Sunday, January 5, 2014

Peru. Motorcyclist's Nirvana.



Peru Distance: 4,652.5 kms
Moving Average: 52.9 kph
Moving Time: 70.18 hours
     Max Speed: 275 kph (fcuked if I know either, that's what my GPS said)

     Total Distance on my bike: 14,816 kms
     Distance including in the Dong Feng S30: 19,366 kms

The first Peruvian we met was a dead set prick. Unfortunately, as he was also the Customs Official, we had to be nice to him. Actually, we had to suck up to the bastard. No problems for Lindsay or myself. Dale was in deep shit for some imagined paperwork infraction. He held us up for over 2 hours. And it was hot, bloody hot. He didn't realise we were the guys you couldn't root, shoot or electrocute.

Rode away, low on fuel, little Peruvian cash and it was getting late. We wanted to get to Puno for the night. No problems, little traffic, good roads and a pleasant ride around the shores of Lake Titicaca. Lucky we hurried as it bucketed down not long after we arrived.

Next day we did a boat tour on the Lake to see the reed islands. Extremely interesting. Shit, we are becoming bloody tourists!

Cuzco was a 377km blast from Puno. I loved Cusco when I was here in 1996. I still love it today. We are staying at a cheap, crappy but homely Hostel, right in the centre of all the action. Luckily we arrived when we did. We snatched the last room, as everyone had the same idea of spending Christmas/New Year in Cusco. Our Hostal is the joint where most Motorcycle and Bicycle riders stay. There are 20 bikes here, 9 with engines and 11 without. Jesus, the bicycle riders are tough, resilient girls and guys. Bicycle riding girls always have nice arses. The atmosphere here is 110%.

Nearly as many girls ride bicycles as guys in South America. Elsewhere as well. We hardly ever see girls riding motorbikes.

BMW's are the most popular motorcycle by far. Next comes Kawasaki KLR 650's and then Suzuki V Stroms. No one seems happy with their KLR's. They talk a lot about them catching fire! Most would not use a KLR next time. All the BMW and Suzuki riders would use them again.

Lindsay and I went on a city tour, visited a church and several different Inca ruins. It pissed down pick handles and was freezing. I don't think we are tough or resilient, unlike push bike riders. Just a pair of old softcocks.

Christmas Eve 12 of us went around to dinner at another Hostel. About $12 for a three course meal and a glass of wine. Bloody fantastic. Went to the same Backpackers Bar my new best mate Bill and I had been to the night before. It is a little embarrassing, when you go into a Bar for the 2nd time, all the staff, and some of the clients, know you by name, shake your hand and ask how you are today. I think Bill and I must have had a good night. Luckily Bill's daughter, Katie, works there and looked after us. Bill is a different bloke. An Aussie from Bendigo, who races Classic Bikes and rode his R1200GS down to Cusco from the US to meet up with Katie and trek to Machu Picchu with her. How good a Dad is he?

Christmas Morning a few guys from our Hostel went for a massage, my 2
nd one in Cusco. Christmas Night we had a cook up at our place. Everybody supplied something. We bought the beer and the bread. People had been cooking in the small kitchen for 2 days,we had 30 people over, from 11 different countries. There was more food than we could eat. More liquid than we could drink. What a day. What a night. Although I have only known these fellow travellers for a few days, they already feel like family.

Dale and Lindsay went to Machu Picchu for a couple of days. As I had been before I had a couple of days R and R in Cusco. Washed and serviced my “Rooney”, mailed home my as yet unused camping gear and played tourist.

Today seems to be bike, un-powered or powered, washing and maintenance day. My other new best mate, Andre and I are sitting, watching the others, as we gave our bikes TLC yesterday. Gotta go. It is nearly beer o'clock.

Most nights we eat at home, taking it in turns to cook. All fantastic meals, wine and beer. Tonight is our turn to cook. Dale has nearly finished a magnificent lamb stew. From his grandmothers secret recipe. There is enough to choke a camel. Most nights we have 10 to 12 for dinner. Tonight will not be an exception. Dinner goes on for hours and hours.

Last night Dale's meal consumed 8 bottles of red. Plus beers. Today is wet. I went to see Daisy, my favourite masseuse and have another incredible Inca Massage. Hot stones and all.

We discovered Paddy's Irish Bar. Enough said.

Monday the 30th. Except for Sabine,Jens and Bill our last “Family” members left today. A few tears were shed. We have been fortunate to spend Christmas 2013 with an exceptionally incredible group of people. All intelligent, open minded and worldly. I hold them in similar high regard to the “Intrepids”. And they are on the top step. These young kids are the future leaders of our society.

