Day 72 – Abancay, Peru

averaged about 30 km in an hour of riding).  But the scenery was fantastic.  It felt like I was taking a helicopter tour through the Andes.  The heights were mind blowing.  The vertical dimension is like nothing I have seen in North America.

We have been getting a hero´s welcome in every village that we pass through.  Now I have a taste for what it would be like to be famous.  The kids all lin the road to wave at us and shout greetings.  Even the adults get in on the fun once in awhile.  Every time we are about to make a wrong turn, someone comes up to us and points us in the right direction. 

Today when we stopped in a village for lunch, we drew a crowd.  People were fascinated by our bikes and our gear.  Soon the kids were trying on our helmets and gloves.  As usual, people expressed surprise and delight when they learned that we had ridden the bikes all the way to their village from Canada.  When I couldn’t get my zipper to close on my duffel bag, I had half the village trying to help me (and once a pair of plyers were produced, they somehow fixed it too).

Peru is a much vaster country than I imagined.  I knew that it covered a lot of territory, but what I wasn´t prepared for was the 3rd dimension: altitude.  At times, it can take hours to get from point A to point B despite the fact that the two points are in visual range of each other.  This is because the road has to swithback down the side of one mountain and then back the other.  The change in elevation can be thousands of metres. 

We have been traveling on gravity defying dirt roads for days now.  Yesterday we made it less than 100 km (from Ayacucho to the village of Ocros).  Our accomodation in Ocros cost us a grand total of 10 soles (about $3).  Today’s ride from the small town of Ocros to Abancay was among the most spectacular rides of the entire trip.  It was slow going because the road was narrow (often with nothing but abyss on one side) and there were many sharp switchbacks.
 
I have been sick since we arrived in Lima 5 days ago.  It started with the digestive problems I´ve already mentioned.  When the fury of that subsided, I was left with a nasty cold.  Yesterday was the most miserable.  My nose was running non-stop.  Worse, my middle ear was unable to equilibrate pressures, so everytime we changed altitude (which we did non-stop), my ear felt like it was going to burst.  To add to my discomfort, the road from Ayachucho (when we finally found it) was filled with giant potholes.  There were so many and they were so big that they were impossible to avoid.  This did not help my aching muscles.  Did I mention that it was damn cold too?  Ah it feels good to complain.



Day 70 – Ayacucho, Peru

Yesterday afternoon we were finally able to leave Lima.  Ted and I now suspect that the cause of my recent health troubles stemmed from the restaurant in Chimbote where we had eaten supper before heading to Lima.  We ordered parillas (they bring a BBQ full of meat right to your table).  The meat was probably fine, but the half a dozen sauces were most likely not.  Ted had noticed them scooping the leftover sauce back into containers after a group at another table had finished their meal.  Needless to say I did not witness this unsanitary behaviour.  Nor was I informed of its occurrence.  Hmmmm, I wonder if Ted was getting me back for something…I can´t imagine what though.  If I had known I certainly would not have lathered my meat with the sauces.  I have been paying for it for three days.

Near Pisco we turned inland, and quickly emerged from the coastal fog which descends in April and doesn´t lift until December.  That´s right, Lima doesn´t see the sun for 9 months of the year.  That´s even worse than Vancouver.  I think the lack of sunlight was starting to affect Ted.  At breakfast, he felt that his Papaya juice wasn´t coming fast enough.  Normally the calmest most patient guy on the planet, it seemed out of character when he angrily stood up, tracked down the waitress, and demanded his Papaya juice.  Don´t keep Ted waiting for Papaya juice first thing in the morning. 

On the way out of Lima, we had to fight the normal crush of traffic going every which way and ignoring lanes and traffic signals.  Worst drivers on the planet?  In any case, Ted thought that a taxi got a little too close to his motorbike, so he kicked the side of it.  The driver was not impressed.  But I guess Ted can be excused for having issues with taxis…I think it would be a good conversation starter if you asked Ted what he thinks of Peruvian drivers.

