January 19, 2013 by cleanwatt
I reached the Peruvian border caked in mud and exhausted, but was stoked about what lay ahead.
Having made terrible time to the border, I felt pressed to find some accommodation before nightfall. The diplomatic dance of immigration and customs was simple and fast since I was the only person there. Found a little restaurant that would change my last Dollars for the local Soles, and set my sights on the nearest town for a bed. I was again deceived about the road condition as the first few miles from the border was newly paved only to disintegrate soon after.
I entered into San Ignacio just before dark, and easily spotted a hotel off the main drag with secure parking. Hot water isn’t big in the remote areas of Peru, so it was a quick rinse with lots of yipping then immediately under the covers to warm up. I watched the nightly update on the Dakar, and promptly fell asleep.
To Chachapoyas the following morning, and Peru really started to show what it was made of.
Was able to find a nice cheap hostel in town, and found some good grub to cap off the day.
Next morning I headed towards Cajamarca, with the intent of finding a wild spot to set up camp. At this point, after only one and half days of riding in Peru, I was completely smitten with this country. Staggeringly beautiful.
As far as mechanical failures go, I’ve been fortunate enough to not experience a single thing gone amiss with the bike thus far besides a couple bulbs burning up rather rapidly. But, after having plowed through viscous mud and gnarly back roads the past few days, the rear mudguard/fender of my bike finally gave up. It made itself known immediately as it broke by wedging itself between the tire and the swing-arm locking the rear wheel right up. Luckily, I wasn’t moving too fast and I simply pulled the clutch and slid to an alarming halt. Here’s what the investigation found:
I mounted it on the side of the road, set a way-point on the GPS remembering its existence in the outback of Peru, and carried on about 10oz of un-sprung weight lighter!
I made a brief stop in Celedin for a fuel top up and some food rations for the night. Cruising along slowly scouting for a remote spot with level ground and out of eyesight of anyone, I found a nice nook down a barely used path off the road. With just enough daylight I set-up the tent, then opened a can of chili and watched the sunset.
I awoke to a condensation ridden tent, and slowly packed all the gear away. It had been a while since I’d seen the Pacific, so I headed South West towards the coastal desert. The scenery slowly changed dropping back down to sea level from the mountains and passing through more pretty terraced farmland.
The winds from the coast battered me long enough for me to curse the very nature of my previous livelihood, and I pulled into Chimbote for the night. Good training for the notoriously lively Ruta 40 in Argentina though.
As far as “bucket lists” go on this journey, there are only handful of roads I had to ride, and I was about to tackle the next one. Cañon del Pato. A retired rail line turned epic road chasing the Santa River up towards Caraz. So from the coast, I headed back into the mountains through the brown moonscape, where the only thing of color was my mouth, forming numerous expletives cataloging the beauty of that road.
That canyon eventually opens into a valley composed of the Cordillera Negra to the West and the Cordillera Blanca to the East. The Blanca range is the highest section of the Andes, and is second only to the Himalayan variety in the world. The clouds were persistent in keeping me from seeing the namesake peaks in all their glory, but was able to snap a couple shots along the way.
I settled in Huarez for the night, where I found a nice micro-brewery run by a couple ex-pats from the states. A proper pale ale was a real treat for sure.
The following morning I voluntarily chose to drive into the heart of probably the craziest city in Latin America, Lima. My rear tire is probably on its last 20-25% of life, and I figured it be best to track down a new one before Bolivia/Northern Chile where it’d be much harder to source one.
I got lucky in finding a great hostel with loads of parking space, since it catered predominately to overland vehicles when staying in Lima. I met two American couples traveling in Toyota 4-Runners who had been on the road for roughly 15 months already, plus German and Welsh couples who’ve been on & off the road for years around the world. It was a great time hearing stories from them, and generally showing off ones traveling rig or bike.
After a day off to explore, the next morning I got in touch with a contact I received from Boris (France/San Francisco) about a guy who may be able to help me with a tire. I swung by Rodrigo’s shop MotoTech, and he immediately got to work with helping me out. He made some calls, nailed down some prices, and then he hopped on his Harley and I followed him as we assaulted the city streets on massive, loud bikes towards the shop. So much fun. In the end I was able to get a solid Michelin tire for about the same price as it would be in the states, which is a great deal considering all the import taxes in Latin America.
I asked him how much he wanted for all the help, and he replied “nothing man, this is what helping is”. Super nice guy, and he runs a great little shop there in Lima.
I left Lima early afternoon and cruised South towards a small Oasis town I’d read about. Definitely a tourist/sand trap, but it was cool nonetheless.
I got word from Boris who was in Nazca after having some bike problems, but he was planning on heading to Cusco, which was where I was headed. So, next morning I met him in Nazca’s town square, and we promptly headed back into the mountains.
The entire route from Nazca to Cusco was heralded as “Formula 1 grade” tarmac through twists and turns for 380 miles. I was sold immediately, so I naturally was excited to get carving. The bike and I began a torrid affair with the double yellow lines as we ate up the corners, clipping apexes for hours. All the while, we were climbing steadily and naturally the fog and rain moved in and our fun was ended. At one point, at the top of the run it started snowing and was accumulating on the ground. Pretty dodgy conditions to say the least, so we proceeded with caution and were relieved when the road began dropping again, and with every 500ft we seemed to gain a degree or two back.
The entire second day was more rain and fog, but we made it into Cusco in reasonable time and settled into a nice hostel in the center of town.
Cusco is most famous as the jumping off point for Machu Picchu, but it also seems like a nice lively little town in its own right. I haven’t decided whether or not I will go to Machu Picchu given the cost to get up there. I realize there is a good chance I’ll never be this close again, but it doesn’t feel right shelling out loads of money for a single archaeological sight. Better spent on the entry fee for Bolivia ($135 for US citizens!!!) and a trek or two in Patagonia.
That’s all for now, but I still have a few days of Peruvian marvels to behold before crossing into Bolivia. As always, thanks for tuning in!
Trip Mileage: 14,118 (22,721 km)