Thursday, January 28, 2010

La Paz - Potosi, Bolivia

Carb change for high altitude

As we motored along we were appreciating the beauty of Bolivia. I shutter at the fact that we almost passed it in favor of hitting the Pan America to Chilie. We were treated to clear skies and glacier capped mountains that would rival any along the Columbia Ice Field Parkway in Alberta.

The air temperature is very cold and Julie and I have donned our winter riding gear that we packed away back in Texas. The gods must have been watching out for us because for about 2 hours of the 7 hours that we rode today the rain was falling on either side of us but not directly on us. The asphalt was wet but the clouds had split over the road keeping us dry from the feet up.

Most of the ride from La Paz to Potosi was at elevations greater than 4300 meters. I was thanking my lucky stars that I chose to work on the carb the day before at only 3800 meters in the sun in anticipation of greater altitudes. Had we not taken the time we would have been putting along that stretch at 60 -70 km an hour on the flats, and 30 -40km on the hills. Alas I was brimming ear to ear in the feeling of accomplishment at such a feat of mechanical brilliance.

The ride today was much similar to the ride across the Peruvian Highlands, however, the Bolivian highlands had a paved road and was seemingly situated in a high valley as we were motoring between rolling rounded mountain peaks the entire way. Yesterday we saw National team speed walkers training, who were taking advantage of the high altitude and good roads.

Ive been taking care to fill up every 100km so as to avoid running out of gas. Already twice we have driven 300km between fill ups as the towns have been completely dry with huge 40 and 60 car & truck line ups waiting on the side of the highway for the next fuel delivery truck to arrive. The new Carb jetting has our fuel economy back under control and we are getting our standard 55 miles to the gallon again.

We pulled into Potosi...a beautiful colonial town on the side of a mountain. The city was established in the 1550s and has neat narrow streets of wide flat cobbles. As mentioned before it was once the richest city in all of South America for its silver mining operation. Mining is still occuring today and you can actually take a mine tour. I bet it would be pretty interesting, knowing that the technology and safety of the place probably wouldnt be up to snuff.

As we were heading out for dinner we were halted by a procession of priests and other church members proceeding in a huge parade toward the huge beautiful stone church. There were alot of old white men and a few locals as well. In the middle of the procession was a bunch of locals wearing colorful beads and traditional dress playing recorders and drums while hopping and dancing along side the serious and long faced white guys with folded hands over their gut. I looked up toward the bell tower and to my suprise there were young men up there (with out fall protection). They were man handling the ringers inside the huge bells with their bare hands swinging the dinger to and fro. The whole parade was increadible in that it caused a mini traffic jam and Im sure that if this sort of thing happened in Canada someone would be writng a letter to the city. Alas after 15 minutes all was clear and everyone flooded into the church.

Tomorrow we plan to head to the Bolivian Salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) It was an ancient inland lake that due to techninic upheaval has drained and thus precipitated all of its salts forming a salt desert more that 12,000 km square. It should be pretty interesting.

Reed Islands-Puno, Peru

January 25

Having the blown fork seal on my mind I got up and had my coffee and complementary bread and drove the bike down the hostal steps in search of a garage to work on my bike sheltered from rain. I hit 3 places who had signs on the door saying that they were mechanic's but no one would let me work on my bike. Finally I drove right into a oil soaked parking lot with corrigated tin acting as a makeshift roof sheltering the mechanics from the rain. I interrupted the fellow working on a head with all the valves and cams laid out on a steel table. After I asked in broken spanish ( Please, me, mechanic, motorcycle, here) He also said no. I was getting pretty wet in the rain and didn't want to ride around any more. I asked again ( How much cost, Please, me , mechanic, motorcycle work) The sound of money was the secret recipie for understanding. He mentioned a few words to his boss and immediately 3 men went to work clearing me a small area. I got the fork seal replaced in a jiffy using transmission fluid as a substitute (remembering Rob Arsenau telling me back in the days of single trax cycles that it could be used as a sub) and headed back to the hostal to meet up with Julie by noon.

January 26

It was an early start to the day at 6:00 am. We planned to have lots of time before our 7:00 am pick up. At 6:40 sharp our hostal owner came running up the stairs to our room to tell us that the bus was here to pick us up. Luckily we had already eaten breakfast and were all packed up for the day.

We were whisked to the docks where we met our tour guide along with several other folks from all over the world. Immediately we made friends with a fellow from Norway named Kristian. He was one of the first people in a long time that I met that had a half decent sense of humor...what's wrong with everyone else?

We took off for the Islas Flotantes (Uros) and Isla Taquile after being entertained by a local musician who sang and played the pan flute and ukelale. We were caught off guard at first by such a kind prelude to our island excursion. We handed him a Sole for his musical ambitions, and then the engines fired up in gear. At once we were heading to the isla's.

Along the 15 minute passage through the reeds our english / spanish speaking guide gave us a brief intro to the history and culture of the floating island people. Apparently the Lago Titicaca people who first began making the islands (which take up to a year to construct) we in actuality fleeing the Inca. These people we pre-Inca and spoke an entirely different language to the Inca.

The visitation to the islands was kind of entertaining in that the islands were all constructed close to the city of Puno. Thus I am under the impression that everyone who was "employed" on the islands lived on the mainland and only took a short boat ride to the islands before all of us tourists arrived. ( I wonder how else they'd pay property taxes). We were suckered into buying a small tapistry from some woman who said that she made it all herself. The only conflicting evidence against her claim is that you can find her identical rug in every corner store catering to tourists.

