Search This Blog

Travel Blog

Travel Blog
Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Peruvian Angels

Let's start this blog with a meal.
As you've understood by now, it's hard to find food.
I always wonder, will I get sick?
It's confusing to people when I say no rice, potatoes or beans and ask for vegetables.

Ingrid recommended a restaurant for dinner. 
Went inside, or what I thought was inside. 
Until it started to rain, hard, and then realized there was no inside.
Photo of open courtyard next to the table. 

The rain here is often forecasted as Thunderstorms.
Between the hours of 3-6, there is a slot where the sky will just dump.
Then it stops as fast as it started. 
I'm in love with all the clouds.

The restaurant had an added attraction. 
A roving German Shepherd who came to check on the table every few minutes.

The menu is the same everywhere. 
This is chicken Milanese. 
If I don't eat chicken for a month, it will be too soon.

Pounded flat as roadkill, and I do mean it sounded like a very large heavy mallet, bang bang bang coming from the kitchen. Breaded and fried. 
And what? A whole plate of sautéed vegetables?!?

There is a funny thing that happens at every meal. 
I take up a lot of time trying to explain what I want and end up ordering two plates of food because they just can't understand that I want meat and veggies.

Then the server walks away, before K.B. can order. 
They think I am ordering for two of us.
No, all that food, it's for me. 

OK now back to riding.

Over dinner in Chavin de Hauntar we discussed the bad combination of rain, at altitude = snow and possibly black ice. There is another road to get to La Union, unpaved, less travelled with more than 1 person saying 'don't go that way'. OK, we won't go that way.

To be honest, I was happy to ride the same road back out if the weather held up.
Then a couple more locals confirmed, no risk of ice on the road. 
They were right.

But watch out for big rocks. 
This was not in the road just the day before.
It's the size of a car. 

Arrived at La Union. 
Took the main paved road and had vistas of the national park with snow capped mountains.
Went around a pretty lake. 
Rode a dirt section, again better than the paved road.
Wish all the roads were wide, dirt roads. 

It's difficult to research accommodations ahead of time. The phone number never works. Rarely is there a website. Bookings/ reservations don't make it through. 
Turns out the hotel I had found online was closed.

Faced with trying to find a place with secure parking for the bikes, I rode to the town square and looked around and based on how confused I looked, an older man came over to the bike to talk. K.B. was hesitant to engage with him but I've come to understand Peruvian people and thought, he's going to help us.

Help us he did, as well as another random stranger who drove his car leading us to a place that could have been good for the bikes but was closed. Then he led us back to the main road and found another place to stay.

 As K.B. struggled with the young kid at the hotel on "secure motorcycle parking", a Peruvian family just sitting on the corner came to our aid and offered locked parking down the alley from the hotel. The bikes were going to be as safe as they could be.

Rooms turned out to be pretty clean and comfortable.
Mattresses are always good quality, it's mind blowing.
People are always cleaning. Mopping the dirt away. 
I've been impressed with how clean things are....lukewarm or outright cold showers though.
With a head of cold wet hair I found a salon where Cristian blowed it dry. 
He also pulled on my hair so hard that I had a mild headache when he was done.
He also curled it outward which I hate.
Oh and he used a fine tooth comb from the top of my head to rip another amazing amount of hair out.
This is a reminder of why I cut, color and dry my own hair now.

Next we went to the 'best restaurant' in town.
It was not what anyone would expect to be the best place.
What is was, is a place for workers to come at the end of the day for a hot meal and a mug of coffee for $3 bucks. That's right, 20 soles for both our meals.
The food was good and she even managed to make me chop suey with my pounded flat chicken.
The service so attentive that when we understood they did not have beer, the owner found someone on the street to come to our table and sell a couple cans.

OK so now the real drama begins.

Construction in a way that I have never seen before in my life.
Road conditions that are hard to even describe. 
It was 90KM of the slickest, rockiest, rutted, hell on earth I have ever seen.
It took 3 hours to go 45km.
I broke into sobs on 3 occasions facing terrain ahead and losing my nerve.
Skipped breakfast, always a bad idea for me but it's difficult to get an early start and eat.

K.B. asked what I thought of the road. 
This is what I think of this road of hell muck.

