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Old 08-25-2013, 08:26 AM   #1
Bluebull2007 OP
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From the Andes to the Amazon

Seven months ago I smashed my tibia into smithereens coming off a bike. After a five hour operation I had someone else's bone, a plate and 12 screws inserted into my shin. I lay on my back for 3 months thinking about life the universe and everything, but especially thinking about riding.

Three weeks ago I took my first uncertain steps without crutches. Time was drawing near to a much needed bike adventure. It couldn't be too rough because I was pensive and nervous about riding again, and Daleen had not ridden in months either.

So when I was able to stand unassisted for about an hour, I decided it was time for an "easy" bike trip, to get back into things again without overstressing myself. This was not to be.

Perhaps I should have realized that slotting in 3 x 4,000m high mountain passes, one of which would be track leading down into the Amazon jungle is not what most normal people would call easy, even if some of the route would be asphalted.

It was just going to be the two of us, Daleen on a 650GS and myself on an 800GS.


Lets begin with a quick geography lesson. We live in Lima, the teeming, coastal capital of Peru, home to 11 million people squashed between the Pacific ocean and the Andes mountains running down the Western length of South America.


A narrow strip of desert runs along the coast for some 5,000km, all the way from the north of Peru down into Chile against the Andes mountains, which acts as a rain shadow from the tropical weather on the other side. The Cordillera Blanca which forms part of the Peruvian Andes goes up to almost 6,900m above sea level but adjacent to where we are it peaks out 120km inland from us at about 5,500m. On the other side of the mountains lies the vast Amazon jungle, which stretches a further 4,000km East to the Atlantic ocean, much of it lying only at an altitude of a couple of hundred meters. So the mountains really define South America and its climate: Hot and moist in the east, cold in the mountains and warm and very dry in the west.

Our route was to weave a route south along the cost before cutting into the central cordillera. Thereafter we were to go north, dropping down into the Amazon before turning east again back to Lima, a total distance of only about 1,300km. It is not far but the incredibly tight curves in the mountain roads make traveling very slow, and unless you are in the lowlands it is hard to get ones daily average travel speed above 25-30km/hr.



This is profile of the route.


Having broken bones before on bikes, nothing compared to the level of pain resulting from this last one, so I find myself ahead of this trip uncharacteristically nervous and pensive about riding in general. The idea of holding up a 200kg bike on my still healing leg is not a good one, but pissies will never be heroes and I need to get out there again so we force ourselves to schedule a week - no matter what.

A taster of things to come:




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Old 08-25-2013, 09:22 AM   #2
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I'm in. Nice to see you are riding again.
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Old 08-25-2013, 10:18 AM   #3
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I'm in too. And not just because I'm currently nursing a fractured tibia back to health/strength. Please ride safely and include any rehab tips.
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Old 08-25-2013, 10:49 AM   #4
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Looking forward to it.
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Old 08-25-2013, 06:41 PM   #5
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Old 08-25-2013, 10:21 PM   #6
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Good to see you out riding again!
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:31 PM   #7
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First we planned to leave on Thursday, then when I went to change the rear tyre on Daleen's bike I noticed the cylinder head gasket was leaking. This is the third time in 4 years that I have had to replace it So we ended up working all Thursday night on prepping the bikes. We hadn't even packed yet and my leg was damn sore so we decided to postpone again and leave, relaxed on Saturday 17th August. No point in starting out exhausted especially seeing our first day would be a very long one most likely. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

So its Friday night and I can't go to sleep. There is party next door and the pre-trip excitement has my mind whirring like a 1950's typewriter at the hands of a no-nonsense, blonde courtroom stenographer wearing horn-rimmed glasses. I lie there thinking about riding again after 7 months convalescence. Its going to be awesome, but I cannot, must not crash and hurt my leg. That would be truly terrible. At 03h30 I nod off and 5 minutes later my blackberry hums us awake at 05h30. Woohoo!

Somehow preparations never seem to end. We make some last minute gear adjustments, and finally get going at about 06h30. Its a wet, grey, drizzly day outside. The fog comes in very heavy sometimes at this time of year, a cold pea soup not unlike that which is served in some boarding school canteens. This is the only precipitation Lima ever gets and it does not wash things clean, it just makes the dust, the city soot and everything else rather moist. Mixed with the grease and oil dripping and oozing onto the roads from 2 million aging vehicles it turns already seething streets into black slicks as slippery as weasel snot.

Its too wet to bother with cameras at this early stage and we struggle though heavy traffic to the Pan American Sud (south) highway. It Saturday, but it makes no difference in Lima, traffic is always worse as 100,000 new vehicles are added to an already overloaded traffic system each year. Welcome to the capital city of a country whose economy has expanded 6.4% year on year for the past 10 years. Its boom time in Peru, and even in 2008 it was one of only two countries in the world whose economies grew rather than contracted. Consequently the middle class has grown dramatically and everyone wants a car, taxi or a bus Company.