We were offered a reed boat ride to the next neighboring island so about 15 of us piled onto the reed boat. At about 10 feet from the island the boat stopped and the paddling captian announced that the ride that he offered was not part of the tour but would cost the equivalent to $1.50 each. It was pretty funny watching all the people rifle through their pockets looking for exact change since in these lands any bigger demonation will do just change given.

After unloading from the reed boat we reboarded the main tour boat and began heading across lago Titicaca. Once we were in the middle of the lake, the size of this lake gained some perspective. Lago Titicaca is the highest Navigatible lake in the world that borders Bolivia and Peru. In the late 1880's Peru ordered two steam powered ships be sailed from Brittian around Cape Horn to the Pacific coast. Here the 2755 parts each were loaded onto a train and shipped 60 miles inland. From this point the ship parts were carried by mule, donkey (burrow) and by people the remaining distance over the Andies to Lago Titicaca at 3800 meters. The ships are now restored and one belongs to a British woman and the other to the Peruvian Navy.

Our tour boat was navigating toward an island inhabitated by locals who were actually authentic. Men wore brightly colored hats and belts which signified whether or not they were marrieds as did the woman. We toured the island which had a population of about 2700 people. There was alot of agriculture including the cultivation of the all important potato, corn, millet etc. We also saw sheep and cows, however no alpaca or lama were allowed as they were considered unholy by the early conquistadors as the locals worshipped them and considered them most important.

I guess going to these places is kind of cool in a way in that we've all seen it on tv, however, I believe that I'm 20 years too late and now when you roll up there are 30 kids who should be in school begging you to buy useless crap and pushy parents pleading with you to part with your money. I know it's all a show and they probably live confortably. The only thing I appreciate is he reconstruction that these people have done to help me imagine what it must have been like 50 years ago before 30 boats with 30 people each left at 7:00 am sharp every morning from the dock.

January 27

We finally left Puno and crossed into Bolivia, it has been raining on and off for nearly 6 days. We arrived at the Bolivian border and I checked out of Peru in less than 10 minutes. As we crossed over into Bolivia we lost an hour due to a time zone change. I got my passport stamped and headed over to customs for the bike. 10 minutes before lunch they saw me coming over and closed the door. Alas we had to kill an hour so we went for lunch over at a local little restaurant.

Once the Customs door reopened at 2pm the stamp and entry into the computer took less than 5 minutes. The bike was operating poorly and the crux of the decision to chance carburetors was when Julie had to make an emergency exit off the back of the bike as we ascended a steep hill. The bike stalled and I had to lock up the brakes to prevent us from sliding backwards.

I saw a beautiful Vista and pulled over. I yanked all the gear off the bike and in order to keep Julie from getting bored I put her to work removing bolts from the bike after I loosened them and putting tools away Etc.

My fingers were crossed that my decision to move to the next smaller jet in order to lean out the fuel - air would actually work. After reinstalling all the parts...hands covered in oil and gas »I fired the bike up and it worked wonderful. We hopped on the Black Stallion and took off over the 4300meter mountains with vengence. A short ride and we were at a ferry crossing much like the one we had in Guatemala. We got dropped off on the other shore and made our way to La Paz.

La Paz is a huge city and it was completely congested with caravans (Toyota & Nissan vans). La Paz seems to have public transit figured out. Everyone just walks up to a van in grid lock, gets into it, and gets out of it at an intersection where they need to turn and simply gets into another bus heading in that direction that they require.

There were so many people walking on the street and side walks that it was like getting stuck in the middle of a river of people. As I was parked while Julie inquired about a hotel room. My bike was being bobbled from side to side as people brushed by it. ( I was parked on the shoulder of the street)

The hotel offered us tickets for drinks at the hotel discotecka so we were sold! We unpacked our gear showered and headed on down. Unlike the hopping and bouncing of our typical dance floors where the token dancer is usually pickled to the toxicity limit....these pĂȘople were trained dancers and all had steps and rhythem. Every new song that the DJ played, they had a new step. Julie and I watched and considered taking dance lessons for fear of being asked to dance some time in the future.

We crashed pretty early in anticipation of heading south in the morning to Potosi ...the highest city in the world and once the richest silver mining town in South America.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rained out

We finally made it to Cusco arriving in the pouring rain. We were looking for the historical centre but the one way streets, side roads and lack of signage made it an impossible affair while on the bike. We found a hostal that allowed us to drive the bike right into the lobby and up a set of stairs via a plank and into a courtyard. This kind of hospitality has become commonplace and I'm beginning to expect it where ever we go now.

With the bike unloaded we headed out in search of something exciting to eat rather than chicken or rice. We found Romero's Pizza. We were so excited that we orderd the "Romeras Pizza"! It came as a rather large portion and we went home pretty stuffed.

The next morning the order of priority was to get a new memory card and book a trip to Machu Picchu. With all our ducks in a row we went for some coffee's and had some lunch. Following the advice of our guide book we toured two museums. The first one was a walk through the history of the Americas with several artifacts from local and other South American countries that were under Inca influence. The museum took a couple of hours and off we headed toward the next museum which was a church built upon Inca temple. In 1950 a huge earthquake rocked Cusco and leveled the church (Santo Domingo) under the rubble the lost Inca temple was rediscovered and restored.

