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Old 10-19-2012, 04:29 PM   #271
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Back to the sierra, again

Following BlueBull2007's advice, we went south out of Lima along the Panamericana (yeccchhh) until we hit San Vicente del Cañete where we turned east towards Huancayo. The ride turned out to be beautiful, as promised.


(winding 1-ish lane road much of the way)


(huge canyon walls)


(crazy canyon walls)


(interesting small towns along the way with tire eating troughs in the middle of the road)


("killer boots, man!")


(up to the high plains)


(some stretches were more green)


(this town right on the railroad tracks felt a bit like the Peruvian wild west)


(we let the goats have the right of way)


(the road ended up back at lower elevations with some dry desert scenery)

Leaving Huancayo for Ayacucho we passed a bicyclist from Minnesota who we had met in passing just crossing Huascarán the last time. The crazy part is that he had been riding hard everday to get through Huancayo, while we had dropped down to Lima from La Oroya, hung out for a few days, then worked our way back up to the mountains. Those bikers certainly have their work cut out for them!


(Christopher on the road. It's nice to catch bicyclists with a smile on their face...sometimes they look a little more, uh, taxed)


(on the right path)



We ended up going through a major construction zone before hitting Ayacucho, as well as after. It dramatically changed the course of some of our days...


(in the little town of Ocros we stopped for lunch, where we provided some entertainment for the school kids)


(at the edge of town there was a roadblock for construction, which closed back down at 1:30. We, of course, arrived there at 1:45. The next time to pass was at 5:30. Shoot. We had even been asking about the road to Ayacucho and noone mentioned the blockage. So we were stuck)


(we ended up staring at this tree for much of the 4 hour delay)


(sun setting after our 5:30 departure from Ocros)

We stopped short of our planned destination, which would have been about 4 hours of riding, finding a small town just 2 hours down the road. But it still required lots of dark dirt riding through a construction zone. Un-fun. The next day was a nice day as we continued towards Ayacucho, where we stayed the night. Leaving Ayacucho started off with replacing 2 completely thrashed front wheel bearings. Not so bad except for having to weld a piece onto one of the outer races to get it out of the wheel. But ready to go after about an hour. We then proceeded to take nearly an hour and a half to find our way out of town on the correct highway. It should not have been that hard, but between the poor GPS map, a huge ravine with no way to cross, and Latin directions, it was just one of those mornings. To be followed by:


(the zona de BOOM that kept us in one spot for 2 hours on our way to Abancay. I guess 2 is better than 4.)


(And we got some entertainment by a municipality driver who tried to pull rank on the nice lady working the closure. What an asshole. But quite common for some of these small town officials (which may even be a stretch in this case) in Latin America. Poor construction worker lady shown here)

We finally started to feel like we were making progress to Cusco, though. After finally arriving in Abancay (we could see the town for what felt like hours as we worked our way down switchbacks on the other side of the valley) we found out we'd be back on autopista (=paved) to Cusco, after hundreds of km of carretera (= dirt) and unexpected construction.


(some of the relentless switchbacks into Abancay)


(the ride from Abancay to Cusco is about 4 hours and an absolute blast)

We rolled into Cusco as night set in, extremely happy to arrive at a location where we would stay for a few days. But of course, it was a bit of a challenge navigating the busy one way streets to find the hostel we planned on staying at, La Estrellita. Even so, it served as a good introductory tour of Cusco.
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Old 11-08-2012, 07:02 AM   #272
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Riding through the Sacred Valley

Thanks to Radioman's advanced efforts to reserve us our entry to Machu Picchu (go to the official ministry of tourism to pay the right price, around US$50) and Huaynu Picchu (additional US$10, but very worth it), we didn't have too much to do while in Cusco.


(main plaza in Cusco. This town is full of gringos and of people trying to sell massages and meals to gringos. It could grow old fast. There were some nice places to see, and redeeming qualities, though)

Two main things on our list were to find a good book exchange for Jill (mainly) and to find a new front tire for Mike (well, for both of us, but Mike gets to have this errand). The book exchange was a flop. The bookstores all have really crappy English books, if any at all. Some bars/coffee shops advertise book exchanges, but they are in it for profit even if you have a book to trade (talking more than US$15 for used books and they'll give you about 3...). Hostels didn't have much to offer. No dice. But Mike found a new front tire!


(scary old Sahara 3)


(brand new MT-21! at a fair cost of S/150, US$57)

Exploring some more of Cusco by foot allowed us to see a bit more than just the main plazas and markets. Highlights included the all you can eat Indian food buffet for S/15 (alright, alright, this is kind of what we were complaining about just a second ago, but they didn't have a pusher-man out front, just a sign), the used clothes market, and the wild, attacking vicuñas.


