January 30, 2013 by cleanwatt
I left off with some time in Cusco to relax, and explore the area. I thought long and hard about Machu Picchu, and in the end, decided against it. Peru is too beautiful and will warrant a return visit at some point in my future, so I will save the cliche for then.
There was plenty to see and do besides though, and one morning Franky (Hong Kong) and I went out for a day ride to a couple local points of interest. Along the road we passed a blatant gringo on a small motorbike, so I whipped around to say “hola”. Jake was from St. Paul, Minnesota and typically took his winter holidays near the equator renting a bike in famed motorcycling countries. His agenda for the day was similar, so then we were three and found a nice dirt road toward the first stop.
Moray is an Incan ruin formed of circular terraced farm depressions. Because of its position in relation to the sun and prevalent winds, there is typically a 15 degree temperature between the upper ring and lower rings. In addition to the elaborate irrigation system, experts reckon then that they used the site for agricultural testing.
Next up was some salt ponds on the side of a Western sloped mountain used to evaporate the water from the salt rich subterranean stream to harvest the gastronomic granular gold.
There was some mean storm clouds headed our way, so we high tailed it back to Cusco though some fantastic roads again.
That night we recruited all the riders and headed out for a few beers and sampled our first Alpaca steak.
The next day Franky, Tony, Boris and myself all decided on riding to the comedically named Lago Titicaca. At 13,000+ ft it is the highest “commercially navigable lake in the world”, and it has some homemade floating islands we wanted to check out.
Pulling into Puno, we all got stopped at a routine police checkpoint that I usually just fly through. Maybe they usually wave me to stop, but I never notice and therefore typically never comply. Bringing up the rear this time, I was forced to stop and the pretty female officer asked me for my documents. I politely obliged her, showing her my passport, license, and temporary vehicle import document. Pretty solid lineup, but was missing the mandatory insurance I was never told about. She started writing tickets, making radio calls, and referring to other officers as I stood quite worried next to the bike. She tried in vane to relay the grievous sin I was committing, but I kept playing deaf/mute with Spanish especially after seeing the fee on the ticket was for 900 Peruvian Soles ($352 USD)! I genuinely didn’t know insurance was mandatory in Peru, since my border crossing was anything but official. I hoped after I told the other 3 guys to ride on without me, they wouldn’t have any leverage and couldn’t communicate what I needed to do, or how to pay, that they would curse me then let me go. It worked.
I rounded a bend soon after and pulled up next to the three guys taking pictures, and I told them I should probably head into town and find some insurance pronto.
The next morning greeted us with an uncharacteristically beautiful day at that altitude, and we found a tour to take us out to the islands. It must be said that the whole ordeal was a horrible tourist undertaking, but was interesting nonetheless.
The islands typically had a lifespan of only 10 years before they would have to be refashioned and populated. We spend the rest of the afternoon chasing down a good high altitude bowl of ceviche comprised of the lake trout and then watched a local parade.
We cast our votes that night, and three of the four (knock on wood, not me) needed some work done on their bikes, so we set our sights on Arequipa the next morning. Second largest city in Peru, and home to a compassionate moto tour operator who helps out travelers when they passed through. The other three needed some tires, and a few other bits looked at or replaced.
Arequipa had a pretty plaza area and a wild market, but I’m rapidly getting burnt out on visiting larger cities along the way. I’ve learned enough about Latin American cities to appreciate their difference from the ones I’m familiar with back home, both good and bad. That leaves the loony drivers to experience in each one from now on. I hope to only visit them when absolutely necessary from now on.
With a day to kill while the bikes where in the shop, I wandered around trying to pin down a cheap book in English to replace my last one. I met the other guys in town and for lunch we braved the large matriarchal food stand operators in the market, who actively grab, yell, and coerce you into to sitting in their stall. We split a cab back to the hostel and shared a dinner of chicken and rice.
Boris and I were planning on heading towards Bolivia next, and since Franky and Tony supposedly wouldn’t be granted a tourist visa into Bolivia with a Hong Kong passport, would be carrying on into Chile.
Boris and I took a longer scenic route towards Moquegua, Peru in order to set ourselves up for crossing into Boliva the following afternoon, so once again I descended into the coastal desert of Peru.
I found a hostel on my GPS so I took the lead into town and upon reaching the front door and dismounting, I heard frustrated phrases and sighs coming from Boris as he relayed the fact that his bike had another major failure, and this would be the end of the trip for him. He had a similar bike to mine, just an older model, and with many more miles. So many miles that his clutch was slipping and would need replacement. Given the time and money involved in having a replacement sent from Germany, he decided to find someone local to buy the bike, then he would fly back to San Francisco before returning home to France.
I was excited about the potential for Bolivia, but after all the build-up and the emotion involved with Boris being unable to carry on with me, the following morning I reluctantly decided to point South instead towards Chile myself.
There is a great deal of anticipation for Chile riding with me. I was excited by the prospect of being in a country I’d long pondered over with maps and dreams. Coincidentally, Franky & Tony were at the border when I pulled up, and after giving them a brief rundown on what had happened, I joined the ranks and triumphantly rode into my first Chilean town with them.
Arica. Northern border town, famed for its beaches and most recently, its Dakar affiliation. First impressions revealed a country of the 1st degree. Efficient traffic management, police, pedestrian malls, museums, and exorbitant prices. That last one hit me the hardest. I’ve been living like a king on my scant budget until now. Suddenly a sub-par hotel room runs nearly $80, and the three of us just managed to find a hostel that would house the three of us for under $20 a person.
It may be a first world country, but their pavement is 2nd rate.
Northern Chile has the Atacama Desert, and that’s about it for roughly 1,300 miles until its capital Santiago. So we put out heads down and braved the driest place on earth (some areas never having recorded rain fall) on our way towards Santiago.
It was staggeringly depressing and beautiful all at the same time. Now, I like sand, my mecca in my formative years being the Warren Dunes, but this was numbingly barren. Tough to formulate much more on the feeling.
After a few days we made it near La Serena, and fortunately found a stellar campsite for the night. From there we’d cruise into Santiago the following morning.
Headed into Santiago. I realize this is a complete contradiction to my previous mentioning about large cities but, it was absolutely necessary. My bike needed some fresh oil, and I needed a shower.
I arrived in the early afternoon, and shot out soon after in search of the necessary items for some courtyard service. I first visited the BMW dealership in hopes of having my new tire mounted properly, getting a few quarts of oil, and having my service clock on the bike reset. But, they don’t have a tire mounting machine and would have to send it off for changing, they only have oil by the 50 gallon drum, and they wouldn’t reset my service clock unless I paid them to do the oil change. They just didn’t seem interested in helping whatsoever.
It was at this point finally, I discovered that not everyone cares about my bike as much as I do. Although, the 3-25 yr old male contingent is still showing a great deal of support…
I found a tour operator to mount my tire, found my oil at a Triumph dealership after telling them the folks at BMW are assholes, and figured I could live with the service light knowing I’m taking care of the big lass.
Tony is a classically trained chef, and either beach side or in the Hostel kitchen, I’ve been privy to some amazing meals.
The question now is to brave some more possible desolate Chilean landscape until Patagonia, or dip East into the land flowing with wine & wine that is Mendoza, Argentina before carrying on due South. Decisions…Patagonia beckons
Thanks for tuning in!
Trip Mileage: 16,333 (25,285 Km)