Shortly after turning inland, we stopped at the Inca ruins called Tambas Colorado.  It was after 5 PM by the time we got there and the gate to the parking lot was closed.  That didn´t stop us from driving our motorcycles around the gate and hiking through the ruins.  I even got up on top of the walls and started jumping from one wall to the next above the ancient city (don´t worry, there were footprints up there so I wasn´t the first to do this).  Because it was closed and we had the place to ourselves, we were able to ride the motorcycles up a footpath and park them right next to the ruins for a photo-opportunity.

The road followed a steep river valley carved out of desert mountains.  Compared to the coast, the route we were following was vitually unpopulated.  We were starting to think maybe we would have to camp.  We decided we would try to find a hotel in the next town, which we thought was about 50 km away.  When we got there, it was pitch black.  It was a tiny pueblo.  I stopped at a store to ask if there was a hotel in town.  A kind old gentlemen offered to lead us to the hotel.  He started walking down the highway, and we followed on our bikes.  After a few paces, he stopped and asked us if we wanted to stay in the house of God.  Why not?  The pastor, Mano Hernandes, got on the back of my bike and we rode into the darkness.  It was a good thing it was too dark to see how rough the road was or I would have been hesitant to ride it, especially with a passenger.  I wouldn´t want to spill an elderly pastor off the back of my bike. 

That was how we came to sleep on the floor of a small church (Casa del Oracion Evangelico de Jesus Cristo) in the village of Reposo.  We were served food and coffee.  There was one awkward moment when I asked where the bano was.  After a brief silence, I was told: “No hay bano.  Campo.”  I was directed to the rocks outside.  The stars were amazingly bright.  The Milky Way (la careterra) shone brighter than I had ever seen it.

After dinner, there was a service in which we were the stars of the show.  We were introduced to the entire congregation (about 20 people).  No one spoke a word of English.  Mano Fernandes´ gave a sermon that included songs, prayers, and blessings.  People would pray out loud, and sing and chant while clapping their hands.  There was a lot energy in the room, which was lit by candlelight because there was no electricity.

Much of Mano Fernandes sermon revolved around us.  He talked about how God would provide a safe place for us to stay and food for us to eat.  He said that when he saw us on our motorbikes he had sensed that we had love in our hearts.  At one point he touched each of our foreheads in turn and asked God to keep us safe on our journey and to help us become good doctors.

We had told him earlier about Ted´s crash with the taxi.  He made much of this story in his sermon.  He said that Ted was there by the grace of God.  I am not one to argue that.

 

In the morning we watched will our breakfast was killed, drained (I even helped with this, holding the animal upside down for a few minutes after it´s throat had been slit), and fried.  Our breakfast had been living in the corner of the kitchen under a piece of sheet metal sheet waiting for just such a special occaision.  Our breakfast was of course the local delicacy Cuy (Guinea Pig).  Our hosts thought it was hilarious when we told them that Cuys were kept as pets back in Canada. 

After a tour of the river valley, which included a visit to a pedestrian suspension bridge across the river, we said our good byes and final prayers and set off.  Within less than two hours, the highway had climbed from near sea level to a pass 4764 metres high.  Andean highways seem to defy gravity.  The scenery was stunning. 

Day 68 – Lima, Peru

So far we have been pretty lucky with our health on this trip.  There have only been two incidents up until now.  The first was back in Mexico: one of us had to stop his bike to throw up on the side of the road after eating a questionable hamburger.  The second occurred in Nicaragua, where one of us had a bout of diarrhea lasting half a day.

I think that this is a pretty good record considering that before we were even through Mexico we had quit heeding all rules about ice, water, fruit, etc.  I was the first to snap, buying a frappuccino made with ice of an unknown source.  It was so good, that I figured it was worth the risk.  Ted saw my enjoyment and immediately followed suit.  Since then, we have been drinking and eating whatever has been put in front of us, ice and guinea pigs included.

It was liberating not to worry about getting sick.  If it it happens, it happens.  The payoff is much more enjoyment of food and drink on a daily basis.  You can never eliminate your risk anyway.  The sketchiest looking food stand by the side of the road could be just fine, whereas you end up getting sick from a cocktail in a fancy restaurant.