(when walls may fall down, they just put up a sign and let you figure it out)


(FYI - this is what a vicuña looks like when he's angry and wants to attack. In a guide book we read that you can enter the grounds of some public building and pet llamas and vicuñas, which sounded like fun. We had a different sort of fun...)


(...vicuña running wildly in attack mode...)


(...vicuña chasing an unexpecting female tourist in circles, trying to kick her in the face...)


(...eventually the vicuña calmed down and just wanted to eat her clothes. All while this was happening, we, and the male companion of the tourist being attacked, were laughing hysterically. But we were also glad the vicuña didn't choose us as the target.)




(crazy hail storm at la Estrellita)

The route to Machu Picchu took us through the Sacred Valley, past tons of Incan ruins, and through some interesting little towns. I'm sure a train ride up would be beautiful and scenic, but our approach was tough to beat!


(on the plaza in Ollantaytambo)


(Riding through Ollantaytambo, with ruins immediately ahead)


(ruins seen from the road exist all throughout the Sacred Valley)


(Radioman following us through the switchbacks. He was nice to slow his new machine down to match our old school, 2-up pace.)


(twisties on the way up to the 14000+ ft summit of Abra de Malaga)


(sometimes you gotta stop)


(getting closer to Sta Teresa we ran into Guillaume, a Frenchman living in Thailand on a South American break for 6 months. His story is HERE)


(some of these drainage troughs were super slippery, coated with a layer of moss or algae on the bottom. Crossing one we had a fun little TA dance going, but luckily held it together)


(the last couple of hours to Sta Teresa were on this fun dirt road)




(Mark loving the ride)


(pulling up next to Mark on the road to Sta Teresa)


(surprise truck passing around a bend is old hat by now. But somehow still always a surprise)

Arriving in Sta Teresa, we found a nice little hostel that offered camping and a place to park the bikes for S/5 a night.


(bike storage in Sta Teresa. The owner even kept our boots and riding gear locked up inside. It worked out well)

As luck turned out, there was a van getting loaded to take a run the 7 km up to the hydroelectric damn. So we jumped in for the going rate of S/5 each. There you can either take a train to Aguas Calientes or walk, but since the train cost almost US$20 one way, you can guess what we did.


(on the way to Aguas Calientes. It's a 2.5 hour walk but pretty flat so easy overall)


(no walking, whaaat?)


(although the train would've been faster. We didn't know it at the time, but at top left is Machu Picchu. The walk takes you right around Huaynu Picchu, and you get glimpses of terraced land down lower on the hillsides at times, but man, this site was well-hidden)


(with how many different layers we wear as moto travelers, we're all used to changing quickly wherever. We just consider it a "cultural exchange")



Aguascalientes is a little tourist hotspot that's been overbuilt with accomodations and restaurants. The best offer is generally the 4 x 1 mixed drinks (mmmm, pisco sour) - but make sure you get your free nachos with it, they often try to get out of that part - and the S/15 menú. Simple but good options. However, the draw to Aguascalientes has nothing to do with what Aguascalientes itself offers; it has everything to do with what sits beside it...


IF TAKING THIS RIDE:
2uprtw posted excellent info HERE and excerpted below

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2uprtw
If you’re up for a bit of adventure you can try getting to Machu Picchu with your own vehicle. It is relatively easy once you know how. Here is the route:


From Cusco make you way to the village of Ollantaytambo (a 2 hour drive on paved roads)
From Ollantaytambo go to the village of Santa Maria (a 2 hour drive that brings you up to over 4000 meters then drops you back down into a valley, this road is paved for the first part then turns to gravel)
From Santa Maria you make your way to Santa Theresa (a 2 hour drive on gravel, some stretches are dangerous but not technically difficult)
In Santa Theresa find parking for you vehicle (lots of small hotels do this) and take a cab to the hydro station (a 45 minute ride)
From the hydro station you walk along train tracks to the village of Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu (2 hour walk)
You just saved about 90$ in train fare!

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Old 11-08-2012, 03:29 PM   #273
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Machu Picchu

First of all, let's just start by saying that Machu Picchu is amazing. Absolutely incredible. There are some people who claim it's overrated, that other sites in Peru are superior. But I just don't agree. The setting of Machu Picchu is stunning, the ruins themselves fascinating, and the spectacular ruins and views from Huaynu Picchu are in a league of their own. Granted, it is really crowded at Machu Picchu, but there are ways to avoid the worst of it. Now, here're the details:

We took the bus up from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, US$9 each, and would recommend anyone else do the same. You will get plenty of walking at the site, and the hike to the site ain't that cool. Get in line early. Buses start to leave at 5:30am. We got there at 5 am, but a desire for coffee put us on the 4th bus up.