We headed to bed early in anticipation of our train ride to Machu Picchu. Alas at 7:00 am the woman who booked our tour informed us that our trip was cancelled as the rain was too heavy and the train would not pass. She informed us that she would drive us to the bus, the bus would take us to the train station, however, the train might not go today. We asked how we would then get back to Cusco...she said that she wasn't sure. I looked at our reciept, the total for the trip included all the transportation ticked off in little boxes which included: (1) drive to bus station (2) bus to train (3) train to Machu Picchu (4) guided tour (5) train back to bus ...Etc. She was unsure what we should do. She was unsure about everything and it really pissed me off. The one thing I knew for sure is that she had all of our cash in her little bag and she offered us a refund in US dollars. This was the crux of the matter so I asked Julie what she wanted to do and we decided to get our money refunded and by pass all the hype and the other 2500 gringo's and Euro's waiting to board a bus and train. We opted to head to the wide open spaces free to our own devices in the pouring rain on the KLR.

Within 50 km the clouds parted and we had sunny skies with intermittent rain clouds that got us a little damp. The rivers in the area we raging torrents some dark grey/black from the rich soils and others chocolate brown. We were heading south to Puno, a town right on lake Titicaca. After 7 hours we arrived in Puno I had the bike into our hostal by riding it up a 1"/4" Plank up a set of steep steps. I had to approach the steps at about 20kmhr and luckily I made it up the plank straight and square with no bobbles.

I noticed an oil leak and discovered that the oil was coming from the fork seal. This will be a very easy repair but a pain in the butt nonetheless. Depending on the weather conditions I`ll fix it here in Puno or another place down the road.

In the morning we hope to book a tour of the floating islands where indeginous people keep adding reeds to a floating mass and live out in the middle of the lake.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cactus Fruit- Ocros-Abancay, Peru

Emerging from the tool shed we saw that the morning mist was just about burnt away. We began loading the bike in preparation for our departure with our fingers crossed that the road did'nt slide overnight.

Julie did'nt want to use the squatter toilets (a hole in the floor with two pads to put your feet) so we needed to leave town so she could pee on the side of the road like me. We bought some gas from a guy that had a bucket with graduations on it. I only rode 120km but for some reason I needed 3 gallons to fill it to the 3/4 mark on the tank.....hrmmmm?

We wearily proceeded to where the slide had occured and to our delight the road was passable. I stopped just before crossing and a small slide was happening before our eyes. Approximately 3 wheel burrows worth or sand and rock dumped onto the inside of the road. It was quiet again for a minute so I went for it. We passed without a problem. There were to pieces of machinery on hand to clear the road, one backhoe, and one bulldozer.

It was 830am and we were on our way to Abancay. The road was in decient shape and we began decending into a valley which was more arid than the previos few hundred kms. There were tall cacti and hearty grasses. We were encountering alot of animals on the road with their sheppards tending to them and husstling them out of our way so we could pass through the herds of: Goats, Sheep, Cows, etc.

We saw a flock of goats ahead mixed in with sheep with a woman standing high up on an embankment on the side of the road. I was riding at about 25-30km/hr just coasting with the gears for brakes and intermittently pumping the brakes to keep the speed under control during the steep decent. I saw a large dog bolting straight towards us (which has become commonplace) generally I just accelerate and the dog runs along side of us until he gets tired and goes away. This fellow was very athletic however. He ran along side of us by passing my meaty leg and went straight for the front tire. It all happened within two shakes of a lambs tail. Instinctively I manhandled the handle bars and up and over the dog we went. The bikes front suspension has about 10 inches of travel. The dog stood at about 18inches so when we rolled over him he felt like a squirmy soft 8 inch log. In the milli second that it all happened I managed to regain control of the bike. I believe that had we been going any faster or any slower the circumstances could have been worse. Luckily he went under the bike!

I glanced down to my right quickily and saw the poor fellow tumbling beside the bike. To my suprise the bugger got up and ran back towards the flock.....on three legs I might add. I could'nt believe that he got up! Our bike was traveling about 30km/hr and we weigh about 800lbs, how could he have survived? I did'nt stop, but rather kept on going in disbelief that we did'nt crash.

Moments later we decended into a small town which was situated on the edge of a deep but wide ravine with vertical walls that he river had carved. We followed the road right down into the depths of the canyon and proceeded towards the main river "Rio Pampas". The river was huge, about 60 feet across at the bridge crossing and raging. Up stream the river bed was a series of braided channels and was about 500 meters wide.

The road jutted upward and at 3000 meters the bike was sputtering along in agony. The slow speed allowed us to see a couple of young brothers picking "Tuna" cacti fruit that grows on the ears of the cactus plant. (the needles are the modified leafs) I don't know if these are considered prickly pear or not. The young fellows came right over and invited us to try the cactus fruit. He peeled the skin off and the fruit inside was a deep orange. It was full of hard seeds but the pulp was very sweet and enjoyable. The fellow said that it was a gift from Peru. He ran off in the distance along the side of the mountain while we stayed in the company of his little brother. Moments later he returned with a legume (bean pod). He tore it open explaining something that I just replied ..."" and inside was some fuzzy white beans. He instructed us to only eat the white fuzz on the bean and not to eat the black bean itself. It too was sweet..I did'nt like the texture because it was unlike anything i've eaten before, so I politely tried to decline the offer of a whole bunch of legumes that he picked for us. I tried my hand at picking the cactus fruit with a long bamboo pole split in three fingers at the end and flared enough to slide over the fruit. With a simple twist the fruit came off the cactus. The fruit in this region is ready for picking and the avacado trees, orange trees, lemon trees, and legume trees, and cacti are all ripe for the picking.

