Monday, May 30, 2016

Lima Survivor

The hostel we stay at turns out to be a gathering place for overlanders. We meet a biker from Canada and one from Colombia. There is another Canadian with a 4x4 and we have a good time exchanging stories and experiences. We explore the neighborhood for a while and upon return meet John Downs who has been traveling around the world on a motorcycle for a long time. He is an inspiration to many on ADV Rider and it is great to meet him in person. The circumstances could have been better though, as his leg was in cast after he had become a victim of the Lima traffic. It was a horrific story but it was amazing to see how well he was recovering and how positive his view on life was. What a great guy.
A bunch of adventure riders from all over the world.
And then there is the other great guy, David, who broke up his own ride South and rode for 2 days straight, crossing borders, just to be there for John. What a beautiful “family” we have around the world! The afternoon is filled talking to John and catching up with David. In the evening a childhood friend of Azure's, who lives in Lima, guides us through some beautiful parts of the city and tells us about some of its history. We have a simple local dinner accompanied by breathtaking piano music. Azure goes over to compliment the musician with a tip and he asks her where she is from. When he eventually decides he wants to leave, everyone asks him to play one more song. He sits down again and starts playing “The Star Spangled Banner”. The gesture is so beautiful it brings tears to Azure’s eyes. We have an amazing evening with “Tim 2” taking in the city of Lima.
A delicious Peruvian dinner, served by traditionally dressed servers (not to make the tourists happy but just because that is the way it has always been) with piano music in the background and great company. Awesome evening out!
A beautiful mural in Miraflores.
Although we only wanted to spend two days in Lima, there was still so much to see and do. One of the things on our list was to pick up some tires for our bikes. Back at the International Motorcycle Show in Orlando we had briefly met with a representative of Metzeler, a German tire producer with a wide range of quality tires. Azure’s riding confidence had grown significantly after installing a set of Metzeler Sahara 3’s on her Transalp and many of my miles around the world have been on Metzelers too. We reached out and when we received word from Metzeler that they wanted to support our journey, we were beside ourselves. Azure is going to need new tires for the Laguna’s Route in Bolivia and my Metzeler Tourance rear tire, that I installed in Quito, will probably not make it all the way South to Ushuaia and back up to Santiago. A mere 12.500 Miles/20.000 Kilometers ;) With Lima being the best place to pick up tires, we agreed with Metzeler to pick up a set of Karoo 3’s for Azure and a rear tire for me. The tires look like they can handle any terrain, especially the sand in Bolivia. As soon as we put some miles on them we will let you know how they perform.
Packed with tires, we return to the hostel and start preparing for an early departure the next day. Sadly David is not yet ready to leave Lima, but we agree to meet up again down the road. 
Take Off! Thanks for the picture David!
The early departure is postponed by a flat tire on Tim’s bike and our continued search for oil for Azure’s ever thirsty bike. We get stuck in traffic for a while but it is far more organized than when we entered Lima. The South of the city seems more developed and cleaner and outside of Lima ocean view mansions line the side of the road. What a difference. We make quick work of the PanAm heading South with a short stop in a Laguna in the sand dunes near Ica. It is extremely hot and the shade of the palm trees is a blessing. 
Azure got pulled over for speeding again... But officer, my bike was getting to hot!
Just kidding. She just loves uniformed men on bikes. ;)
It was good to see some green in the landscape again.
We rest a bit longer than planned and it is not until late in the afternoon that we reach the famous Nazca Lines. Since we lack the funds and the courage to get into one of the badly maintained airplanes providing birds eye views of the lines, we restrict ourselves to the views that are offered from atop a roadside tower. Out of over 800 lines, 300 geometric figures and over 70 animal and plant drawings, spread over 500 square Kilometers, we only get to see “The Lizard”, “The Tree” and “The Hands”. 
We ride through the desert for many miles but damn it's beautiful!

