Wednesday, 25 January 2017
The "Peruvian Desert " runs along most of the coast. From "Chile" to "Ecuador" that's a lot of sand and it is very hot and dry. Nice to be riding closer to the Ocean as the temperature has cooled somewhat. Our destination is the city of "Piura", arriving early evening we get a hotel close to the "Plaza de Armas" nice and central. Secure parking minutes away, important as most downtown Hotels don't have on site parking. It will be an early night, as we plan on hitting the road by 8:00am. Destination tomorrow, the seaside town of "Mancora". It will be a day of rest and relaxation, as we now have put on 15,000 kilometers on our "Piquina Motos" in the past 54 days. Good news, we will meet up with Trevor as well.
Our start time has been delayed today. Andy had a tip from a local , suggested we leave between 10:00 am and noon. The traffic is best at that time, so we will not be caught in the rush. I can't Imagine how it must be early morning, because it was total chaos when we left at the suggested time. We also were pulled over by the "Moto Police" again, as we were traveling down part of the freeway that does not allow "Motos". Go to the station he told us, not likely, "Adios Copper". I guess we did not see the sign, amongst the fear of traffic survival. Finally we were out of the city and going up the coast, only to be pulled over again, guess who was watching, our newest buddies, the police. When the rest of us pulled up, he just let them go, probably to much hassle, to check all of our credentials. Great highway and scenery on the coast, and after many kilometers we pulled our weary asses into the city of "Chimbote". This city was devastated in the 70's with a magnitude 7.9 earthquake. The tragedy left approximately 70,000 dead, with snow pummeling down from the mountains You can see evidence of the rebuild, as one drives through. It will be an early night, lots of riding today in heavy traffic, eating and bed, what a combo. Tomorrow we will pull off another big day, 600 kilometers to the city of "Piura". Good news, Trevor will meet us on the 20th in "Mancora"
Riding to "Lima" will be an easy day for us, the weather is warm and dry, very little wind and good highway. The motos are performing well , amazing little machines, they have exceeded, our expectations so far. Biggest hurdle to conquer today, make in to the city in one piece. The amount of vehicles is staggering, and everyone seems to honk their horns constantly, almost as if it is a code. Choosing to stay in "Miraflores" which is an area away from the downtown core. It is quieter, and the central pedestrian walkway is a pleasure to stroll. "El Doral Apart Hotel" is where we stayed, great staff, and secure parking out front. Apart Hotels can save you money, as they do have a mini kitchen, which helps out the budget. Taxi's are very inexpensive, so traveling to the downtown area is a must. There is a changing of the "Guard"every day at noon, well worth the watch. Our time spent here was enjoyable, and we were lucky enough to witness a parade downtown, with so many amazing costumes, and musicians. "Lima" is very rich in culture, well worth the visit.
Waking up in a "Desert Oasis" is quite spectacular. With dunes totally surrounding us, it is dry and hot. Water being the giver of life here, it's amazing the amount of birds, flowers, palms etc.that thrive here. Tim and myself took a walkabout early this morning, and made arrangements for a "Dune Tour" later in the day. Pretty exciting, as we have managed to hire one that seats five plus driver. Agreed time 4:00pm, in the meantime, some hike the dunes, others swim, and of course laundry. Not really sure what to expect, the ride was crazy fun. Up and over the dunes at speeds that made one appreciate the Five Point Harness that kept us secure. The ride was filmed with our video equipment, so it should be worth a watch. We also had the opportunity to snow board down, which we did by sitting on the boards. Later the driver let us out just above the "Oasis" some walked into the village from there. Cash and I hiked up the other side of the large dune by our hotel, great photo opps for us, amazing views. Quite the hike as well, hiking in sand is exhausting. An early dinner is the plan, then meet by the pool lounge area to discuss the next days adventure. It will be off to "Lima" for the "Cinco Amigos" menyana.
