April 24, 2012 GMT
Peru (Centre)

I left Huaraz early not knowing if I would make it to Lima in one day, the distance was 257 Miles (411 km), more than I usually do in a day on Latin American roads. It was cold and got colder as the road following the River Santa climbed to 4050 metres (13,160 feet) and Lake Conococha, the source of the river which lay just below the glacial snow line. Once passed the lake the road descended and the temperature gradually crept up until I was able to turn the heated handlebar grips off and finally once back on the desert terrain near the coast, remove my motorcycle jacket. I should have taken some photographs as the mountain scenery was spectacular in the early morning light but I was enjoying riding the bike too much and didn’t want to stop. Back on the Pan Americana the road opened up into a multi-lane near motorway / interstate quality road, the only one in Peru, going into and out of Lima. With only a brief breakfast stop on the way, I was in Lima by mid afternoon.

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Breakfast On A Deserted Pacific Beach On The Way To Lima

Teo and Anita, the owners of the hostel I stayed in at Huaraz said I could stay in their Lima Hostel which was in a good location, had a swimming pool and most importantly, secure parking for the motorbike. They gave me the address and instructions on how to find the place but when I arrived it turned out not to be a hostel but a private apartment in a high rise tower block with two university students living in it. I had thought my student flat sharing days were long behind me, but it gave me the chance to inflict my exceedingly bad Spanish onto a captive audience. Anita was coming to visit her son, one of the students in the apartment the following weekend which induced a flurry of cleaning activity on Friday afternoon in preparation for the parental inspection.

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Lima's Plaza de Armas

My sole reason for going to Lima was to get my GPS repaired. The touch screen had developed a fault. I could make menu selections sometimes but at other times the screen would lock up or different screens would randomly display. Fortunately it was working for most of the journey to Lima and for the crucial ride through Lima itself to my accommodation. After numerous journeys to Garmin Peru it was decided it would have to be sent to the USA for repair and this would take at least a month. Not wanting to wait that long and being unable to find my way out of Lima without the assistance of numerous satellites and an electronic Global Positioning System I had to buy a new GPS. Fortunately Garmin Peru, who don’t sell direct to the public helped by phoning around their dealers and located one nearby that had a motorcycle GPS in stock. A walk down to the dealer and parting with a shed load of money got me a new GPS and an invitation to join Giorgio, the General Manager in Ica at the weekend for a desert rally. Giorgio was competing on a Quad (ATV) and there would be a group of riders there who had competed in the last Dakar rally.

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Lima Palace

I would have gladly used the Peruvian motorway to ride straight through or around Lima having heard that it was a large; expensive ‘western’ city full of mad speeding motorists with the usual shortage of direction signs and street names making navigation difficult. All the above is true but with the assistance of my impoverished student flatmates I didn’t spend much more than anywhere else in Peru on day to day living expenses. My only extravagances were buying the GPS which I considered a necessity and a few visits to Starbucks which I loath specifically for their top priced coffee served in paper cups and generally for being a chain of outlets. Starbucks, in the San Miguel Plaza Mall which was full of designer label shops was the only place I found near my apartment with a WiFi signal.

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Clifftop Malecón In Mirafores, Lima

Most of the Lima coastline, and there are miles of it, has a cliff top Malecon (promenade) linking a string of parks together making for a scenic walk which I did several times on my way to and from Garmin Peru in the central district of Miraflores. One of the cliff top parks had a full length statue of John Lennon playing a guitar and any city with a statue of John Lennon can’t be all bad.

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John Lennon And I Enjoying The Lima Sunset

ARGENTINA VICTORY IN MALVINAS screamed the La Razon newspaper headline on the 12th April 2012. The thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands / Malvinas war and the British oil exploration in the area had brought the conflict into the forefront of Latin American news and a number of Latinos had brought the subject up with me. I checked the BBC online news at the first opportunity but there was no mention of the Falkland Islands. Either the BBC was in collusion with the British Government to keep the loss of the islands a secret from the public or the newspaper story didn’t live up to the headline. After several hours and the capable assistance of ‘Google Translate’ I got the gist of the story. The ‘Argentina Victory’ referred to the results of a survey. A higher percentage of Argentines than British poled in the survey considered the Sovereignty of the Malvinas an ‘important topic’. So the news is that there wasn’t a huge British cover up of the loss of the Falkland Islands. I selfishly wish the story would disappear as I draw closer to Argentina.

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ARGENTINA VICTORY IN MALVINAS

On arrival at the desert oasis of Huacachina I headed for the Bananas Adventure Hostel as Jordan and Sandra had recommended it for camping but they obviously didn’t like the look of me. They would only sell me an exclusive package of camping, a dune buggy tour and a dune boarding tour for S50 ($18.70 or £12). I wasn’t particularly interested in the dune buggy tour, I do enough unpaved riding on the bike and if necessary I would happily pay not to go dune boarding which seemed to comprise spending an hour lugging a board up a sand dune then taking fifteen seconds to slide back down again. When I said I only wanted camping they redirected me further back up the street to Silva House Hostel which probably suited me better. The Bananas Adventure Hostel had a packed lively bar when I was there while Silva House was deathly silent, I had the campsite to myself and the hostel only had a couple of guests.