We continued on with our legumes bungeed to the bike for later and ascended high up again. Today would prove to be the most ascents and descents that i'm sure any road in the world could offer. We'd descend into a valley to 2800meters and across a river only to ascend back to well over 3800meters over the top of another range. Along the way people were cultivating potatoes, corn and possibly a few other varieties of plants which I did'nt recognise up the side of these ridiculosly steep mountain sides. Julie has decided that Peruvians can grow anything anywhere...desert to vertical walls and stay in good health.

Finally after 10 hours of motorcycling with only 1 hours of idle time we could see asphalt on the other side of a river. We followed along side the river for about 5 km until at last we crossed a small bridge to the main highway to Cuzco. It was just before dark and we decided to go to the town of Abancay for the night and rode around for a bit until we encountered the "Hotel Touristas" Julie liked it and we were in need of a shower after 2 full days of dusty dirt road riding. The hotel has the best restaurant in town so we hurried to the table to Fillet mingnon in order offset the self induced starvation warranted by the sheep/goat tongue stirfry's.

We'll sleep well tonight in a confortable bed nicer than the tool shed with clean sheets. Julie is happy so thus I can be happy too. Tomorrow we head to Cusco.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ayachuco-Ocros, El Camino

Glimpse of the Peruvian Highlands.
Navigating our way through a mine field.

Our $4.50 room for the night.

Every 100 years this plant blooms. Notice the tall flowering reproductive structure and the guy standing beside it.

Crazy cheese lady.

Julie and I went for breakfast looking for a place that served fruit. We found one right away and sat down only to realise that they were'nt serving fruit or anything else on the menu besides, eggs, bread, chicken (of course chicken and rice) and fruit smoothies.

Julie was deciding to be brave by ordering a smoothie knowing that the last fruit smoothie made her ill for several days. Just as we glanced over to the woman blending the drink, we saw her crack a raw egg into the mix. I assured Julie that it was ok since they only use fresh eggs and not the month and a half old eggs that we refridgerate at home. I ate my chicken sandwich and Julie enjoyed her drink.

The bike was packed and we said good bye to Alberto, the hostal owner, and headed out of town. It had only been about 300km since I put the "80% on road tire" on and now I realised that the road to Abancay was going to be a single lane dirt road for the next 450km. The road was in pretty good shape and we were able to travel it at roughly 40-60km/hr. We had to take it easy in blind areas in order to avoid a head on collision with on coming traffic, this however was a minimal risk as there wasn't any traffic. We had the entire road to ourselves for hours at a time. I was thinking back at one point during the ride to when I brought Julie on some back roads out by Lake Utopia and she got scared thinking that we were too far away from civilization and that we'd better be getting back. Here we were now 15,000km away from home on a one lane dirt road in fair to poor shape with nobody in sight for miles in the treeless Peruvian Highland Plateau and she was fine with it!?

We had ridden for about 4 hours when I saw a lady dressed in traditional clothing consisting of a black top hat, braided ponytail, red and purple clothing walking quickly down the side of a mountain medow. She was waiving so I decided to stop for the hell of it. She was going on about something and I was trying to understand. She had no front teeth and was a little bit dirty from working out in the fields tending to her flock of sheep. Five dogs had accompanied her down to the road where we were now parked. The woman was trying to sell me some of her home made cheese. I knew that it probably wasn't pasturized, but I wanted to try it anyhow. The cheese was rolled into three softball sized blobs in a bowl with grass and dirt stuck to the outside of the white cheese. I pulled out my knife and sliced off a very small chunk. It was really soft, slightly harder than room temperature butter and tasted slightly salty. It was pretty good but I wasn't going to push my luck by eating alot. We gave her two Soles (75 cents). She was trying to hand over two of the cheese balls and it took quite a bit of convincing that we "just didn't have the room on the bike for the cheese" but that she could keep the two soles.

I was wondering where she lived, and how far she had walked to get there by 12 noon that day. She pointed to the top of the medow, there were two kids there about 15 -16 years old who she said were her own. They were too shy to come down and walked away when we began walking up the medow to see over the top to where she said she had come from.

As we crested the top I looked down the other side expecting to see a house, there was only open landscape. The family had walked there from some place very far away to graze their 60-80 sheep with their 5 dogs for the day. At this point we said good bye and Julie leaned over to give the cute little woman a hug. Suddenly her protective dog lurched from the grass and grabbed Julie by the back of the leg and backed off when she screamed. The woman scared the dog away and we walked slowly back to the bike. Julie was in alot of pain and I was worried about an animal bite in a part of the world where vaccination is unheard of. The bite went through Julies rain suit, jeans, and long-johns and superficially scratched the skin. There is a huge bruise but luckily no significant tissue damage.

We continued onward to a town called Ocros. Here we were halted by a line of traffic and people telling us that the road was closed. Indeed it was! There were rocks tumbling down the side of the mountain as we rolled up to investigate the hold up. The people told us that it would be more than a couple of hours before the working crew would dare move the debris. We stopped to watch for a while when just then a huge slide came down. I could hear it starting so I pulled out the camera and got a nice video.

We returned the 4km back to Ocros where we spoke to a mini-bus driver who said he was taking another route around the mountain. This meant ascending back up to 4300 meters onto the Peruvian Highlands and making our way around the other side of the mountain. This seemed like a good adventure so we agreed to follow. As we made our way up the switchbacks for 10 kilometers the temperature again plummeted and it began to rain. Along the way we saw several herds of wild Alpaca. They were beautifil tan and white colored and very cute.