These pictures just don't do it justice. 
The really tricky stuff was too dangerous to stop on for a photo.
Sections of road so narrow that barely a car could pass and we have to navigate large trucks full of mud.

After 3 hours, I pressed that we had to stop and get towed out.
The information that we had was that at least another 50+KM was like this.
We would never make it. It was already past noon and we can't get caught in this at night.

Took refuge under this structure and contacted our local friend for help. Toby.
It was clear to me that based on the distance, time of day and other factors, we would be there well into the night and maybe overnight. I was grateful for bringing my tent but that only fits 1.

I started to flag down every pick up truck that was empty and on my 4th try, found these two.
These are the Peruvian angels. David and Victor.
They happened to know Toby, whom I bought my bike from in Huanuco.
In fact, David the driver lives blocks from Toby.
They are both in the same motorcycle club.
What incredible luck, I think this was more than luck, we had something watching out for us.

Victor is an engineer and helped him back up to a place where the bike might be able to be loaded. This photo, does show the deep ruts we had to ride through and some places were so crisscrossed that we had to walk through. My boots were so heavy from muck and mud, it felt like I had 15lb weights on each foot. Peru crossfit.

K.B. getting in position.

First the three of them tried to lift the front wheel. 
After three unsuccessful tries, I stopped them and problem solved by showing them a wood ramp I had discovered while checking our surroundings for the night.

Wood ramp buttressed with rocks and other things. 
We needed one more person to help.

Another rider came by and all 4 of them were able to get the bike on the short truck bed.
I only prayed the bike didn't tip either way and crush anyone as I photographed the whole scary event.

This is the point that I stopped holding my breath.

After about 15 mins of tie down strapping and unloading my bike of gear and luggage I got in the back of the pick up and Bob got on my bike to ride ahead. Remember, tired, no food, very little water and burning daylight. 50KM more of this.

View of bike from back seat.

You can see K.B. ahead.
I'll take a moment here to describe the drive.
David is an exceptional driver.  Later he shared with me that his dad taught him to drive at 8.
That's not to say that I didn't shut my eyes often as we came right along the edge of the road more times than I wish to remember with the knowledge that roads just cave out from underneath, frequently.
The truck bounced and jostled with the weight of the bike and I just hoped the bike didn't flip out and drag us all screaming down the hill with it to eventually drown in the fast raging river below.

I can't say I felt safe, at least on a bike, you choose how close you get to the edge with but two way traffic there is no choice but to pull over and let others pass and we seemed to always be on the outside of the mountain road edge. I almost put my helmet on twice. 

We passed the Crown of the Inka's and came into a town called Punto Union.

The workers were blasting the road ahead and there was a barricade manned by the toughest, take no prisoners, woman I have ever seen in action, holding mobs of angry, yelling, male drivers at bay.

Problem is, they let K.B. go ahead. 
So without cell signal, we only had our satellite trackers to communicate through and because I had more information than him on when the road would open, when it would get dark, how much longer of this road from hell would be, I insisted he come back. To his credit he went along with it. 
We have built trust over the rides we've done and know each other well. I don't push the panic button lightly. 

 I reasoned I would rather leave my bike here and come back for it another day than risk his life getting it back. We parked my bike in front of the iron lady's dirt hut and set off. We really needed to have it indoors and as we left, hoped it would still be there the next day.

Fortunately no one stole my Michelin Man but they did steal (cut off) the pouch from my handlebars with generally useless stuff to them. Enjoy the headlamp, extendable magnet, hand wipes, and the reset bolt and allen key for my airbag vest. Very important stuff for me that will end up in the garbage.  It was a good reminder that all our efforts to have secured parking for bikes and sleep in terrible places was worth it.

I'll leave out the strange decision by David to take a long short cut around the lake, as it got dark, with little to no visibility in the fog, no other vehicles, and the vague idea of what turns to take. Yeah I'll leave that out. 

Finally made it to Huanuco by 9pm. 
The next day I went to a clinic to get the X ray to confirm the breaks.

I'm sitting in my room, resting and sleeping a lot and trying to weigh all options of what to do. 
This is adventure riding. 
This is not vacation.
I know the risks when I set out.
I have been injured before and continued on.
I was not in any significant pain, at least when I was on the bike. 
In bed at night, that is another matter.

