November 07, 2006 GMT
Over the Andes by Pig!

Sacred Valley

Cheap hotels are always a source of amusement and wonder. After a long days ride from Arequipa into the Andes, we enter Juliaca (3,825 meters above sea level) to find a chaotic, messy yet vibrant town. As we ride in ever decreasing circles Jules suddenly spied a hostal down a side street.

We ride around the block and pull up out the front of Hostal El Mirador. Jules enters to find the rooms clean and comfortable, no tele but 24 hours hot water promised, parking for Piggy and the ever present religious painting of Jesus looking down solomenly upon the room and its occupants.

We settled into our room, and as happens in the evening... it gets dark. Excellent opportunity to catch up on some reading (we think) and the modern yet conventional lamps, looking surprisingly practical, sit perched on the bed side tables seducing you with the thought of curling up in a warm comfortable bed and a good book.

Markets - Juliaca

The image is a farce, after flicking the lamp switches several times, we discover they were not plugged into a power outlet and on further inspection were to find the only outlet available was on the other side of the room as far away as possible from the bedside tables!

Yes... cheapie hotels are always a source of amusement and wonder!

Descending La Raya Pass

The high Alto Plano left us gasping, we knew we were at high altitude when we became short of breath cleaning our teeth. Further north and even higher over the La Raya Pass (4,321 meters above sea level) and with snow falling in the higher mountains we descended into the famous Sacred Valley and on to Cusco.

Artesian Market - Cusco

We discovered that though the area is immensely beautiful and interesting, there is absolutely nothing sacred about the over inflated prices which have doubled since our three year old Travel Guide's printing.

Inca Gate - Piquillacta, Sacred Valley

Despite our disappointment in the greed of this tourist mecca we did enjoy wandering the streets of Cusco which reminded Grant of Rome with the cities ever present ancient stonework fused with the more modern construction of the Spanish Colonists.

Inca/Spanish Colonial Architecture - Cusco

Fourty five minutes ride from Puno is Sillustani, we packed Miss Piggy early and disappeared out of town to these remarkable funeria towers built by the Colla peoples in the 15th century. Their stone masonary and engineering is more intricate and exacting than the Incas. Today, Archeological scientists are unable to replicate these techniques.

Lago Titicaca and Puno

After almost an hour of riding in the rather isolated alto plano region around Lago Titicaca the site reveals itself. Perched on a tall hill over looking and immensely beautiful lake scene. From a distance the towers, already looking impressive, as we draw nearer circling the lake.

Lake at Sillustani

We enter the small village directly below the funerial hill, being still very early the town is quiet and devoid of people. The carpark looms, in the corner is a small trinket and snack stall where a lady is quietly prepairing for the days business and where Grant directs Miss Piggy.

Chulpa (Funeral Tower) - Sillustani

Rolling to a stop with the wonderfull sight of these remarkable sentinals of an ancient peoples spread above, Grant immediately eyes off something in the food stall.... "Oooh look a Kit-Kat!" he exclaims.... Grant really has a knack for prioritising!

Highest Point

We headed to Moquegua, close to the Chilean border before heading towards Desaguadero and the Bolivian border on the Carretera Binational. This pass (4,755 meters) is, by far, the most spectacular we have ridden in Peru. We can say that truthfully as we rode it three times!

Roadside Scene - Cerra BŠul

On the first occasion at almost the highest point of the pass we stopped to partake in a delicious meal of 2 minute noodles on the side of the road, only to find that the water pump cover had developed a pin hole of corrosion and had begun to spray coolant all over the right hand side of the bike! Our first real problem in almost 90,000kms.

Hole in water pump housing

So.... a temporary fix was undertaken. Grant, in true Mexican fashion, wired (thank heavens for the scraps of wire we had been carrying around!) a rubber gasket and silicone using a 10 centavos piece as a wedge.

Roadside Repair

However, as the whole lot needed to set and dry we decided to (before starting the motor) roll the 60 kms down 2,000 meters to the small town of Torata before starting Miss Piggy and heading back to Moquegua to perform some serious checks.

Twisty Road to Torata

The next day we pulled the cover off finding the main corrosion was isolated to two areas and appears to be caused by a vortex of radiator fluid drilling from the action of the impellor. With the problem discovered and the temporary fix working beautifully the whole lot was put back together and fingers crossed.

Further Inspection

Once again we head up the Andes. The first 80 kms ancient pre-inca terraces, some still in use, are evident all around high up the valley walls. The amount of terracing is remarkable in such an inhospitible area.

Pre-Inca Terraces

Once over the high point many volcanoes can be seen from the alto plano, one in particular is quite active emitting steam and gasses frequently. A palet of colours paint the landscape and lakes abound where pelicans and flamingoes feed.

Palet of Colours - Caretera Binational

After 300 kilometers of spectacular scenery and relative isolation we arrive at Desaguadero on the southern banks of Lago Titicaca and the border of Bolivia.

Lake view - Caretea Binational

We contemplated staying overnight at Desaguadero until we arrived in the town and as we were not packing a shot gun decided to cross the border and head for La Paz. Such is the atmosphere of this ramshackle and frenetic frontier town filled with black market goods from Brasil, Bolivia and Chile. We later discovered that we had been delt several counterfeit notes at the Casa de Cambio in Desaguadero confirming our feelings for the town.


At the end of our journey through Peru we discovered that this country cannot be categorised as only Machu Picchu and Cusco. It is a country of great diversity seen through its modern and old spanish colonial cities to its small impoverished towns. Deserts dry and desolate to valleys surrounded with sand but flourishing from the waters of the Amazon.

Saturday - Wash Day near Cusco

Peru is a fascinating country filled with some of the best riding we have encountered on our journey of 18 months.

Volcano - Caretera Binational

Posted by Julie Rose at November 07, 2006 04:01 PM GMT

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