The alternative route was really quite scenic and it was a lovely single lane dirt road that was in really great shape. We had no idea where we were going but we felt content, perhaps because we were for once following someone who knew the way. The highlans were mottled with water puddles, and small ponds. Several times we had to cross small rivers and streams and descend very rocky sections which was easy for the KLR but challenging for the Mini-bus (kind of like a euro-van)

Along the way the bus driver stopped and got out to ensure that we saw and appreciated a particular plant which looked like an aloe-vera plant on steroids. Apparently they bloomed once every 100 years and this year we were some of the few people to see one in bloom. The reproductive structure was about 20 high and the base of the plant only about 4-5 feet high and with a spherical shape and diameter of about 3-4 feet. Humming birds were visiting the plant while we appreciated it.

Suprising to us, we came to two small towns, one with a police station and public square. The road seemed to end at the square but, only a few meters away down a rocky path the road continued. We were warned that the road here was out as well. Alas we had traveled 2 hours to get here so we decided to check it out for ourselves. The road down was terrible, with huge boulders and softball sized angular rocks strewn all over the dirtroad. I had to concentrate to navigate my way through the mine field. I was worried that more rocks might come down while we passed but no-one else seemed to take any notice.

As we made our way down the passengers of the van jogged ahead to clear the roadway of large rocks for the van and me to pass easily. Sure enough the road was completely out. Infact the road was gone, a huge slide had completely removed the side of the mountain for abot 30 feet and there was now a circular path where the slide had occured on the mountain.

We were forced to turn around. This time I headed out first in a rush to beat the setting sun. It was now about 5 pm with sunset at 6:37pm. Julie and I made it back to a small village where two men stopped us and offered us a place to stay in the village school for the night so that we would'nt get caught in the dark in the highlands. There were more than 100 sheep all around and a few kids so we though that it would be a pretty fun thing to do. One man unlocked the school and the other said that he'd get his wife to make us some dinner. It all seemed like a good idea until the mini-bus showed up. The people in the van motioned me to come over and informed me that I was nuts to take such an offer and that it was dangerous to stay in that village. I thought about it for a second, They were probably right, but again, these were probaly some excited villagers that were happy to have a few strangers here for a night from a far away place. Nonetheless we packed up and followed the van back to Ocros. The villagers looked super disappointed.

Julie and I pulled ahead of the van and splashed through the rivers and made it back to the main dirt road just as it was getting dark. We had to decend the 10km of switch backs into town and then look for accomodations. We found a place with the help of a local man that was serving dinner to some road construction men. We sat down to eat and a woman brough two plates of food out. It looked pretty good to me so I dug in straight away. I was chewing on a yellow chunk of food that was smooth on one side and rough on the other like the buds of a I thought. I chewed it for a long time as it was very rubbery. It was juicy at first and eventually became dry and husk like. I swallowed it and decided to ask the guy beside me what it was. He simply replied that it was meat! It was then that I confirmed that those were buds indeed....taste buds form a goats tongue. We were served Goats tongue stirfry with carrots, potatos, peas, and onions on a bed of rice. The rest of the dish was pretty good tasting actually.

Julie and I were asking where we could sleep, finally we got the point across. Another woman walked us over to a mans corner store. Apparently he had a place for us to sleep. He walked across the muddy dirt street and unlocked what would amount to a tool shed in Canada and began assembling a bed that was in pieces. Julie and I unloaded the bike and by the time we were done he had the bed frame mostly complete. I helped with the minor details and in no time we had the shed to ourselves. The bathroom and sinks were outdoors and were located across the road and in back of his house. We were given several wool blankets and pillows. It wasn't bad really, but Julie was grossed out by the smell of the place and the blankets. I however was pleased that we weren't sleeping outside in the rain and the price was great at $2 dollars a person and $1.75 eash for dinner.

We curled up in bed and fell asleep waking up occasionally to someone walking by in the middle of the night. It was so quiet that anyone walking by within 20 feet of the place made it sound like they were coming right in.

The road was now reopened and clear to pass the rock slide. We were ready to get out of there in the morning but for now it was time to rest in the tool shed with all the cob webs and earthy smelling wool balnkets. I enjoyed the experience more than Julie, so perhaps I'll let julie choose tomorrows accomodations.

Huaytara-Ayacucho The high-way.

Huaytara is a town that has recently gained popularity as being an important archeological site. In the area, (from what I could decipher in spanish) there are several statues carved from rock outcrops on one of the near by mountains. As well, in the town site itself there were Inca bath pools made of stone maisonry. When we wandered up to see them we realised that the local church had been constructed on the site, thus combining some of the Inca work with the modern church archetecture.

We loaded up the bike at 10am and continued up the #24 highway toward Ayacucho. The evelation was reaching heights well above 3000 meters and the bike began to sputter and I noticed a significant loss in power. I was wondering where we'd buy gas when we encountered a black plywood sign on the road that read "gasolina". We pulled in and a girl came out to ask how much gas we needed. I asked for a gallon and she went back inside her house only to appear with a bucket of gas. I have no clue if it was indeed a gallon or not, however, who was I to complain. I dumped the brown colored gas into the tank cringing at the thought of water, rust and dirt contaminants that I was adding to the tank.

We continued to ascend further and Julie needed to put on extra layers. My hands were frozen to the handle bars and my feet were as cold as ice. We were forced by the lack of oxygen to ride in only 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gears between the range of 3000-4000RPM. Any less and we'd bog down and any greater and the bike would sputter as the fuel to oxygen mixture was too rich.