In Spanish Buenos Nochas means "good evening". Buenos Nachos means "you have a nice arse". Guess which one I have been using?

In Peru the Government is trying to recruit more female Police. The theory is, they are more conscientious and more honest than their male counterparts. They dress them in nice beige jodhpurs and give them motorbikes to ride. They look hot.

New Years Eve, more bikes have arrived, we have 10 now, more than Christmas. The bicycle count is well down though. DHL finally delivered some documents Dale needed from home. Tomorrow we hit the road. Tonight we have arranged for 12 from our Hotel to go to a swish restaurant near the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza will be on fire.

We had been told it is custom to wear yellow and be given cash on New Years Eve. Dale and I arranged for a yellow garland and a “fake” $US100 note to be put at every place on the dinner table. Some of us bought yellow hats and glasses. Bill even wore yellow underpants.

Cusco, like nearly all South American towns and cities is built around a central Plaza. Cusco's plaza is not large, about 100X150 metres, with a road around the outside and a lovely garden in the centre. A stage was erected on one side, in front of a several hundred year old Church. There were people selling Cerveza (beer), rum and everything else. The gardens were cordoned off. After our meal we we purchased some of our favourite Argentinian Malbec and strolled across to Plaza de Armas. This was not an original idea, 50,000 others jammed in a well. Only us bloody tourists seemed to be wearing yellow. The band was terrific. Pity it was all in Spanish. Fortunately, our friends Judy and Cammi could translate for us. I looked around, Dale had some Peruvian guy in a head lock. He had caught him trying to pick his pocket, he actually had Dale's camera in his hand.

Legend has it, if you walk around the Plaza 3 times anti clockwise on the stroke of midnight, you will travel in the coming year. Judging by the 40,000 who tried to walk around Cusco's Plaza, the locals must be keen travellers. To us, it made a chaotic situation totally chaotic!

I had about 6 or 7 fake $US100 notes left over. I folded them into a nice wad and dropped them on the ground. We watched in anticipation. Some dopey backpacker put his foot on it, kicked it to his mate, who bent and picked it up. They legged it. Would have loved to see the look on their faces when they realised they had been had.

We bumped into our Dutch mates Esther and Maarten. She is 6'1” and beautiful. He is 6'9”. The average Peruvian is 4'9”. Maarten is head and shoulders above the crowd. He spent half the night posing for photos.

Eventually we extracted ourselves from Plaza de Armas dropped by our favourite grog shop on the way home to pick up a few more  bottles of Malbec and drank with with our “family” until 3.30. What a stunning night!

We were only dreaming, thinking we would be on the road by 0800. Finally, we dragged ourselves out of bed and left at 1115. Our “family” were there to see us off. My mate Ian had said the Cusco to Nazca road was his favourite, anywhere in the world. I would not argue. This was 666kms (Roland's race number) of pure bliss. I could not believe how good this road was. It had everything. Many, many hairpins. Little traffic. Good surfaces. Magnificent views. We rode for hours and hours at over 4,500 metres with brilliant sweeping corners. Reached 4,900 metres at one point. And no police. At all! We loved it. The bikes loved it. It all finished off with hundreds and hundreds of tight corners, taking us from over 4,000 metres down to Nazca, at almost sea level, in a few kilometres. After 4 weeks at over 3,200 metres it was nice to get to sea level and have my “Rooney's” full power available once again. And she idled as well.

And I ran over a damned dog.

Last time I visited Nazca the place was a country town that had been 90% demolished by an earthquake a few days before. Now it is a city. We did the full on tourist thing. Flew over the Nazca Lines, our first pane had mechanical problems and had to make an emergency landing. Turns out the bloody thing was built in the 70's! The next plane was nearly new. Didn't stop me spewing though. Visited the Mummies of Chauchilla (1,000 years old) and the Aquifers. All amazing, all great.

On our way to Lima we spent a night at a real life Oasis, Huachachina. The worlds biggest sand dune surrounds Huachachina. It was only 10 metres from our room. We walked almost to the top. Magnificent. I think in a few years our hotel will be covered by sand.

