Chasing Hewby around Peru
My girlfriend Hewby’s got this crazy idea. I had hoped to be able to join her for her entire trip, but couldn’t. Then for a while it looked like maybe I could join her in South America for a couple of months. That also fell through. Finally, I was able to pull together an almost 3-week trip to see her and ride with her. Airfare was easy. Arranging the motorcycle rental was a bit harder, as we weren’t sure where she would be when my vacation came up. It finally looked like southern Peru would be the ticket. Unfortunately, right after I committed to that, Hewby had some bike issues in southern Colombia, which resulted in her having to then haul the mail through Ecuador and northern Peru to meet me.
For most of my time here I will be chasing Hewby.
She’s a better, faster rider than I am, approaching the twisties with confidence where I keep thinking what ifs. She’ll be doing a bit of waiting on this ride.
Friday, Jan 11, 2013 – South America at last
My first foray into South America is off to an inauspicious start. When I disembark from the junky 757 that American flies on the Miami-Lima route, I find out that my duffle with all of my motorcycle gear did not join me. I cannot make a claim in Lima, but rather have to fly on to Arequipa, since that is where the luggage was checked through. The folks at LAN Peru also do not know where the bag is, but try hard to track it down for me. Calling American has me wait for 45 on the phone. Grumble. I finally find out that the luggage is in LAX, and will join me in AQP on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the folks at Peru Motors have let me poke through their riding gear collection – I find a helmet, gloves, a jacket, and some boots that actually fit me. I then do a little fiddling with the bike – a recent KLR650. I wire it for my GPS, get to know it a little, and go for a short ride. It’s my first introduction to riding a motorcycle outside of the US and Canada, and it is a bit like being thrown into the deep end of the pool. After a few gulps and gasps, I start to get the hang of it.
I am staying at the La Gruta hotel that has been recommended to me by the Peru Motors folks. After a nap, I go and explore Arequipa. The centro historico is just a short walk away, so I head there in search of food. I find some tasty ceviche de corvine at a restaurant called Zingaro, but I am also a little surprised at how pricey the place is. The night life near the Plaza de Armas is hopping, full of Peruvians and tourists alike, but it isn’t my scene, so I head back to the hotel.
Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 – The Search for Luggage
Today was supposed to have been the day that I head out to meet Hewby. She is racing down from Ecuador to meet me, so we can spend the next 2.5 weeks riding Peru. Instead, I go out on the town early in the morning to do a little sightseeing. I get a nice tour of the cathedral on the Plaza de Armas, an imposing edifice built of sillar, the local white volcanic stone. I wander through the Mercado, taking in the sights and smells. I finish with a great tour of the Santa Catalina cloisters.
Looking down on the Plaza de Armas from the top of the cathedral:
IMG_2161 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The walls of the Santa Catalina cloisters
IMG_2133 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
I'm a sucker for old doors:
IMG_2138 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2221 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Courtyard at the Santa Catalina cloisters:
IMG_2230 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
One of Peru's Finest, getting a jugo at the market:
IMG_2207 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
I meander back to the hotel, to find that Lars from Peru Motors is back from his “Chasing the Dakar” trip with four of his customers. I join them for beers, and we make plans to go out for dinner in the evening. Just then my luggage arrives! Yay! Still, being a couple of beers in, and it already being 3pm, I decide to hold off on hitting the road until early the next day. The evening passes quickly over a nice dinner and drinks, and I wander Arequipa at night with some of the folks from the trip, but head to the hotel by about 11 in anticipation of a 7am departure. I then spend several fitful hours alternating between “I must sleep so I am rested” and “I’m so excited I’m finally riding tomorrow”, dozing off around 3am.
Sunday, Jan 13, 2013 - Arequipa to Nazca
I manage to get out pretty early. I have a long day ahead of me, as it is about 350miles from Arequipa to Nazca, where I will finally meet up with Hewby. I am on the road at 7:30, before the city traffic picks up. Navigating out of the city isn’t bad, and I am soon on 30, heading towards the Panamericana. The landscape is surreal – rocky desert, with moutains in the distance. Behind me, Misti and the other volcanoes that tower over Arequipa emerge from their cloud cover to send me on my way. The views soon take a back seat to the idiot minibus drivers that ferry tourists on various treks in the vicinity. They tailgate me, seem genuinely annoyed if I try to take up anything more than the rightmost part of the lane, and generally drive like assholes. Fortunately, most of them split away to their destinations, which do not lie in the direction of Camana. The road is windy, and large trucks often gum up traffic as they crawl up the steep slopes. I soon realize that speed limits are merely advisory. I still do not understand why they bother to place “No Passing” signs everywhere, which are then routinely ignored by everyone. I start ignoring them as well.