What do you make of it? The drawing in the sand I mean! ;)
Zoomed in... well??? Hands?
This should be the tree.
And this is the beautiful view on the other side of the tower: Transalp...Africa Twin... the road ahead!
They are very impressive but I guess you do have to be airborne to get a full appreciation for this ancient mystery, the size of which leads some to believe that they must have been created by extraterrestrials. From a hilltop further down the road we see a few more lines that run to the horizon but we can’t make anything out of it. 
There are lines all over the place. I'm very impressed with how straight they are though.
The view from the hill... I'm convinced! It's an alien landing strip! And we have proof...
... we actually caught a glimpse of an extraterrestrial! 
More proof! Bright Led like lights chasing me down the road.
One of them almost caught up with me. Pretty scary with that dark visor!
Lots of communication with "space" in the town of Nazca as well
In the town of Nazca we meet two riders from Colombia and grab a bite to eat before we set out towards the city of Cusco, high in the mountains. The road starts climbing as soon as we ride inland and thankfully it starts cooling down a bit. We fail to find a suitable spot to camp before dark but having five bikes kitted out with Rigid Led’s, lights up the surroundings and soon we find a flat area for our tents. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Battle Of Lima

In over six years of traveling around the world, never has any city garnered as many warnings as Lima. It has been a topic for a long time for me and Azure. And we didn't think we were going to go, until we found out that Lima would be the last place for a while to get our hands on some new tires for Azure's Transalp that would have to get us all the way to Ushuaia and back up to "civilization". We weren't thrilled by this, until we got a message from our friend David (for those on ADV Rider: Junya). “Where are you and what are your plans”? He was about to backtrack 1240 Miles / 2000Km to Lima to assist another rider who had had a bad accident in the crazy Lima traffic. “Are you going to Lima? and can we finally meet up again”?
There is ALWAYS a silver lining.

After a day of welding racks and crash bars with Tim and Matt we pack up and hit the road. The white capped mountains in our mirrors make us all want to turn around and stay as there is still so much to explore and see in this stunning region of Peru. Soon all five bikes have pulled off of the road for one last photo op of the Cordillera Blanca.
We will have to come back here one day...

It is a sunny day but it is cold as we throw the bikes into corner after corner, slowly loosing altitude.  We are planning to hit Lima as late as possible so the traffic will be lighter. The landscape levels out and vast stretches of agricultural land form the horizon. Although we are “twisted” and “turned” out for a bit, we soon long for Peru’s mountains again. Layers come off and all the vents in our KLiM gear are opened. Damn it is hot down here!

Enjoying the corners as long as they last.
Who needs a U-haul van when you have the whole family to move the house.
Desert as far as the eye can see.
The PanAm is straight and boring and it leads through dirty, soulless towns. The clean mountain air has changed into an ever-present brown layer of smog and sand dust. We have a hard time imaging anyone living here. The lifeless sand dunes stretch as far as the smog permits the eye to see. When we think it can’t get worse, immense chicken farms dot the sand and the horrid smell that comes with it fills our nostrils. As we ride by the massive shanty towns, where the people who work the farms “live”, an intense sadness comes over us. Here in front of us is an extreme showpiece of what we are doing to the world. The exploitation of the earth, the animals and human beings is horrific. I conclude it is the most awful and ugly part of the world I have seen so far. 

Riding along a massive shanty town in the middle of the desert. What drives these people out here!?!
The long white structures on the right are chicken farms. The smell and sensation seriously made me want to be a vegetarian.
The road widens. Traffic gets more intense. The smog gets thicker and the heat is unbearable. And then we are stuck. Traffic has completely stopped. It takes a while before we start looking for options. The majority of the traffic consists of old cars, buses and trucks and the exhaust fumes make us sick. We have to move! We split lanes for a while but the loaded bikes and the lack of care for bikers make it slow going and dangerous. To our right some vehicles start using the four lane wide patch of dirt along the road. Little stores make up the border of the sand. Cars are parked in front and people and animals are trying to get from A to B. We decide to give it a try. We are not the only ones though. Few rules apply to traffic in Lima but the sand turns out to be a lawless “Arena”. Buses and trucks go left and right. No indicators and no respect for life. The sand gets soft here and there and the dust completely blocks our vision. Cars cut us off and claxons are used more regularly than in any city in India. It is a complete madhouse. Especially when a fence or a ditch in the middle of the Arena pushes all the traffic back to the main road. It is exhausting to keep going and the bikes are getting extremely hot.

