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Old 11-10-2013, 02:47 PM   #1
BirddogVet OP
Joined: Jun 2011
Location: Glenview,Il @ the moment
Oddometer: 87
Splitting So. Peru in Two, Solo

Day 4: Peeing downwind at what seemed to be the top of the world, I could not help but feel elated. Wearing wet wool socks, I was alone in the clouds, except for the wind, the cold air, and a rented 400 cc Honda Falcon. The road consisting of water filled pot holes led further into the clouds and over the mountains (Andes). The last vehicle I crossed paths with was a couple of hours ago or was it three?
There was that sign just passed that loosely translated,’ Idiot, you are at 6,600 meters above sea level (over twice as high as Cusco), it is dangerous to be out here, what are you doing?’
Three months earlier I had come up with the idea of wanting to see Peru. Sites like this were the inspiration. I wanted to see Peru’s natural and historic wonders.
Of its two great canyons, the deepest -Cotahuasi, is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, it also happens to be the least visited. The reason for this is accessibility.
There is a time in one’s life to put ideas into practice. The ‘fly n ride’ advantages are obvious. I gave myself two weeks and rented a bike capable of what my Honda cruiser at home could never accomplish.
According to the rental agency, the proposed course was ‘doable,’ though no group had ridden it before. What could be sweeter than riding to the deepest canyon in the world, crossing the Andes, visiting Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca?
I had months of preparation to improve my Spanish. I read the Fodor’s and Lonely Planet’s travel guides. For fun, I read “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” and “Chasing Che, A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend.” Alex Cachon’s ‘Expedition South” series on U Tube proved insightful. I immersed myself into making this trip a reality.
When told that Peru is a big country, actually twice the size of Texas, I did not quite understand. I only wanted to travel the lower 20 per cent of it. The truth of the matter is that Peru is a ‘vast’ country with varied geography and huge expanses of uninhabited land.
On the map, the proposed route seemed so straightforward. While I did not fool myself into thinking that the single line indicated on the map would be anything but tough riding, I was not exactly prepared for what ‘secondary roads’ could mean. Google Earth helped clarify that the predicted 425km straight line was actually a whole bunch of switch backs. It did not show the degree of inclination and declination. My proposed route did show a whole lot of possibilities of getting lost. There were numerous forks in the road, some roads leading deeper into the mountains. Could I manage this alone? I would be counting on a Borch map, compass, Garmin Oregon hand held GPS, and the ability to ask for directions.
The plan was to fly into Lima from Miami, then onto Arequipa in the south of Peru. Flying into Cusco was also an option but the city is at a much higher elevation. I would make a clockwise circle aiming for Cotahausi Canyon by way of Corire then onto Cusco by way of Orcopampa and Espinar. The second half would be long but ‘asphalt easy,’ taking in Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo then onto Puno and finishing in Arequipa. Knowing what I know now, I am glad that I elected to do the hardest part of the trip first.
I chose Peru Motors out of Arequipa. They were by far the most expensive but also the most efficient in answering my questions and had the most impressive web site. For a trip like this, I was not going to skimp on the bike.

Things I did right: In no particular order.
Lost my baseball cap and bought a hat. SPF 50 & a sombrero - my face was still red.
Used Costco leather insulated gloves to cut down on handlebar vibration. Warm too.
Used a winter riding suit while riding in the mountains. First Gear brand. Mornings and late afternoons got quite cold. Midday is quite warm. A Sea to Summit stuff sack and bungee chords packed the suit and I was comfortable all day.
Drank a lot of water. Rule of Thumb: an extra liter of liquid/1,000 meters alt. above what you are used to.
Attached a video camera (Go Pro) to my helmet.
For altitude sickness, I drank more water and took Advil. Cocoa tea did nothing for me.
Walked whenever possible. It gave great insight into traffic and drivers’ mindset.
Changed majority of money at the first best competitive possible place. Arequipa -. Calle San Jose.
Visited a super market and drank the local yogurt-probiotic drink
Brought a collapsible canteen. Bottled water is most everywhere.
I use Bohn Body Armor for it’s under clothes/suit protection and thus temperature versatility. Duluth Trading hose cargo pants (Pockets n more Pockets) and quick dry underwear.
Took two pairs of REI’s Smart Wool socks. Also one pair medium one light
Got up early 5-5:30am, especially in big cities to avoid traffic.
Kept my baggage light and organized for easy access. Everything cartable in one load.
Rented a Peruvian telephone chip for emergency. Good for local calls and free international incoming. $11
Introduced myself whenever appropriate. Yet another advantage to traveling solo.
Took long underwear for cold nights in room.
Took the cab up to Tambo Machay and walked down the mountain. Did not miss the Eucalyptus forest at Quenko minor.
Taking time to talk ‘shop’ with fellow veterinarians whenever feasibly possible.
The Falcon 4 US gallon tank gets 250 km and the bike held its own at the higher altitudes. The bike is a beast and deserves honorable mention.
While I had recommendation for best eating places in Cusco and Arequipa, I ate wherever was convenient, whenever I was hungry.
In high traffic areas, I used pick up trucks or station wagons to pace, guide and run interference (block) for me. You can easier see through these vehicles, the road ahead.
Take your bike into a mechanic, they are everywhere and have him lube the chain. He might find something you missed previously on your initial bike examination.
Picking a natural viewpoint like Salta de Sipia and having it all to you.
Not letting gout get in the way of the ‘Machu Picchu experience.’