Wrestling with black belching buses and trucks, mixed in with a healthy dose of dodging, blaring, minibus taxis and the odd fast four by four with darkened windows is character building. Its absolute chaos, everyone cuts everyone else off and there is a complete absence of the rule of law, never mind road etiquette. South African or Indian or Asian drivers horrified by local traffic can come here for therapy. They will go back thinking their traffic is more like a lazy Sunday afternoon jaunt.

To make matters worse, I have also forgotten how much the drizzle can obscure the view through my visor. I'm stressed, overdressed and steaming hot and my visor has misted up. I can't see where Daleen is. I'm doing my best to go a little faster than the traffic in order to stay alive, but I cant see properly and its like riding on ice between rolling wheels of death. I'm scared, terrified in fact. My whole body is tense.

Wiping my visor does not help so I lift it up and blink my eyes rapidly to keep out the drops of mud and gunk. I finally see Daleen right behind me in my mirrors, its going to be okay. Slowly, very slowly I get into a rhythm, aiming for the biggest and safest gaps between the honking and swerving moving hulks around me. Sometimes we are in the left lane other times in the right and sometimes in the middle lane. It makes no difference because the locals here ignore the lines anyway and drive where they please - screw everyone else. The usual third world nightmare with a bit of extra selfishness. Most of the time no one even notices us and we have to move around to avoid being squashed. Having an escape route at all times is essential and we have anxious moments when these get shut off.

Its everyman for himself, but somehow we make it to this fuel station alive. Its taken us the better part of an hour to get near the edge of the city.


I dismount my bike, trembling a little, covered in grey muck and slime. I am still in an uncharacteristically fragile state of mind. I know it is foolishness to be fearful, so I do my best to shake it off. Daleen smiles at me and seems quite relaxed. Afterall we have been living in this place for six years and she is no longer surprised by the carnage. I tell her it found it horrific. She is surprised at first but understands given my injury and her calmness reassures me a little. 'It will ride off,' I tell myself without a lot of conviction. But she agrees. Just as well 60% of this trip will be on asphalt.

Pushing on, we cut through the first toll gate and it does begin to wear off a little. In Peru motorbikes are exempt from paying, but are not allowed to ride through the gate. There is always a slot on the side between cones that one can zip through and this is where we go, skipping perhaps 50 vehicles in queues. Its a nice, liberating feeling that detracts from the thinning traffic.

We get clear of Lima eventually and slab it for 240km at about 140km/hr, south along the coast, slowing a lot though the equally busy and congested city of Chincha Alta, known for its cotton plantations and as the infamous landing destination for west African slaves in the 1530's. You can read more about the slaves trade and Afro-Peruvians here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Peruvian

Finally we arrive at Pisco, famous for its Pisco hard-tack made from grapes. Peruvians and Chileans always argue which country first invented the brandy, both claiming the title. I personally think the country with a city named after its brandy wins hands down. There is a refreshing peruvian cocktail drink made with pisco, limes, egg white, some sugar called pisco sours. They're most refressing with a little bit of a bite and as the saying goes they are similar to a woman's breasts: One is too few and three are too many. They are potent things - The Pisco sours I mean.


Being too early for Pisco we stop to refuel and get out the map. Daleen worries about us not having a GPS but I tell her confidently there is a very good GPS inside my head. I'm one of those people who may get lost but always know I am somewhere

We are weary, but we are still feeling pretty good seeing we are almost half way to our destination city of Ayacucho in just 3.5 hours including city traffic and pit stops. At least it has dried out a bit.

Looking back towards the coast.


My road book is a crude, primitive setup, but it works well for me. Apologies, but I am not one of those Mr. Gadget types.


A view (looking East) of our route so far


340km of mountain twisties to come. Yes its asphalt but come on, who would not kill to ride something like this?


The road is now heading East away from the Pacific ocean towards the mountains just a few kilometers away.



A rather odd-looking piece of farming equipment.



Even though we are in a very dry desert, rivers from the mountains makes parts of it very fertile and green. Its always quite a contrast.


Finally we break clear of the coastal fog, and it unveils a harsh but magnificent landscape.








In the far distance we can make just make out the 5,000m peaks, appearing in the haze like some kind of ghostly apparition.


But first we have to cut through the foothills. The road is a constant left, right, left right litany of curves. There are no straight bits. We take it easy. I'm still quite uncomfortable, braking too hard in the front and over steering in my nervousness. And I'm also wrestling with my camera. Its irritating because I am normally relaxed and confident. My knee-moania is acting up, my leg is not enjoying its cramped position on the bike and letting me know about it.


Its quite strange that though we are steadily climbing, it does not feel like it at all. In fact it feels like we are travelling downhill, but that is just the perspective one tends to get when going up these huge mountain passes. Only the direction of the river below gives it away, and then it somehow seems like it is running uphill.


We pass this fellow doing about 100km/hr on his motorcycle.


Clearly helmets are either not meant for people with superior skill levels or if you're modeling the latest rural fashion.


We are both getting serious monkey butt so we decide to stop under some trees for a quick lunch.


Helmet hair in the strong wind: Freaky, don't photograph me now!


