Stage 4 of my South American travels - November 1, 2001
Hi from Nasca, where I arrived yesterday on my fourth stage of the South
American tour. Last Friday, I picked up my Transalp at Walter Nosiglia
Motorcycles in La Paz. It was well serviced and ready to go. In the beginning,
I had some problems adjusting to the bike, which I had not ridden for
6 month. But after a few kilometers it was okay again. 140.000km should
be enough to get used to the bike. The Hotel Oberland in La Paz - Mallassa
has become my home when I visit La Paz. Walter Schmidt has transformed
it into a very nice and comfortable place and is nevertheless looking
after the needs of travellers on a budget.
Since I visited La Paz several times within the last year, I longed
to get out of the city into the countryside. Unfortunately, bad weather
forced me to abandon my plans to visit the small Andean town of Sorata.
Heavy thunderstorms gathered in the mountains and reached far into the
My first stop was in Tihuanaco, were the largest and most important
ruins of Bolivia can be visited. There I met a resident Argentinian, Ricardo,
who has travelled with his Transalp all over South-America. We had some
good motorcycle talks and he showed photos of his Transalp deep in the
mudholes of the Yungas roads and white of salt on the Salar de Uyuni.
Crossing the border into Peru was much easier than expected. After one
hour both sides were completed and I could move on towards Moquegua, almost
on the coast. The road from Desaguadero on Lake Titicaca to Moquegua is
fully paved and in perfect condition. It runs at 4000-4500m altitude,
at one point climbing up a pass to 4755m. Up to 4500m the Transalp had
no problems, except some loss of power. Above 4500m, there were intermittent
problems with one cylinder. But that seemed to be not serious, as it only
occurred when going uphill.
The scenery was great, grazing llama and alpaca, volcanoes, big empty
spaces, and towards the coast huge fields of sand. The descent from 4500m
to 2000m was a breathtaking succession of curves, serpentines and steep
descends with great views. Moquegua was badly damaged by the earthquake
in June. There are many gaps between houses where once proud buildings
stood and now construction workers try to build new houses. The city is
charming, but there is not much to see.
Continuing on the Pan American Highway parallelling the coast was pretty
boring. Although some curvy sections were no too bad, long almost straight
sections through the desert made me almost to sleep. After staying in
the uninteresting town of Camana for the night, I continued north on the
Pan-American Hwy high above steep cliffs that made Hwy 1 in California
look like a street along a flat beach. Although the area is dry as a bone,
there are some irrigated valleys, where water from the mountains produces
an abundance of crops.
Rice fields in the desert are a very surprising sight. In Nasca I flew
over the famous lines. Between 4400BC and 600 AD the Nasca culure has
produced huge figures, geometrical forms and seemingly endless straight
lines int the dry ground. They are only visible from the air and there
are Condor, Monkey, Hummingbird, Dog, Astronaut and more figures to see.
The climatic change threatens these old structures, since the first rain
ever recorded in Nasca was in 1998, and last year it rained one day for
4 hours. The runoff water has swept away parts of the lines, and it is
possible, that further rain will wipe out large parts of the figures.
Here in Nasca I met Kris from Belgium. He is travelling around the world
on a Honda Pan European. He shows that it is possible to do all the bad
roads with a 328 kg touring bike as well. Tomorrow, we will go to the
oasis of Huacachina, 300km south of Lima to relax for a day or two at
the desert lake.
Relaxing at the oasis in Huacachina,