Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Andean Giants and Unlikely Family, OUR Highlights of Peru

The next day we also say goodbye to Tim and Patrick. They want to pick up the pace and go straight to Lake Titicaca whereas we want to make a little detour. We head south over a high pass taking us up to 15700 foot. It is very cold but the landscape is astonishing.

What can I say... Peru.
Azure getting way to comfortable on dirt with her Metzeler Sahara 3's. Wait for me!
"I want one!"
Look at that beautiful little farm Roel! No, I'm ok, I just wanted a picture from right here!
What happens when you don't use Loctite and ride rough dirt roads... things come loose.
Mother nature pulled some nice "high rises" out of the ground.
Lots of corrugations but a beautiful ride none the less.
15,758ft to be exact. No problem at all for these good old Honda's

After two days of mostly dirt roads we find ourselves riding along the Colca River. We ride through old settlements where the people are still working the pre-Inca stepped terraces with oxen. The river has cut out one of the deepest canyons in the world. 

Pre-Incan stepped terraces near Colca Canyon.
Looking for suitable camp sites.
Not the most suitable campsite...
Sunset over Colca Canyon.
Good morning! Bring on the super sized pigeons.
Colca Canyon is at least twice as deep as the Grand Canyon to give you an idea.
I'll watch for condors from here...
We find a nice place to camp far enough away from the edge.Ever since I was a little boy I wanted to see a condor in the wild. My sister had gotten her hands on a condor feather in a zoo and its size was so impressive. They seem to hang around in the morning so I get up extra early not to miss them. Hours go by and not a dot in the sky. The hill down the road gets absolutely packed with people though so something must be happening. Nothing. Another hour goes by.

Hey guys, seen any big birds lately?
How about you?
Not sure if we are in the right place but I would not want to be in the crowd over there. (picture taken with zoom lens)
For a second I thought.... but no.
Just when I am about to give up a shadow falls over me. I look up and see a massive bird sail by. I run to the edge of the cliff to catch another glimpse and to my surprise I see him circle and come back. I get three private fly by's and during the last one he looks at me as if he wanted to say; “do you have your damn picture”? With a smile from ear to ear I walk back to Azure, thankful to be sharing this moment with her. 
Hello beautiful!
Being checked out by a juvenile Andean male Condor with a wingspan of about 9 foot.
Not sure if she is just happy to have seen a Condor or happy for me to have seen one from so close.
Thanks for sharing the moment with me, Az!
We ride back towards Chivay, waving happily to the officials at the “tourist trap” where you normally have to pay about 20 dollars to be allowed on the road that leads to “Cruz del Condor”. Another bonus of riding around Peru on our own bikes: we had arrived the afternoon before after they had closed the "trap" for the day. 
Azure asking for directions.
The warm fuzzy feeling from our morning in the sun with condors quickly disappears as we climb back up to about 15900 Foot and it starts to rain. And then hail. It had been such a beautiful day and now this. Freezing cold we keep riding for about 2.5 hours until we finally start going down hill towards the volcano surrounded city of Arequipa. We make a quick ride through the historical old town before we settle into the hostel. I honk my horn a couple of times at the gate and after a few seconds a familiar face opens the door. 

Plaza des Armas, Arequipa
The Hepco & Becker pannier rack has been on the bike for more than 14 years and for over 300.000 kilometers. Many crashes and drops have taken it's toll so it's time for a new one. It just means I have to adjust the rack for the Zarges case. David and I are talking about solutions here.

Sunset in Arequipa.
UNESCO world heritage center of town.
We catch up with David for a few days and do an oil change on the bikes in preparation for Bolivia. David has been there already and his experience there does not make him want to go back. We do agree on riding together for a day though. Destination... an orphanage in Moquegua. We learned about Hogar Belen in Alaska, when we met Neale Bayly and Ray McKenzie near the Arctic Circle. Neale had stumbled upon the orphanage during one of his rides in Peru and was so humbled by Madre Loretta’s work that he set up Wellspring International Outreach, an organization that supports and brings awareness to abandoned children around the world. It has been over a year since we met up North but visiting the Hogar has been on our to do list ever since.
From Arequipa we ride through a dry dessert landscape. There is nothing out here but we are just enjoying the fact that we are here, on two wheels and with one of our best riding friends. As we get closer to Moquegua we realize that we don’t know what to expect at all and what’s more, they are not expecting us.

Enjoying our last ride with David.
I had looked up the Hogar on google maps. There should be a bridge over a river leading to the orphanage. Well, there is no bridge to be found around here. We turn around and try again. Then we see a small sign that says “Hogar”. No bridge though. We ride through what’s left of the river and up a long drive way. The road turns right and leads us to a farm. It is a big place and we are not really sure if it’s the right place. We shut off the bikes as a woman comes out to greet us. And slowly, several kids come out, curious about the three bikers. We explain we are friends of Neale and a smile appears on the older woman's face. She is really nice and invites us in for dinner, no questions asked. There are a lot of people in the room; most of them kids but remarkably many young adults and older people. The youngsters are taking care of the little ones and the people with disabilities and we conclude they must all be working there. There is a whole table with older people as well. It seems like a lot of people working here for the number of kids. We don’t really know what to make of it.
The  lady sits us at a table and serves us dinner. We feel a little awkward. But don't know what to do, so we eat the simple but healthy meal and wait for what's next.
After a while the young guys come over for a chat. They are very nice and welcoming and soon everyone is gathered around the bikes. Once the little ones get comfortable with us they are all over the bikes. Horns are beeping and lights flashing as one after the other climbs on top. Since the kids have a day off school tomorrow it is decided that we will have a bonfire with marshmallows and hotdogs. We are kind of hesitant since we still don’t know what to make of the situation and we don’t want them to spend money on this just because we are visiting. The director ensures us that it is not a problem. They love having visitors and the kids love a good fire.