IMG_2284 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Somewhere between Arequipa and Camana
IMG_2282 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The environment slowly changes, the rocks and mountains giving way sand and dunes. I can see why they just ran the Dakar through here a few days earlier – those dunes are enormous. Eventually, I start to spy glimpses of the gray Pacific in the distance. The temperature rises as I finally drop down towards the coast. Noticing some shacks and beach umbrellas, I pull over in search of food. I left Arequipa on an empty stomach, so it was time. I order some ceviche and wash it down with a large Callao Pilsner, and then continue on to Nazca.
Dropping down to Canama
IMG_2287 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The beach scene in Camana. I think the KLR improves the view:
IMG_1232 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Ceviche on the beach:
IMG_1233 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The road is winding, climbing up into the hills and dropping back down towards the ocean in sinuous, undulating curves and swoops. It feels a bit like riding Route 1 down the California coast, except the landscape is barren, devoid of almost all traces of vegetation or animal life.
Near Ocono I am passed by seven big Colombian bikes and I fall in line after them. I am thinking about fuel, having gone ~150 miles. The KLR has no low fuel light, and I do not have a good idea of its range. Chasing the Colombians for about 50 miles, I finally catch up to them when they stop for a photo op. We chat insofar as my crappy Spanish allows me to carry on a conversation. I ask them if they know where the next gas is, and am told that it is in Chala, about 60 miles north. Crap. I’ve now gone almost 200 miles, and I’m not sure if the reserve will get me that far. They wish me good luck and take off for Nazca. Fortunately, the Colombians are wrong about the gas situation, as 10 miles later I enter the town of Atico, and they have gasolina.
IMG_2292 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Fishing boats somewhere near Atico:
IMG_2291 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Fueled up, I press on to Chala. The road changes again… it flattens out and becomes straight. I pin the throttle, and the mighty KLR slowly builds up to about 85mph. I stop in Chala for a jugo, and get an email from Hewby that she’s aready in Nazca at the hotel. The last miles pass quickly. The road is mostly straight and flat, and for the last 50 miles veers away from the coast and into the desert. Hewby has been tracking my progress and greets me at the curb of the hotel as I pull up. Success.
Pulling up to the hotel in Nazca:
8388702794_30e2f61dae_o by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Good job on catching up with Hewby, that girl can travel! You are in for a great time.
Monday, Jan 14, 2013 – Nazca to Cusco (part 1)
After breakfast, we load up the bikes. First thing we do is head out to the famous Nazca lines. We had wrestled with whether to drop the coin on a flight over them, and finally decided against it. Instead we just ride out to the observation tower and I get to see the few figures that are visible from the top. I think a tethered observation balloon would be a better viewing platform, but so far no one has put that into effect.
One of the figures:
IMG_2293 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2294 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Hewby is at the bottom of the tower with the bikes:
IMG_2295 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The rather straight and boring roads near Nazca:
IMG_2301 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
We then turn around and head towards Cusco. I had heard a lot about how great a road the 26 is, and it does not disappoint. What makes it even better is the almost complete lack of traffic on it. Our plan is to head to Chalhuanca, which is midway between Nazca and Cusco. This would make today a 200-mile day. I’ve been told that Puquio, midway to Chalhuanca, would make a good lunch stop.
Nice and twisty:
IMG_2303 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Hewby enjoying the turns:
IMG_2305 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Moonscape and asphalt:
IMG_2306 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2307 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The brown, lifeless hills seem to go on forever:
IMG_2310 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
We climb away from the coast, the 26 wowing us with every turn. Eventually, the road straightens out a bit as we are on the altiplano. We ride straight through the middle of a Guanaco reserve, and soon see many of the llama-like camelids on both sides of the road.
