide it would be OK if Michelle rode it at a walking pace, since she's lighter. Maybe the rear tire will survive, and it will be good practice for her.
She learned to ride a little bit back in Texas before we left on the trip. She never got out of second gear, but she was able to get around at low speeds pretty well. On a dirt road and with 100lbs of gear on the back, she didn't get very far before there was an inevitable tip over. No problem, the bike has been dropped a dozen times already on the trip. This time however it has trouble starting up again. Cranks and cranks, but no combination of throttle or choke will get it to clear up. We've been pushing for an hour and a half already, so my patience is growing thin. I eventually get it to start with a roll start and it seems to be running OK, so I decide to do the last half mile riding very slowly.
As an added complication, we had expected to hit Abancay that day, and our little trip to Cusco had turned out to be quite a long trip to Cusco. We were down to almost no money, again (see a pattern?). We have about 15 soles left at this point. Hopefully the our tire repair is reasonable.
We find the town mechanic and he's very helpful. Somehow we picked up another nail on the trip back, so now we have to get another tire patch. The mechanic gets the tire off, patches the new hole, installs a new valve stem and sells me a couple of fuses for 3 dollars. Great, let's get going again and find a place to camp. No hotels here, and even if there were we couldn't afford anything for $2usd.
But... the bike isn't starting again. Plug is really fouled I guess. Good thing the ninja has difficult-to-access spark plugs and I lost all my tools in Colombia! I start pushing it up and down main street, trying to run and get it to roll start. That seems to work most of the time, but it just won't stay running. By this time the townsfolk are pretty amused by the whole scenario. Virtually no foreigners venture down this path, so the sight of 6'5" gringo in a spacesuit push starting a yellow sportsbike over and over garnered a lot of attention.
I end up trying to go down a little hill to get a little speed to clear the plug. Well, that seemed to work, for about 10 seconds and then the bike died again. And this time I was on a side street that was downhill from the main street, so there was no way I was getting back up to the mechanic and Michelle. Roll started the bike and got halfway up the hill again, then dropped it when I rolled back down. I tried my darndest for a few more minutes, and gave up exhausted and frustrated. I pushed the bike to a empty clearing in the middle of town and waited for Michelle to find me. I was resigned to camping in the middle of town.
Michelle found me a few minutes later, then departed to try and find the sparkplug tool I needed. Groups of people would stop and stare at me from across the street. Michelle came back with a tool that wasn't going to work. She went back to return it. Eventually one of the people passing by started up a conversation with me. Suddenly there we 15 people around me, asking questions, offering help, giving me advice. That's how it seems to work in these small commnities. You arrive as an alien to everyone, but if one person smiles at you or you get friendly with one single person, suddenly the ice is broken and the whole town is your best friend.
My mediocre spanish had a difficult time understanding 10 people talking to me at once and trying to explain my situation. People were running off to bring me tools within a minute. I couldn't wait for Michelle to get back so she could help me sort through all this.
One of the younger guys said his uncle had a motorcycle and had tools and we should go to his place down the street to fix the bike. I decided that this was the best option, so me and crowd started pushing my bike that way. Michelle showed up and asked me what was going on. I told her I had no idea.
I decided I'd give the bike one more try, just to see if sitting for that period of time had helped. Sure enough, it started right up. This damn bike... I then had to explain to the crowd that the motorcycle had just started working normally and apparently I didn't need any help. Apparently the boy's uncle possibly had a place for us to stay as well, so we continued in that direction.
This uncle and his two nephews were awesome. Invited us to a little dinner snack of bread and coffee. Talked for a long time, a lot of politics. Michelle had become quite versed in Peruvian politics over the last few weeks. The uncle ran a psuedo hotel with rooms for workers coming from outside the town. Couple of simple rooms with a shared bathroom. He let us stay for free. Housing problem solved!
The next morning we ate a breakfast of chicharron, bread, cheese and coffee.
We appreciated this a ton, given that we had no money and couldn't have afforded to feed ourselves that morning anyway.
We explored the farm we had stayed on. The uncle is big into cockfighting. There are framed paintings of famous roosters on the wall, and he is training a bunch.