Everyone seems well rested, a very high mountain village, quiet, no activity to wake us during the night. It is cool and misty as we depart, a few are experiencing headaches, this was an unscheduled stop, and we are out of "Altitude Sickness" medication. In a few hours we will be dropping in altitude as we approach "Ica" symptoms should dissappear. This road is a motorcyclists dream come true, so many curves and switchbacks, awesome ride, a bit unnerving at times, no guardrails and very steep terrain. The trucks and buses that travel this route tend to make use of both lanes, so biker beware. Anticipate their moves and you will survive, if not, off the road you go, and you will be airborne. "Motos" can't fly. Stopping in "Ica" we fuel up and continue north to the "Lineas Y Geoglificos De Nasca". There is an observation tower to give you a birds eye view, best to view from an airplane if you can. Andy sent up the drone, but was promptly warned that it was not allowed. Continuing on to "Huacachina" we will stay the night and the next day there. It is a "Desert Oasis" surrounded by massive sand dunes that reach a height of 300 ft. Here you can "Sand Board" your way down if you are brave enough. A very beautiful spot, off the beaten track. We checked into the "El Huacachinero Hotel" nice place, very clean, has a pool, breakfast included as well. It is located at the base of a large dune in a quiet area of town. Good place to relax and do some exploring.
Down to five riders now, its an early start. We bid farewell to Trevor, we may see him in "Lima", but are having our doubts. It is a long way to catch up to us and he needs to rest his wrist, not to mention the road between "Cusco and "Ica, has about 300 switchbacks. You really have to be on your game. Half way during our ride today we encounter rain, fog, and cold weather. Climbing high over the mountains riding till almost dark, we stop in a small village and check into a hostel. Frozen and weary, our altitude is 13,700 ft. "Hot Soupa" for everyone, topped off with "Pollo and "Arroz". The hostel is also a general store, so we grab extra water and chocolate. Cash buys Choclate for the owners children, I give them Canadian Wristbands, they are most thankful. We pose for group pictures, with Mom, Dad, the three kids and the five of us. It is now 8:00 pm, we retire to our tiny rooms, tomorrow we depart at 7:00 am. and continue the journey to "Ica"
Emotions are running high this morning, we are eager to make tracks, but saying "Adios" to John is tough on all of us. Meandering our way out of "Cusco" we clear the city and head to open road. Approximately 14 kilometers out we lose sight of Andy and Trevor. Pulling over to wait, there is still no sight of them. I turn around and wait at the fork in the road. The others head back in the direction we just came from. Cash returns to my location and gives me the news. Trevor went down pretty hard, and ran into a bank on the side of the road. Andy and a stranger helped drag his bike back on the road. He limped it to a gas stop a few kilometers away. Looks like he bent his front fork, rim, and handlebars. He may also have cracked his left wrist, pretty swollen. A young fellow offered to drive him back to "Cusco" to a clinic. Cash road Trevor’s bike very slowly back to a bike shop with Tim. Andy, Ed and I will wait with Cash's bike and will head back to "Cusco" on his return. Several hours later Cash returns, off we go. Trevor is now at the hospital getting x rays, good news, no break just a fracture. He can't ride his bike. The day is getting late, we will stay in "Cusco" another night, unfortunately for Trevor, he must remain behind tomorrow, wait for bike repairs and see the Dr. once more.
"Cusco" is our next stop and is a short ride from "Ollantaytambo". We bid farewell to our hosts and hit the road early. The plan is to stay for two days, John will be leaving and heading home to "Kelowna". Trevor has arrived from "Ecuador, and will be taking over John's moto. There is paperwork to be dealt with and it has to be done through a "Notary". This also is a good time to rest, I can catch up on the "Blog" and Andy editing "Video Footage". There are times when we have no service, or it can just be hit and miss, so we take full advantage while we stay at the "Royal Inca Hotel". Nice place to stay, reasonably priced, and they serve a wonderful breakfast, with fresh cooked omelets of your choice, all included. The decor is beautiful as well. Today there was a demonstration in the plaza, complete with "Riot Police". We watched it for a time from our balcony, it remained peaceful and lasted a couple of hours. Tim went out and picked up air filters as well as more synthetic oil. With the dirt roads we have been on so far, it is time to change them out. Should improve performance. Dropping in altitude will also play a big role,"Cusco" is 12,000 ft, and we will be continuously descending from this point. Being John's final night with the group, it is out for a farewell dinner, we are entertained by a local group of musicians during dinner, fantastic. Tomorrow will be an emotional day for us, as we bid farewell to our new brother, we will all miss him.