As we neared the summit of the mountain pass at 4700 meters it began to hail on us just to add insult to the cold mysery. Of course I had warmer gloves and clothes, but that would mean having to unpack it from the bottom of the dry bag....why that would have taken 5 minutes! Instead I suffered through it for about 3 hours convinced that we'd descend at any moment now. At one point we saw snow capping the summits of the near by mountains.

The land was barren with rocky outcrops and boulders which stood out as white speckles of varying sizes embedded in a brown and green backdrop. The scene was tranquil, and there were signs of people past and present who made a living planting and farming this harsh land.

We finally began a true descent into Ayacucho and again only about 5km from town the tank ran dry. I turned the petcock valve to reserve and we rolled down hill to the first gas station. The bike seems to be chugging fuel at these higher elevations, or the gas here is terrible... I don't know the answer.

Ayacucho claims to have 33 churches (pretty much one on every street), one for every year that Jesus lived. There are way more than 33 however. We found a hostal that let me ride my bike right into the courtyard up some 2/4 planks to clear some of the high steps. Julie and I walked around town and followed the guide books advice as to where to find the best pizza in town.

After Pizza we walked through the streets after dark on our way back to the Hostal. Everyone seemed to be out and about doing their own thing, talking to friends, selling stuff, or just walking around. We hit the sac early and I listened to crying babies and barking dogs for part of the night before passing out completely into never never land.

Run To The Hills

At 730am we realised that we had a flat tire, I managed to get a few PSI into it in order to get to a tire repair place
The nail that was stuck in the tire, how does this happen?

The guy at the repair shop opened at 830am and I was the 1st customer

We stopped by a road side vendor to buy some grapes, they we excellent grapes

View from our room in a small town called Huaytara
The night before we decided that an early start would be a good idea to make some distance. With all the ambition in the world we were up and packed at 730am. To our disappointment we found the rear tire of the bike to be flat as a pancake. This was no biggie however, I simply pulled out my mini hand pump and managed to get about 10 PSI into it which got us to a repair shop. They guy opened up at 830am so we went to a gas station, (which in Lima they have convienience stores in them same as home) and ate some snacks and bad coffee.
The tire guy had my flat repaired and a new tire put on in a jiffy and we were on our way out of Lima in no time flat after stopping at Starbucks Coffee for a beverage each. Seeings how we had a new sparkplug, Tire, and air filter I figured that I'd change the oil and get the mainenance over with all at once. I couldn't find any motorcycle specific synthetic motor oil so I opted for the regular stuff. With everything ship-shape we took a hard turn to the east and began our ascent into the Andes.
I was pleased to have the agressive knobby tire removed and the smooth rolling 20/80 tire on. The road (#24) was perfect asphalt and twisty, I was rolling on the throttle thinking that it was so much fun to be on a curvy road again. We were following up a river valley that had farms and plantations along the valley walls. We stopped at a road side vendor and bought a couple of pounds of grapes that were ripe and juicy. They were so good that Julie had to take them away from me so that we'd have some left for the morning for breakfast. It was getting close to 5pm and Julie was getting worried that we'd be sleeping on the side of the road for the night as there were no towns ahead on the map and no houses. We kept ascending and it was getting colder. I could hear her expressing her concerns. Her concerns began to slightly shake my confidence until I realised that it was nonsense and we'd simply just ride until we got to a town or a small village and just ask for a place to sleep. (people are nice here). Alas we came up on a town just 1/2 hour before dark and settled into a great room with an excellent view for a terrific price. The owner of the hostal was so helpful that she walked us over to a restaurant so that we could get dinner. You see in such small towns people just cook inside their house and invite you in to eat in their main entrance, (concrete floor, bottled drinks on the walls, glass or wood counter top where you pay, seating for 6-10 people) you eat what they serve.
We hunkered down for the night happy to be in a clean and warm room ready to keep heading up, up, and on our way to Machu Pichu.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Desert, hot...but cool-Peru

On a dune...on a sunday afternoon
A hearty looking beetle tough enough for the desert

A small village on top of the mountain

Alex and his family in front of his house where I repaired the bike

The harbor at Chimbote

Desert desolation-Peru

On the dune where the desert meets the Pacific
Working on the Bike in Alex's front yard

The Klr looking larger than life, good thing Julie is tiny enough to fit on the back.

A man we stopped to talk to who had about 300 goats he said. Most of them were about 2yrs old

Small port in Chimbote with lots of colorful fishing boats where we stopped for breakfast and ate Tamales

Jan 16 & 17
Happy birthday to my Oma,

Trip Piura to Huanchaco: 430km
Trip Huanchaco to Lima: 580km

We have been riding in the sandy desert for the past few days and luckily for us it has been overcast and cool. The ocean this far down has turned very cold and the surfers opt for wearing wetsuits. I was wondering why there was a desert butting up against an ocean when after several hours of riding it dawned on me. Cool air blows off the Pacific saturated at its ambient temperature. When this air blows over the land in its typical westerly flow it gets warmed. The land has nearly direct sun rays and gets very warm. Warm air has a much larger capacity to hold moisture, thus the minute that the ocean air hovers over the beach it warms and begins absorbing moisture, whola, desert.