The farm also had a bunch of assorted wildlife. Bunch of chickens, some cows, and oddly enough a few little deer. This deer was... "playful". It was a little buck who had just gotten his horns I guess, and he would push into my knees repeatedly while I was trying to wash dishes in the outdoor sink.
Cuys in the kitchen. While they cook they throw the scraps out and those little guys run out and grab them. They're like edible rats.
Time to go. Picture with our host.
In addition to livestock, he also ran a pinol (local grain) processing center, and he gave Michelle a 2lb bag of it as a departing gift. She loves the stuff.
We hit the road with our running bike on properly inflated tires. And then... a few hours later... the unthinkable.
PAVED ROADS. FIRST IN 2 WEEKS.
We get to Abancay and take out money, finally. We meet a Spanish guy who had rented a Honda transalp and was doing a little 8 day tour of Southern Peru. Nice bike, nice guy. He had a plane to catch soon though, so we didn't have too much time to talk. The road from Abancay to Cusco is very nice. Extremely foggy (terrible visibility with visor down, worse visibility with water shooting into face from no front fender), but it cleared up after an hour. With asphault under the tires we were able to zip to Cusco in a matter of hours.
Thus ends the most beautiful, most desolate, most difficult and most rewarding legs of our journey. Images will forever be burned into my mind.
So sorry for the delay! Life gets in the way sometimes, but I will definitely finish this report, it may just take a little while!
Back in Lima we had been given the number of the Cusco Pulsar club (reminder: Pulsar is a popular model by Bajaj, an Indian motorcycle company). Elvis, The president had been waiting for us for two weeks. We had left Lima expecting to be in Cusco in "2 or 3 days". Didn't make it quite that quickly, but now the odyssey was finally over. We made it!
On the way in we stopped at a cabina and shot him another phonecall. We met up with him and his girlfriend, Marleny, at his tech office.
Elvis and Marleny were great!! Apparently the Pulsar club is only a couple of members there in Cusco ("too cold for motorcycles" said Elvis). Elvis helped us find a cheap hotel downtown. We got one for 20 soles, which was pretty expensive for us, but apparently quite a deal in Cusco. I feel a little bad for how cheap we had to be. We never knew what to expect when we came to a new area, so we would always check multiple places and ask for cheaper alternatives. I'm sure we annoyed dozens of bargain hotel owners on our route by asking "Is there anything cheaper"?
Enjoyed a typical Peruvian pastry with Marleny at a panderia down the street. Elvis worked till late (I swear he worked 12 hours every single day), so he couldn't join us. Marleny gave us a little tour of downtown.
The next day we wandered about on our own. Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire, and in the last few decades a great effort has been made to preserve (and profit from) the history of the place. The city is remarkably well preserved. The city is literally built on the perfect stonework left by the Inca.
We did a few museums, but not many. The museums and historical sites are all only sold as a "bundle package". The general public pays 130 soles (huge amount in Peru) for a package that include 15 museums. If you just want to see one, you might be able to enter for 70 soles. Same with the dozen ruins around Cusco (excluding Machu Pichu, that's another wad of cash). Incredibly expensive for the area, and definitely not in our budget. The result was that we saw very little of what normally brings people to Cusco. Even the cheapest route possible to Machu Pichu was going to be prohibitively expensive if we planned on continuing our trip past Peru. We had to make tough choices, but we ended up having a blast in Cusco regardless. The best experiences throughout the trip were always free.
We voted with our wallets this time, and saw the things we could see around the city for a reasonable price. Some things we saw in our days passed in Cusco:
Temple of Coricancha, monestary built on an Inca Palace.
Hilariously short doors in an ancient nunnery:
Natural history museum with questionable taxidermy:
Cusco's enormous white Jesus statue (everybody has one!):
City of Cusco, overlooked by Inca terrace ruins:
The city of Cusco was designed by the Inca to be in the shape of a jaguar. Some people swear they still see it, but to me it looked like urban sprawl erased the outline long ago.
Saw "Sachsaywoman" ruins, from the outside.
Incredible stonework is still a mystery. Never been duplicated.