The first bits of green appear on the altiplano:
IMG_2312 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The first of many guanacos:
IMG_2316 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
About as close as I could get without spooking them:
IMG_2320 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2322 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Unfortunately, we also see that the eastern horizon is now black, and we’re heading straight for it. This is the rainy season on the altiplano. I close up my vents and Hewby puts on her waterproof liners, and we press onwards. The first drops of rain are quickly replaced by painful hail pellets, which are accompanied by a light show and a chorus of thunder. The guanacos are nowhere to be seen. The road turns white, and we ride on slowly through an inch-deep layer of slush that has appeared. Fortunately, this only lasts maybe 10 minutes, and the hail subsides to a more gentle rain.
Looks like trouble:
IMG_2325 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Yup, definitely trouble:
IMG_2326 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Fortunately, the skies soon clear:
IMG_2327 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The thought of a hot (if late) lunch in Puquio keeps us going. We ride through the rain, and drop down to the small town of Pachan. Hewby spies a small roadside restaurant and we stop there for lunch. They have something called sudado trucha on the menu, which sounds intriguing, so we get that. It turns out to be a great call – sudado means the trout is poached in an exquisitely flavored broth of tomatoes, onions, and aji peppers. We wolf that down and it warms us up, and our moods improve. While we were eating, another thunderstorm had moved past, so we lucked out in our choice of stops.
I check Google Maps, and it seems we’re maybe 20 miles from Puquio. We realize we will not make it to Chalhuanca for the night. Off the main drag through the town I see a church tower off to the left, and figure that’s where the plaza is. We head there, and as we enter it a man runs out of a shop and starts waving us over. Turns out he runs a hotel right on the plaza. Around the corner he has covered, secured parking for the bikes and there’s hot water, but no internet. Good enough.
The lush, green slopes east of the alitplano:
IMG_2328 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
And some nice twisties:
IMG_2333 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
A sheep herder in Pachan:
IMG_2338 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
I pull my bike around the side, where our host has constructed a steep ramp to get me over the tall curb and two very tall steps and into the large, enclosed space. I don’t really think about it, but line the KLR up, gun it, and I’m in. Woohoo. Hewby asks me to do the same with her F650GS. Unfortunately, I overthink it and stall the bike on the ramp. Futilely searching with my feet for purchase, I and the bike fall off the ramp to the right. I feel something pop in my right knee and a hot, throbbing pain has me sitting on the curb, clutching my knee, being useless as the bike lies there, practically blocking traffic. Fortunately, our host and two other men push the bike up the ramp.
Hewby failed to get a picture of me dumping her bike :deal
I manage to hobble inside. Almost two years ago I tore the MCL and ACL in my right knee in a skiing accident. That same knee bore the brunt of the fall, but I do not think I tore anything this time. After hobbling around for 20 minutes, I manage to make it up the stairs to the room and pop an 800mg Motrin. Hewby applies some pain relief cream to the knee, and I take a nap.
We wake up around 7. My knee is stiff and achy, but I can sort of walk on it. We go down to the bikes, to see that our two have been joined by a third. The rider is an Italian, Gionata, on his modified 1987 Transalp. He’s been on the road for 8 years now. He asks to join us for dinner. We get an excellent recommendation from our host for a little place called “La Estancia” that is three blocks away. For six soles per person, we have a tasty chicken broth followed by rice and some sort of vegetables. I’m normally good with knowing the names of what I eat, but this name escaped me. The vegetable tasted a bit like spinach, and we were told it is local to the area. Gionata and Hewby swap road stories. He’s heading north, to Colombia and then Central America, so she tells him of some roads to avoid and others not to miss. He just finished a one year stint as a motorcycle guide, so he tells her of the Salar the Uyuni and the road down to Ushuaia. This being only my second day on the road, I can’t really contribute much to this conversation, so I try and listen, albeit with more than a hint of envy.
Gionata's 1987 Transalp:
IMG_1236 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Nice, secure parking with plenty of room:
IMG_1237 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
We head back to the hotel, where we spend some time fiddling with the bikes. I hook up my heated gear, and Hewby tries to diagnose why her heated liner does not seem to be working. Eventually we come to the conclusion that it still works, just much more slowly. Plugging my jacket into her controller gives me almost instant heat, so there’s something wonky with her jacket, but I’m pretty sure Gerbing does not have service here in Peru. At least she can still use it to drive her heated glove liners.