“I am not doing this anymore!”, I hear over the intercom. Azure is done. She can hardly reach the ground with her feet, especially in the sand, and the terrible drivers are freaking her out. I try to calm her down and stay closer to try to shield her from the other traffic. A switch in my head is flipped as another car cuts Azure off. I use the maneuverability of the Twin and start making room for Azure, making sure to make eye contact with every driver and giving them the don’t mess with us look. The engine makes overtime, making people aware of our presence. I almost get knocked off the bike by the mirror of a merging bus. My blood is boiling by now and I give the bus's mirror a good slam. The driver hits the brakes and wants to get out of his chair. The look I throw his way makes him sit down and act like nothing happened. We continue and notice we have lost the other guys. Although I feel safer being with more bikers it is just impossible to stay together in a safe manner.

The traffic starts flowing a bit more and soon we are actually up to third gear. What a relief! We spot the guys waiting for us on a side road and somehow we manage to get back together. As we get closer to the old center of Lima, the traffic gets better and the vehicles are newer. We ride around the Plaza des Armas and feel like we just stepped into another world.  Quite a contrast to the shanty towns on the outskirts of the city. The air is cleaner, the colorful colonial buildings are beautiful and the atmosphere in the square is warm and lively. In no time, we get swarmed by people asking questions and taking pictures. A professional photographer sets up shop next to our bikes with a mobile photo printer and makes a killing capturing families and kids with our bikes and then charging them cash for the printed photos. (Great idea!) The police are ok with us being parked where we are at first but as the crowd grows they change their minds and we are sent off for safety reasons. What a crazy experience. 

Slightly different scene from chicken farms and shanty towns in the middle of the desert.
While Azure and the guys were being famous, I managed to sneak out to see the square.
Well worth dodging all the Lima traffic. What a city! We say GO!
Stunning architecture and people everywhere. The Plaza Des Armas has great atmosphere.

Upon return Azure is still busy.
The crowds got too big and the police call in reinforcements. Time to go! ;)
Via a beautiful area of the city we make it to a hostel where we can safely park our bikes and where David is waiting with a few ice-cold beers. As we sit down and start relaxing, the craziness of the ride into the city sinks in. My eye falls on my Zarges case on the bike. One of the stickers on the case says, “Dalton Highway Survivor”. A smile comes to my face as a thought runs through my mind. Try Lima…
After many months of separation, reunited once again! It was fun to catch up on all the "border crossing beers". Thanks!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

From “Duckless” Canyon into The White Mountains.

We head out towards Canyon del Pato. We plan on riding back-country roads for a few days in order to get there. The destination is plugged into the GPS and we follow obediently. Something feels wrong. Something is not right. The many twisties completely throw off my sense of direction but about an hour later I hit the brakes because the position of the sun tells me we are not going the right way. Damn. Upon zooming in on the GPS it shows that it somehow had created a different route than we had planned the previous day. We were heading for the ocean instead of South through the countryside.
Very easy to lose your sense of direction here.
Another "twisted day" ahead of us.
Maps, MAPSME and GPS are combined to come up with a new plan.
We are so far into the wrong direction, that no one feels like riding back. We decide to keep going. Luckily the road turns to dirt for a while and we are awestruck again by Peru's beauty.
This little hole in the wall led to some stunning views.
Emergency stop. What are we doing wrong ending up on these roads all the time guys! ;)
Matt hugging the wall. And rightly so!

The road from Contumaza to Cascas is definitely another one for the bucket list!
This one is for you Nancy O'Neil!
Most local buildings are made of mud bricks.
Get it over with guys!
A few hours later we ride South on the Pan American. It is ugly and straight. Although the pavement is very good we feel like we are missing out on some slow but beautiful Peruvian country roads. The traffic in Trujillo is terrible and we can’t wait to get out of the place. As soon as we can, we turn right onto a shortcut that will take us close to the canyon and away from all the madness, away from the smog. We find a nice place to camp next to a river. The mosquitoes are abundant but we are in nature again. 
The one thing we did like about Trujillo were the mosaic covered walls of the university.
Yes, they did the whole wall in tiny pieces of colored chips!
What a masterpiece! Now if they could hire the same brilliant mind to deal with the traffic situation... please!
The road we wake up to ride the next day is absolutely horrendous. Big sharp rocks, loose sand, truck tracks and lots of corrugations make up the surface we bounce around on. The scenery on the other hand, is otherworldly. The fast flowing river has carved its way through pastel colored rock surfaces that go sky high on both sides. When we finally make it to the official road of Cañon del Pato, the road actually gets better, albeit, narrower and steeper. Where there is no space for a road through the Cañon del Pato, a vast network of tunnels enables us to keep going. Sometimes the mountains hang over our heads as a ceiling. What a playground! The fast flowing river does not look like a nice place for even the bravest of ducks so how it got the name Cañon del Pato remains a mystery to us. (If you know, please enlighten us!)
The way they work the rice fields blows my mind.
Once the dirt roads turned to tar and the dust cloud of the "Unknown Roads" cleared, the camera came out.
Glad we did not encounter this guy in one of the long, dark tunnels.
The guys found an open tunnel into a hydro electric plant. Armed and dangerous they went on a reconnaissance mission...

