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

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.

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