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Jan 9 /17
Going to be a long day today, our train leaves at 5:40 am and returns at 21:10 pm it is an hour and a half ride each way. Taking a bus up the mountain to the entrance, you wind your way up, switchback after switchback. Very steep terrain, beautiful scenery, and the buses are very comfortable. You need to purchase a pass to enter, we did this earlier and had them printed out at the hotel in "La Paz". Show your pass and passport and your in. A short walk from the entrance and suddenly, wow "Machu Picchu" appears. I was absolutely speechless, an absolute marvel. The size of the ruins is absolutely amazing. Spending most of the day here was easy. I would refer to it as, a mind blowing experience. Humbling as well, words can't do it justice, you have to see it to believe it. Be prepared to do a lot of climbing if you visit, good footwear and water is a must, as well as a fully charged camera.
There is a "Cafe" and"Banos" at the entrance to the park, and you can come and go with your pass. The town below offers a great variety of restaurants, as well as many souvenir and gift kiosks. I would definitely recommend this adventure to anyone. We met for dinner, did some shopping and boarded our train. Soon everyone was sleeping, it was an exhausting day, and a most memorable one.
The weather looks good today, it's cool, but no rain. Everyone is ready prior to our agreed departure time. Good thing, as we will be putting on about 400 kilometers today. The plan is to get to "Ollantaytambo" relatively early, as we have to get to the train station and get our pre purchased boarding passes printed. About an hours ride from our destination the "GPS" puts us on a similar version of "Death Road", pretty treacherous, and of course it has to start raining. The dips in the road are starting to fill with water, and the "Red Clay" is as slippery as ice. Soon we are relieved as the road once again turns to pavement. It is almost dark, but we arrive at our destination, manipulate the slippery cobblestone streets to the "Hospedaje" park the motos and take a cab to the train station. It is absolutely pouring rain outside. Hungry, we meet for dinner, then off to bed, as we have to be up at 4:30 am to catch the early train.
Today we will say farewell to "Bolivia" and head into "Peru". Getting out of the city is a daunting task. Some roads are closed off due to the "Dakar" celebrations. We are fortunate enough to get a "Police" escort to the outskirts of town, nice "Moto Cops", think they felt sorry for us. On the way Andy and I visit the ruins of "Tiahuanaco" to be here was an awesome experience, ever since I learned about it from the show "Ancient Aliens" it has been on my list of things to do. The rest of the group continued, and we will meet them in "Peru". When we cross into "Peru" we run into Tim. Surprised as we thought they were way ahead of us. Bad news, while having lunch on the "Peruvian" side of the border, someone stole Tim's helmet off his bike, complete with his "Sena" helmet cam attached. He had to buy a new helmet to continue. Meeting up with the others we continue our ride to the city of"Juliaca". Cold and tired we clean up, and go for pizza, except for John he loves his "Pollo". Tomorrow we will ride to the village of "Ollantaytambo", and stay two nights in the "Hospedaje Acclla Wasi" This will be our jumping point for "Machu Picchu"
Riding to "La Paz" our motos are not performing well. Altitude playing a big factor, also low octane gas, that is all we can buy. Again we hit a huge rainstorm, lightning fills the sky, visibility poor, riding conditions becoming terrible. Closing in on "La Paz" roads are flooding, most intersections under water. At one intersection water covers a set of train tracks, unfortunately for John he goes down. Immediately drivers stop and help him get his bike upright, his rear wheel is still lodged in the track they struggle to get it free. Lucky for John he only has minor damage to the bike and body. Ending up at the "Hotel Gloria" the bikes are put in a secure area, this will give us enough space to do maintenance. Deciding to stay an extra day, we all do some sight seeing, even take a tram up and over this city of approximately 3 million. Andy, Tim and myself take the mountain pass up and over to "Death Road" Climbing to an altitude of 15,300 ft. then decend to10,600 ft., 10 kilometers in, we are turned around, we watch a landslide cover the entire road. It will take hours to clear. Back to "LaPaz we go, we need fuel, one station won't sell it to us. Another does, but you need your passport to make your purchase. An early start tomorrow is the plan, so to bed early it is. Loud music fills the square below us, it's 4:00 am. They are doing sound checks to welcome the "Dakar" riders who will be arriving later today. So much for sleeping any longer.