(Approaching the Sun Gate (Intipuncu) at daybreak. Hikers that take the Inca Trail arrive at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate so there were a number of people up there before us. (Hikers that take the Salcantay route ended up with us on the railroad tracks from the Hydroelectric dam to Aguas Calientes))


(the clouds were thick that morning, but began lifting as we made our way back down from the Sun Gate)

We explored some of the upper areas of the site when the clouds were still hovering over the ridge, adding to the mysticism (you knew we'd say it, Mark) as they broke slightly and you could catch glimpses of the ruins.


(this little chair was one of our first glimpses of how much stone work was done. Even though it looks like a lounger, I'm pretty sure that whoever was sitting in the chair was not comfortable there. You can see evidence of rope or chain worn into the rock near the shoulders. At the back of the altar there were stone eyelets. But the carved stone stairs and curvature of the stone can be found all over Machu Picchu.)


(for instance, these round, timber-looking stones protruded near the roof line on many structures. The rebuilt houses show the roofs being tied off to them (as pictured). Maybe these stone builders just liked the exotic (to them) timber frame look?)


(this was one of our greeters back down at the main site)


(along with a few other tourists.)


(even so, you can still get some amazing views)




(panaromic of us at Machu Picchu. Radioman took some really great shots that day, and was kind enough to share with us. Mark, it was fantastic being able to tour Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley with you! Thanks again for everything!)


(the stone work is amazing, with many walls having crisp, defined lines at the tight joints between rocks)


(walls often incorporated large stones seamlessly)








(Huayna Picchu is that steep mountain in the background. It's a definite hike up, but well worth it as the views are incredible and crowds less - only 400 people are allowed up each day, 200 in the morning and 200 late morning. We had the late morning slot and it worked out great.)


(us at the base of the ruins on top of Huayna Picchu)


(Jill working her way out of a tunnel on Huayna Picchu)


(Mike on an exposed staircase. Someone else's video of the exposure can be seen HERE with a good overview of the site including the road out to the Sun Gate at around 1 min 10 sec in)


(steep terraces of Machu Picchu as seen looking back from Huaynu Picchu)


(Huaynu Picchu is situated on a very steep, very tall cliff face. Mike walked no further)


(Jill taking it all in from the peak)

From the top of Huayna Picchu, you can either backtrack down the same way you came up, or take a trail that drops down the back of the mountain, past 2 more known ruins and then connects back up with the main Huayna Picchu trail. The hike is strenuous, but well worth it! Of the 400 people that go up to Huayna Picchu in a day, very few take this longer hike (adding a couple of hours to the Huayna Picchu part). I would guess we were 3 of around 20 other people who took this path. It was beautiful.


(following the Incan trail down and around Huayna Picchu)


(the trail brings you to the Templo de la Luna...)


(and to the Gran Caverna)


(some interesting walking)


(to top it all off, we had this incredible rainbow waiting for us after we made it back to the main trail)

Even though we were pretty exhausted after the hike, Jill, Mike, and Joe, our new friend from Denver we ran into on Huayna Picchu, let a coin flip decide that they were going to hike up the small peak even closer to the ruins, Huchuypichhu. Just inside the Huayna Picchu checkpoint (they make you sign in and out to ensure everyone comes back...some of these trails are not for the faint of heart) there is a turn off for this little peak and in fact the sign says '<-- --="--" large="large" nbsp="nbsp" or="or" picchu="picchu" small="small" uayna="uayna" uchuypicchu="uchuypicchu">'. This hike was much shorter than the 45 min up Huayna Picchu, only taking 10 or so from the turn off. But there are some sections of path even narrower than the main trail.


(Jill rappelling at Huchuypicchu)



We were the last group of people to check out of the Huayna Picchu gate (aside from 2 others right behind us) and that time exploring made our day! Even though it was already nearing 3pm, we still had some time to check out the main area and to see the Inca bridge, which is worth the walk.


(more impressive stone work for water channels)


(this doormat must've meant something. You don't see many blue rocks on site)




(inca bridge. Look at that trail!)


(I guess it was built as a way to block access to the site - chuck the boards and you'd have a real tough, slow, vulnerable time climbing down those exposed rock side-stairs to get to the other side)

It was getting late in the day, especially with the site closing within the hour (5pm). We were out of water (bring lots!) and ready to use a bathroom (you can't find those on premises, either). Thankfully a young employee at the snack stand at the entrance filled our empty bottle with tap water free of charge (as opposed to the exorbitant prices for their selection). He was real reluctant to do so, good thing his manager wasn't around.


(the llamas reclaim the site later in the day)

We met back up with Joe and walked down the hill, saving the US$9 each. The walk is easy enough on the way down, taking an hour or so to reach Aguas calientes at our slow, exhausted pace. We rewarded ourselves with a beer at the first stand in town, and had a good chat with Joe.