Geography lessons by David.
A bike full of kids.
The WR250 was very popular among the kids. Very accessible switches for switching lights on and honking the horn may have been the reason.
The boys are getting the fire started and before long we all sit in a big circle on big tree trunks. The kids are all over us and having a great time. We start talking to the older guys and girls and slowly but surely everything falls into place and we begin to get an idea of what is going on here. 

While Azure is getting in some girl time...
I'm getting choked!
The Transalp saves the day!

The older guys and some of the older girls had been orphans as well. They had grown up at the Hogar and had stayed on to help out with the little ones and take care of the farm to provide food. We learn that the older people running the Hogar also came in here as orphans a long time ago. Even the director had been one of them. He has been in charge ever since Mother Loretta had died last year. Some of the young mothers are here with their children because of “family problems”. The picture becomes clearer every minute. All these people have had a very difficult past without anyone to love them and take care of them. Here they are a family. A very strong family that takes care of one another. It is heartbreaking to hear some of the stories but heart warming to see the family they have around them here. The kids come over for hugs all the time. They really seem to want to give love. Two little sisters, who are there with their mom, give David and me long, intense hugs every 15 minutes or so. They are lovely kids and although there are many grown man around, they really seem to be missing a father figure. A few hours ago we did not have a clue what was going on here but now here we are, around a bon fire, part of very special and beautiful family. Our hearts open, and exploding with emotion.
Give the Americans some marshmallows. That will put a smile on their face.
Hot dogs on sticks coming up!
In the morning we try to help out where we can. David and I move some pigs around while the kids feed the ducks and the goats. Azure helps the girls with lunch preparations, learning more about their stories along the way. We are playing soccer for a while when the director comes to bring us to mother Loretta’s resting place to pay our respects. We learn that she never intended to start an orphanage but that a young girl was left near the church one day. No one knew where she had come from, or who she belonged to. And thus began Hogar Belen. From that day forward, Madre Loretta helped care for over 350 children and she continued this work until she passed away last year. 

Getting some work done.
Showing off my Dutch soccer skills.
Making new friends (I later learned that he was just after my food. "He just loves food", the director told me.)
That's a lot of potatoes.
Madre Loreta's final resting place.
Back at the orphanage we spend some more time with the kids. We would have loved to stay here for a while and help out but we have to move on and ride south. After a long round of goodbyes and many hugs, we ride out. Emotional because of what we have seen here and the love we received. Emotional because we want to help in any way we can but we just don’t have the resources right now. 

Look at these cuties! or should I make this: WE WANT YOU!... to help us out... please.
Multipurpose stickers...
The kids got their hands on the camera. I have about a hundred of these pictures.
Saying goodbye with tears in my eyes. This girl has my heart.
Azure had asked one of the girls what they needed at the Hogar. She had answered that they really had what they needed at the farm. A safe place where everyone looked after one another. The one thing she was worried about was the future of the children. Their are no computers at the Hogar for the kids could learn how to use them. For the kids to ever be able to make it “out there” they would need these skills. It is something we would really like to help with and as soon as we make it back to the US we’ll try to make this happen. 
The ride out takes us through the river again. We have learned that the bridge they had got washed out during a heavy rainstorm. During the next wet season this simply means they are cut of from the city. We are so glad we made it out to Hogar Belen. It humbled us to see them all function as one big family and it made us even more thankful for our own families who love us and support us in whatever we do.
With our heads still processing last day’s experiences we try to find a place to camp. We find a spot in gorge along a dry river. It’s a tricky road with loose gravel and some big rocks along a steep drop off. Azure is not with it and puts her bike down hard. She tries again but she can’t get it up there. It’s been a long day and we are all tired. I ride up the Transalp and after a quick meal we go to sleep. The next morning we enjoy a nice breakfast while Azure interviews David on his travels and his experience at the orphanage. David is planning to go south into Chile so our roads will part once again.

David AKA Junyah caught on tape.
Live on the road.
For more information about Wellspring International Outreach or if you want to help, please visit wellspring-outreach.org or send us a message via our website www.MyTicketToRide.com


  1. We volgende jullie Al een tijd en hadden gehoopt jullie te ontmoeten. We zijn nu in Puno en gaan door naar Copacabana. Van daar via La Paz en Samalpata naar Paraguay en Brazilië.

    Fijne reis verder.


    Margriet en Jan

  2. We volgende jullie Al een tijd en hadden gehoopt jullie te ontmoeten. We zijn nu in Puno en gaan door naar Copacabana. Van daar via La Paz en Samalpata naar Paraguay en Brazilië.

    Fijne reis verder.


    Margriet en Jan

  3. Just read this blog again and find it hard to see the blurred keys on the keyboard. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures and touching moments in those wonderful loving associations, such as the Bella hogar. You are doing a massive lot of good by posting in such entertaining and educating manner... If you had not shared this with us we would not have known and felt akin to their lives. Love and hugs. Jelle

  4. Awesome post. On my round the world trip I want to be able to spend time at placed like this to help out however I can. Great story. Brian

  5. Fantastic post by two fantastic people.