After a couple of relaxing days in Cusco, it was time to get back on the road and chase down our missing Musketeer, Peter, (AKA Pieterjan or PJ). He’s only on a 150cc, he can’t have got very far…
We were aiming for the coast, via the mountain range Cordillera Blanca. Lots of stunning routes, mountain passes, snow and glaciers – not an Incan ruin in sight. Almost. This is definitely going to be life back on the road.
So after two days, we were ready for a rest… the going just got too tough and we were out of practice. Day one upon leaving Cusco was long, but not exactly technical; chasing daylight trying to get to a town where we could sleep… we were shattered. Day two was ‘one of those days’ where if we had been able to stop right there and then, in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain, summon a genie and magically transport ourselves to a hotel room, we would have done so. Sod the scenery. Dust clogging up our respiratory systems, rough roads giving us more than our fair share of exercise on our tired bodies, and a goddamn road closure meaning we had to take a mountain track another two hours out of our way, meant that by the time night was falling, we were once again chasing the sunset down the mountainside. At every turn we had to ask the way, and no matter how much closer to our destination we got, the locals said it was still another three hours…. What?! ANOTHER THREE HOURS! It was three hours two hours ago…. It seemed to be never ending. Hurting, dirty and miserable, we found our way to a nice hostel in Ayacucho and swore that was it. Never again. At least until tomorrow…. Tomorrow?! No way, we need a break. After two days. Hmmm… not going to get very far at this rate…
So one day rest in Ayacucho, and we successfully manage to blow a month’s worth of budget on a new laptop. The other one was dying a slow painful death, lingering on with mortal wounds but getting more and more fractious and quite frankly, a pain in the derrière.
The bikes also needed a bit of TLC, so Chris got his tool kit out and treated them in the only way he knows how. Tools in hand, grease absolutely everywhere, and somehow getting a completely black face, he was backwards and forwards to the internet to check he was cutting the correct wires… doing what?! That definitely does not sound good…
Luckily, his electrician skills were up to scratch, and whatever he was trying to do, obviously worked because after a spluttering and slightly nerve-wracking start, the bikes are indeed still running. Still don’t know why he ended up so dirty though….
Back on the road, PJ now five days ahead, we had to make up time. The dash for the beach was on, with PJ having a four day head start from Cusco anyway, we couldn’t let him get away with too much more…. That would show up our 650’s very poorly against the 150cc! We were meant to be catching him!
Leaving Ayacucho much more refreshed, we had a fairly easy day planned, which in actual fact turned into another mammoth day, chasing the sun down yet another mountainside after Chloe ‘misread the map’, taking us an hour off in the wrong direction. Then another hour back. Black mark against Chloe’s usually perfect map-reading skills. Tut tut.
What did lift the mood of Mr Grumpy though, was a good hearty lunch, (yes, that’s all it takes!), and then an obligatory (small) detour to the highest pass in Peru at 5,059m. Followed by herds of llamas which just look funny!
After a good night’s sleep in a posh-ish hotel in Huancavelica, (the price having been substantially bartered down so we could afford it), then gorging ourselves on the nice buffet breakfast and squirreling away some fruit for later, we left the business men to it, and traipsed through the foyer sporting our muddy, dusty riding suits, carrying equally as filthy bags. The cleaners would certainly earn their pay that day.
Good job we had a decent sleep that night, because if there was a direct opposite of the posh-ish hotel from the night before, we certainly found it for that night. Once again, we had found ourselves cruising into a town as dusk was turning into the dead of night. After another long, long day filled with road rage, (on Chris’s side, at the completely insane Peruvian drivers), a roadside argument involving the GPS where team Chris & GPS were thoroughly beaten by Chloe & Common Sense, and a second occasion where we ended up a grassy track going nowhere, we were desperate for some respite.
We had already discounted one nasty looking place that claimed to be a hostel, so chanced our arm on the next. The owner, a big burly chap with his eager nephew in tow, were very welcoming, had a courtyard to store the bikes, along with all their own tattered old bikes, and assured us he had plenty of beer. Great! – we thought. What he failed to tell us was that the rooms were built with paper thin walls, glass propped in the window openings, and a corrugated plastic roof. And that temperatures got to minus 10 at night. With all our thermals on, huddled together like small children, covered in four blankets, we still didn’t sleep. It was worse than being in a tent – at least in a tent you have the chance of warming up your nice little cosy space. But not in a big, drafty and frankly sub-standard shed of a room, in sub-zero conditions. It was not a good night. To be fair to them, the guys were great, very friendly and keen to help with the bikes. Chris sought out a welder who could patch a hole in his exhaust, expertly fixed by a welder-friend of big boss man, and they sent us on our way the next morning having smashed the four inch thick ice out of the potholes in the courtyard so we wouldn’t slip.