Besides, I have a theory that by brushing my teeth with local water at every place we stop, I can expose myself to a subthreshold dose of bugs and thus build up an immunity without getting sick.  I have no way of knowing whether this is medically valid.  For now I will indulge in this supersition.

I have been sick all day today, having had to stay in close proximity to the hotel bathroom until now.  I´m not sure what caused it.  I started to have an upset stomach yesterday.  Last night I felt feverish.  In the afternoon I had been chilled to the bone after trying to take one for the team and riding Ted´s bike.  Without a windscreen, the cold damp coastal fog went right through two sweaters, my riding jacket, and my GoreTex (Peru is damn cold and windy this time of year).  When we finally stopped (the police pulled us over for yet another bogus ticket but we bribed them with counterfeit money, mwahaha), I had the shakes.  Not to mention a sore back and a sore butt.  Ted must be made of tougher stuff than me.  I can´t even handle the pain of riding his bike for a couple of hours, let alone three months.

Anyway, I am hoping I will be better by the morning, because we would like to get out of foggy Lima and back onto the open road.  Machu Picchu calls.

PS – I have uploaded more pictures at www.kodakgallery.com.  Use tysonbrust@yahoo.com with password klr650 to view them.

Day 65 – Chimbote, Peru

There are easier ways to collect X-rays than to keep crashing.  Maybe the next time Ted wants to add one to his collection, he will only pretend to have an injury.  His latest X-ray came after a taxi did a U-turn right in front of him.  Luckily it was just after a Peaje (toll both) and Ted was “only” going about 60 km/h when his bike slammed into the side of the taxi.  He went flying off the bike, rolled over the trunk of the taxi, and landed hard in the middle of the highway.  His left wrist took the worst of it, nicely complementing his previous injury to his right shoulder.

Luckily, the latest X-ray in the growing collection revealed no fractures, although Ted is in a lot of pain.  Unfortunately, Ted´s bike did not come out as lucky.  The impact forced the shift lever right through the camshaft cover.  All the engine oil in his bike quickly formed a pool on the highway under his toppled bike.  Oil spills are never good.  His left mirror and handguard were also smashed.

I was riding in the lead position at the time, and didn´t see any of this.  When I noticed that Ted wasn´t behind me I stopped at a gas station to wait for him.  The sun was setting, and we had been trying to make it Chimbote (about an hour´s drive away) before dark.  When he did not come after a few minutes, I rode back to look for him.  My first thought was that he had stopped to fill up with gas because we had gone about 300 km since the last fill. 

The accident scene was cleared amazingly fast, and I saw no evidence of any crash when I rode back only minutes later.  It turns out that Ted saw me ride by from the police car that was whisking him to the hospital.  A passing truck had been flagged down to carry his broken bike to the police station.  The police radioed the toll both to stop me, but I rode right through without being stopped.  A few kilometres down the road, well past where I knew Ted had been in my rearview mirror, I pulled over to the side of the road to think about what to do next.  While I was comtemplating, two guys in a pick up truck stopped and said that my amigo had been in an accident.  That was all I understood.  They spoke no English. 

Immediately they offered to drive back the way they had just come so that I could follow them.  On the way back, the police stopped me at the toll both and said that my amigo had a fracture.  I continued to follow the guys in the pick-up truck.  They led me back to within a few hundred metres of the gas station where I had been waiting before making a turn into the small town of Viru.  They tried the police station first.  Ted was not there, but they learned that he was at the hospital.  Naturally I was concerned.  It was so frustrating not being able to speak Spanish well enough to ask if Ted was alright.

When I found Ted, I was relieved to see that he was standing and appeared fully mobile.  He was understandibly a bit angry at the whole situation.  The sight of one´s bike leaking oil all over the road does little to improve one´s mood.  He needed me to pay for an X-ray because he had no currency.  They had piled all of Ted´s luggage in the hospital room.  A police officer told me to watch Ted´s belongings closely while Ted got his X-ray.  I was thinking about my fully laden bike parked in plain view out on the street in front of the hospital.  But my new friends from the pick up truck were already thinking ahead of me, and said they would watch my bike while I waited.  Later, I moved my bike off the street and parked it in the front entrance of the hospital.