I did not bring or did not need:
Luggage security: Pac Safe foldable metal cage. Though it was nice to have a lock for my helmet on hikes.
Took Gunk aerosol tire repair. No flat tires, thank goodness. TSA confiscated the can on the flight back.
Summer gloves and glove liners, face mask. Steri-pen.
Rain Gear: I wore my suit when it rained. A disposable poncho would have sufficed off the bike.
The fanny pack with ‘essentials’ that fit around the rear view mirrors. Kept inside canvas bag. Any real essentials including t.p. fit into cargo pants or fleece upper pocket.
Left the mohair sweater, but took the fleece pullover with zipper pocket. It was perfect for mid day travel and evening walks. Left ‘Spot; at home. I could have needed tools/tubes for the bike, but there simply was not the space for them. They were provided by P.M.

Sounds: Fireworks in Arequipa on the night of October 23rd. The cacophony of dueling roosters with the occasional accompaniment of a dog barking or a donkey braying in Cotahuasi. Car horns/traffic in Cusco and Puno.

Best Advice Given: “Tranquilo” has no good translation in English. The closest would be to, ‘take it easy.’
What was it like? Imagine doing the Dakar road race with the only time limit being reaching your day’s destination before dark. Each four fingers above the horizon indicate an hour till sun down. No back ups here. The physical and mental work-outs were tough, I mean really tough and continued into my sleep. It was an adventure.
I dreamed of avoiding road hazards during the night. Then again I dreamed a few nights in Spanish or was it that I forgot to turn off the television?

J: The Geographical Zone signs into Cotahuasi Canyon mean that the canyon wall wins. We give up. Expect road deterioration and rock slides until further notice.

Wisdom: Do not ask a person walking along the road, “how far or how long to your destination.”
Tip: Cell phones make great emergency night lights.

La Trocha: I refer to it as, ‘El Polvo de Diablo’: The Devil’s Powder. The fine earth will take your front wheel and fish tail your bike without any warning. It can be found anywhere and appear often without advanced warning. My first encounter was in a tunnel carved from a mountain side. It is also found on curves. I spent a day and a half in second gear.

Etc.: Motorcycles are not charged at toll booths in Peru. Hotels prices varied between $9- 45.00/day on the trip, location dependant. The police were friendly and helpful. The final odometer reading was 2,031 km. in 9 days of riding.
Inspirational: the silver haired widow artist from Montreal who rents houses in different countries for months at a time. She sees the world traveling all by herself.
The couple from Australia who travel two up on motorcycle tours around the world. Even after a bad accident they are back to finish the second half of their S. American tour.

Many thanks to all that helped and directed but especially to: (chronologically)
The three men who got out of their truck and helped me pick up the bike in ‘La Trocha,’ on the way to Cotahuasi Canyon. “Despacio,” they advised..
Omar of Moto Loco in Cotahuasi who found the loose passenger foot peg bolt and replaced the cover on the axel adjuster. He is a real nice guy.

The motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction who stopped to point me in the right direction. My having just past Armas (a tin roof with a rock in front) my turn off.

The lady at the E center in Orcopampa who let me use the dial up connection on her computer to contact home.

The guys in the pick up truck that led me up out of the switch back Orcopampa canyon wall road. They helped guide/block me through the blinding sun corners and then went out of their way to point me in the right direction.

The youth on the motorcycle who together we navigated some tough high water. We watched out for each other and then he guided/ paced me onto Espinar.

The manager of the Sierra Alta Hotel who unbeknownst to me, brought my bike, with the help of his assistant, inside the tiny foyer for safe keeping overnight. Made my heart stop for a second when I poked my head out the window in the middle of the night and found the bike missing.

The guys in the truck who after having passed a particular difficult course of water obstacles outside of Caylloma yelled,”Hey! Chicago.” Put a smile on my face.

The motorcycle police officer who gave me a ride on the back of his bike into Sacsayhuamon. On the spur of the moment, I previously had bought him a Coke only because it was so hot outside and he was wearing that helmet. I had no thought of such a pleasant reciprocation. The looks we got riding into the archeological site.....Priceless!!!

The off chance meeting someone who also spoke Polish that turned out to be a tour guide. Thanks for the afternoon invitation to join your group and take in your Olly tour.

The Italian contingency who inquired about my well being and my wife’s Italian origins on the train to Machu Picchu and the Argentinean youths who made the trip back so much fun.

Cotahuasi Canyon will always be a “Shangri la” to me. The visible close contacts between adults and children and the respect of people to their animals. I have never seen so many happy dogs in one place. The friendliness of the indigenous people was genuine. I was greeted one morning with a “Buenos dias, caballero.” by a local woman; it just made my day.

So my recommendation to you is to drag out a map of the world and find your own Cotahuasi. Then write about it and let us know how your trip went.
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