The next day, took David and Victor to dinner to the same steakhouse.
4th time eating here. Had a great time laughing and sharing stories. 
I started to understand a lot more of what they were saying even though each word was not always clear. Turns out Victor speaks a little French too!
We shared photos of families and other things. 

Peruvian angels. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

UNESCO, Agave and Snow

This is Sara. 
She and K.B. spent the day crossing a fast moving river in a hand gondola. 
Just the video of it makes me shudder. 
They trekked up the side of a mountain to caves that once had mummies. 
Me? I stayed in my hotel ill. It's 3 days later as I write this and I'm almost back to normal now.  
2 rounds of antibiotics. 

We had to ride 7.5 hours from Nuevo Tingo to Cajamarca the next day. 
It took 9 hours. I was not at optimal and there were some challenging sections.

We burned an extra day at Nuevo Tingo but we do have extra days in the itinerary for just such an emergency. Still the first section had one of the deepest (up to the gas tank) and muddy (no visibility to the bottom) water crossings I had faced. K.B. decided to wait at the edge for someone else to go through it first. After watching 2 tuk tuks ford it successfully with a short deep dip in the middle, we went for it. Unfortunately, no video. The side bags of my bike were fully submerged. 
I used all the skill I've been taught and kept my eyes looking forward (not down, never down) and light on the throttle, standing, with sheer force of will to not stop, not drown the bike and no matter what, I hit under water, keep going.

We took a very high pass of 12K feet, which was remote, even the villages were spread far apart and only had a few huts. It was treacherous in that it was narrow, twisty, lots of debris from falling rocks and mud and sheer drops into clouds. Oh and whole sections of the road just caved away like pac man was there. There were buses and trucks screaming around corners as well. We got a good look at the eyes of one of the bus drivers and thought, wow, that guy is totally crazy. We made it to our accommodations. I found an Airbnb outside of the city. It's a real crap shoot here to navigate an Airbnb, language barrier, the host insists on using WhatsApp, but this place was amazing and worth the rebooking hassle.

Casa De Campo.

View of mountains from the front. 
Oh yeah, clouds. As always. Remember rainy season.

They call this a garage. At least the bikes were covered and the gate locked.
We also had two roving 4 legged alarms going off all night long.

Nice enough kitchen. 
Warmed up some food and altitude tea.

My room. Grindle actually looks happy here.
There is never heat. 
But there are very thick, heavy, fake sheep skin blankets that are oh so soft and cozy.
I had three on top of me, and my thermals.
Still sleep with my feet sticking out, can't have hot feet.

View from the back of the house. 
It's a giant complex tailored to big families with many kids. And another view.

To get here it was a rutted, muddy, potholed, waterlogged road. 
This is normal here and now after 2 weeks are used to it.
Doesn't mean we like it. Just expect it now.
Glad I have this motorcycle.
My Honda back home would have been horrible on this stuff.

This day was supposed to only be 5 hours. 
I found a road that cut it to 4. 
Google maps didn't want us to go that way, it wanted us to go back into Cajamarca (opposite direction) then come back in the correct direction using a different road.
The whole point of staying here was to avoid the city of Cajamarca.
We wondered, is the road out?
We found a perfectly paved road with sweepers (fun, perfectly banked turns that feel like a roller coaster ride when you hit them at just the right speed) for the next 3 hours.

See the family picnicking in the background. 
After I stopped, they all looked, smiled and waved.
Peruvians are the friendliest people.
They are kind, generous, affectionate, hard working and mind their own business.
I keep adding to the list of traits as I go back to edit and add photos. 
Caveat: except impatient drivers at a construction delay.

We don't stop often to take photos of the beauty of the vistas we see all day.
No camera could ever capture the essence of it. 
This particular section of road, we were told was dirt, we were prepared for the worst.
It was paved but in bad condition, I'd take a dirt road over this any day.
Still, Google maps was spot on in terms of our arrival time.

Without K.B. side mirror. 

Some sheep grazing on the side of the road.
They are very dirty here. The wool is a dark brown.

And one very cute lamb.

Again, another pretty valley.
Kinda like coming around a turn, again, another big rock in the middle of the road. 
Enjoy the view, but not for long....

Typical landslide on the side of the road.
Here the road happens to be very wide so you can just go around it.
Turns out the big earthquake recently, and heavy constant rains trigger them.
They clear the debris just enough to pass for trucks, buses or car wheels to get through.