I burn like a pig in the sun so I take cover and tuck into homemade meatballs with dates for pudding.


There are these little, innocent black flies that take a liking to us and leave us with bites that itch for days and days.


The view is surreal compared to what we see in Lima. A peacefulness decends on us




A truck grinds past us in 2nd gear on the main road, highlighting the deceptive gradient. They can build roads these guys, the gradients are very consistent, unlike what we are used to in South African mountain roads. This is not a problem at home, but it becomes a major factor above 4,000m when engine power is down by 30% or more due to the altitude.

In Peru it appear people love to build walls. They are excellent dry stone wall builders. There are walls everywhere. Here is a example of a roughly built one, but some of them are truly exquisite - Inca walls aside.


I find the local farming interesting. Maize grows between lime trees, and is harvested 3 times per year.


Temperatures at these altitudes of about 2,000m is still warm all year round with a surplus of irrigation water from the river.

We press on and within the next 1,000m gain in elevation we see the first signs of rain: Grass is growing on these mountains, and the road coils up into an aggressive series of tight turns and switchbacks.


A view back the way we came from 4,000m


Well clear from the coastal haze, a big sky and lofty, grassy plateau (pampas) greets us as we top out around 4,300m




Passing though a small village. No one is around, all are out tending their llamas in the fields.


I consider the local way of life as I pass an old lady bent by age and a life in the mountains. To fast to get a photo, but anyway these people don't like it because they believe you are stealing their spirits by taking pictures of them. How people survive up here is anyone's guess but they do. I suppose if you have little you do what you can do with what you have available to you and that's all there is to it. Sometimes we make life so busy with our little things and schedules, and values. What is valuable today? We are told by television that we owe this or that to ourselves, that we need something, that we must have it, work towards it, obtain it at all costs. In my case a new bike maybe, or some career position or achievement. Looking at these people it all of becomes meaningless if you think about it. Yet the pursuit of happiness seems so difficult for so many these days. Poor people seem to be more happy somehow. There is something to be said in that. They say they know God and He looks after them. I believe them.

We climb even higher and reach a the highest point for the day. I thought I took a photo of the sign but it must be the altitude, sorry. Anyway it says 4,750m above sea level. That's pretty cool. Its so high the grass does not even grow properly here.


I'm feeling light headed and dizzy, like I just had ten beers. My headache feels like my brain is going to burst. Clear signs of altitude sickness. You find yourself catching your breath, yet it is so easy to breathe in this air. If you think about it too much you start to feel worse. I always get it and it takes about a day to acclimatize. The best thing for it is something sweet and limiting exertion until one feels a bit better. Often tour companies will take a bottle of oxygen to help with the suffering, but we have no such luxury.

We drop down maybe 700m into a valley but anything above 4000 makes me feel rats. At least the fresh, cold air blasting my face helps a tiny bit. We stop for a break anyway because that monkey bit our butts again, and my knee is agony.



In the president Fujimori days of the early 90's just after the shining path guerillas were wiped out by the military the country lay in economic ruin. Lines were cut into all the high altitude plains to collect water for some reason.


Apparently it was a country wide economic project to kick start the rural economy. These days these plains are filled with healthy herds of llamas.


Daleen stretches her back muscles.


I do the same and then wait for her to finish.


Which way now? My GPS and map say this way
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:32 PM   #8
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We ride another two hour leg. Now we are really tired and sore. The many switchbacks and curves make it all slow. The number of images per km also drops off.


Hey, check out this giant limestone tufa deposit, its about 500m long


Its not a mine, its a natural secondary limestone formation, the biggest I have ever seen. A natural concrete pavement - who would have thought up here.

We press on, past some amazing natural mountain formations. Looks man-made but its not.


This next bit is hard to write about but I will try.

Not long after this I lose my clutch. Hmm. I stop and need to make an adjustment. hopefully it will work fine with just a cable adjustment. I feel so helpless and can hardly walk. So I sit down on a rock to rest and instantly am not sure I can get up again. I feel so weak. I'm in so much pain I decide to remove my knee brace. My knee has swollen into a round orange. We have 100km or so to go still. I don't know how I am going to do it. It dawns on me that there is now nothing to protect my knee at all if I fall. Oh God, don't let me fall! Then I realize there is no way I will be able to pick up either of the two bikes whether I fall or not. If one of them goes down both of us together will not get it back up again. No ways I am in a position to help Daleen if something happens to her. What if I crash?

Trying as I have been, I have not been enjoying this ride. The nervousness is still there, and me being tense for 8 hours on the road has completely sapped my strength.

Now get this: I get a certain comfort knowing that though we are far from civilization, most of the time I am in a position to self rescue. But this little clutch cable incident and the altitude, and my leg highlights a vulnerability I am not used to being in, never mind admitting. I feel so hopeless, lost and pathetic. Fear and hopelessness grabs hold of me again. Its irrational but its real and it engulfs me. A dog from a nearby farm hamlet smells our last meatballs and comes looking for food. Its very cautiously friendly and I pat its head, tears streaming down my face. What a bloody miserable mess I am. I'm angry at my emotional state but the trip has become simply too overwhelming. I can't do it. I have overstepped the mark. I have taken this trip too soon, I need more time to recover.