The storm is over, another beautiful day beckons us to the "Salt Flats". Our set rendezvous time 9:00 am. Andy has a head start on the flats, he is hoping to pull off some drone footage, before the masses arrive. Riding the motos on the flats is an experience. You can ride for ever it seems, one rule to remember, come out the way you go in. If not, you could get lost in the vast expanse of salt. After exploring for a time, we meet at the entrance to the flats and continue our journey. We will be heading into the city of "Oruro" today, not a long ride.
This is fine with the group, as yesterday's ride was a true test of motorcycle skills, as well as physical endurance. Ed went down several times in the mud and sand. Cash went down in a huge water hole, maybe he was hot and needed to cool down. Minor damage to the bikes and riders, lucky for them. We arrive in "Oruro" late in the afternoon, we have just battled through a severe rainstorm. Cold and weary, we check into a hotel, not fancy but shelter from the elements. There is no elevator, and bringing the gear up three floors is very demanding. It is the altitude, I find myself completely out of breath by the second floor, as if someone was sitting on my chest, even my fingertips are tingling, a true sign of lack of oxygen. Showered and warm, we meet for a quick bite, by 8:30 pm it's lights out. Destination tomorrow "La Paz"
Friday, 6 January 2017
Today we decided to explore the town before our checkout. Very interesting place, the markets were full of people, street vendors in full swing, tiny three wheeled taxis ripping through the streets. Soon we are all packed up and ready to roll once more. "Uyuni" is where we are heading to, then onwards to the "Bolivian
Salt Flats". As we leave "Tapiza" the road to "Uyuni" now becomes gravel and much more. The road is totally under construction, not so bad I guess, except it is 208 kilometers of construction. The scenery on the other hand is absolutely amazing, just don't take your eyes off the road too much, or you just might be over a cliff. Between huge water holes that cover the entire road, boulders, switchbacks and sand, it looks like were in for a very interesting day of riding. We climb high today as well, and we peaked at around 12,700 ft. Arriving in "Uyuni later than planned due to road conditions, we fuel up, and make the decision of whether to carry on. A storm is brewing and lightning fills the sky. Tim, Ed, and Cash decide to stay, Andy, John and myself decide to continue. Upon our arrival at the "Salt Flats" it is now dark, and rain starts to pound down on us. We concede that the "Salt Flats" will have to wait till tomorrow. Andy stays in a hotel near the flats. John and I head back to "Uyuni" and bunk down at the "Hostel La Magia de Uyuni". Tomorrow morning we will all meet at the"Salt Flats" and do some exploring
Today we break camp early, it rained hard in the night, we want to dry our tents before packing them away.