Lima is a city of 9 million, about 30% of Peru's population. We checked into a backpackers hostel in Miraflores, which is an upmarket beach side suburb of Lima. Paulo, an Italian on an Australian registered F650GSPD was staying. Judy checked in. Tanja and Andrian (the first western travellers we met in Chilli, travelling in a Mazda Ute with a camper) were there as well. Lindsay and I had to get front tires. Ines Shimabuku, the local Touratech agent sold us Heidenau K60 Scouts for a good price, then took us and our new mate Toby (KTM 990) to his mates workshop to have them fitted while we all went and had a scrumptious Peruvian/Chinese meal. Back tires for Lindsay and my bike may prove to be a problem. Seems most rear tires are at least a140 now.

Lima to Huaras was another great days ride. I overtook a Copper, the dickhead pulled us all over and tried to make me pay $US50.Told me I was speeding. Probably was. I wouldn't pay. He asked for $40. Then $30. I reached over, took my license back, shook his hand, thanked him and rode off. He can get fcuked.

We had been spoilt with 7 days at sea level, nice and warm and dry. Heading up another fantastic mountain road on the way to Huaras we copped rain, cold and fog. Couldn't see my hand in front of my face, Bloody hard to ride in. Lindsay dropped it on a tight hairpin. Jens and Sabine had told us of a good Hostel in Huaras. It was the grouse.

For dinner the boys ordered Guinea Pig. It was expensive and very small. I had ½ a chicken. I was full afterwards and they were hungry. Plus I can still look Alicia and Laura in the eye.

Next day I had to do a little work on my recalcitrant side stand. Dale organised a trek to a mountain, or a lake, or a lake on a mountain, or something. We took the oldest Toyota Corolla taxi for an hours drive up a bush track, then walked 3 hours up a mountain, climbed up some cliffs on wire ropes someone had conveniently left, and ended up at 4,500 meters. I dogged it for the last 50 metres. It rained, hailed and snowed on the way down. Fortunately our taxi was still waiting. Lindsay and I were so stuffed we went to bed without any dinner.

Yesterday was a stunner. Paulo rode with us. It was a mind blowing 80 km ride up to “Tunel Punta Olimpica”, at 4,736 metres. (the highest tunnel in the world) And back down again. Dale and I actually went a little higher, in a vain attempt to ride over the top. Hundreds of hairpins, fast sweepers. Glaciers, snow covered mountains, aqua blue lakes. Once again, very, very little traffic. Riding at its best! Landslides occur frequently, ranging from a few small rocks or some sand, up to the road being almost blocked. Unfortunately, as this is a new road, the locals still have to be trained not to stack firewood and rocks, herd their stock and do whatever else takes their fancy, on the damned road. All makes it more exciting, keeps us on our toes!

Todays ride almost defies description. A one laned gravel track, on the edge of a cliff, about 50-150 metres above a river, which ran down a vertical canyon, with an occasional truck, bus or car coming the other way. Throw in over 40 tunnels, roughly hewn through rock. Get the picture. Impossible, unless you have been there.

Dale and I recon it was more dangerous then Bolivia's “Death Road”. Heaps more fun too. If I fcuked up, HCF would be looking for a new Skipper. The day finished with an uphill blast to Cabana, about 80 kms of beautiful, smooth bitumen, winding up to some ridiculous hight, well over 3,000 metres. Of course, many, many more hairpins and a few landslides.

And I thought yesterdays ride was good. Today’s was the best. Mainly gravel. Many times the track was only 3 metres wide, the drop off more than 500 metres. Some bitumen, although mainly gravel. Dale took us on a shortcut, the “Mine Road”. Fcuk me! Rough as guts, up, over and down a mountain. The superior suspension of my “Rooney Special” loved it. It rained. It was slippery. We went to 4,000 metres. Lindsay dropped it, again. (3rd time, but who is counting?) We rode on a main road for 47 kms, with other traffic, for the first time in days. Didn't like sharing the road. The road was windy and narrow. Some of these Peruvian pricks are crazy. Ended up in Cajambamba, a beautiful town. Stayed in a fantastic, traditional Hostal. Once again, parked the bikes inside.

Paulo is still riding with us. He has been on the road for 42 months, did 65,000 kms around Australia. His BMW F650, with Victorian rego, now has 170,000 kms on it. Original engine, gearbox, clutch and cam chain. And he rides it like he stole it. Not to bad eh!

Another incredible days ride towards Chachapoyas. More bloody hairpins. Down to 1,600 metres and back up to 4,000 metres again. In 4 hours of hard riding we covered 11 kms, as the crow flies. We saw some birds flying. Big birds. In fact, bloody big birds. We stopped to look. Yes. Fcuking Condors, 7 of them. Putting on a display for us. Sometimes, less than 50 metres away. The second largest and one of the rarest species of bird in the world. Things don't get much better than this!! And this time we didn't have to walk bloody miles through the heat to see them!.