Made it to a special lake where there are many restaurants that serve trout. 
Fried to hell. 
Good thing too, you can eat the bones. 
With my book of photos, I was able to order a beet salad instead of potatoes and rice.
We sat under the palapa.
Some kids came by and were mesmerized by my Michelin Man. 
Still clean, that was the waterline of the crossing.

Walkway to the lake.

Many things are broken here. 
Most things are partially built. 
I was told that you only start paying taxes once construction is completed. 
Toilet's usually don't flush. There is never toilet paper.
There is a whole list of things I could name and it makes me itch in places I can't scratch that I can't stop to fix them. Submerged pier.

This is the local corn. 
Remember that tasteless, starchy stuff the size of horses teeth?
Well, put it in an oven and bake it with some salt and oil.
Voila, a very delicious snack.

This meal was delicious. 
I'm OK with the heads and scales now.

Arrived in Huamachuco, just in time.
The radar was thunderstorms.
We looked up, clear blue sky.

We checked in, after going down a steep, dark ramp to the basement, heard loud rumblings. 
2 flights of stairs to the room. 
Huffing and puffing I go.
I am taking altitude pills. 
We average around 8K feet. 

Heavy rain started and didn't let up until dinner.
It was the nicest hotel and restaurant in town.

We gave the front desk clerk our stinky laundry and headed out to find a bank.
You have to have to be vaccinated to do just about anything here.
Go to the bank.
Go to the grocery store.
Go to any tourist site.

Creepy room but on the inside courtyard so quiet.
Quiet until the unhappy baby arrived...

The whole plaza had perfectly trimmed hedges in all kinds of shapes.





Electricity was out city wide but restaurants are still open.
Went to Ole Beef. Eventually.

Flagged down a tuk tuk. 
She said she knew where we were going.
As we started to leave town, going in the opposite direction, we finally made her stop and then used our limited Spanish (derecho, izquierdo) to get to the right place. 

Went to wash my hands, no running water. 
Then they brought the ice cold water from the kitchen.
Not the lukewarm water from the thermos they used to make my lukewarm tea that I refused to drink. 

The next morning we spent 40 minutes arguing with the new staff on where our laundry was. 
We went from, "what laundry?" to "in a few hours" to "here is your soaking wet, unspun, but clean laundry". Laundry is the biggest hassle. No dryers and high humidity is a bad combo.

The ride was taking us back to the starting point of Huanuco.
We knew we had a dirt section so decided to stop halfway.
Half dirt today, half tomorrow. 
A lot can go wrong here so it's never good to time it too close.
After the sun sets, it's pitch black.

We rode for a couple hours on a wide dirt road with minimal traffic and potholes.
It was the most fun I've had on a road yet.
It was so high up, we were riding in the clouds.
People live here.

Trucks pack it down all day. This mud gets everywhere.
On me, on the bike, in my gear. Everywhere.
Have no doubt, this is a 3rd world country, after a while I look at some things I've packed like mascara and a hair brush and think, I have absolutely no need for that anymore. 
First aid kit, yes. Satellite tracker, yes. Tools, yes. 

Stopped in a town known for it's thermal hot springs. 
That little hut on the right had a couple who made fried guinea pig. 
Thankfully after making it clear, no guinea pig, they offered boiled eggs. 
I'll take that. 

There was an incident between their family dog, protecting their young daughter and a stray. I have a loud horn for this and as a last resort pepper spray. I stood there watching and also telling myself to not get involved. You just don't know....btw the family dog was a pit bull mix protecting the child.

The stone work was amazing. 
See the sign? 80 degrees. Celsius. 
Normally a tourist might see that and pull out a bathing suit. 

Statue of some goddess of hot water?

Fun to see the stone layer's name.

Got to Angasmarca. 
This was the halfway point to Pallasca. 

We didn't want to commit to a full day of dirt yet, the roads here are very challenging.
So we found the "best" hotel in town. 
Not much more than a flea motel.
Then we learned it was the only place in town.
However there was a locked garage for the bikes. 
And that's what really mattered.

After you ride over this trench.

Looks bad from the outside too.
So we gritted our teeth, joked about Cat House (Scandinavia blog) and went out for roasted chicken.
I really wanted to eat the salad, but I've been so sick from the food. Then I saw the short, curly dark hair on top of the cucumber. Yep, I'll skip the salad.