Daleen calms me down. I am blessed guy to have a wife like this. She is so strong when I am weak. She has been strong for me all year in fact since my accident. Eventually after several minutes of weeping, I pull myself together and munch down a few more dates. Amazing things dates are. They are like energy bursts. We have to get going. At the speed we are doing and given the number of stops we will get in after dark.



I limp badly to the bike get the tools out, and breathing a prayer to God while I tighten up the cable a bit. I start her up and she pulls away just fine. Its working again! Thank you Lord Jesus! now there some tears of joy. It is going to be okay. I can do this. I must do this. There is no option of staying out here exposed on this cold mountain tonight.

Less than 10 minutes later my clutch goes again, like the cable broke or something. That's it, I think. Without stopping I lean down and fiddle with the lever where it goes into the engine casing. I'm stunned to find that its not the cable but something inside my engine that has gone. Maybe the lever broke inside the casing. There is no resistance on the lever no matter what I do. What now? Shit, I can't stop now....the road is winding up a mountain and I still have to ride in a city like this! Daleen follows me, oblivious to my predicament. Please Lord help me!

At least I know how to change gears without a clutch, so as long I am moving I am fine. Changing down gear I find much harder to do, especially when engine braking as one does in the mountains and tight curves a lot. Its hard work grinding down behind trucks and things. My body is really sore now and we will have to stop soon anyway. After all we have ridden 480km tight and slow kilometers so far. I notice my riding is erratic. Am I seriously this tired? I guess I am. I cannot press on like this much longer. I'm going to have to stop and what to do then? I look for a wider section of road and judder to a halt. The sun is setting.
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:21 PM   #9
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Well?

Waiting for "the rest of the story" . . .
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:56 PM   #10
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Some pictures just before the fatal clutch problem. Yours truly convincing himself his clutch adjustment will be okay.

It is about 5-6 degrees, so quite chilly despite bright mountain sunshine. Don't forget we are at about 4,000m here.

Bye bye meatball loving doggie. He sure is friendly.


Daleen told me to ride in front. I was feeling pretty fragile at that point so I immediately agreed.




Tough high altitude cows.




Here is that "oh dang" Moment. My clutch - she is not wekking


Waggling that lever near the red arrow in the picture was easy; so it was not the cable but something inside the engine casing.

Oh crap... So I have no choice but to ride. The road is uphill for miles so there is no ways I am going to attempt to stop now.

Fast forward an hour or so to continue our story.

Despite my clutch we ride like Spartans because we need to make the distance. I want to stop but will myself on by talking to myself, 'Come on Neil, don't be a pissie, yes hurts but you can go a bit more before you really have to stop.'

I notice my riding is becoming erratic. Am I seriously this tired? I guess I am. I cannot press on like this much longer. I'm going to have to stop and what to do then? I look for a wider section of road and judder to a halt. The sun is about to set behind the mountains, and though its still nice and bright now, once its gone it gets cold and dark really quickly. The sun disappears really fast 10 degrees south of the equator, we will have less than one hour of light left.

The GPS in my head tells me we cant be too far from civilization, and I know it must be down in that valley somewhere. My gut tells me 20-30km which is not far, but I'm so tired and sore. I can hardly walk, my gammy leg caving every time I put any weight on it.



Daleens stops next to me unaware of the clutch predicament.
'Oh no, your bike broke again? Are you able to fix it do you think?' I'm so out of it I know this will be impossible unless I get some food in me and also some rest. But if I do that we will still be exposed out here tonight.
'No, this time its something inside the engine...no way I can fix it here.' I reply curtly. I'm quite depressed and negative, and she can see I am ready to throw in the towel.
'Well its only 20km to Ayacucho from here, maybe we could-..'
Cutting her off, 'What? How do you know that?'
'I saw a sign about 5 km ago saying 25km to Ayacucho.' Amazing. I missed that one. It lifts my spirits and I start to get teary eyed again. This really all has been a bit much. 'Anyway' she says, 'We can't stay here. We have to go on. We have no choice.' She's right of course. I'm just going to have to pull myself together and dig deep.



The city is so close but 20km still seems about as much as I can take, hell I am hardly able to lift my leg over the saddle without help! Talking about biting off more than I can chew. I suppose I could always just roll the bike into town. The problem is how do I negotiate the busy city streets, traffic lights busses and pedestrians without stalling the bike? Its going to be a difficult and dangerous situation in my condition.



If I stall, I'm not going to be able to push the bike about, and Daleen has her own bike to worry about. Hopeless. This will have to be a faith thing. I take a deep breath and a sip some water. Once again I consider the alternatives but end up with the same conclusion. Postponing the inevitable, leaving the unknown for another day is often too easy in normal everyday life but out here on our bikes is no for procrastination.