Since Mexico I have been seeing motorcycles sold as appliances in department stores, alongside the washers and stereo systems. I figured it was time to get a picture of it. Didn't Sears sell motorcycles at one point?
Happy hour at Norton's Rat Tavern! (Apparently a motorcycle traveler hotspot)
We spent a good week in Cusco. 2 nights at the hotel, and then we got in contact with Kevin. We had met Kevin earlier in Peru, at the Huaca Del Sol ruins. He was an American traveling on a KLR with his Peruvian wife. He has been traveling the world off and on for most of his life. Backpacking, bicycling, motorcycling, whatever. He had finally decided on building a homestead near Cusco, and was on his way. We exchanged information and speculated that he might have somewhere to stay.
When we arrived in Cusco we emailed him and he said that they had recently found an apartment to stay in for a few months while their home in the mountains gets built, and that we could stay with them!! Awesome!! Staying with Kevin was a treat. Not only is he a hospitable host, but he is full to the brim of amazing stories. He's traveled extensively on every continent and has a never-ending stream of fascinating anecdotes about his travels. Thanks Kevin and Raquel for having us!
A few days after our arrival Marleny invited us to a harvest feast. Marleny's friend's family, who are rural farmers, have an annual celebration. The cooking would be done underground in traditional Peruvian style. Hell yea! This would turn out to be one of the best memories from the trip.
We meet Elvis and Marleny in the morning. They bring another fellow from the motorcycle club too, he's rocking a 250cc Bajaj cruiser. Sweet!
Get parked, meet our wonderful host family, and then it's time to start cooking!! ... sort of. We were invited for a lunch, but this process isn't one that can be rushed.
This sort of Peruvian banquet with the food buried underground is called Pachamanca.
The first step is to go the local fair to pick up a few supplies. This tiny country town has quite a bustling fair this weekend. The food smells incredible!
These sandals are literally cut out of old tires.
Next step is to cook a few dozen river rocks with an open flame for a few hours.
Helps if you have a bit of fresh cooked choclo (Andean style corn species) to stave off the hunger.
Now... for a little harvest. The three motorcyclists and their passengers mount their steeds and head up into the mountains.
20 minutes later we arrive at the field.
Marleny's friend recognizes her neighbors in their field. We say hello and are offered some of the earth-cooked potatoes the family has been eating while they work. A mini pachamanca!
Though my face may indicate differently, potatoes taste BEST dug straight out of the ground.
The city folk (Michelle, Elvis and I) are instructed on choosing ripe choclo, and then everyone jumps in and starts picking.
The cane of the choclo is sweet, almost like sugarcane, and can be chewed for hydration and a treat.
The fertile Inca valley...
With the corn all bundle up and strapped to the motorcycles, we're ready to head back.
Rinse off all the freshly picked produce:
The meats to be cooked included chicken, pork and this little guy:
Guinea pig, the Peruvian delicacy.
The rocks are pushed off to the side and the hole is lined with a single layer of rocks at the bottom. Then you fill the hole with layers of food and hot rocks.
On the coast they use banana leaves to keep the dirt off, but banana trees are hard to come by at 10,000 feet. The locals here use sugar bags soaked in water, followed by a tarp. The mix is then buried and left for 90 minutes.
Then... everyone plays soccer. It was guys vs gals, and I am ashamed to say that the girls won. I place the blame entirely on the damn dog that wouldn't stop stealing the ball from our players.
Most of the game was spent chasing that little rascal around.
Food was then dug up and loaded up.
Huge amount of food. Nobody is going hungry.
The grill master then wheeled the food a block down to the waiting table, and the feast began.
This is the end result of the entire days labor. A bounty of starches and proteins. Chicken, pork, cuy, potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, choclo, these weird carrot things, and much more.
Forever etched in my memory as one of best meals of my life. I feel blessed that these strangers opened up their celebration and their culture so we could share in it.
"Lunch" ended at around 8pm. Elvis and Marleny invited us to crash at their apartment, and we rode back to Cusco in the dark. The night ended with coffee and sweetbread around the table with Marleny and Elvis. Thank you everyone!
