November 19, 2007 GMT
Ecuador & part of Peru

Sorry for the long break in entries. I fritzed the screen on my computer & had to rely on finding a monitor to plug into for quite a while. Thanks to the great IT guys in our Santiago office (Chile), I now have a new computer.

We went to the BMW Dealer in Panama & serviced our own bikes before we left (no real market for BMW motorcycles in Panama - he sells 10 a year), but the people there were fantastic - gave us the run of the workshop, tools, and parts - even gave us a grand lunch. New tyres for all (road tyres now - for the Andes), and we were ready to role.

From the oppressive heat of Panama City to Quito (at 2,800m) and quite cool.

A short flight & we go to our quaint hostel (we were the only occupants) in the old area of Quito, in the restaurant, club, travelleres part of town.

We certainly took advantage of the great restaurants and clubs as we waited for the bikes to clear customs.

After a few hassles, we went to the warehouse & rode 13 bikes from the bond area. This attracted a huge crowd of workers - about 200 - it must be a rare sight.

A little sight seeing near Quito - the "Mitle del Mondo Monument" for the equator & the obligoratory pose:
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The next day we were off - and into the Andes!!!!

I had been excited about this for so long. I have to tell you - IT WAS FANTASTIC!

I will try to show you some of the scenery - but believe me - photographs nowhere near capture the majesty & breathtaking vistas. 2 days of this before we got to the Peru boarder:
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Often riding above the clouds.

Stopped for lunch on the second day at a small local cafe - had to try the local fare - Cuy (guinea pig):

Not real sure:
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but I had a go - I was served a 1/2 Cuy - the top half:
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Yup - that's the head in the middle - complete with brains & teeth!

I made my way through some of it - but I have to say - never again! But hey - you have to try.

A memorable night at a hot springs hotel - high in the mountains - great night.

The view out front of the hotel - our bikes always take pride of place at the front door:
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Woken the next morning to squealing pig! One was being butchered in the village next to the hotel - we then saw several pigs being hung & prepared for a festival as we rode through villages during the day. A big party in each village that night! - celebrating Independence Day for Ecuador. >"Not a good day to be a pig" - was a phrase coined by my roomy Mark.

The border crossing into Peru:
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After all the hassles in Central America - we chose a remote border - relatively new - no hassles at all - Hola Peru!

A brief stay on the coast as a great "surfie" town called Huanchacco Bay - this is a tourist town with a mix of surf (said to have the longest break in the world - 2.5kms long - I can imagine it being so on a "big day") and the old fishing tradition of using reed boats - or net fishing just outside the surf breaks - so the small boats have to negotiate the surf!
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launching into the surf (photos taken very early in the morning):
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a constant battle with the pelicans who steal the catch while the firsherman isn't watching:
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returning to shore:
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followed by net repairs & tourist photos!

I watched these guys for hours - what a simple (and hard) life - but they have been doing this for centuries!

Then back into the Andes and a great day of dirt riding in the Canyon del Passo - Tough riding, but a great day - I will let the photos give you the gist (I must say - they don't do it justice):
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29 tunnels! like these:
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After the canyon, we had a great ride in the mountains, then down on beautiful sealed roads, views of the coastline, and a new record elevation – 4,100m.

A small group of about 5 of us skipped down the mountains together – riding quite in sync –thoroughly enjoying the curves and the team feel. Down at the coast we stopped at an old pre-Mayan fort called Chimu.

The group at the fort
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Mike and Dick returning from the main entrance
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Our intrepid band ascending the outer wall
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Then down the Pan American Highway for the first time in Peru – oddly now mostly desert, sand dunes, and lots of trucks. We had to go through Lima central (a new bypass road is under construction) –absolute traffic mayhem. Rules, traffic lights and lane markers are all for some other parallel universe, because they don´t mean anything in Lima.
Actually it is quite fun sport once you are used to it – particularly for a dozen or so large & loud bikes – the Limarites aren´t used to the sight – so you can take their hesitation as a sign of weakness, and blast into gaps left open by their momentary lapse – you win! That’s the game as it is played, and after about 2 hours of dense city traffic, we were all pretty good at the game. Thankfully though, we then got out of Lima, and back to the coastal desert.

We could not stop at our planned town of Paracas, as there had been earthquakes a few weeks ago – and the hotel no longer had a roof! The legacy of the earthquake was obvious everywhere – many buildings in ruins, and most people had already started reconstruction. As mud bricks are the preferred building material, construction material is merely wetting the pile of rubble, and starting the mud brick process again!

So, we pushed on for a long day´s ride to Nazka – the famous area where Eric Van Donikan based his book - ¨The Chariots of the Gods¨. After a great afternoon of desert scenery, interspersed with the Andes, we were all in awe when we came down the last mountain cutting to see the vast plains where the figures are.

Just before dusk we stopped at this viewing tower to see a few figures in the rocky desert.
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The theories still abound about their origins, but they are remarkable regardless of how they have been formed.

It is always difficult to capture the grandeur of vistas, especially the desert scenes – but I keep trying – a similar shot to one I took in Monument valley in Arizona
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A small group, armed with wine and nibbles trek to a viewing hill in the desert, and take a quiet moment to catch the sunset over the Nazca desert.
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The next day, we were desperate to get access to coverage of the final of the World Cup Rugby – I was disappointed the bloody Poms beat Australia in the quarter final, so I even was prepared to support South Africa in the final. Needless to say this wrangled the Poms in the group, and we engaged in lively banter and obtuse bets before the final started.

Peru is not a big rugby fan – so no Television coverage – we had to settle for internet radio with ¨chat coverage¨ and a web site where expats were inputting ¨live¨ notes as the game progressed. We had about 10 people huddled around a single antiquated monitor in our hotel. I even recruited Jess to SMS me score updates from London. A very frustrating experience – but the outcome was good for South Africa – and in my view – good for rugby.

One of my winning bets was a bike wash by young Greg:
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Thanks Greg – the Black Mamba has never looked so good!

Then a great day – up in a small plane
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to spend an hour getting the best view possible of the Nazca lines and the figures in the desert – hopefully you can see some of them here.

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A few stomach churning turns (particularly after the night before – celebrating the rugby!).

Left Nazca and back up into the Andes - 2 days of scrubbing side walls of tyres, up and down mountains, our first experience of the Alti Plano (the high plains at over 4,000m), snow, and (for me) a sighting of a Condor, meeting Vicuna, Al Pacas and Llamas for the first time. A new altitude record of 4,570m, was the cream to 2 days of riding bliss before we reached Cusco – to be our home for 5 days.

Riding in the Andes
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Vicuna (like a deer)
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The ritual daily morning tea break ( I now entertain guests who like to share the billy tea)
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I always try to stop for a break at a view point
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Llama
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Cold & high
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AlPaca herd
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In the clouds (above the clouds)
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As this entry is now very late, and it is quite long in itself, I will post it, and then do a separate one for Cusco, Machu Pichu and a few other interesting episodes in Peru.

Cheers for now & enjoy the ramblings - as I am certainly enjoying the journey & telling the tale!

Posted by Ron Markiewicz at 11:12 PM GMT
 


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