I tell Daleen I am going to get going if she can just give me a little push, then I will stop in town at a safe place where I able to roll start the bike. That point we can decide what do to when we are there. No point in speculating what its going to be like seeing we have never been there before. Lets deal with each problem one at a time, and right now our immediate problem is that we are not yet in town.

Daleen gives me a push I'm off down the hill in neutral with the engine running in neutral. Picking up some speed I toe it into second and I'm off. After that its pretty easy to change up gears by synchronizing the throttle and I stay stay in fourth as much as possible, willing Ayacucho towards me.

We spiral and wind down an amazing road back that curls around the hillsides. The hard part is slowing down behind trucks braking in low range while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass; I have slam down through the gears to 1st on occasion. The clacking and grinding doesn't sound too pleasant and its not too easy to do either but I figure this will be good practice for the city. After a while I can see the town far down almost directly below us, everything is miniature-sized like a model train set. Thank God! We have almost arrived. But city is vast and sprawling. I feel the fear of dealing with the dodgy traffic gnawing in the pit of my stomach with a vengeance.

As dusk falls we enter the city. I have no photos or video - sorry. Its swamped with people bustling about, selling things, people running across the streets, the type of thing one typically sees in any third world city. There are those little 3 wheeled 'moto taxis' erratically flitting about like butterflies looking for fares. They do U-turns in front of us and others. Its a hair-raising, crazy, stressful and irritating place but at least we are at a lower altitude and in civilization. Someone will help us somehow and we will soon have place to sleep. I jump a couple of traffic lights with Daleen hot on my tail and eventually stop in a wide, main street in front of some parked taxis, its steep enough to get going again from here. I figure we can't be too far from the main plaza las armas or central square they have in every latin American city, town and village. We had previously heard there was some good hotels on the plaza so that is where I plan to go.

Daleen is very nervous now too. Its getting dark and she can't see well at night. I suggest that she go ahead and find the plaza and a suitable place to crash while I wait. That way we can decide if I will be able to ride there or not. She reminds me that she would never be able to find her away back to me again, and instead suggests I just stop and leave the bike at a garage. But there is no way I am going to do that for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there are no skills outside Lima which have any kind of experience on bikes this size. I realize that its also too late to split up.

We ask a guy sitting on a park bench for some directions, he tells us we are not too far from the plaza las armas. Just turn right after the second traffic light but just don't follow the taxis they go the wrong way. We are like 'What you mean?' Ignoring our question, he is like 'Two blocks later turn left and then go straight for 4 or five sets of lights.' Great. Is it busy? Yes it is. Awesome, it is not. We shrug and accept our lot in life. What else can one do? I eye the traffic light changing in front of me and its cycle. There are five or six busses and perhaps fifteen cars that cram into the double lanes each time it the traffic lights change. When it does each time a slow decongestion of traffic takes place. Timing will be everything. I wont be able to pass them or the lights if I get it wrong, and I wont be able to get started again if duff it up. I tell Daleen I'm just going to go for it, after all, what could possibly go wrong? If I crash or get stuck, everyone will just have to drive around the wreckage which will be me.

I wait for the light to go green before I start. Rolling down behind the busses, I think maybe I have started too soon. It gets worse: There is a delay for some reason. Then I see the bus in the front of the queue has stopped to pick someone up. Naturally everyone is held up behind it in the usual fashion horns start blaring without effect. Shit. A slow race in 1st begins. How slow can I go before I stall? Will the light stay green long enough for all the busses to clear the intersection? Go guys go! Go, go, GO Dammit! The light goes orange and there are still 3 busses in front of me, and now they're slowing to a halt. Crap, crap crap crap! There is nothing left but to gun it for the narrow gap between last two busses and try turn right in front of the traffic about to rolling across. Holy, moly this is going to be tight.

My boney's panniers are about 1.3m wide, offset a bit to the left due to the exhaust. I don't know if it'll fit through. Its going to be close but there is simply no time for second thoughts. I hold my breath and feel my panniers scraping along the one side of the bus but I'm still moving. Shiiiit!! The road has these nasty potholes and missing cobblestones as if things are not challenging enough already. I dart out from the tunnel between cut hard right in front of a gravel truck lumbering along from the left. Unbelievably he brakes and I make it in one piece! The adrenaline high is something else. I wonder how Daleen is going to stay with me but miraculously I see her dodge out from behind the same truck and pass it to join me. But a new set of busses are now bunched up in front of me at the next red set of lights and this time there is simply no way to slip between them. I'm just going to have to go ride in the oncoming lane on a prayer.

Blessedly because the lights are red there is not much traffic in that lane. The problem is the lights don't change by the time I get to the front, so I'm forced to keep going through the intersection. Somehow its clear as well. The lights at following intersection also red. Here we need to turn across the oncoming traffic waiting at the light. It changes to green as we get there and we flit across like guilty dogs before the rumbling deluge coming the other way cuts us off.

