Friday, May 13, 2016

The Road Of Dreams And Nightmares

The ride from Kuelap is absolutely amazing. The powerful feeling of sweeping around corners with 5 other bikes is indescribable. We stop at a gas station to fill up and have a difficult time understanding the attendant. The price we pay is not the same as the one he stated in the beginning and the pump calculator is broken. Oh well, we need gas anyway. Matt spots us the cash for the fill-up... they do not accept cards here and we hadn't wanted to hold up everyone in Jaen for another visit to the ATM, so Azure and I find ourselves fresh out of cash. Fortunately, the guys don't mind spotting us until we get to the next ATM. Traveling with so many people is not only nice while we're riding... it's like having an instant community. The Belgians don't have camping equipment or much food or water... we do. We don't have cash, the guys do. 
Tim almost kidnaps a cute puppy that roams around before we continue.
Impressive line-up with yet another bike joining for a second and a bit of work on the second Transalp.
We have our minds set at camping near a river that we found on the map. We arrive early and upon seeing some houses in the vicinity, Tim and I decide we want to check out what is down the road before we make the call. The road however does not go down. It goes up and keeps going in that direction. After 15 minutes we pull over. We both don’t like backtracking and we agree to keep going even though it is getting late. We did not expect the road to keep going up for much longer. It did though and it turned out to be one of these roads you think you can only dream of.
Very close to heaven, literally and figuratively.
A beautiful "2 way" lane going through this stunning part of Peru.
Getting off the road to check for camping is initially impossible because of barbed wire but soon the steep drop offs ensure we will not get anywhere near the side of the road. The sun is shining beautifully behind and through the clouds, highlighting the mountains around us. The slopes are split in places, almost like the red sea, allowing the road and us to pass. The views are absolutely stunning and we are having a ball. Until I hear Azure breathing heavy into the headset. Is she crying? A truck coming from the other side had almost pushed her off the road. She was in some kind of shock and could not focus on riding the winding roads, the everlasting drop offs being a reminder of the close call she just had.
Incredible views and never ending drop offs.
This road must have been created by a motorcycle rider!
The fellowship is getting closer to "Mordor".
We slow down a lot and when we finally make it to the top the sun is starting to set. The other side of the mountain range is as dramatic and we crawl down it. It is getting cold and the visibility is getting less by the minute. But we are going down hill and we hope to find a place to camp in the valley. About an hour and many hairpins later the air is getting warmer again and the drop offs are becoming less steep. Soon we are riding into what feels like an oven and we find a place to camp next to a river. It was a bad call to keep going after the spot near the river, especially taking so many into account. We should have gone back but the sunset ride had been epic!
The nice thing about riding at night is that you don't see how deep the canyon to the left is.
Turning right onto a gnarly bit of dirt next to a white river to get to where we want to camp...
This is what it looked like in the morning.
Side note from Azure: I've never even considered that I have anything close to a fear of heights until riding this road. Truthfully, it was one of the most beautiful roads I've ever ridden, especially with the setting sun and layers upon layers of blue mountain peaks beyond. However, I was terrified for approximately 3 hours. Not like, just a little scared... Terrified. When Roel says we slowed down "a lot" he means I practically made us crawl. He gets big points for patience on this road as he slowed to a crawl ahead of me and went around every corner first, telling me through the SENAs whether or not there was any on-coming traffic. Nonetheless, I was pretty peeved that we hadn't stopped at the campsite by the river. I HATE riding at night (difficulty seeing in the dark, animals, etc.) and was in a pretty grumpy mood by the time we made it to the Campsite in Hell (that's what I call it - it was SO HOT and I was so angry, it seemed fitting). The guys were pretty grumpy too, and began bickering amongst themselves. One of their cracks broke through my grumpy mood and before I knew it, I was laughing so hard I couldn't breath. Unknown Roads saves the day again ;) 
More of the same but it sure as hell is not boring!

Traditional clothing and high straw heads are the dress code for attending the local market in this small town.
The following morning there is more of the same as we cross another pass. The vistas are just spectacular as we make our way to Cajamarca. Here we split up to look for the best place to catch our breath for a few days and work on the bikes, most of which require some attention. We all wind up at Hospedaje las Tejas.
Just before we break formation.
When your hotel does not come with a kitchen. Nice work guys!
There is a lot going on in town. The square is bustling with people who seem to be having a massive water fight. Balloons filled with water fly over our heads and teens armed with supersoakers have captured the center of town. It’s a great spectacle with the beautifully lit cathedral and church in the background. Down the road the riot police are ready to go in case things get out of hand. We don’t really know what to make of it all but sense it might not be good to linger for too long. 
The square is soaked. So are most of the people...
The park and the Convento of Cajamarca by night.
Come on guys, they are only shooting with water!
The Cathedral on the other side of the park.
Back at the hotel I am exhausted from all our little adventures during the last days. I fall into a deep sleep on the rock hard mattress that goes for a bed. “Wake up! Help me! Come help me!” What?!? What’s going on!! I get the idea the hotel is on fire as Azure drags me to the toilet across the hall. By the time my eyes finally open I see what all the fuss is about and start laughing. Azure, with her “massive body” has managed to knock over the toilet that, according to good Peruvian building practices, has not been bolted to the floor. I imagine Azure falling over into the shower with potty and all and can’t hold it together. I put the unit back where it belongs and go back to bed teasing Azure with her night time adventures. She takes a shower as she is covered in toilet water. Hahahahaha! Maybe we need to stop staying in the cheapest possible hotel.
Nice work Azure!
The next days are spend changing oil and tires, synchronizing carbs and getting ready for “off road” Peru. The Belgians discover their rear shock is leaking and are not able to come up with a quick solution. Sadly we have to leave them behind while they get their bike ready to go again. Our pace seemed a little bit too fast for them anyway, as the five of us were trying to make it all the way down to Ushuaia and they were "only" trying to get to Santiago, Chile. I'm sure we'll meet again somewhere.

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