I smelled the pillow and decided to pull out my sleeping bag.
Grindle approved. I did not take him out of his special pink bag (Nu) 
until it was safe to do so.
I slept very well, until that is there was some loud banging at the front at 2am, so I grabbed my stun gun and went downstairs to check on the bikes. Bikes OK. Just a drunk.

Sometimes you have to focus on the good things. 
Like these amazing hooks. Given how the railing on the stairs is not bolted down and nearly went cascading to the first floor when I touched it, I was surprised this didn't rip out of the wall. All my combined gear is over 30 lbs. 

The shower had hot water at 5. Not before and stopped shortly after.
This was a 'wear your flip flops in the shower' kind of place. 
We didn't get a roll of toilet paper, just a short strip. 
At least I got a toilet seat, K.B. wasn't so lucky. 
I need it more than him anyway.

Local shop, usually called bodega, making the wonderful spicy sauces
 that usually come with meat at restaurants.
Probably one of the things that has made me ill, no saran wrap on these. 
Course the outside temp is so cold, it's about refrigerator temp.

We started the next day and on a steep uphill, remember we are on dirt now, I didn't have enough RPMs and stalled mid-hill and tipped over, fell off the bike just far enough to deploy my airbag vest. 

So that's what it feels like. Ouch!

It was a vice grip, I could barely breathe before I realized why.
I took it off as K.B. came down the hill to help lift the bike up. 
Later I would find that I cracked rib 6 
and fractured rib 5. 
Impact? Crushing vice grip of the vest? Both? 

Boy was I glad for this extra safety gear. I've tipped bikes over many times but never with an airbag vest. I felt like a turtle turned upside down on it's shell. I was so cushioned on all sides, and fortunately, my second back up compressed air cartridge made it through TSA so we put it in and went on with our day.

Next we arrived at where they were doing construction for new roads. 
I have never seen turns with so much loose mud, muck, rocks, ruts, you name it, in my life. 
If I thought I was a competent rider before, after this country,  I will be at the top of my game. 
We only had 20 minutes of this....soon I will post on a day from La Union to Huanuco that had 6+ hours of this. Quite a bit happened on that day.

Next stop, Pallasca for lunch.
It was a nasty little town, much dirtier than usual, 
with no options to eat.
There was one lady selling what she makes in her kitchen.
We smelled the fish from 10 feet away. No thanks.

This little girl really wanted to talk.
2G meant no translation possible.
That didn't stop her.
She loved my horns.
Peruvian children are all cute. 
By my standards, that's super cute to the average person.

Next and final stop that day, Caraz. 
We were told the road south of Pallasca was paved. 
We double confirmed the route with a local. 
We took route 100 south. 
That was not the right road. 

This was not that different than some roads I've done in California.
High altitude. Very narrow. Large berm of gravel in the middle of the road. Sections of road caved downhill. Steep, don't see the bottom, steep. Oh, and oncoming cars, trucks and at the end of it a motorcycle who appropriately blasted me for being on their side of the road. 

I just could not ride on the right, it was almost dizzying. 
The sheer concentration needed just to keep steady. 
Anyone with a fear of heights could not do this goat trail.
I'm going to stop calling it a road. 

I do training rides, not to build up physical stamina so much as mental.
Motorcycle riding is something like meditation, you just cannot think of anything else. 
Focusing on a single thing for the whole day is not something that anyone does naturally.
Glad I invest the time before each ride. I needed it today. No food. Long road ahead.

This was at the lower part next to the river. 
It was 'safe' to take a photo here.

Finally made it to the road we should have taken, 3N. Wide, paved, new. 
But wait, there were some very scary tunnels...glad Paul took me to the Reno train tunnels.
Good experience gained there. 

Super arid and dry. Hardly any vegetation. 
The rivers are always muddy and raging. 
This is the vast change between one side of a mountain range and the other.

As I type this, I'm looking at this room thinking where was this again?
Right, Caraz. 
El Pino Lodge. 
Agave Brewery. 
And the best hospitality I've had in a very long time.

My living room. 
Already trashed.