The road is now one way, tremendously in the same direction that we are now travelling. Now, if our directions are correct its just a straight line to the plaza for four or five blocks. They turn into the longest four blocks of my life. Each time I have to look for moving gaps and shoot for them between the crossing traffic, hoping not to become a pavement pizza under something big. Daleen is further back now, unable to keep up with my suicidal antics. At the last traffic light I come up behind two cops also on motorbikes. The game is over now. I'm going to have to stop this time. Funny how we can risk life and limb breaking rules but then will stop for authority.

Just then the light changes. Stunned by my change in fortune, I innocently slip past them into the plaza las armas. The only problem is too late I realize the road I'm on has been closed for construction and there is no way out so I have to stall the bike. That's it. I'm just happy to be here and alive. I slump over my bars, relief washing over me quickly turning into a dazed exhaustion. I'm too tired to get off my bike. Daleen joins me, parks up and goes to look for a hotel while I guard the bikes. The place is a mass of people enjoying their Saturday evening in the park. Our BMW's become a center of attraction, no one here has anything bigger than a 125 or 250cc. So I pose for photographs, the exhausted adventurer together with smiling kids, aunties, uncles, grandparents you name it. It feels good to have made it and I force a smile or two.

After some time Daleen comes back with good and bad news. The good news is that there is a hotel where we can store the bikes and they have space for us. The bad news is that there is no way to ride them there due to the construction going on. There is one way but this involves riding up a flight stairs. No problem if you're on a trials bike or maybe even a 450 but they're too steep and the steps too big for our loaded pigs, one of them sans a clutch. There is nothing for but to go back to the intersection where we came in, do a U-turn, mount the pavement and ride up onto the walkway where it is a little easier to, then push the bike about one hundred and fifty meters to the hotel entrance through a plethora of people.

Photo: A daylight view of the said pedestrian walkway from the hotel looking back to the intersection, a lot less people around than on Saturday night.


Daleen is not keen to do this so I get onto her bike and ride it for her. I get only one chance at this tricky move, and I must make it happen. Riding into the intersection I take control and bring all traffic to a complete halt, adopting the a well-known but commanding talk-to-the-hand posture with my gloved hand. Gloves, lots of bike revving, and black riding kit has a certain air of authority at times. Completely disregarding the police officer blowing like a banshee on his whistle, I pull off a perfect tight uwie, ramp the high pavement and enter walkway shouting 'Cuidado!' at a stunned pedestrian audience. They break out of their paralysis when they realize I am not going to stop for them and leap out of the way before I lose all my momentum.

I kill the engine in the walkway amid agitated pedestrians yelling at us that this is not a road, and hand the machine over to Daleen who insists on pushing it all the way to the hotel. Now for my bike. Luckily the hotel manager was there to help me push. We repeated the same maneuver only this time pushing the bike the whole way. Surprisingly I was able dig deep and push the bike without too much trouble despite a very weak leg. It just shows you that when you have to do something and you have no other option, no matter how much your mind might try and convince you that it is impossible, it often can still be done.

What a drama class. The satisfaction was something else.

We ended up parking our bikes in the hotel's central quadrangle among the breakfast tables, which was very accommodating of them. First order of business was food and beer of course. I wolfed down two meals: A plate of spaghetti and then a second dinner of fried trout, rice and salad. Daleen settled on just the trout.

Its amazing how things looked so much better again on a full stomach. We relaxed in the considerable satisfaction that we had made it despite difficulty. Pleasant gratification, sore bodies and tired muscles: It can't get better than this. Tomorrow would be another day and we would tackle those challenges when they came.

Within the hour we have showered, and crashing to sleep like newborn puppies.

Day 1 Stats:
Distance travelled - 589km Not very far normally, but really far for us given the very slow roads.
Highest altitude - 4,750m, three passes over 4,200m
Lowest altitude - 4m
Time on the road - 11 hours, including rest and maintenance stops.
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:58 PM   #11
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Day 2 R & R - Rest and Repairs

We wake up to a glorious Sunday. The church bell across the square is ringing. We get up late. I decide to take a look outside at the breakfast scene.



My leg feels surprisingly good after some warming up exercises as well.

We get our room sorted out. It was a pretty nice place actually.


Ours has a nice little private nook.


I'm obviously keen to have a look at my bike, so I dump the oil, and at 2.5 liters I forgot what a lot of oil that is! I'm glad Daleen sourced a bigger container for it.

If you're not a wannabe mechanic, please bear with the next few pics and paragraphs.

I whip off the gear leaver and disconnect the clutch cable. The side stand is in the way and comes off. Fortunately the crash bars don't need to come off because those things are a beastly job to do.

I remove the cover careful not to damage the seal and to my astonishment, the whole clutch falls out with it! :shocked:

I immediately shove it back in to be sure how it goes. This is what it looks like.


Its not all that complicated but I have never worked on a clutch before so I am nervous. I make a few posts and ask some technical questions but no one really seems to know. Thanks to some clever guys I have the workshop manual on my laptop. I look at the drawings. The whole thing is supposed to be locked in place on the bike when you take off the cover. This thing:


I find out to replace a clutch is actually very easy. All you do is take off the 6 bolts in the picture above pulls out the discs and put in some new ones separated by the steel plates between them. Piece of cake. The first and last plate have flanges that are a little narrower and only the last plate is supposed to be offset, all the others are lined up. Should take less than an hour to do. So if you're doing a long overland trip, consider taking some spare clutch plates with you.