That morning we woke up early and bid farewell to Elvis and Marleny, our wonderful Club Pulsar Cusco hosts. Our other hosts, Kevin and Raquel, were waiting for us about 45 minutes away, at the plot of land that Kevin had bought, right smack in the middle of the famous inca "fertile valley". They had camped the night there and were expecting us.
We left Cusco and headed west. We found Kevin's plot easily, and man, it was beautiful.
We had planned to spend a night or two camping with them. Kevin knew of some undeveloped ruins that sat on top of the mountain that towered over the valley and had hoped to hike them with us the next morning. Unfortunately plans had changed for Kevin and Raquel. In order to pursue American citizenship Raquel had to be in the USA within the month, so flight arrangements had to be made that weekend. Kevin walked us around the property and told us his ongoing trials and tribulations with the community manager that was in charge of all the properties around that area. Property boundaries that were never set correctly and promises that were constantly being broken had given Kevin quite a headache.
Did some maintenance.
In Lima our friends had given us a Peruvian flag and signed it. We continued the tradition by having all of the friends we met in Peru sign the flag. Kevin put in his piece.
Thanks Kevin and Raquel!
They departed and left us to enjoy the rest of the day. We decided to continue on through the valley and see if we couldn't find any cheap ruins to see down the way. No such luck, the ruins in the valley were all part of the "combo package" that we couldn't afford nor talk our way around. But the valley itself was worth the ride.
Enjoyed a delicious lunch though.
It was still early afternoon and we were deciding whether to head back and camp at Kevin's plot and hike to the ruins or try to make some distance before setting up our tent. We had spent so much damn time in Peru we decided it would be best to just keep going. As we passed Kevin's plot and the mountaintop ruins I felt a pang of regret. The same pang of regret I felt when we passed Ometepe in Nicaragua without stopping. Two miles down the road I stopped and turned around. It's insane to feel regret on a trip like this. We would hike to the ruins tomorrow.
Enjoyed a dinner of plain rice.
I awoke early in the morning. Michelle's stomach had been acting up for most of Peru, and this morning was especially unpleasant. She bid me to hike on my own so I embarked.
View of the mountaintop from camp. The highest point is the tiny silhouette of an inca terrace.
I grab a bottle of water and a piece of fruit and start the climb. As I power up the mountain the image of the ruins becomes clearer.
And the valley recedes…
The fertile valley: still very fertile.
And I emerge at the top. Only took two hours, and wow. Vale la pena!
Here is my scientific drawing of the temple.
That's right, I said temple. I've got a bachelors in sociology, and sociology is pretty close to archeology right? So I definitely know what I'm talking about.
Remarkably well preserved. You've got the largest main room situated closest to the edge of the platform, facing east. As the sun rises it shines directly through the front door and onto a wall with 9 rectangular indentations for offerings. The other two walls standing on either side have 3 indentations. If you go back to the two smaller rooms you will find even more of the rectangular indentations spaced about 2 feet apart. There is a neatly dug hole about 6' deep in the northern room, indicating some sort of archeological dig sometime in the last ten years.
View of the temple from the back.
Smaller southern room.
Indentions in the smaller northern room
Small raised platforms or something on the west side. Can't tell what they were at this stage.
View facing north down the valley.
Two other lower terraces that are quickly eroding back into the mountainside.
But the main platform continues to survive.
This is the piece that is visible from the river.
All in all an awesome morning.
I didn't go to Machu Pichu on this trip, and somehow I don't care.
Now, to get down… I'm sure Michelle was up and about by now, so I hustled my down the mountain. About halfway down I realized that I had forgotten something very important back up top. The SPOT tracker. Damn! So I cursed for a minute and climbed all the way back up.
Then down I went again. In my hurry to make the climb that morning I had forgotten a crucial step: remember how to get back. The mountain I had climbed defended into the road that runs through the valley. In order to make room for the road they had just just cut out from the mountain, creating a cliff face all the way around that side. That morning I had just walked along the road until I found a place that had a cutout for me to climb up and then bushwhacked to the top. So now that I had to make my way down again there was absolutely no way to tell where it was possible for me to decend back to the road. I picked the place that looked most likely, and then began pushing my way through the bushes… after a good half hour of fighting through the brambles I found myself on the precipice of a cliff overlooking the road. Damn again! I was out of water and starving by this point, and had been hiking non-stop since 6am. I was frustrated and reckless as I climbed my way up, and was justly rewarded.