Our mate Simon thinks Bolivia's "Death Road" is a doddle. He is correct.

It got late in the day. We were still over 2 hours from the nearest town. The road, although sealed, made the “Death Road” look like a stroll through Centennial Park. We came upon an abandoned house, with about 50 square metres of grass. A good place to camp for the night. One problem, I had mailed my as yet unused camping gear home from Cusco. No problem. I shared Lindsay's tent and slept in most of my clothes, lucky we were only at 2,500 metres and it was relatively warm. Pualo pulled wonderful things out of his panniers. He and Dale cooked up a storm. We ate like Kings and had our 3nd AFD of the trip. The smell of burning gum tree wood wafted up from our camp fire.

We woke early, as you do when you go to bed soon after dark, broke camp and rode off in a heavy fog. Remember, we are on a road more exciting than the “Death Road”. Eventually, a day late, made it to Chachapoyas. This is a great joint.

And I ran over a bloody chook.

Kuelao Fortress is a pre Inca ruin, dating from 500 BC, and a 50 km ride from Chachapoyas. Of course, along brilliant gravel and dirt tracks, up mountains and down again, through many small villages and with many hairpins and switchbacks. These ruins were great, although without the “wow” factor of Machu Pichu. We tried to ride to the Karajia, got terribly lost, but rode where tourists never ride. Eventually found our way to Karajia. It was worth the trouble. Made it back to Chachapoyas after an 8 hour ride and a 3 hour walk.

These last 5 days have been the best 5 days riding. Ever! No questions. Incredible! I don't have any superlatives left.

I am extremely happy with my Heidenau K60 Scout front tire. I have used it on everything except mud. It performs beautifully and will be my front tyre of choice in future.

We left Paulo behind and headed north towards Ecuador. Any other time I would have been raving about this ride. After what we have ridden through, it was only spectacular.

Our last night in Peru, we stayed in a shitty little Hostal. It reminded us of Alcatraz. We found a restaurant on the main Plaza, dragged a table and chairs outside, ordered some beer to toast our time in Peru. The beer tasted like cats piss. We ordered a bottle of expensive Rose. It  tasted worse than cats piss. Lindsay topped his beer up with Rose. Said it improved the flavour. I think it would have tasted like a double dose of cats piss.

The last Peruvian we met was a great bloke, we had to be nice to him as he was the Customs Official. As with most people, he was a pleasure to deal with.

We had spent 26 days in Peru. I was really, really sad to be leaving. Bring on Ecuador.

Chris.
xx



Our bikes in the America Hotel, Puno. Peru



What the well dressed South American GPH wears while making her vessel fast.

Floating reed bed village. Lake Titikaka. Peru


After dinner socialising at our Cusco home.


Arun doesn't believe in paper maps or GPS.


Cooking our Christmas feast.



Serving Christmas Dinner.

















Andre watches, Bill works.

Trevor washes.


The "family" is shrinking.


Karen's photo

Karen's photo

Karen and Mike. Karen has been hanging around with us Aussie's for to long!


Olivia, Simon, Karen, Mike and Billy head south.

Andre is going. Our time must nearly be up.


New Years  Eve Dinner.

Cami and Lindsay.


Sabine and Jens.
Dale and Judy.

In the Plaza. Things are getting messy.

What is Dale looking at?





One of the Mummies of Chauchilla

An Aquifer.

Dale.


Lindsay.

Huachachina Oasis and the World's biggest sand dune.

 With Hartmut and Judy, about to leave Lima.




Dale, we tried to ride over the top of the tunnel.






















Time to let our tires down Three tunnels in the background.







Dale and Paulo asking for directions.


About to ride that one.


Just finished that one.

 






Lindsay.

Rode this valley as well.











Statues of Karajia. Hundreds of feet up a cliff.

Paulo and his F650.

One last fantastic road on our way to the Ecuadorian border.







2 comments:

  1. Mate, loving it. That place looks amazing. Wish I was there. I'm surprised you're not seeing many (any?) Teneres out there. Maybe I should get mine out there and show them.

    Have you got any comments on the age-old debate: Hard Panniers vs Soft Panniers? I noticed that you guys are running both, and t'd be interesting to hear your opinions after using them side by side, on a 'proper' expedition.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris great read and fab pictures. Equally great riding with you in Colombia, Best regards Jim.

    ReplyDelete