More road rage followed the next day, but this time even worse. So bad that Mr Grumpy was even more grumpy than he had been in the morning after no sleep. And so bad that we had to stop for an early lunch at 11.30am to cheer him up. After that, things went pretty smoothly, and we breezed into a little town called La Union just before dusk, ready for some light refreshment in the form of some beer, drunk while watching the locals play volley ball and the children running round screaming.
Still moving, we can’t stop, we need to catch PJ… the roads up to the mountains beckoned once again. Up to the mountains and to a 2,300 year old site of the ancient Chavin culture. But before we got there, we had to negotiate around the mine. The humongous Antamina, crushing everything in sight, destroyed mountainsides and abandoned roads quivering in its wake. Chris was obviously in his element – ‘boy + big machine = fun’ type stuff. Chloe preferred the rivers and canyons en-route to the mine, because they were pretty, rather than big and noisy!
Arriving at Chavin, at about lunchtime, we had a bite to eat, dropped kit of at a hostel, and then walked up to the archaeological site, Chavin de Hauntar for a welcome bike-free afternoon. The site is still being uncovered, but what has been discovered already indicates a complex and sophisticated society that existed long before the Incan empire was even born. The main temple has been uncovered, where we spent quite a while running about in the labyrinthine corridors, and stumbling upon a massive carved monolith, secreted in its own sunken pit. Imagine being the person who discovered that when the archaeological work began….!
Culture stop complete, we rested and made ready for the big long day ahead. We had thought that our estimation of six hours riding to head north and then cross the mountain pass to the other side of the Cordillera Blanca seemed reasonable. When talking to a local over breakfast the next morning, he assured us it would be at least ten hours, and that it was pretty hard going. Ten hours, holy crap! But it’s already 9 O’clock and we’re still eating our breakfast!
We made a dash for it and hit the road, fully expecting to be riding well on into the night. I suppose because this time we knew it would be a really, really long day the fact that we were zig-zagging our way up the mountainside, past snow-capped mountains and glaciers in the late afternoon, knowing we still had to peak and make it all the way back down again, didn’t seem to bother us that much.
The views were stunning and the route down was surprisingly quick, meaning we made it down in one piece, still in daylight, just. Amazingly turning 10 hours into seven hours of riding, plus a stupidly elongated lunch, totalling eight full hours!
That night we slept well. Wonderfully comfortable beds in a lovely nice hostel in Caraz, with a nice Labrador dog watching guard at the gate. That night we found out PJ had camped in the very same hotel 2 nights before… We knew we could make to the beach the next day if we had another really long day of riding, which would put us only two days behind him – result! So we went for it.
Knowing we also wanted to detour to Lagoon Paron first, we planned to leave early in the morning, but as is always the way, the Gods conspired against us. While packing the bikes, Chris dropped his bike and snapped his brake lever …. Bugger. No front brakes…
Luckily we have been carrying a spare, so he put his mechanics hat on and set to. After that, plus more time spent filling the Scotoiler chain lubrication channel, filling up with petrol, and going to the shop, we ended up leaving at 10am, having been up at 6.45am for that early start.
Oh well, we still wanted to go to the lagoon, so we dashed up there, zig-zagging up the really rough track for an hour, walking around the lagoon, then bombing it back down again, we were ready to properly make headway on some distance by 1.30pm (after lunch by the road!)
The route from Caraz to the coast passes through the Canyon del Pato – a huge ravine which the wind whistles down at a rate of knots, and the river bubbles frantically below.
Tunnels are a plenty, as are the lorries and trucks which we had to contend with inside the single-lane tunnels. Not good. After taking an ingenious shortcut that PJ had told us about, we caught sight of the beach just as the sun was setting over the water. It then took us another half an hour to find the damn hostel, but at least we were there! Yippee, time for a rest!
PJ had ridden the last couple of days with the German couple we had previously met in Cusco, Georg and Anka,
so it was like a big reunion! That night we partied on until the early hours, spurred on by 3-for-1 cocktails, staggering back to the hostel by 4am, leaving PJ to carry on! The next day, what better way to freshen up than taking a dip in the sea… the seaside town, Huanchaco, is a surfers paradise, so the boys, (Chris, PJ, Georg, plus Zak from the hostel), kitted themselves out and hit the waves, while Chloe and Anka watched from the relative safety of the beach, watching the boys getting thrown around in the unforgiving ocean. Surfing… yeah right, more like floundering about, then staggering back onto the beach with board under arm trying to look cool!
So for the next few days this is us – relaxing, eating, drinking and surfing… Keanu Reeves eat your heart out!
Snapped clutch/ brake levers Chloe 0 v 2 Chris
Playing chicken with a lorry Chloe 0 v 1 Chris
Yelling at useless Peruvian drivers Chloe 0 v 27 Chris
Burnt bare bum on engine while taking a pee Chloe 1 v 0 Chris
Layers worn while in bed Chloe 4 v 2 Chris