We finally get away from Huanuco – both with new motors on our cooling fans and a new bolt on my sidestand! The road south is picturesque and we start to climb – this is the “wet” season so it always rains in the early afternoon – and depending on your altitude, it means the rain can turn to hail – and it gets really, really cold!
But if you head off early the riding is very pleasant with good temperatures. The KTM’s aren’t missing a beat with the changes in altitude and are so good to ride over twisty mountain roads!
We stop for the night in Huancavelica – a pretty colonial town nestled between craggy peaks – bursting with churches and plazas! This town is right off the “gringo trail” and sits at an altitude of 3676m – with a low of 4 degrees – cold floors and lots of blankets!
It’s a crystal clear morning as we head out of town – the soft clouds are still hugging the high peaks and the road becomes remote immediately!
We start climbing and ride through a vast plateau at 4200m – the llamas come on the road and are very curious with their elongated necks and cute faces.
The scenery reminds us of Kyrgyzstan as we start climbing over the “pass” and set a new record “high” of 4876m! We skirt several huge lakes with trout farms (“trucha”) and then start descending. As we turn right at Rumichaca, the road becomes two lanes and like a race track with spectacular views and another pass at 4450m. The switchbacks coming down the mountain are unbelievable – fast and perfect – just an amazing ride! The Peruvians really know how to build roads! South of Huatara the vegetation finishes and becomes bare rock and as we come down to the plains – we are in desert again with massive sand dunes. The contrast is remarkable and in less than two hours the temperature has gone from 7 degrees to 30!! We watch the sunset in a beachside bar at Paracas and celebrate one of our most special and memorable days riding.
Local people in Paracas lead a more “charmed” life than their peers in the mountains – hard to believe they are so close and yet so far apart! The ride from Paracas down the coast to Nazca is through the coastal desert again – vast areas of sand dunes, barren rock mountains and remoteness.
Nazca is one of the most arid regions in the world and it’s where all the tourists come to see the famous Nazca Lines. An earthquake in 1996 totally destroyed the city and its surroundings but it has since been completely rebuilt. We take an afternoon flight over the city and out to the “lines”, enjoying a different perspective to the desert and this part of Peru.
The road from Nazca to Cusco is on the list of most rated roads in the world for motorcycles – and from the get-go leaving town we begin a magnificent climb up the bare rocks to a plateau. The temperature plunges and it becomes very remote and bleak as we ride through tiny villages where the people just seem to “exist” – no fuel so no heating and not much growing – it’s just so hard to imagine what they “do”! The heavy rain reduces our visibility – then over another massive pass with low clouds and thick hail still on the road. The road dries out as we make a huge descent to Chalhuanca – and once again our accommodation provides two thick Peruvian blankets (made from cotton and llama wool) and a bedcover. The “weight” is enveloping and cosy – like when you were a kid – we don’t use blankets so much nowadays! The new day has much warmer conditions and the scenery changes yet again – the ground is green and trees are appearing as we come down into a river valley.
The views are spectacular over more passes with lots of rockfalls, huge rocks on the road and challenging river crossings. We arrive in Cusco, with it’s cobbled roads and the Plaza del Almas – a huge cathedral, tourist shops and restaurants – all catering for the crowds who come for Machu Picchu.
Tip of the Day
If you are in Peru and you see “cuy frito” on the menu – just a little tip that it actually means fried guinea pig!!
On Two Wheels
We have checked in to a “bike friendly” hostel in Cusco and find these two Italians – David and Valentina – who have done around 35,000km two-up in the last seven months. They flew their bike to Russia and did Mongolia – then on to Japan – then shipped it to Santiago in Chile. They have been down to Ushaia and are on their way north to Colombia where they will fly the bike to Barcelona. They have no GPS or maps – they just use the app Maps.Me – or they stop and ask people!! They have found themselves on all sorts of secondary and minor roads and he just takes it all in his stride – oh to be young, carefree and fearless!
Story of the Week
We are in Nazca and have decided to take a “joy ride” in a small, six-seater plane over the famous “lines” in the desert – really the only way to appreciate these giant symbols etched in the plains 200 years B.C. While waiting in the small departure lounge, we find our fellow passengers – two young Japanese guys – so we introduce ourselves and laugh about how our prices are different!! Finally we board – the pilot and co-pilot in the front, Paul and I in the middle and the Jap guys in the back. I turn around and tell the “boys” that if they need to be sick, that’s what the little white bags are for, and not to do it down my neck!! We all laugh but as we taxi down the runway, the guy behind me already has his head back!! The take-off is fine and soon after we are approaching the “lines” which is where the pilot starts to “bank” very sharply – first to one side and then the other – so everyone gets a chance to take photos. Well, our Jap guy has started being sick during the first loop!! His friend is madly taking photos out the window – and of him!!
There are lots of theories as to why these markings were made by the Nazca people – to do with religious ceremonies and praying for rain. The lines were apparently made by brushing away the red pebbles on the desert surface and uncovering the white colored sand. In most places wind, rain and erosion would quickly have removed all traces of this within a few years but at Nazca, the lines have been preserved because it is such a windless, dry and isolated location.
Afterwards we check in to a hotel in town – and guess who else is staying there – the Jap guys!! They are about to board a bus for a 16-hour road trip to Machu Picchu Village and we can only imagine how that guy is going to feel winding round all the corners!!!