Our day at Machu Picchu was phenomenal! Some of what made it that way was allowing the full day to be up there, being prepared to walk all day long at that elevation, and taking the hike up and around Huayna Picchu.
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Old 11-08-2012, 08:34 PM   #274
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So very cool. Im jealous. That's on my bucket list
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:32 AM   #275
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hotmamaandme View Post
So very cool. Im jealous. That's on my bucket list
It should definitely be on your bucket list! And there's a good bike rental agency (among many) in Cusco, so you can explore the Sacred Vally by moto in an easier to manage vacation package. Just sayin'... (but then again, I know that it'd be sad to be there without your TA)

Glad your still following along, Cory! Over the next week or so we should be caught up to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where I sit now, including the death road, Yungas mtns, and the Salar de Uyuni. Stay tuned...
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Old 11-09-2012, 04:39 AM   #276
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Rocotos rellenos!

Backtracking out of Aguas Calientes was the reverse of arriving, but still a fun area to backtrack in! On the hike back to the hydroelectric dam we were a bit more aware of our surroundings after seeing them from above.


(can you find Machu Picchu? Hint: Machu Picchu mountain is peak at top center, Huayna Picchu at top left. No wonder this site was undiscovered for so long...)


(between Sta Teresa and Sta Maria)


(it was a bit dusty following Mark)


(we had a nice clear ride this time over the Abra de Malaga)


(managing to pull into the famous Ollantaytambo market on a Sunday afternoon. Busy. Super busy. With a silly traffic jam caused by one-lane bottlenecks on each side of the market. Mark made it through a crucial opening before the trucks closed the gap, so we met him in the plaza a little while later)


("Prohibido Estacionar" where? Over there?")


(Ollantaytambo is a cool little town to explore, with ruins basically in town)


(sunset from one of the many small pedestrian walks surrounding the main streets.)


(Mark had taken advantage of the market to find a souvenir hood ornament. Here at the machine shop getting it fitted for its zip-tie mounting)


(here ready for the road)

From Ollantaytambo we headed down to Pisac, another well known set of ruins in the Sacred Valley. We had heard you can drive/hike above them for a good view without having to pay the entrance fee (which sounded perfect because we were having a hard time justifying the S/130 or 150 fee to enter all of these other ruins, especially given that in northern Peru - in fact anywhere that isn't easily reachable from Cusco - the entrance fee is S/10). Turns out they just meant from the road, but the view was still pretty good.


(Pisac from afar)

We had a nice, cheap (only S/4) menú del día with Mark in Pisac before saying our good byes (for now).



From Pisac we motored to Pikillacta, a sprawling pre-Incan ruin that is much less visited than many sites. We timed our arrival perfectly to pay our S/10 entrance (ahh) and wait out a strong thunderstorm in a bus shelter. We had the place entirely to ourselves.


(the site covers nearly 2 square kilometers, with some walls running almost 1 km long. It was apparently only ever used intermittently, never as a permanent settlement.)



After an hour or so we continued on down the road to Sicuani where we eventually found a place to stay the night. That town was not a highlight. The next day was fun, though as we worked our way through some small towns towards Arequipa.


("Spring breaker". Within 50 km we saw 3 other names for the everpresent speed bumps: the classic "reductor de velocidad", "giba", and "resalto". But "rompe muelle" is the best.)




(we even ran into Will, who we hung out with in Lima, on the way. He ended up sticking in Peru for more time rather than heading down to Chile right away, but we may see him again in Bolivia...)


(pulling into Arequipa was a bit busy. This is the usual state of traffic near the plaza)


(but at least they have cops at almost every corner who blow a whistle but don't change much. Lady cops often wear cowboy hats. So many different styles of hat exist throughout the Andes. But not cowboy hats. Except on lady cops in Arequipa.)

Arequipa was a nice town to explore for a few days. The downtown area has a nice colonial feel, there are lots of good restaurants with plenty of variety (favorites included Mediterranean and Mexican, of course), and the people super friendly (including the lady who randomly offered to help us start a business there). However, it was not a good city for our errands. In fact, we went 0 for about 7. But in short, Bolivia does not have a consulate there, even though Bolivia's consulate webpage lists a specific address and phone number. We found the address but the door man was insistent that it never used to be there. Wikitravel listed a coffeeshop as having a book exchange, but when we asked the employees they thought we were crazy. Mike could not find a moto shop to buy an oil filter (but he did get the air filter blown out, so 1 small errand was accomplished). And some other smaller tasks just didn't get done. Leaving aside specifics, Arequipa was cool to check out. But don't do it from the Point Hostel. That place sucked.