Eventually I made my way up and around to a more suitable descent point and walked the rest of the way back to camp. I collapsed on the ground as soon I reached sight of the camp. Michelle brought me water and fruit and I lay in the shade. Though it had only been 6 hours in total I really felt like it took a lot out of me.
After an hour of licking my wounds it was time to get a move on. Within a few hours we were out of the lush fertile valley and into the high country, where the bike once again began protesting.
We stopped in a small town to get Michelle some more medicine for her stomach, and we met three guys from Minnesota who were doing the same trip on a variety of 650cc bikes. We left first, but they passed us within the hour! So long guys! Enjoy your travels!
It was cold and we quickly layered up completely. In my opinion the colder the weather the better the scenery.
It was pretty darn cold, inclement weather was approaching rapidly, I was exhausted from my hike and we were both feeling a bit under the weather, so we decided to grab a hotel room for the night. Soon we ran across the little town of Ayavari, so we turned in. We only had 1 criteria... a hot shower. Normally we wouldn't care but today it just felt like a hot shower day so the quest was on. This apparently would be difficult to achieve. Ayavari was a little town, but it boasted 9 hotels in total. Michelle and I checked each and every one. Michelle was not a huge fan of Ayavari, most of the hotel owners she talked to were rude to her. Out of all 9 of the hotels, only 1 hotel had hot showers... and it was $30usd. That is an insane amount for Peru, that's a luxury hotel, so unfortunately we would not be having a hot shower. But wait, a policeman said they rented hot showers at the market a few blocks away! Perfect, so we'll get a cheap room and then maybe find a hot shower.
So we went back to the only friendly hotel we had checked, and got a room. Then began one of the strangest conversations I've heard. This a brief paraphrase, but the actual conversation went on for a full 5 minutes (in Spanish obviously).
Hotel Clerk: "Ok, so you're room 15. Here's your key."
Michelle: "Great. Hey, so we heard there were hot showers at the market. Do you know where that is?"
Hotel Clerk: "No, we don't have any hot water here."
Michelle: "Yea, I remember you saying that when we came in earlier. A policeman said they had hot showers at the market that we could use."
Hotel Clerk: "We'll get hot water soon."
Michelle: "Yea, I know. Do you know if they have hot showers for use at the market?"
Hotel Clerk: "None of the other rooms have hot water here."
Michelle: "Uh, yea. We are looking to stay here but use hot showers elsewhere."
Hotel Clerk: "Other hotels might have hot water. Maybe you should stay there."
Michelle: "Yes, we checked the others. We are going to stay here, we just want to go use the showers at the market."
Hotel Clerk: "Have you checked the hotel in el centro?"
Michelle: "YES! It was too expensive. We are looking to stay here."
Random woman: "She wants to know where she can find a hot shower."
Hotel Clerk: "Maybe."
Michelle: "No, I'm looking to see if we can rent a hot shower at the market."
Hotel Clerk: "OK..."
Michelle: "The policeman said there were hot showers we could use at the market near here."
Hotel Clerk: "We have showers here, but they are not hot."
Michelle: "Ok... So can you tell me where the market is?"
Hotel Clerk: "What are you looking for?
Hotel Clerk: "We're not understanding each other."
Michelle: "No, we're not."
The whole thing is gone over once again, and it finally ends with:
Hotel Clerk: "Oh! You want to know if they rent showers at the market! I don't know.
He used the exact same words Michelle had used. His spanish was excellent and fluent.
This was just one example of communication problems we had in Peru.
Several times Michelle would walk into a hotel and ask the clerk "Do you have any rooms available?" and they would respond with "What?". Michelle would rephrase the questions several different ways and then finally the clerk would say "Oh! Yea, we have rooms" using the exact same words. What else would a traveller walking into a hotel be looking for?