One of the greatest hazards of the road here in the desert coast of Peru for a motorcycler is the occasional plastic water or pop bottle that comes tumbling across the road in the persistant crosswind. I accidently ran one over yesterday and it made the bike jolt to the side. At highway cruising speed it didn't affect me too much. I thought that incident was an isolated case then it happened a few times after that. I see the bottle coming across the road, I weave, it rolles, I zig, It zags ...and boom I run over it. Its a freak occurance. I am happy that it only happened once and that I've been able to avoid the others.
We pulled into Huanchaco, a town built around the beach, and found a hostal. Julie was very excited to go for a swim so we headed down to the beach. To both of our surprise it was freezing so we only went ankle deep and watched the surfers in wet suits from the sandy shore. All along the beach were washed up Sea Urchins, some small and some very large ones the size of a baseball. I was worried that I might step on one so I was on Urchin alert while we walked in the surf zone.
In the morning we pulled out of Huanchaco and pointed it south to Lima. We left at 730Am so I figured that we had a lot of time to do the 550km or so. I didn't account for the the heavy cross winds or the head on wind. At times the cross wind was so powerful that the bike was leaning over as if we were in a tight turn and other times it was head on blasting in our faces. The force of the wind made the bike under powered and I pretty much had the throttle wide open for 3 hours straight. I was thinking to myself that the blowing sand that was drifting across the road like a snow storm had gotten into the cylinder and was ruining the compression, which would account for a power loss in my world. This notion was quickly evaporated when we passed our first transport truck. As we slipped into its draft the bike stood upright and accelerated with all 50 horses kicking, then we re-entered the blast and our speed dropped significantly as if someone threw down the fun boat achor.
Julie and I spotted a gradual slope into the desert towards the ocean. I saw tire tracks in the sand and decided that it was time to finally use the digger that I installed on the rear just for such an occasion. We diverted our route off the highway and entered the vast expanse of sand and desolation. The surface was friable and compacted by the wind which made for an interesting feel to the ride. I let Julie off the bike and proceeded to climb a sand dune in the distance. It was pretty fun and I toured around solo for a few minutes feeling the power of the bike which is absent with an extra 120 Lbs on the back.
I turned around and picked up Julie and we took off up the same dune that I just tested. Julie was scared for a moment not knowing if we'd make it as we crested the dune. From the crest we peered out over the hazy blue and white ocean with a foreground of yellow and tan colored sand. The sight was aweinspiring and we stopped for a few minutes to watch the pelicans and sandpipers hunt for food. In the tide pools there were people hunting for shell fish of some sort. I have no clue where they lived or how they got there.
We took a different way out of the dunes as we took in and there was a slope to contest with back to the highway. I was cruising at about 50km/hr when I sensed the bike slowing just before the engine RPM began laboring. I quickly opened up the throttle which only served to maintain the speed at about 30km/hr. We were sinking in the soft sand far from the road but I was confident with my experience that gunning the throttle in sand and keeping the speed up would keep us afloat. If we stopped we were dead. I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I could do a really large radius turn and go back the way we came. Instead I kept heading for the highway scanning for the best line where the slope was most gradual. I found the way perfectly and had to down shift to 2nd gear. This was the killer, the added torque dug the rear tire in deep and we were stuck. I could dismount the bike and it would stay up right. I had Julie push and I eased out the clutch in 2nd gear as I pushed from the handle bars. The bike easily climbed out of the hole and onto the asphalt highway only 10 feet away.
Back on the highway in the winds I was having a hard time maintaining 85km/hr. I looked at the trip-odometer and saw that we had traveled 275km since our last fill up. This was ok because several times we have filled up at 350km and once at 440km. We were cruising hard against the wind and the rush of the blast over our helmets was deafening. At 286km, just as we were descending a long hill and begining a slight incline, the engine made a crackle sound and immediately quit. I reached down and turned the petcock valve to off by mistake as we coasted to a stop. Julie confirmed that it souned like we ran over a pop bottle. This prompted me to believe that we had an electrical problem. I turned the valve to reserve and hit the starter for about 20 seconds......nothing. I looked north and south....nothing. I saw some houses and we pushed the bike to their yards. I saw a house with two motorbikes parked out front so I asked the family if I could " por favor mechanico" in their yard. They obliged. The owner of the house came out to greet me and help a bit. His name was Alex and he was a computer engineering consultant.
I began tearing off the panniers, the side pannels, the seat, I disconnected the fuel lines, spilling gas over the engine, and finally I lifted off the tank. At this point I noticed that the fuel tank was very light. I paused and in disbelief considered the possibility that I was plain out of gas. I pulled out the spark plug and installed a new one and put a clean airfilter in while I had the bike apart. I tilted the tank over to the drain (petcock valve) and temporarily connected the fuel lines. I hit the starter for about 10 seconds and sure enough the damn thing started. My pride was hurt but I made a new set of friends and did some necessary maintenance while at the same time.
We peeled out of there and headed to the gas station only 3km up the road. We filled the tank with 6.1 Gallons (the listed tank volume). At this kind of consumption I may as well be driving my Subaru!
It was now 430pm and we still had 157km to Lima. At about 30km from Lima the traffic started to jam up. After about 10 km we were at a standstill. A police SUV wailed its sirens beside me and blew its police horn and motioned me with his hand to follow. I pulled in behind him while he parted traffic with his siren. We were traveling anywhere between 120km/hr to 10km/hr through the entire city. There were 4 lanes of traffic which had 7 cars & trucks abreast. The city would have taken hours to pass through and we covered it all in 15 nerve wracking and exhilerating minutes. The police vehicle took an exit and we pulled along side and tooted to him with a big thumbs up! The officer had a huge grin on his face and thumbed up me back.
Night fall began to set in quickly and we got rerouted by a construction diversion and began getting all turned around in the city. We grabbed a hotel and hunkered down for the night before we try to find our way out in the morning on our way to Machu Pichu.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The heat of the midday sun- Piura, Peru

Welcome to Peru
Rice paddies where I saw a guy wading bare footed and knee deep in water with a pesticide pack on his back waiving a chemical sprayer wand to eliminate pests.