They were able to get quite far but the guy in the orange vest spotted the alien invasion and sent them out. :)
And the fun continued
It was like riding in a painting.
Not to be missed when in Yungay! Great food and service for an amazing price.
In Yungay we have the best lunch we have had for a long time and gather some information on road conditions from the locals. Our friends back in Cuenca told us to ride a loop through Huascaran National Park. The weather is not looking great over the mountains but we start riding up anyway. The road once again consists of rough dirt as soon as we leave town and it continues all the way into the park. It starts raining but we still manage to get a shot of the Lagune Chinancocha. 
One has to go through the National Park to get over the Path (and pay the fee...)
My crash guard snapped in one spot. A "BMW strap" made a great temporary fix.

Nice work Pat!
Llanganuco Orconcocha. On a clear day the water would be glacier blue. Beautiful nonetheless.
"Pretty isn't it!?!"
And the hairpins began...
As the road climbs higher, and the fog only gets thicker we find ourselves increasingly depressed as we've heard this is one of the most picturesque rides in ALL OF SOUTH AMERICA. It’s hairpins all the way and the going is slow. It is cooling down quickly and the rain is getting more intense. Just before dark, the guys find the ruins of a building and we decide to camp there. The roof is gone but the walls will shelter us from the wind. 
Not the easiest entrance judging by the look on that face.
We set up our tents in separate rooms and built a shelter for cooking. We are all cold and miserable. We try to get the fire started but the damp air and lack of oxygen don't allow it to get going. Then, all of a sudden the clouds break apart and the top of the mountains appear. The moon lights up the snow-capped peaks and the clouds hanging around the mountain make for one of the most dramatic and beautiful camp settings we have had so far. Tim looks at his GPS and informs us that we are camping at just over 15.000 foot / 4600 meters. No wonder it is so cold.

One of our most beautiful nights ever, but damn it was cold!
In the middle of the night there is a lot of noise. I try to figure out what is going on. The pans, we had left out in the rain, are being kicked around. I run out of the tent with my ax, only to find 4 cows trashing our camp. We must be camping in their hide out. I chase them out and barricade the entrance. An hour later the cows find another way in and the cat and mouse game starts again. It ends up not being my best night of sleep ever. 

The road ahead is curvy, it's paved with miles of.... euhm hold on. Unpaved, definitely unpaved!
As we warm up our bikes and ride through what’s left of the front door the rain stops. We climb another 2000 feet / 600 meters to the pass. The views are worth all the cold and wet weather we have sustained while getting up here although much of our view is cloud and fog covered. The ride down on the other side is great and it leads us trough a few small settlements where time stands still. No machines, no electricity, no nothing. Just nature, mud houses and livestock. We are thankful to be riding here and experiencing it all.
Good morning!
To the left the mountain from "Paramount Pictures". Yes, right here in Peru!
Finally reached the pass. Check out the road in the background!
What goes up must go down...

A female alien riding into town!
Back in civilization.
Who does not want a donkey in their streets?!?
Since we are making a loop we have to get over the mountain range again. The road back is better and mostly paved and several glaciers make for quite a few “wow” moments. It starts raining again and all we want is to make it to Huaraz. It is a pitty we have to race down these roads. I have said it a lot lately but they are absolutely stunning with the pavement, when it is there, being in mint condition. Peru you are beautiful!

The passes in Europe are so overrated! ;)
We spend three painful days in Huaraz, the adventure capital of the “Cordillera Blanca”. Painful, because the weather over the mountains is absolutely perfect during our time in the city. We consider riding back and doing it all again but we are tired and relax at the hotel and check out the local markets.
Huaraz by sunset after yet another beautiful day...
The result of some rainy days.
Cuys (guinea pigs or cavia's) are better kept as pets as far as we are concerned. There is hardly any meat on these guys.
Tasty though.
Relaxing means back to work!