I look at my plates but they are not worn. Hardly surprising, this bike has only got about 20 hours on it since the new ones were fitted. So what went wrong? A little later in the morning I take it apart some more have another look at the drawings.





I notice the washer 5 is missing completely? WTF?? How could BMW Peru have missed putting that back in?? : Ah well, doesn't help us now does it?

I look at the next drawing and observe that nut No 1 has fallen off inside the clutch, and washer No 2 is quite deformed. Everything else seems fine.


It looks like somehow that spacer/washer gave the basket nut enough room to work loose and fall off. Well that's what I hope. Hmm. Well I am going to need another washer and today is Sunday so that means we will be here at least another day. I'm also going to need a very, very strong arm to tighten the offending nut to the prescribed 180Nm. What? That's like 3 times tighter than an axle nut has to be! Besides I don't have any torque wrench or a 32 spanner in my kit. I'm also warned by my online friends that tightening that nut is going to be very hard to do without the special tool to stop the engine and everything from turning. I decide to leave that problem for later and have lunch with Daleen instead. Not much more to be done today except maybe see a little bit of the a town and relax.

Does my expression say it all?


Daleen has a salad and I go for the local dish, sopa criole. Want some of this? :grin:


Actually, it tastes better than it looks, especially if you are sick with altitude and feeling cold. I'm neither of those today but I have it anyway because I can. Its like a hot bolognaise soup with lots of spaghetti noodles at the bottom with meat and an egg on top for fun. We both have fresh mango juices.

Daleen is not an egg person and is horrified by the scene.
Our luncheon view:


Life is great.

Below us are the Sunday homemade ice cream ladies, complete with an ad-hoc taxi drive-through. Amazing.


If you look a bit closer you will see they are spinning tubs of liquid ice cream by hand inside bowls filled with ice. The liquid freezes to the side of the tubs and they scrape it off, filling cups of soft, fluffy product for their customers on order. Talk about fresh, and it's fascinating and quite soothing to watch. We decide on ice cream after lunch.

Then we are treated to a performance of the local oompah band celebrating something or other preceded by a large crowd. This is very typical every week, everywhere in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia.



They're playing a local, but pleasant version of amazing grace. Its loud alright. Thinking about it this lot could quite easily be a school band.


Tambourine girls


Afterwards it's ice cream time. I watch with a smile as the little boy in the foreground manages to get ice cream all over his hands and naturally wipes it off all over his pants and jersey much to the horror of his father. Good boy - Well done! The ice cream lady smiles and I share our amusement.


The flavor of the ice cream was the same. Made with local milk, vanilla bean, cloves, raspberry, cinnamon and some other stuff in it that I'm not sure about. Its tastes pretty good, but also a little wild, unlike anything I have had anywhere else. Cost for a small cup is two Soles, that's less than 70 US cents, or about six Rand in South Africa.

Everyone is into this thing. Clearly Ice cream is a big deal in Ayachucho.


We go for a stroll to walk off lunch to view libertador Snr. Bolivar on his horse and the monument erected in recognition of all those who died fighting in wars for Peru.


The words in the garden say 'Ayacucho, the cradle of American Liberty'.

Ayacucho is famous for its 33 churches, which represent one for each year of Jesus' life. Ayacucho has large religious celebrations, especially during the Holy Week of Easter.

This one, just off the plaza, was built in 1644. That's almost 400 years ago!


These celebrations include horse races featuring Peruvian Caballos de Paso and the traditional running of the bulls, known locally as the jalatoro or pascuatoro. The jalatoro is similar to the Spanish encierro, except that the bulls are led by horses of the Morochucos.



This is an old place.

Vestiges of human settlements more than 15,000 years old have been found in the site of Pikimachay, about 25 km north of Ayacucho. From 500 to 900, the region became occupied by the Huari Culture (Wari), which became known as the first expansionist empire based in the Andes before the Incas.

The Ayacucho region was inhabited by varying indigenous cultures for thousands of years, including the Wari, Chanka people, and Nasca before the Inca.

The Spanish colonial founding of Ayacucho was led by the invader Francisco Pizarro on April 25, 1540, who named it San Juan de la Frontera de Huamanga. Due to the constant Incan rebellion led by Manco Inca against the Spanish in the zone, Pizarro was quick to populate the settlement with a small number of Spaniards brought from Lima and Cusco. On May 17, 1544, by Royal decree, Ayacucho was titled La Muy Noble y Leal Ciudad de Huamanga (the most noble and loyal city of Huamanga). The city's main University was founded on July 3, 1677 as the Universidad Nacional San Cristóbal de Huamanga.

Rustic architecture somewhat blocked by the construction going on at the moment.


Cathedral of Vilcashuaman, built on remains of Inca temple.

Picture from wikipedia

On February 15, 1825, Simón Bolívar changed the city's name to Ayacucho.