The cook was a young man named Lenin.
That's right, his parents are Communist so they named him Lenin.
He kept the cleanest kitchen I have ever seen that rivals even my Mom's.
And he was an excellent cook.

Homemade tamale. Avocado. Omelet with veggies. 
Crispy. Tasty. Salty. Bacon. I almost cried. 

Beautiful rooms and presentation of food that rivals my visit to the Grindelwald where I adopted  Grindle. 


As I washed the bikes, this guy swung this fierce sharp special axe at agave roots all day long.
Thunk, thunk, thunk!

Had all afternoon to rest. 
It was time to take inches of caked on mud off the bikes.
K.B. took 5 photos of me washing my bike.
Every time, my eyes were shut.

Took a nap.
Then it was happy hour here.
Full outdoor bar with such things as Cynar, Punt Y Mes, Vermouth, Cream of Coconut. 
Even bitters and all kinds of dried fruits for garnish.
I could have whipped up some very good cocktails.

I like this photo even more with the clean bikes in the background.

I loved those metal goblets. 

Our 'welcome' drink was a full tour; tasting and explanation of all the types of agave in Peru.

I liked the one she is pointing out. 

Cute carved statue. Wait for it. 


Went to the main plaza. 
That is where you'll find mostly anything you need and most of the restaurants.
The restaurant we went to find was closed. 
Then I saw a Chinese place. 
The kind of place I would avoid in the US.
Then I thought, they cook with a lot of vegetables.
Chinese it was. 
Brown gravy was gross but the veggies were perfectly al dent and plentiful.

It was time to leave the protection and comfort, albeit I had a cold shower here, of El Pino lodge in Caraz but before we go, meet this feisty, energetic, beautiful soul. 

She loaned me her hair dryer.
Did ton's of my dirty laundry.
Let me wash the bikes and leave a ridiculous amount of mud everywhere.
This whole place does hospitality to another level.

Back on the main road south. 
I actually rode at the front for a bit.
Usually K.B. goes first.
It was a good enough road we could enjoy the scenery. 
Beautiful town on the mountainside.

Zoomed in. Gorgeous colonial twin tower church in dazzling white 
and some other large building in a mint green next to it. 

Next stop. 
Chavin de Hauntar.
UNESCO world heritage site. 

But we had to ride to 14K+ feet.
Go through a tunnel...and it's close to freezing.
We rode into this.

Our humble accommodations.
Same, same; no heat. 3 massive blankets (I type this in my sleeping bag under all 3 blankets and I'm just warm), it's freezing here. 
Scalding hot water thank goodness.

When I started unloading the bike, I heard "Olah" and looked around but didn't see anyone.
Then I saw this heckler. 

Bikes safely tucked away behind a locked gate and within sight of my room.

Tidy and clean room with ice cold floors. 

Chavin de Huantar.
The ruins here were impressive.

They had a pretty sophisticated sewer and ventilation system. 


That rain poncho is the best $5 I have ever spent at IKEA.

Would not want to be under that slab. 

See the snake? 
Similar detail to Kuelap.

Close up. Two of them.

So I could not photograph the one thing I saw here that made the whole effort to get here worth it. 
Well, let me be fair and say that the road here was one of the most beautiful I've seen after the Grindelwald and Glencoe. 

Here is a wikipedia link for the Lanzon.

It's deep in the central most part of the under ground labyrinth of the complex. 
It's behind glass. You walk down a scary, narrow, dark, damp corridor to see it.
It just stilled my heart.
No photos allowed.

On the way out, I saw a group of men with small hand held scythes preparing bamboo.
All day long. Like I said before, hardworking.

Beautiful scrolling and stonework. 
Lots of snakes and swirls, similar to Art Deco.

This truck had the special tunnel at 14K+ feet painted on the back.
Almost as realistic as a photo.

And me in front of said tunnel.

The trucks are painted and decorated so well here. 

Walking back, I found a lifestyle shop.
Part nick nacks.
Part restaurant.
Part cafe.
Part specialty foods.
The woman who owned it spoke very good English and lived in Michigan for a while.

Peruvian women are so affectionate and friendly and tuck nicely under my chin.

This chair was very cool!

Trying to find a Peruvian crystal for a very special person. 
Sadly almost all of them are from somewhere else.

34F outside as I type this and rain forecasted.
Might have to stay 2 nights...snow is not fun on motorcycles.