(Arequipa's famous rocoto relleno = stuffed pepper. Served with pastel de papa = potato cake (literally), it's a layered potato casserole. Too much food, but sooo good. We had this upstairs at the public market.)


(Plaza de Armas at night)
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Old 11-11-2012, 02:11 PM   #277
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Colca Canyon is for the birds

Colca Canyon, within a couple hundred kilometers of Arequipa, is one of Peru's top tourist destinations, known for its natural beauty and soaring condors. It was on our list of places to see in Peru, so there we went.


("fog zone" One of the few road signs that you love to see when it's inaccurate)


(the road is in great shape for the first half of the ride)


(allowing us to zoom past all of the road side souvenir stands. There was a lot of them. And I think tour buses may actually stop at each one. Which would be great if you're into that sort of thing)

After a beautiful ride to the start of the canyon, you are stopped at the park entrance gate. Entry fee: S/70 each (~US$25 each). Yowzaws! It took a good deal of convincing the lady that all we really wanted to do was get into Chivay (about 200 meters away) to eat lunch. We really did just want to get into Chivay and eat lunch. She said that if we decided to go into the canyon that we would just have to pay further down the road at the next checkpoint (eventually she backtracked on that, saying it would be weird for someone to end up there without having paid, and that we should return to her to pay). So while at lunch we talked about what we wanted to do. We figured we'd ride up the canyon at least until the other checkpoint and then figure it out from there.


(the road to get into the canyon is dirt. No entrance fees are used in the maintenance of this road. It was incredibly washboardy in places. And incredibly windy in places. That doesn't have anything to do with road maintenance, but it certainly doesn't make those dusty stretches any more fun.)


(Apparently the entrance fees go to build these fancy archways, found at each of the small little towns along the way.)

The second checkpoint had a raised gate, so we kept on driving. I guess it was because of our odd timing that it was so easy to get through - most tours get to the main overlook at dawn or so. At this point, though, we started to reflect back on what our friend Will had mentioned about the canyon: if you've seen the San Juans (mtn range in SW Colorado), don't bother with Colca Canyon. And we both fully agree. The canyon was pleasant enough, but really didn't compare to some of the canyons we've seen in other places in Peru (or SW Colorado, for that matter). We didn't see any condors flying around, and I'm sure that would change our perspective on it.


(view from the main overlook where all the tour groups go to see Condors. It's scenic, but somehow not as impressive of a vista as I expected from the purported deepest canyon in the world)

Without an abundance of enthusiasm for the area, we decided to head back to Chivay to stay the night on our way towards Puno.


(it got real dark in this tunnel, which has a dog-leg right (from this direction only, of course) combined with some chunky rocks and loose sand. It was a bit disorienting. And kinda fun.)




(Chivay was a nice place to stay, small town with restaurants across the spectrum, nice pedestrian area, market, all the fixin's)


(Chivay even provided us with a gorgeous sunset)


(even though there is a wide spectrum of restaurants available (some with white table cloths!) you all know by now what we tend towards. Jill ordering salchipapas from a vendor who had it all. Salchipapas are a favorite though - french fries (the "papas" part) topped with fried hot dog pieces (the "salchi" part, short for "salchicha"). Here we got an American-sized (read, too big) portion for S/4)

That night Chivay was throwing some kind of a raging party. We never really found out what the holiday/excuse was, but it seemed like the whole town must have been there. If they weren't there, it was still okay, you could hear the music from anywhere in town. Even the next day some of the partying continued:


(next door to our hotel was a bar. This was taken at about 8:30am with the revelers still at it. Well, about half of them were still at it.)

We broke free of the party atmosphere to make our way to Puno. There was a little bit of backtracking involved to get back to the main road, but then we got to see some new sights which kept the ride a bit interesting, even if on a major highway.


(crazy rocks)


(wind gusts and dust devils also kept the ride interesting)


(approaching Laguna Lagunillas)


(fun clouds)


(and some of what makes a long riding day isn't always scenic. Pollo a la broster (Fried chicken) has a big role, too)

We had heard a few travelers stories of Puno being a rougher town (one of them getting everything stolen from him just days after a bad motorcycle crash - not a good run for him). So we were glad to roll in mid-afternoon and find a good place with parking, Hotel Arequipa which is on Arequipa street just down from Parque Pino. After walking around Puno for just a day or so, it felt about the same as many other Latin American cities, especially those that aren't as built up for tourism (let's just say it doesn't feel like Cusco). The main tourist attraction is to visit the reed islands on Lago Titicaca, which sound amazing and interesting, but are a complete tourist trap (literally, you're on an island and they will try to charge you extra for a boat ride off of the island). We decided to not visit the islands. Partly because we were feeling over touristed after our last couple of weeks in Peru, and partly because we were ready to get to Bolivia!