We will be entering Bolivia today, it's crucial to get there early to avoid delays. Climbing high through the mountains, the scenery pristine, the air crisp, what a ride. At the border crossing we are lucky, not to many people ahead of us. Still the process is slow, so patience is the key. It still took over two hours for the six of us to be processed. Cash used his American Passport which resulted in him paying $160.00 US. dollars to enter. He had to, as all his border crossing stamps were in it. Once in Bolivia a "Cambio de Casio" is first on the agenda. We exchange any left over Argentinian money, and purchase Bolivian. Now on to our next goal, the town of "Tapiza". The ride from the border to Tapiza is awesome, twisty road, great
scenery, mountains of red, wonderful. We arrive at the "Hotel Mitru", reasonably priced, clean, pool, and a breakfast that's included in the price. Staying here again, would be an easy choice. Meeting another group of crazy riders from Brazil, we all decided to join one another for dinner. Interesting to say the least, lots of great stories and pictures to share. They had six riders to start, but two left due to injuries. Great times were had by all. Best of luck to team "Magnifica Magma" on the rest of their journey. After dinner and back at the hotel, our group gathered in the lobby to book our "Machu Pichu" excursion.
The sun is shining, birds are singing, blue skies. What a great way to start the first day of the year. We do not have to travel too far today, around 200 kilometers. Camping in the little town of "Tilcara" which is around 8,300 ft. Breaking camp in "Salta" is a leisurely process, another good start to 2017, nice and easy. The city is calm, quite different from last nights Fireworks that went on for hours throughout the city. The bangs, booms and bursts, however did stop around 3:00am.
They sure know how to bring in a "New Year. On the road at 10:30 am, we fill up with fuel, get more bottled water and make tracks. Staying hydrated is very important at higher altitudes, especially on two wheels. The team has also started taking our "Altitude Sickness" pills and will for the next 8 to 10 days. Looking for a "Pharmacia" is also a priority, Tim was stung by an insect yesterday, his right foot and ankle are swollen and blistering from the reaction from the poison. We find an open "Pharmacia" and get the prescribed treatment. Within a few hours we our in camp at "Tilcara". Tim's foot elevated and iced, the treatment seems to be working. Great news, as we were all quite worried. This small town is built on the side of a mountain. "Adobe Brick" buildings line the cobblestone and gravel streets. Smiling shopkeepers welcome us, the scenery magnificent, as if it were painted. After a viewing of the town, and surrounding area for photos, it's dinner and off to bed.
"Salta" here we come, beat the heat , let's go. New Years in the municipal campground. Oh yeah, we all imagine how nice it will be sitting next to the pool, which just happens to be on the top ten list of the largest pools in the world. The pool takes approximately 10 days to fill, mind boggling, and has the same square footage as two "Football Fields. We get to "Salta" early, pulled off 300 kilometers pretty fast, nice ride. Andy , Tim, and John are already at the campground. Cash, Ed and myself are on the way. Following the GPS through town we are almost there, then we make a big mistake. We turn left onto a one way but the light is "Rojo" that is what the two traffic cops were yelling at us as they demanded we pull over. We pleaded our case, the policeman said in spanish at warp speed, Rojo is Rojo, International law. Ok we went through the red light but 120.00 US dollars is a little steep for a fine. We pleaded ignorance, said we do it in Canada which is actually legal, but not in Argentina apperantly. He is not budging, his younger partner checks our credentials as he walks Cash back to the scene of the crime. Upon their return , we sincerely apologize, we do not have "Mucho Denero" we explain, that is why we camp. After about 45 minutes they agree to let us go. We really appreciated our big break, we shake hands and give them a "Panamerican Rider" card. Let's get out of here asap. Soon we meet up at the campground with the others.
Upon our arrival at the campground, the pool is still, being filled, so we will not be swimming today, maybe if we stayed another week, it might be full enough. Not happening. That is ok, we are all together off the road, camping, and it is "New Years Eve". We all miss our families, but we have become our own little family. The "PanamericanRider" family. A gourmet camp meal is on the agenda for the evening, down some wobbly pops, sit back and reminisce about the adventure so far. Take
in the fireworks at midnight, call our families and off to bed. "FELIZE ANO NUEVO"
It is going to be a very hot day of riding. Just packing up our gear puts us all into sweat mode. Hopefully we will put the majority of kilometers on early in the day, this will allow for more frequent stops later, too cool down and replenish our bodies with liquids. A couple of the riders wear camel packs, they hold 2 litres of water and continually hydrate while riding, great piece of gear.