Getting dinner ready

Mountain pass over the sierra to peru

Guy delivering propane tanks with his motorbike, he was transporting only 2 with a capacity for 3.

Trip 450km
Currency: Peruvian Sol
Exchange rate: 1USD=2.83 Sol
Hotel: 70 Sol
Fuel: 9 Sol/gallon
Here we are on the outskirts of the Desierto De Sechura in Peru after crossing the border only a 178km ago from Ecuador. Leaving Loja at 8am was little deterrent from the desert sun as we descended from 2100 meters to only 80 meters. The border crossing was a breeze and we made it through in less than an hour.
We arrived to a desert town Piura after passing several mango farms. Peru has a serious litter problem and this is apparent with the colorful ditches and trees decorated with multiple colors of plastic bags.
As we were rounding a corner I happened to see a beautiful tarantula crawling across the road. I stopped and Julie got off the bike. I was fumbling with the bike trying to get it stable on the side stand before a car came along and squashed it. Alas, I was not fast enough. I heard the car whizzing along at speed and to my grave disappointment the spider was hit dead on and lay frozen in its motionless state. I stared at it for a moment while the excitement of seeing my first wild tarantula dissolved into anger, and then guilt, thinking that perhaps if I had not stopped, the car would have chosen a different line through the turn rather than give me a wide birth on the side of the road. I yelled to Julie to "just get on the bike" as I couldn't look back. It took me 45 minutes to forget about it. Just then, however, a beautiful brown bird darted across the road and into my spokes. I turned around and Julie got off to throw its dead body into the grass and off the road. So far on this trip I have managed to kill 3 animals including a green snake in Guatemala.
Entering Peru the border guard warned me about the animals on the road between the border and Piura. He was very right. Only a few Km down the highway and we had our first herd of goats cross directly in front of us. The crossings did not end, further down the road was a herd of donkeys, and then more goats, dogs, people etc. As we went further west towards the coast the temperature continued to increase to 38 degrees C. The heat was sweltering and to compound matters we entered a small town as there was no sign indicating that the highway was a 90 degree right hand turn off the road heading into the town. We idled around the oneway streets looking for a bank to withdraw Sol's (Peruvian currency). There were no banks and the TUK-TUK's had us completely surrounded. I was wondering if anyone actually owned a car and how lucrative the Tuk-tuk Business was considering that everyone was driving one. Perhaps they were merely a substitute for a car and not used as a taxi at all.
I found the highway as I left town the same way I went in. Alas there was a sign indicating a left turn west to the highway we were looking for. We continued onward passing heavily loaded down pick up trucks laden with mangos. It was 3:00Pm and Piura was our destination with only 50km to go. Arriving into Piura was chaos as usual, everyone was laying on the horn impatiently trying to squeeze into any gap ahead of the next guy. We were looking for any accomodations what-so-ever to escape the heat. Several times we passed a hotel where I needed to make a left u-turn. As I set up wide, some dude on a motorbike or little Fiat would scoot right up beside me making the 2 lane street into 4 vehicles abreast. I aborted my plans and kept driving straight along with the honking and beeping Tuk-Tuks.
We found a Hostal willing to let me park the bike inside a locked gate. They had some hollow bricks at the curb side being used as make shift stairs. I rode the heavy KLR up the bricks and the rear wheel smashed them. The elderly lady was annoyed, but the young lady told me to not worry about it, so I let sleeping dogs lie.
We went for dinner at a pub style restaurant and ordered some good food. Here we planned on leaving as early as possible to beat the heat while we crossed the desert which supposedly takes 4 hours. After that we'll try to head back east and up into the mountains at Chiclayo to take advantage of the adiabatic cooling offered by the high mountains.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rough Rider - Loja, Ecuador

River rocks & sand used as road surface from Limon to Gualaquiza.

Reverse camber bridge down the road from Yantzaza.

Jan. 13, 2010

We ignored the roosters and bull horn and had a slow start this morning. Our main objective was to mail off some postcards which took forever and we rolled out of town at noon. We back tracked from Banos back into the Amazon turning due south at the town of Puyo, following Route 45. Our plan was to ride a few hundred kilometers through the Amazon jungle and then cut straight over the Corridllerra towards Cuenca. Alas we could not find the road we needed to head over the mountain as there were no signs on the dirt road with a dozen different available turnoffs. After driving to a dead end we gave up and continued south on the perfectly new asphalt paved in 2009 road. Greg was getting bored with the perfect road conditions and then abruptly we began ascending through twisty turny roads once again.

With only a half hour of daylight left, we pulled into the town of Limon. Here we found a Residencia for $12 and bedded down for the night with crying babies, barking dogs, latino music, and the occasional rooster crowing for no apparent reason. I slept right through it all.

Jan.14, 2010

We were up and out of Limon at 8am, and for a town that you can see from end to end, it was very confusing to try and find your way out. We discovered that in 2009 the government of Ecuador stopped paving at Limon. Thus for 100km we rode the roughest dirt road as of yet. We averaged 30km/hr which for Greg was pushing the limit. There were several deep rocky sections and slick wet corners with the risk of oncoming traffic at all times. After 3 hours we finally encountered the hard top again, we were never so glad to drive in a straight line.

We were on our way to Loja, our last stop in Ecuador before crossing the Peru border. I had a headache all day which was compounded 1000% by the rough dirt road that I thought was never going to end. To soothe my suffering we went for burgers, fries and a south american sundae.