One of my new friends, Martin, took me across the street and phoned one of his sisters who spoke English.  She explained to me that Ted and I were welcome to stay in Martin´s room that night.  Martin made a real effort to get me relaxed and make me feel welcome.  I really appreciated talking to his sister in English as well.  In turns out that he has a second sister who lives in Canada – in Lethbridge, Alberta of all places.  What a small world.

We ended up staying in the home of the brother (Jesus) of the guy who had been driving the taxi that caused the accident.  To get Ted´s non-working bike across town, Martin rode my bike using his right leg to push on the left passenger footpeg on Ted’s bike, which I was riding.  Clever.

We parked our motorcycles in their living room.  Apparently leaving them outside was unacceptably risky.  We were fed supper and slept on the living room floor beside our bikes.  In the morning, after a breakfast of fresh eggs and coffee, the two brothers (and Jesus´4 year old son) took us on a tour of the local Inca ruins (Castillo de Viru) while their father went to Trujillo to get the damaged part repaired.

In the afternoon, a local mechanic made a new gasket and fitted the repaired part back on the bike.  He also fixed the alignment and handguard.  All of this was paid for by our hosts.  I hope it did not cost them much, because it was obvious that any money they had would be better spent on themselves and their families than on us.

By the time we said goodbye this afternoon, I was moved by the hospitality and friendliness that was showered upon us.  We were given so much by people who had so little.  I felt guilty accepting food and drink (not to mention the cost of the repairs) by people who did not even have running water.

Today´s short ride to Chimbote from Viru was extremely painful for Ted. I´m not even sure how he can pull the clutch lever with his left hand and forearm swollen up like a balloon as they are.  Our pace will most likely have to slow down (or stop altogether) until his condition improves.

Day 63 – Chiclayo, Peru

Today we rode horses.  We weren´t planning on it.  On the contrary, we were hoping to cover mucho kilometres to make up for our leisurely pace through Ecuador.  Instead, despite our best efforts, we made another friend in Piura.  We were looking for a place to eat lunch when Julio, a Peruvian living in the USA (but home for his dad´s 80th birthday), saw our bikes and came up to chat.  He owns a motorcycle store in Miami www.meancycles.com.

Him and his friend led us to a seafood restaurant and started ordering local favourites.  The fish was fantastic, “cooked” only in lime juice.  The Peruvian lime is smaller, but juicier and tangier.  Piura is a fishing community and the fish was freshly caught.  Mmmmm.  Soon we were joined by Julio´s sister and her two friends, and the beer (Cristal) flowed freely (sadly I could not partake beyond a taste because we intended to continue riding after lunch).  Julio insisted on paying for everything, and that we visit his father´s nearby ranch before leaving.  We were given a tour, which included an inspection of a collection of prize fighting cocks.  Julio said he was going to make us ride horses before he would let us leave.  Who were we to argue?

When we finally made our exit, we had a 2 hour drive through the desert to Chiclayo with only about an hour of daylight left.  That still didn´t stop us from leaving the highway at sunset to tear around the open sandy vastness.  I snapped some pictures of Ted doing a donut.  It was fun to let the bikes slide around.

Last night was our first night in Peru.  We slept at Playa Zorritos.  This morning we swam in the Pacific for the first time since the Nicoya peninsula (El Ostionel) in Costa Rica.  We had met the owner of the hotel in Zorritos (Blue Point) while waiting at the Peruvian border to get our temporary vehicle import permits.  He seemed a nice enough fellow, and it was only $10 each for a private room and bathroom overlooking the beach.

The exit formalities from Ecuador were straightforward.  Entering Peru would have been straightforward, except that the crossing required navigating the bikes through a chaotic sea of humanity, animals, and mototaxis.  The road was so jammed leading to and from the puente international that I was shocked when I saw a semi pull up outside the Peruvian aduana office.  How did it get through without taking out dozens of vendor stalls and crushing hundreds of people?