Later I asked: "Can you drink the water here?" and get the answer "Oh, you're ready for breakfast?".
Another occasion I asked: "Do you have coffee with milk?" "What?" "Coffee with milk" "What?" "Do you have coffee?" "Yes." "Do you have coffee with milk?" "Yes. 2.50 soles."
Michelle walked into a pharmacy and says: "My stomach hurts and I have nausea, do you have anything for that?" and got the response: "That doesn't make any sense. You're contradicting yourself."
Though it seems that everyone knows Spanish perfectly there were still many odd miscommunications. We would use only the most basic of words, words that were on the menu or on the sign outside. Many areas are still heavily indigenous and have their own language, but the locals speak spanish to one another and nothing is printed or advertised in the native tongue. I'm still confused as to what causes that unique problem. Maybe a subtle dialect thing?
Anyway, long story short we never did get a hot shower in Ayavari. We made due with the frigid mountain water that drizzled out of the nozzle in the wall. We appreciated the 4 blankets that were piled onto the bed, even if the mattress was about a foot too short for me!
Next day we got a bit of a local specialty. This delicious BBQ goat (or was it lamb?)
And we took off for the short ride to Puno!
Got a cheap hotel room. 20 soles, about $7usd. Now we have had many cheaper rooms over the course of the trip, but this one stood out as an awesome value. Private bathroom, hot water and a working TV with cable! And I could park the bike in the lobby! I would love to recommend this delightfully cheap establishment to all my fellow travelers, but damn if I've completely forgotten the name. It was a "hostal" with an Asian sounding name on the left of a dead end street in Puno. Happy hunting!
Lake Titicaca is what we were here for for. Apparently it's the highest navigable body of water in the world at 12,500 feet, and the largest lake in South America. The people here are not Quechua, they are mostly Ayamara. Different language.
Lake Titicaca was very pretty. We didn't take any boat tours out to the islands but they are supposed to be pretty interesting. Islands way out in the the lake (several hours to reach by boat), each with a couple hundred families. Each has their own unique culture. Pretty much no electricity or machinery of any kind. Up until the 70s when the islands were discovered by tourists, the islands pretty much lived the same way they had for thousands of years.
The harbor for Puno. Notice the boat sunk into the water. There were actually a bunch of sunken boats scattered around. A little creepy.
That night there was a huge market in the center of town. Wandered up and down for hours. Found a couple of these awesome little shops.
Pretty much they sold forged diplomas and certifications and they would put your name on them. If I had a spare sole I would have definitely got myself a Peruvian PhD.
Next day we left for Tacna, the Peruvian city on the Chilean border. Beautiful, stark landscape up there at 13,000 feet.
A little too stark... After a few hours I became seriously concerned about our fuel reserves. We had passed only a couple of tiny settlements after leaving Puno. As we hit reserve I was desperate for any sign of civilization. After another 10 miles... a miracle! A town! But as we rode through my heart sank. It was only a handful of little shacks, no gas station. Exiting town we saw a sign for the next town... over 100km. No way we were making it that far. I pulled over and decided it would be better to seek out gasoline from the villagers than to figure it out 40 miles from anywhere. As luck would have it the first person we accosted was of the entrepreneurial sort. He led us to his shack and sold us some gasoline out of a tank. Measured out with a milk jug and poured into the bike with a funnel. A few kids played soccer in the dirt streets around us as we chatted with the gasoline vendor. Problem solved! We hit the road.
Now the next problem was lodging. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this, but it's INCREDIBLY COLD at 13,000 feet. Even worse if you're riding on a motorcycle. We were decked out with multiple layers, scarves, balaclavas, it just didn't do much good. I felt guilty pining for a warm bed after two days of hotels in a row, but the cold felt downright unbearable. We pulled over and had a team meeting. It was getting dark, but we were only a few hours away from Moquegua, the next big town which was about 8,000 feet lower. The decision was made to carry on until we found a hospitable climate or Moquegua, whichever came first.