It’s almost midnight when we finally hit the sack. Tomorrow, to Chalhuanca (and beyond?)
:lurk this is easier than writing my own report! mmm, What will happen next???
Yes, having made the infamous fireworks run with Hewby we know the girl can ride. Enjoy your time together.
Great start to your ride report! Peru is such a wonderful place to ride, and outside of the major cities the people are some of the most gracious and accommodating I have encountered anywhere.
If you are heading to Cusco, I have to assume Machu Picchu is on the agenda... the entire Sacred Valley area is amazing, and MP is the Crown Jewel, especially if you pass through some of the major archielogical sites en route from Cusco. If you would like a route suggestion feel free to PM.
Wishing you both the best,
So it seems that Flickr and Aperture don't always get along... :baldy
I'm going to run through all of the images, update their links, and hopefully no one will be seeing any broken links to Flickr anymore.
OK, I've gone and fixed up the links to the pictures... If anyone still still sees broken Flickr links, let me know.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 – Puquio to Chalhuanca to Abancay
In the morning, we wander off to “La Estancia” for breakfast. One of the items that intrigues me is the jugo especial. Upon being told that it is leche and cervesa and huevo and some fruits, I go for it. After all, it sounds like a balanced meal. It comes out a faint brown or tan, a pretty unappetizing color. It is, however, delicious. I’m going to have to try and recreate that at home when I get back.
Hewby finishing the last of the jugo especial:
IMG_1238 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
We hit the road to Chalhuanca. The signs tell me it is 184km, so I’m thinking that including reserve, I have enough gas to get there. And seeing as it is not currently raining, we want to ride while the weather is good. The road climbs in sharp switchbacks, then straightens out a bit on the altiplano, and tops out at almost fifteen thousand feet. The bike is actually doing OK. About 25 miles east of Puquio, we stop by some lakes and I put on my heated gear, as the horizon looks decidedly ominous. We ride into rain and a couple of hailstorms, but nothing like what we hit coming into Puquio yesterday. The landscape is pretty lush and green, and there are always people about, even up here, usually herding.
Great roads through beautiful scenery:
IMG_2342 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2344 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Some large alpine tarns near the top of the pass:
DSC00740 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Just after another hailstorm:
IMG_2351 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2356 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Riding on the altiplano:
DSC00753 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The descent into Chalhuanca is spectacular. At 201 miles, my bike sputters to a stop. I figure, ok, I’m out of gas. Flip over to the reserve, and continue riding. Except the bike does not start. I can hear the chatter of the starter, but no love from the engine. Hewby realizes I’m not behind her, and comes back. We pout a liter of stove gasoline into the KLR. Now, I don’t even have the starter. I must have drained my battery. Fortunately, I’m just near a small hill, and am able to push start the bike. We ride into Chalhuanca, where we are accosted by multiple dogs that charge us, snarling, but fortunately nothing else. On the way out of town we stop to fill up the bikes.
Amazing, 3-mile set of twisties into Chalhuanca:
DSC00764 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
IMG_2361 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Hewby carves the turns:
IMG_2367 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
DSC00767 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
More lush scenery:
IMG_2365 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The bike doesn’t start again. Crap. This time, however, I’m not on the road on top of a hill. I’m in the flat parking lot of a gas station, and the road through town is pretty flat. Double crap. We decide to get something to eat while we ponder the options. Turns out that the KLR does not really have the charging capacity to run a jacket and gloves at half tilt. Hewby no longer has her jumper cables, and in any case, getting to the battery on the KLR is a pain that involves removing the racks on one side. She got rid of her rope, so we have no tow strap. That really only leaves a push start again. Hewby is not looking forward to this, as she’s a small girl. Unfortunately, the KLR is way too tall for her, so I have to be on it, and she has to push. We are saved by the arrival of a couple of tour buses, which disgorge their passengers at the restaurant. We ask a couple of the men for help, and after five or six attempts, the engine roars to life again. I ride back and forth for a bit, to ensure that the engine does not die on me, and eventually ride back to the gas station. I put on my gear, and we head out. It is two hours to Abancay, the weather is good, the tank is full of gas, and I need to run the engine for a while to charge the battery up again.