The city is named after the historical Battle of Ayacucho. Upon seeing so many casualties on the battlefield, citizens called the area Ayakuchu, aya meaning "dead" and kuchu meaning "corner" in the Quechua language. The Battle of Ayacucho was the last armed clash between Spanish armies and patriots during the Peruvian War of Independence. The battle developed in the nearby pampa of La Quinua on December 9, 1824. In it a over 6,000 people fought for Spain and 5,500 for Peru. Over 3,000 people from both sides lost their lives, two thirds being Spanish, and 3,500 Spanish troops were captured. The patriot victory sealed the independence of Peru and South America. La Paz, now the capital of Bolivia, was similarly renamed La Paz de Ayacucho following this battle. You can read more about it here.



The city's economy is based on agriculture and light manufactures, including textiles, pottery, leather goods and filigree ware. It is a regional tourism destination, known for its 33 churches built in the colonial period, and for the nearby battlefield of La Quinua, where the Ayacucho battle was fought in 1824.



In 1980, the terrorist organization known as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) used Ayachucho as its base for its campaign against the Peruvian government, even staging an assault on the Ayacucho prison in 1982. The campaign faded after the leader Abimael Guzmán Reynoso was captured in 1992 and put in prison. Some followers are actively allied with the narcos for cocaine's traffic and earn cash by protecting them; people are concerned that the movement can revive if social issues remain unchanged. The region headed by Ayacucho is rural and one of the poorest of all the country. With the peace of the last 20 years, the citizens work hard to improve the living conditions and attract jobs.

While some people here are still very poor things seem to be going well for the city.


Later in the afternoon we meet a very nice Dutch guy called Charlie from Suriname, which until 1976 used to be a South American Dutch colony and is situated north of Brazil. He is a manager for a company that leases diesel generators, and he tell us they have nine 600kW generators in Ayacucho that run at peak power times in the evening to supply the city with power. If this is anything to go on, it indicates the economy is still ramping up here. Certainly Ayacucho is a lot better off than many Bolivian towns I have been to.

He also has a mechanic who has the tools I need to fix my bike and will make him available in the morning!

Day 2 Stats:

Distance travelled: 0km

Day 3 is pretty much the same. its a lot busier in town today.



I spend the morning rushing around from ferreteria to ferreteria looking for a washer the size I need without much hope. Eventually I find a guy who has one but its not an exact fit. It fits but is not perfect. It will have to do.

Then I go with Charlies mechanic to see his generators. They're in containers quite impressive. We also pick up a torque wrench in imperial units but without the necessary connections for the metric nut. Useful - not. But we do find a big wrench and a 32 socket. So we rush back to the hotel and put it all back together.



It eventually takes the weight of two people on the back of the bike with it in gear to stop turning the engine with the spanner while we tighten that lock nut, and it goes on as tight as we can make it.

There, 180Nm, and it had better hold!

In two ticks we have it all back together again with an oil change to boot. She started up great and after some adjustments to the cable the clutch worked just fine. We are good to go baby!

Woohoo!!

We spend the rest of the day chatting in Spanish with two Swiss cyclists Stefan and Magali. They had taken the year off and were doing South America on their bicycles.



Crazy if you ask me, but that is quite a popular thing these days. We normally see more of them than moto guys out in these parts, which is strange really because the roads are amazing.

We have waste two days but at least the trip is still on and we have re-charged the batteries not to mention things in the confidence department. I am good to go and will just wear my knee brace loose and move my leg more while riding, that's all.

Day 3 - Ayacucho - Huancayo

A distance of 2-300km which is a little more reasonable in terms of distance and certainly, it looks like it will be pretty exciting. We are to set out North now staying in the main, central Cordillera belt.


Our route was originally going to follow the mountain tops but we asked around and locals reckon the road in the valley (arrow) is nicer.


We are up early and at 06h30 we are packed and ready to go.


I'm feeling much, much more confident today. Like chalk and cheese. Traffic does not scare me. My leg is good. Maybe it was the broken clutch that I was able to fix, maybe it was the sleep, the good food, perhaps the ice cream, perhaps the committed local culture. Truthfully, I think it is was a bit of all of it. Blue bull is back!

Bring it on!
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:48 PM   #12
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Well alrighty then!
Having spent 3 years in Peru in the early '70's, I'm really enjoying your ride. Thank's for sharing it! The physical challenges, mechanical obstacles, and cultural insight all resonate.
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:59 PM   #13
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good stuff!
nice job on the clutch. "180 Nm" sounds like my kind of garage theory.

man that ayahuachao (or however you spell that city) look a lot like Cusco.
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:37 PM   #14
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Well! I don't know what to say! I remember your sad news just before the Dakar all that time ago, and now you are on your first ride together, and what a ride?!!!

Thanks for such a detailed report with the maps etc. Great pictures on-the-fly. Full of emotions and not afraid to show it. Gets me thinking. Doing too much thinking, need to ride too!

Safe trip.
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Old 09-22-2013, 04:40 PM   #15
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I hope the clutch is holding up. Good old BMW Lima
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