Hotel Arequipa also happens to sit directly across from the Bolivian consulate, and within 2 blocks of both immigration and customs offices. Perfect for our plan to ride around the north/east side of Lago Titicaca! Or so we thought...
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Old 11-12-2012, 08:04 AM   #278
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I follow Radioman's RR, it was interesting to read the story from another perspective :) Thanks!
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:02 AM   #279
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I follow Radioman's RR, it was interesting to read the story from another perspective :) Thanks!
Glad you have enjoyed seeing another version of the RR. We'll keep doing what we can to get caught up through the Salar de Uyuni, after which we parted ways. It was a lot of fun touring Bolivia and some of Peru with Radioman!

(Additionally, you get the benefit of rehearing the story weeks later because we are absolute slackers compared to Radioman's frequent updates. He's good.)
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:04 AM   #280
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Getting to Bolivia one way or another

Since the Bolivian consulate in Arequipa was non-existent (and may always have been?) one of our primary errands in Puno was to secure our Bolivian visa. With that in hand, we would check out of Peru (by post dating our stamp at migración in Puno) and get the bike paperwork turned in as necessary to travel around the 'other' side of Lago Titicaca. There are a few small towns around that way, but not much public transport that goes that way - sounded perfect! Since it's seldom traveled by international travelers, there are no border service on the Peru side, and minimal border services on the Bolivian side (migración is there but apparently tough to find, and not always open, and we saw mixed comments on aduana, some saying it's there, others saying you have to take care of temporary import in La Paz). None of this mattered after our visit to the Bolivian consulate.

We had stayed in touch with Mark, aka Radioman, who arrived in Puno just a couple of days before us. So we met up with him for a quick coffee before heading to the consulate. The man running the office was really nice and offered good information, but no visas - they had run out of the stickers needed for the American passports. Shoot! He promised that they had been sent, and sent DHL, but could only suppose that they would arrive on Wednesday or Thursday of that week. Since it was Monday, that would be 2-3 days of hanging out in Puno hoping that the Wednesday or Thursday delivery actually worked out. He mentioned that we could also take the route we had planned and try to get our visas in La Paz, quoting some part of the code that made that an acceptable approach. I asked him if he would provide a letter stating that we had attempted to get our visas and that the consulate couldn't provide them yada yada. He couldn't get that done until Tuesday (the next day). So part of the reason to go the 'other' route around Lago Titicaca, to avoid the hassle of border towns, was completely thrown out the window. This process could turn out to be a major nightmare. The decision was made - go to La Paz through a major crossing. Today. So Mark went to collect his gear, we did the same, changed some money and got some snacks.


(grouping back up with Mark in front of Hotel Arequipa)

The ride around this part of the lake was not all that pretty. I kept looking across the lake to the low lying hills, with snow covered peaks in the background, wishing we were over on that less developed side of the lake. It was one of the few times on the trip where I wished we were on a different route. (But it ended up working out fine in the end.)


(fields on the shores of Lake Titicaca)

We still hadn't decided which main crossing to take - Copacabana or Desaguadero. And no one really cared that much. Giving heads to Copacabana (since 'cabeza' is close), the coin flip said Desaguadero.


(pulling into Desaguadero on the Peruvian side)


(turns out Desaguadero is a pretty chill, easy crossing. The line at Peruvian migración moved quick and the customs officers gave us back our document receipt in a matter of minutes. One small municipality fee of S/5 per vehicle and to Bolivia we went)



After the bridge, we parked on the immediate right, but all of the offices are on the other side of the building (for outgoing traffic). So a better place to keep your eye on your bike would be the other side of the road, but with 3 of us it's less of a concern. First stop - visa.


(paperwork in hand, including application form, passport, passport photo (they don't really care what size, and in fact, we've heard rumors that if you don't have one they have a gringo picture stash that they can try to match you to), proof of yellow fever vaccination (didn't ask for it) and some passport copies. We still had to make another copy once the visa was in the passport and then come back to finish the process, but it was easy enough. Oh yeah, you also have to have US$135 in clean (as in not dirty physically, you're on your own as to where you procure your money) un-torn bills. They will refuse bills, and wanted to refuse an old style $20 bill that the ATM had given us, but telling them that they still circulate got it through)

Customs was easy. And the office is actually on the first corner of the building that you get to entering Bolivia, so I lied earlier. The guy was helpful and had both of our bikes in the system within 15 min. While watching the bikes, Jill had talked to a number of national policemen and they had been extremely nice. One of them told us we had to register in their records as well. Mark came back from their office and told me to take my passport and DL over there. After writing my info on one line, he told me I had to pay for the service. I told him that I had talked to the ministry of tourism and that the only 2 steps we had to take to enter were with migración and aduana, and that we shouldn't pay anyone else. He then said that registration, and paying, was voluntary. I told him that I volunteered not to and walked out. With a group of 5 or 6 national policemen still around us, we jumped on the bikes pretty quickly and rode about a block and a half to change some money.