As per our usual border brossing routine, one of us watched the bikes while the other filled out his forms.  The customs officials asked me for a dollar while I was inside, but I started asking questions and managed to leave without paying.  Ted was confronted with the same demand when it was his turn, but also managed to get away without paying by continuing to ask what the dollar was for.
 
The night before entering Peru we spent the night in the mountain village of Chunchi, Ecuador.  The road leading to Chunchi and south to the Peruvian border was in such rough shape that I thought for sure we were lost.  Surely this was not the pan-American highway.  But every time I was about to stop and ask directions, I would see a sign for a town that I knew was on the pan-Americana.  There was probably 75 kms of dirt and loose gravel.  We passed a group of about a dozen fully loaded Honda GoldWings heading the way we had just come.  I wondered if they knew what they were in for.  I know I certainly wouldn´t want to get a heavy GoldWing around some of the switchbacks that lay in their path.

After leaving Chunchi, on the way to the Peruvian border, the asphalt would often suddenly end and there would be a dirt or sand section for a few hundred metres and then asphalt again.  On one of these sections, the missing asphalt consisted of a sandy hollow.  I went in going about 100 km/h.  After about 20 metres, there was a 45 degree sandy ramp back up to the level of the asphalt 2 feet above.  I was launched into the air.  Both tires were off the ground for a couple of heartbeats.  When I landed, the bike immediately went into a wobble.  I thought for sure I was going to lose it, but somehow managed to stabilize the bike.  Whew.

Today I crossed the 20,000 km milestone on Rosa.  I of course stopped to take a picture.  I happened to be in the middle of the Peruvian desert.  I thought back to when I crossed the 10,000 milestone back in Mexico, just around the corner from the late Antonio Aguilar´s ranch.  What a journey those last 10,000 kms have taken me on.  Where will the next 10,000 kms will take me?  Wherever it is, I am looking forward to it.

I often think to myself as I ride past some wonder or another that the decision to go on this adventure was one the best decisions I´ve ever made.

PS – There are a few new pictures from Ecuador and Columbia at www.kodakgallery.com. View them using username tysonbrust@yahoo.com and password “klr650”.  They are only a fraction of what I would like to upload, but if I´m lucky it takes 10 minutes per picture.

Day 61 – Lasso, Ecuador

We have spent way longer in Ecuador than we intended.  The country is out of this world.  The scenery is jaw-droppingly gorgeous.  Snow-covered volcanoes seem to reach towards the moon.  In a few hours you can go from hot jungle to cool pine forests to cold snow covered rocks.

Last night we stayed in Lasso, which is at the foot of Volcan Cotopaxi, the site of Ecuador´s most popular national park (but they don´t let motorcycles in – bah).  The previous two nights we spent in the home of Jose Luis Rodriguez in Quito.  We met Jose Friday evening at our hotel in Otalavo.  He is a guide, and had just finished taking a group of French tourists on a 10-day horseback riding trek through the Andes (http://www.equateurtourisme.com/).  He has a passion for motorcycles, and competes in Enduro competitions.

He was fascinated by our journey, and was soon giving us advice on where to go and what roads were the best for motorcycles (certainly not the pan-American highway).  He told us that he was competing in an Enduro competition on Saturday and Sunday, but that we would be welcome to come stay in his home in Quito on Sunday night.  He said he would take us up to Volcan Guagua Pichinta, elevation 4781 metres.

He recommended that we go to Volcan Cayambe on Saturday, and then ride to Quito on Sunday.  We took his advice, and as I’ve already written, our experience on Volcan Cayambe was a fantastic adventure.  If not for Jose, we would have ridden right by and probably been halfway through Peru by now.

As planned we stayed in the home of Jose and his sister Lili on Sunday night. On Monday, despite having crashed his bike and injured his leg in the Euduro competition (he still finished the race), Jose took us out for fantastic day of riding.  He showed us the sights in Quito, which is a beautiful city set in a high mountain valley surrounded by Volcanoes and endless opportunities for adventure.  Within minutes we were riding up the side of a mountain, stopping to take pictures of the city below and the surrounding volcanoes.