The sun soon set and the temperature began to drop even further. I gave it a good fight, but a few minutes later, teeth chattering, I pulled over and told Michelle we wouldn't be making it any further. Luckily camping is incredibly easy to do in the tundra. Thousands of square miles of open space, and stealth isn't really required since there is nobody out there to hide from. We go a few hundred feet off the road and set up camp by the light of the ninja's headlamp.
The night is cold and restless. The freezing ground really makes me wish I had decided to bring a sleeping mat of my own. Michelle's cheapo 3/4" foam pad really does wonders. We empty all the clothes we weren't wearing into the floor of the tent and hunker down like gerbils.
As soon as it's light outside I hop out of the tent, anxious to get moving. Thick frost covers everything.
Guess we won't be riding anywhere till the sun hits...
(That reads "woo peru". My actual handwriting is just as bad)
In another hour we're packed up and ready to go. Frost is still everywhere, so I take a rag and give the bike a good wipe-down. Unfortunately it takes a little bit longer for the ninja to decide she's ready to go. I cranked and cranked and she sputtered to life a little bit but overall even with full choke she wasn't happy. It was at this time I realized the petcock was leaking fuel. Not too much, but enough give the engine a light coating of gasoline while idling. No biggy! I was concerned, but suspected that it had been going on for quite some time and realized there was nothing to be done about it until we reach a real town.
And as with every starting problem I've ever had with the little ninja, she forgets about it in half an hour and fires right up. We begin the blast down to Tacna!
On the way we stumble onto mars. Vegetation and signs of life stop completely. The landscape is completely bare of even a shrub.
Still cold though.
A video! Great to watch if you like the sound of wind on a crappy camera microphone!
As we descended further the shrubbery began to appear, but it was still an incredibly craggy, dry landscape we travelled through.
(Get used to this color. As it turns out, we were about to enter the top of the Atacama desert, according to national geographic the driest desert in the world.)
Ate lunch in Moquegua. Surprised to find how much more expensive food was in the lowlands of Peru. In the mountains we would routinely eat dinner for $1usd each. Here is was incredibly expensive, close to $2usd per person! Outrageous!
Within a few hours we were in Tacna.
We were excited to get into Chile, but we had a few things to take care of. My first order of business was to attend to the petcock. I took off the tank off and diagnosed a bad petcock diaphragm. Damn vacuum operated petcocks! No such things as "Kawasaki" here in Peru, but our hotel was right next to a little Suzuki shop. We walked the tank over and had the mechanic see if he had anything that could fix it. He ended up fashioning a new backing from a piece of metal and created a new gasket to replace the diaphragm.
I was pretty impressed by the ingenuity. Unfortunately the gasket did not hold, and the petcock was leaking fuel as badly as ever within a few dozen miles. Oh well, just precious money wasted. We spent two nights in Tacna. Like all border towns there was nothing much to see in Tacna, but like all border towns it was an efficient and inexpensive to get miscellaneous things done.
It was also around this time that we finalized our departure plans. Heartbreaking as it was, our small amount of money was slowly running out. When we had arrived in Panama a few months earlier we had a decision to make. Do the responsible thing and turn around, or go for broke and see as much as we could in South America. We knew when we got on the boat to South America that there would be no return trip, the money and the time would not be there for another return crossing. It was a tough choice, missing out on an entire continent and all the adventures it held, or committing to returning broke, bikeless and jobless.
Since I've been posting from South America it's clear what choice we made, but the more we looked into it the harder it seemed to leave the bike behind. According to everything and everybody we talked to it seemed virtually impossible to sell the bike in most South American countries, especially the Chile and Argentina where we were heading. Luckily, we had been in contact with a sympathetic buyer who could get around the… paperwork issues…. regarding the sale of motorcycle. He was trustworthy and waiting in Lima for our return. In the meantime we had been scouring flights back the USA. Flights were steep but many many hours of searching finally yielded an affordable flight. Since we were virtually broke by this point we borrowed some money and purchased the flights online. We had three weeks left, a few hundred dollars, and a frantic desire to see everything we could in our little time remaining.
We packed our things and made the short 15 mile ride to Chile!
I couldn't believe it. It had been over a month in Peru, the longest we had spent in any country thus far. Now onto Chile, the longest country!
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