(a few of the policemen)

Luckily the shakedown was easy to get out of, and the other cops didn't harass us any more. This was the first time that we've been in a situation like that - all of our stops by police and military have not included any mention, not even a hint, of payment (...except for that one time in Costa Rica, but we were actually doing something illegal then...). Even so, we got out of it without paying and had no more trouble. We keep talking to travelers who seem to be eager to pay off cops, and some of those stories are frustrating, creating an expectation for all of those cops. I know there are sketchier instances than others, but keep your money in your pocket if you can!
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:03 AM   #281
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Nuestra Señora de la Paz

The ride from Desaguadero into La Paz is easy and fast along a pretty good road aside from the (Colca) canyon-sized (it ain't that deep) wheel troughs worn into the soft asphalt by heavy trucks. There was 1 military stop just leaving Desaguadero that charged us 5 Bs each to pass. The next toll, where we thought we'd have to pay again based on the policemen's info, we were just waved through.



Entering La Paz at El Alto is a hectic intro to the city. There are cars and buses driving crazy Latin American style combined with a string of pedestrians at varying levels of encroachment into the lanes of traffic, mostly trying to catch the buses.


(and the smog and emissions were nice, too)


(we only witnessed one loud crash, but thankfully weren't directly involved. Then we found the turn off to drop into the centro, a wide, almost empty road that provided some great views of the city)


(overlooking La Paz)



We ended up fighting our way through the downtown traffic and one way streets to get to a cluster of hostels. La Blanquita had space for us and our bikes, so to La Blanquita we went. It's located right near the witches market on Santa Cruz and provided a good starting point to explore La Paz.


(the bikes didn't stay in the lobby the entire time, there was a back hallway where they lived)

The downtown area of La Paz is a great place to walk around and explore. There are beautiful buildings on one block, followed by a very dilapidated block with interesting shops and restaurants to be followed by an amazing park with greenery or another nice plaza, followed by some other random site. You just never know, and that's fun.












(witches market, now more of a tourist attraction than purpose based market, but still interesting)


(one of the witches markets most well known features - llama fetuses. Burying one underneath a new house brings good luck. Jill was interested in using one as a good luck charm on the Transalp, but that was quickly vetoed.)


(They're hard to look at, especially cause llamas are just so damn cute. But the stands do all sell other teas, herbs, tonics and such)


(back to less offensive pictures now. This is Plaza Murillo)


(a nice mural near the comedor popular)


(Jill found some KC BBQ!! (but sadly they were closed))



We toured the coca museum while there and it was well worth the 10 Bs (~US$1.50) entry. They had a ton of information on the history of coca production, its use over the past millenia, how processing coca into cocaine changes its uses and chemical structure, etc. They also have a tasting room upstairs where you can try different drinks infused with coca. Jill and I tried a liquor distilled from coca leaves and it was fantastic. Too bad we're never going to be able to find that in the states...



Old school short buses dominate the downtown streets of La Paz (see example below). Except for the day they were on strike. Then Mike got to dominate the streets (man, it was so nice to run moto errands without traffic!) We found a new rear tire for a good price through some shopping around. the first quote for an MT-60 was 770 Bs (US$110), which isn't a great price, but comparable to a quote received in Lima of S/270 (US$100). Since we were in auto/moto/tire district (not unlike hammock district), we asked in a couple of other shops.

Hank Scorpio: Uh, hi, Homer. What can I do for you?
Homer: Sir, I need to know where I can get some business hammocks.
Hank Scorpio: Hammocks? My goodness, what an idea. Why didn't I think of that? Hammocks! Homer, there's four places. There's the Hammock Hut, that's on third.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Hank Scorpio: There's Hammocks-R-Us, that's on third too. You got Put-Your-Butt-There.
Homer: Mm-Hmm.
Hank Scorpio: That's on third. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot... Matter of fact, they're all in the same complex; it's the hammock complex on third.
Homer: Oh, the hammock district!
Hank Scorpio: That's right.
Next quote was right around 700 Bs, then 580 Bs, or US$83. I told them I'd be back at 2 for it (after their, and my, lunch). The place is Tufimotores, dropped in based on Guillaume's info provided HERE (incl GPS coords: S16°30.239' W68°08.241' - intersection of Colombia and Boqueron). Turns out I showed back up at 3 because we never changed our clocks forward, but thankfully they were still happy to help me out. Then the fun began.