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The Desert Oasis Of Huacachina

Huacachina oasis is surround by huge sand dunes and it is virtually compulsory to climb to the top of the highest dune to watch the sunset. It’s a hard slog as your feet slip backwards in the soft sand with every step and it is still hot under the late afternoon sun. It is worth the effort though, both to see the sunset and to smugly watch the struggling of others following you to the top.

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Huacachina Dunes Sunset

Desert Rally
I used my recently acquired sixty year old enhanced discretionary powers for the first time when I headed off into the desert to try and see some of the desert rally I had been told about by Giorgio. The special stages were held either side of an unpaved road running towards the coast sixty kilometres away. I planned on riding along the road until I got to some desert rally action or the coast but after only ten kilometres and a number of soft sand sections I decided to stop. It was still cool in the early morning but if I continued to the coast I would be returning in the glaring heat of mid afternoon. My enhanced discretionary powers told me that if I was hot and tired on the return journey I was liable to lose my concentration and may come off in a soft sand section and coming off could be expensive as well as painful. I waited for an hour in the partial shade of an old building and only saw three vehicles near the horizon which may or may not have been part of the rally. I then went to the hotel that was parc fermè and rally HQ which was deserted apart from a couple of parked quad bikes (ATVs). After waiting for a while without anyone arriving I gave up and headed off in search of lunch which was a lot easier to find than a bunch of desert racers.

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The Nearest I Got To The Ica Desert Rally

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Doing The Desert Rally Road The Hard Way

The Highest Drivable Pass In The World
According to my map the highest drivable pass in the world at 5059 metres (16442 feet) was north of the Pisco to Ayacharo road. I suspect that a number of passes claim to be the highest in the world but never the less I was compelled to see if I could get there. Highway twenty-four from Pisco to Ayacharo turned out to be a beautifully smooth paved road with little traffic that climbed up to over 4000 metres and then stayed there for over 100 kilometres. I got to the turn off onto eighty kilometres (fifty miles) of dirt road quicker than I expected and for most of the way the dirt road was smooth compacted clay. I had planned on riding so far on the first day, camping and making my ‘summit’ attempt on day two but as the roads had been so good and my progress better than anticipated I continued on to try and get to the top of the pass and back to a lower altitude to camp. I got to the final turning with around ten miles to go to the summit before encountering my first section of bad road. This section was very uneven with lots of muddy puddles which required a lot of leg work to keep the bike upright and pointing in the right direction. Then I got altitude sickness. There are a number of different symptoms for altitude sickness, mostly not very nice but fortunately I got the feeling euphorically drunk symptom which was very pleasant and exceedingly funny especially when my legs decided to go all wobbly. My recently acquired sixty year old enhanced discretionary powers kicked in a second time and told me to stop laughing at the llamas and get back downhill as quickly and safely as possible.

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Choclococha Lake On The Way To The 'Highest Drivable Pass In The World'

I had got to an altitude of 4715 metres, only 344 metres from the summit of the pass. Hopefully in another ten years my seventy year old super enhanced discretionary powers will persuade me to stick with the first plan and camp on the way up to help acclimatise and to be fresh for tackling the rougher road nearer the summit. I hadn’t worried about altitude sickness as I have spent most of the last year in the mountains and thought I would be acclimatised but I had been at sea level for two weeks prior to this ride into the Andes which was enough to cancel out any previous altitude acclimatisation.

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Taking A Photo At The Turn Around Point Whilst Laughingly Trying To Figure Out Who The Chap In The Foreground Is

As with the alcohol induced euphorically drunk feeling it was followed by a headache, general unwellness and difficulty in concentrating but I got the bike turned around and carefully headed back down the track wanting to get to as low an altitude as possible without risking an accident. I would have preferred to have got a bit lower but stopped and got the tent up at 4200 metres just as it got dark as it was too dangerous to ride on mountainous dirt roads in the dark while feeling drunk.

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Skinny People Wearing A Helmet And A Motorcycle Jacket Watched As I Turned The Bike Around

I didn’t sleep much that night which was a pity as it felt like the longest night on record. I was a bit cold, a bit unwell and a bit uncomfortable due to the rocky uneven ground that I had pitched the tent on and I suspect a combination of all three kept me awake. Daylight eventually arrived and I packed up the camping equipment as quickly as I could with numb frozen hands. Ice had formed on the outside of the tent through the night and I bundled it up wet and strapped it on top of my luggage. The starter barely turned the engine which was reluctant to start anyway with the high altitude but it eventually fired up and I continued back downhill having to use my frozen numb left hand as a claw to operate the clutch to the wonderfully oxygen enriched and warmer air of lower altitudes. Four hours later I was back in the hot desert heading south on the Pan Americana towards Nazca.

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6am In A Frozen Andean Campsite At 4200 Metres (13650 feet)

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at 07:35 PM GMT
 


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