Our plan is coming together well, by mid day we are well over half way to our destination of "San Miguel de Tucuman". The temperature is hot, 37 degrees Celsius. With our riding gear on, it feels like 45 degrees Celsius. We will all lose weight today, maybe not a bad thing, might get a little more speed from our "Poquito Motos".
We are closing in on the city, small scooters are riding on the shoulders of the highway, lots of them, most have two riders, no helmets, all wearing shorts, tank tops, absolutely no safety gear. That is what they do, some even ride three up, which includes the baby tightly tucked in between Mom and Dad. It is Friday night and they are going out on the town. Upon our arrival three "Amigos" get a hotel the other three "Hombres" opt for camping. The next day we will meet in the city of "Salta" and start getting used to the higher altitudes we will be encountering over the next several days.
With the sun shining, off we go, we manipulate our way through the streets, dodging the huge pools of water, left behind from last nights storm. As we leave town, ditches are filled to the brim with brown silty water. The fields teaming with the growth of what they have to offer. Sunflowers, Corn, absolutely beautiful. There are thousands of acres planted here. Agriculture is huge, I have never witnessed so many pieces of farm equipment, massive in size, so diverse in the jobs they perform. Cattle also dot the fields for 100's of kilometers as well. Nothing like a good Argentinian steak. Just ask my "Carnivore Amigos". Today our sights are set on the city of "Cordoba. It is very hot, and we need to make extra stops to hydrate ourselves. At one stop, Andy's bike blows over in wind into Cash's bike which falls into a parked car. Running through the parking lot, Andy, Tim and myself recover the bikes to their previous positions. Only a little bit of damage, lucky for them, could have been alot worse, especially to the car.
Back on the road we are nearing our destination, upon arrival we stop again to hydrate our parched souls, and look for a campsite. We decide to go a little further to the town of "Jesus Mary". En Epoca de Festival Camping Puerto Caroya, is where we lay our heads for the night. Off the road early, we can set up and continue the drying process of gear and belongings. Quiet campground, nice host as well.
What a punctual group we are, that is what our Concierge told us. How do you do it he asked. Practice I responded. He just laughed and said he really admired it. Not so much here in my country was his response.The hotel has a great front desk staff , they went above and beyond for us. Thanks to them, our stay was so much more enjoyable. We all met outside for some photos, said our goodbyes, and prepared ourselves for the onslaught of traffic. Here we go again, my white knuckle friends. Getting out of Buenos Aires is not as easy as one may think, but what the hell, oh yeah welcome to traffic hell.
After about an hour we were through the traffic and highway bound. Our goal is to make it to Santa Fe, approximately 500 kilometers from Buenos Aires. On our way Andy ran out of fuel about 10 kilometers from our next fuel stop. Fortunatley I carry a siphon tube with me. The group each offered up some gas from their tanks, which was transfered to an empty water bottle. Andy was up and running again, off we go. There was no camping in "Santa Fe", so we opted for the municipal campground in the town of "Santo Torme". Nice spot next to a river. Tonight was a true test of our gear, we experienced severe winds, rain, lightning and thunder. Pretty noisy, so most of us had very little sleep. We left later than usual the next morning, this gave our tiny homes a chance to dry out before packing them away.
The boys are ready to roll, we have had enough downtime. We can only sit idle for so long, even though we have enjoyed our rest period and Christmas, time to prepare to hit the road. No plans for today, do your own thing, get supplies, be ready in manyana we vamos at 9 am. We do end up meeting for dinner around 8:00 pm. Eat well "Amigos"soon nothing but camp food.