They directed me to a street where moto mechanics and tire shops were (as opposed to parts and supplies, more mechanics) just a few streets away, on Calle Landaeta. I found it pretty quick thanks to the complete lack of traffic and the GPS. But I couldn't find a place to help me throw the new tire on. In most places in Latin America, US$2 will have this job done in minutes, wherever you are. I had to coerce a tire shop guy to do it. He would've rather sat there and talked to his friend than make that bit extra. I was even the one pulling the wheel off, leaving him just the tire swap itself. Eventually he did it, but man that new rubber didn't want to seat well. It took him about 4 times of high pressure fills before it was in the round (some soapy water would've certainly helped, but apparently he's against it). Next stop was an oil change. I had bought oil with the tire and just needed a place with a new filter and catch pan. after asking at a number of places I was sent back to the original parts street that I was on earlier that day. An auto filter store got me what I needed, and back over to the mechanic street, since no one on this street had a catch pan I could use for the old oil.

I found a shop that would let me drop my old oil. And the guy even let me borrow his filter wrench and funnel, too. Turns out he had all the oil and filters I needed as well, but it was too late for that. No charge for him helping out. When we were riding on the hills of La Paz, I noticed just how rich the bike was running. Some of that from a mostly clogged air filter, but also figuring that the air-fuel mixture setting was on the rich side given the elevation of La Paz (3700 m give or take). So I screwed the setting in, hitting a (temporary) sweet spot somewhere around 1/2 of a turn out. That's not much fuel. She'd been running happy at around 2 turns at elevation, closer to 3 at sea level. Knowing that chances were about 0 of finding an air filter that would fit this bike's specific set up, I just went for it and figured I'd sort it out in Cochabamba, where we will stay for a month. Not the best idea ever. Stay tuned for upcoming details on that one...

Also, I noticed that not only did we have a longstanding exhaust leak where our header pipes joined the muffler extension, but that the muffler was no longer bolted to the bike. So it was just dangling by about 1 cm of exhaust tube overlap. Across the street was a general welder, but he didn't have the capability to weld aluminum, which the muffler and bracket are. thankfully he sent me to a tornería (=machine shop) not too far away, but without specific directions. With only 2 questions I pulled up in front of it and they were able to help me out. They were great! This part of town isn't the best part of town, but it wasn't so bad either. The owner did warn me to keep an eye on all my parts as I took them off, and even offered space inside to work, but it wasn't that big of a deal, so I stayed on the street out of their way. They even have an employee who speaks pretty good English and likes to practice it. Within an hour and half they had welded the aluminum bracket back on the silencer and closed up the exhaust leak with a nice fat bead. I didn't have the camera with me so no photos of the shop, but if you need it, it's near the Estadio Simon Bolívar at Calle Landaeta and Av Jaimes Freyre:

Tornería Gonzales
Zona Tembladerani
Calle José Saravia No 225
La Paz, Bolivia
Tel: 2 414914
GPS: S 16 deg 30.807 min / W 068 deg 08.474 min


(Aluminum mounting bracket after being welded, then ground down to fit under the luggage rack (black part). Both welds have held up through a few days of off roading in the Yungas and elsewhere in Bolivia, so seems to be good work.)

After a successful afternoon of driving back and forth between a few very specific parts of town, I finally made it back to meet Jill and Mark at the hostel at 7 pm, or so we thought...it was really 8pm. We figured that whole time change thing out that evening. And drank a beer. Paceña is cheap, easy to find, and drinkable. Huari made by the same brewery is usually about 3Bs more and actually does taste about that much better.


(as is our custom, we'll leave you with some street art from La Paz)
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:02 AM   #282
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looking at the mascot on your fellow riders bike seems to be facing the wrong direction ,for safety sake,as during a forward off ,sharp objects unattended have a way of biting you ,eventually.
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Old 11-13-2012, 11:16 AM   #283
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yokesman View Post
looking at the mascot on your fellow riders bike seems to be facing the wrong direction ,for safety sake,as during a forward off ,sharp objects unattended have a way of biting you ,eventually.
Good point on both. Sadly, the mascot has been retired, finding permanent home 140km north of Uyuni.

(And I bet you were happier not knowing that the mascot is actually a knife, too (... it was bolted sheathed/closed). Thankfully, all except for the mascot have survived unharmed.)
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Old 11-13-2012, 02:18 PM   #284
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Greetings from Denver!

Hello from a fellow Denverite! After a couple of months of lunchtime reading, I've finally gotten current with your ride report. It has been a lot of fun following along with your trip! Entertaining writing, great pictures, and loads of terrific stories. Well done!

I've also been following Radioman, and it was fun to have your paths cross with his. I am always amazed at how often ADV riders run across each other all over the world. Keep up the good work, and ride safe!
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:28 PM   #285
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WOW. You guys are really catching up on your RR. Hope you are having a great time in Cochabamba!!
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