Soon we left the asphalt and started our ascent of Guagua Pichinta.  The road was challenging because there were steep switchbacks covered in loose dirt.  I am happy to say that two of us made it to the top without going rubber side up (and I was one of them).  The higher we got, the worse our motorcycles performed.  By the time we were approaching the refuge at about 4500 metres, my engine was lugging even in first gear with the throttle all the way open.  Stalling in the middle of steep sandy tight corners can have disastrous consequences, and could even require roadside repairs of handguards and the like.

Ted and I left our motorcycles at the refuge, and hiked the rest of the way up to the rim of the Volcano and the summit at 4781 m (I could feel the effects of the altitude, breathing was more difficult).  Jose, riding a much lighter and nimbler Honda CRF450X (and having much greater skill), managed to get his bike up a seemingly impossibly steep and rocky slope beyond the refuge.  He got his bike all the way to the rim of the Volcano for a priceless photo opportunity.  How many places in the world can you get a motorcycle perched on the rim of a 4781 m high Volcano?  In the background, you could see steam rising from a crater in the caldera hundreds of metres below.

From the summit of Guagua Pichinta, it is possible to see the Pacific ocean on a clear day, as well as the the peaks of about a dozen other volcanoes.  We couldn´t see the Pacific because there were clouds (way beneath us) stretching to the west.  But we had spectacular views of Cayambe and Cotopaxi.  We were lucky to have Jose as a guide.  He had a wealth of information.  For example, we learned that where we had camped on Cayambe was right at “the middle of the world”.  The glacier on Cayambe is the world´s only glacier on the equator.  So the headline would have read “Two Canadians die of Hypothermia on the Equator”.  We also learned that the Indians had known where the middle of the world was 500 years before the arrival of the Conquistadors.

On the way down, Jose and I switched bikes.  I liked the feel of the lighter Honda, once I got used to it.  Later, when Ted was riding Jose’s Honda and Jose was riding Ted’s Suzuki, the Honda’s rear tire went flat.  We witnessed Jose’s roadside tire repair skill.  It was a lot more impressive that Ted and my feeble effort (without tire irons mind) way back in the mountains of Mexico (which seems like another lifetime already).

That night there was a party at Jose and Lili´s house.  A group of friends came over to celebrate Lili´s birthday (Feliz compli anos Lili).  We cooked up a big barbecue and drank Pilsener (Ecuadorian beer) and pina coladas.  I broke out a bottle of good sipping rum that I had been saving since Panama.  We partied into the night. 

The owner of the adventure company where Jose works as a guide was there with his wife, who was originally from France.  As a consequence, I was able to converse with them in French.  Who would have thought that my French would come in handy in Ecuador?  It was good, because only Jose and one other woman spoke English.  Everyone else spoke only Spanish.  Although we tried, the conversations Ted and I had with the others were pretty limited by language barriers.

We ended the night and the bottle of rum playing a card game called 40.  It took me awhile to figure it out.  Was it the language barrier or the Abuelo Viejo?

In the morning, Jose took us to his mechanic so we could tune-up our bikes.  Both Ted and I had our fork oil changed.  We also had our air filters cleaned, and Ted had his engine oil changed.  We had two guys working for about 4 hours each on our bikes.  I was impressed by how careful and meticulous they were.  They cleaned every part they worked on, and replaced missing screws.  The master mechanic even noticed that my Trail Tech computer wasn´t hooked up and took it upon himself to get it working.  This proved challenging because the oversized aftermarket rotar that I had installed prevented the installation of the sensor in the normal place on the caliper mount.  Instead, the mechanic had to mount it on the front of my left fork using epoxy.  He even painted the whole thing silver to match the fork.  Impressive.

The total bill, for both bikes including parts, oil, and labour, came to $117.  I couldn´t believe it.  I felt like we were stealing from them.  The total cost of the labour was $60.  This was for two guys working 4 hours each.  Incredible.