Looking For Condors
The road through the canyon towards Cabanaconde hugged the side of the valley, red cliffs to our left, the river to our right.
There were a couple of tunnels carved out of the rock, one at least 500m long and curved, a little scary in the dusty blackness, luckily there were no buses coming in the other direction! There were also a few lookout points along the way, nobody there, just us. We reached the famous Condor Lookout Point late in the afternoon, no condors to be seen, so we decided to do some riding shots. Arno had just ridden off, when what should I see just over the hill, yes, a condor, a pair in fact! Forgetting about the riding shots my camera was pointed at the sky when Arno came around the corner!
At last we see a condor in the Andes
His puzzlement soon forgotten, we watched in awe as the huge birds circled around the canyon, one even coming within a few metres of us.
We left Cabanaconde not quite at the crack of dawn, having seen condors already, a good breakfast seemed more important so early in the morning.
We stopped at the first lookout, quite close to the village, almost the only people there we saw another 3 condors. One soaring away on the thermals, while pair sat together on a rock about 300metres away. They sat there for a long time, we were just getting ready to leave when they stirred, took off and glided over to the other side of the canyon.
Further on at Condor Lookout, there were loads of people both tourist and locals. The former trying to spot a condor, the latter trying to sell their handicrafts.
Condor Lookout, plenty of things to buy here, while you wait for a condor
No condors to be seen, we headed back up the valley towards Chivay. The road was being repaired and was narrow, we stopped to let a truck through and as it passed, a condor flew towards us about 10metres up, following the road. There was no time to get a camera out, we just sat on our bikes and watched as it flew right over us, checking us out. An amazing sight!
Back on the tarmac we rode towards Juliaca on the road that was not marked on any of the maps. It pretty much followed the railway passing by the huge lake of Legunillas. Not wanting to stay in Juliaca, we rode to Puno, for the second time arriving as it was getting dark.
The next morning we left for Bolivia and Copacabana. We were enjoying the views of the lake when we saw another bike coming towards us. It was a Harley from the north of Brazil. Stopped to chat and found out the couple had ridden from Salvador to Titicaca in two weeks!!! Thatís fast! Took photos and swapped info, then we had to get going before the border guys went for lunch. It was a quick and easy crossing, no waiting and no bribes. Perhaps the Harley rider had given them enough already!
A very shiny Harley from Salvador, Brazil
Copacabana was a nice surprise, a little town wedged between two hills right on the shores of Lake Titicaca, with a laid back feel to it. Much less busy than Puno, just a couple of streets of shops, a small market and a huge church, where the patron saint of Bolivia, the Virgin of Candelaria, calls home. Spent a few days relaxing, took a boat trip to see the Island of the Sun, from where the first Incas came, according to legend, and caught up on some writing.
It was an easy mornings ride to La Paz, had to wait awhile in Tiquina for a Ďferryí to take us across the lake, it was a Saturday morning and all the traffic was coming in the opposite direction. Fancy 4WDís lined up on the other side, escaping to lakeside retreats for the weekend. Eventually a minibus arrived, bound for La Paz and we were off, bobbing across the lake on a sort of raft, powered by an outboard motor.
Yes we did make it to the other side!
We were later told that bus passengers have to get off the bus and take a different boat across, since one "ferry" sank complete with bus and passengers.
La Paz was the same as before, not much evidence of the troubles that had happened only a month ago. A police post in El Alto looked bombed out and the road was still pretty damaged in places, but that was all we could see.
It was actually nice being back in the city, we knew our way around, so could just enjoy the craziness.
Busy, narrow streets of La Paz
We finally got to meet up with Lois and Amalia, not under the best of circumstances however. On the way to La Paz, Amalia had crashed badly and now was in hospital in intensive care, while Lois was running around the city sorting out everything that needed to be sorted. Had dinner with Lois and Robb, who was travelling with them, and got to the hospital to see Amalia briefly. She was all bandaged up but in good spirits under the circumstances.
We left La Paz behind and headed south, stopping in Oururo, a small town famous for its carnival. A sort of practice carnival took place while we were there, no fancy masks or costumes, but groups accompanied by a band, danced their way through the streets for a whole day.
Dancing in the streets of Oururo
It was very relaxed, not too crowded and everyone could enjoy the spectacle. Even Arno got off his sick bed and watched the procession for a short time.
The next day we left Oururo and rode towards Sucre, where we had a lot of work to do.
Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 02:38 PM
Carburettors and Wiring
We had climbed back up to around 4000m and the landscape was bleak, a lake or two, with a flamingo here and there, broke the monotony of grass and rocks. The sun shone but in the distance dark grey clouds threatened. It was here that my bike decided it didnít want to play anymore! It just died out, as if from lack of fuel. We had only done 350kms and normally I can get at least 450kms from my tank. On reserve we managed a few more kilometres, then no more. So, Arno rode off to the next town, 52 kms away, Puquio, while I waited in the middle of nowhere, with only the occasional lorry thundering by for company.
Arno fills a coke bottle with fuel as the hailstones fall.
At first I enjoyed the silence, sitting in the shade of by bike. As I watched however, the sun soon disappeared and the black clouds came my way. It didnít rain, it hailed, long and hard, my bike wasnít much protection and I was huddled next to it wearing all my kit, helmet included when Arno returned. He gave me some petrol and we continued, so unfortunately did the rain. Iím sure it followed us, along one valley after another. Eventually we reached the desert, left the clouds and rain behind and rode towards the clear blue sky over Nazca where it almost never rains.
Arno took a flight over the lines, while I was ill again. There was no way I was going up in a small plane with no toilet, didnít want to be lynched by the other passengers!! I did get to see some of the lines from the lookout tower though, and Arno got to see some mummies, in the pre Inca graveyard just outside of town.
Near the lookout tower in the desert, Nazca
We really wanted to ride north and see more of Peru, despite all the stories of theft and rip-offs, we have really enjoyed the country and haven't encountered any problems whatsoever. However, our time is getting shorter, the budget getting lower and insuranceís coming to an end. We donít want to fly through the north of Argentina at the speed of light, so from Nazca, we rode south to Arequipa.
An amazing road as it turned out, first through the desert, where in the valleys, the monotonous sand and rock was replaced with groves of olives around Yauca and fields of rice paddies at OcoŮa. Near Chala, the road then wound spectacularly along the coast, sometimes next to the ocean, at other times high above. My bike decided to play up again, this time I had plenty of fuel, so looked like a problem with the carburettor. Twiddled a few things and gave it a knock with a screwdriver and we were on our way again. Arequipa was still 150kms away, as dusk approached, so decided to stay the night in the small seaside town of CalamŠ.
Took our time over breakfast the next morning, only a ride of 150kms, should get us into Peruís second biggest city in time for an early lunch. We reckoned with out Black Betty however. We were all packed up ready to go, but the BMW wouldnít start!! No sign of life. Tried bumping her down the kerb, nothing! So, out on the street, Arno started dismantling stuff, to find the problem. A few neighbours stood around and watched, soon to be joined by what seemed to be half the town.
A crowd watches Arno working on his bike
After a couple of hours, Arno was all out of ideas, he had tried everything. The owner of the hostal, kindly went and fetched a bike mechanic and an electrician. The latter seemed to know what he was doing and after a while, had the problem sorted. Bare wires in one of the cable trees, so off he and Arno went to his workshop to repair it. The crowd dispersed, only to gather again when Arno was putting the whole lot back together again.
We reached Arequipa at around 4pm, the traffic was crazy, many junctions had no signals or control of any kind and were gridlocked. We managed to creep our way through and stopped at the first hostel on our list that had parking. A day in the city was enough, saw what there was to see and headed for the countryside once again.
El Misti volcano near Arequipa
An overland truck driver, staying in the hostel had given us some great road info, we wanted to ride back towards Lake Titicaca, via Colca Canyon and were not sure which route to take. He told us that there is a new road from Arequipa to Juliaca, fully paved! Thatís the sort of info I like!
Also from this road is the turnoff to the Canyon, some of the way paved, some not, but all ok. Sure enough, the road out of Arequipa was paved and smooth, at the 78 km mark, we turned off and headed towards Chivay and the canyon.
Llamas, on the way to the Colca Canyon
Had to climb over another pass over 400metres, but the road was reasonable and we were in Chivay for lunch. The minibuses filled with tourists began to arrive, they were to spend the night here, then get up at some unspeakable hour and drive to a lookout point, where if lucky a condor or 2 can be spotted. We decided to do something else Ė no surprise there then! Still had the whole afternoon, so rode towards a village called Cabanaconde, another 60kms or so into the canyon.
Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 04:48 PM