The road from Chalhuanca to Abancay is my cup of tea. It parallels the Rio Chalhuanca as that flows down from the mountains. We ride through steep canyons and lush valleys, always along a river. I am in heaven. Hewby would have preferred something twistier. The temperature rises as we drop to seven thousand over 80 miles. Finally, we break away from the river and climb a bit to Abancay.
Riding along the river:
DSC00773 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The Rio Chalhuanca:
DSC00774 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Abancay itself does not make a good impression. Tiny, choked streets full of impatient Fittipaldi wannabes push us this way and that. Hewby spots a hotel with a garage, and wants to check it out, but I am insistent that we find the plaza de armas, as I think that will be the tourist section of the city. I am wrong. The plaza is a small, uninteresting thing. On top of it, Hewby drops her bike on the slick, steep cobblestones. I feel bad, and let her be the guide. Within 10 minutes she has found us a hotel for 50 soles with secure parking, hot water, and wifi. She’s awesome like that. And she helped to push-start my bike, so she’s doubly awesome. For anyone interested, the Hotel is Hostel Omega, on the corner of Apurimac and Cuzco.
We do some laundry, and then go out in search of food. I am craving something, something with lots of alcohol and good food. Unfortunately, Abancay does not seem to provide. There are lots of small holes in the wall, or pizzerias, or places serving pollo, but nothing with a bar. I’m hungry and cranky, and Hewby knows this, so she brilliantly distracts me with a tamale. I still don’t know what I want, but start to focus my search on a place with juice and ice cream. We find one, and I drink my fill of chicha morada, a yogurt drink, and mango and milk. A couple of hundred meters later, on a plaza next to the plaza de armas, we find a hole in the wall that has three street vendors. One sells meat on a stick, one sells refrescos, and one sells arroz con leche and other desserts. We chow down. My cravings for an expensive tourist trap have gone away. I think the whole food excursion was 22 soles for the two of us.
We head back to the hotel, where I pop another motrin for my knee, which is still throbbing, and start to do a little research about where we’re going in Cusco.
We Google imaged the Nazca lines while reading on the foggy cold frickin' day here...
Awesome. We've seen 'em on TV, too.
So whadaya think,.......Aliens for air support? :lol3
They're just so perfect :huh
How are you and the bike healing up? :ear
I'm pretty sure it was aliens. I think this guy Erich von Daenniken wrote about it :loco
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 – Abancay to Cusco
We go out for breakfast to a little street food place, where I think I did myself in. About an hour after the meal, my stomach lets me know that something ain’t right. Ugh. We load up the bikes, and head out to the main road to get gas on the way out of town. After filling up, the KLR again refuses to start. Fortunately, there is a steep hill nearby where I can push start myself.
We climb up and out of Abancay, going over another pass at a little over twelve thousand feet. We get rained on as we ascend the western side, but as we drop down the eastern slopes the rain goes away. We drop down to the Rio Apurimac and follow that for a while. The river has washed out sections of the road here, which have been filled with dirt but not yet paved. Compared to the last couple of days, traffic is relatively heavy, with lots of buses and trucks belching black soot. We climb up to Cusco, but the road is pretty uninspiring. We pass through town after town, the road is straight and boring and crowded.
Lots of civilization everywhere today:
IMG_2374 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
The road started out nice:
IMG_2376 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Is it bad that after three days, this type of view no longer takes my breath away?
IMG_2377 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
A tributary of the Rio Apurimac:
IMG_2378 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
When we finally reach Cusco, we get a room at the Hostel Santa Maria, right off the Plaza de Armas. Unfortunately for me, I start coming down with something, as I have a fever and am shaking, not to mention the GI issues are not getting any better. I try to keep Hewby company, but am miserable and go back to the hotel and climb into bed. Sleep is fitful, as I get up about every hour. I pop a cipro and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
The Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas:
IMG_2380 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
Opposed by a statue to Huayna Capac:
IMG_2381 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
It's sure nice to have such great riding partners,eh?
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