So I have to back track in order to bring the blog up to date. The next few blogs concerning Peru covers what turned out to be the most challenging and adventurous rides on the trip.
After escaping across the border from Ecuador into Peru the first town we came across was Jaen. What an introduction to Peru! It was like riding into India or some Asian country. The streets were ram packed with motorcycles and Mototaxis. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I was in Vietnam a number of years ago. It was manic, hectic, hot and noisy and was a massive difference from Ecuador.
You really had to concentrate 100% as it was the done-thing to just pull out in front you. Absolutely no one stopped at stop signs, everyone just drove out of side street without even a glance in the direction of on-coming traffic, and nobody seemed to care, indeed they expected it. They drove around at a steady pace and everyone just moved around as required. Once you had the trick it was fine, it was only hairy when you tried to move faster than the traffic as people would just turn or move without indication or regard for what was behind them. They only drove the road in front of them and most most people didn’t even seem to have mirrors!
Gavin decided to sort a few things on his bike while we were there. Fitting a new chain, rubber gators to protect the front shocks and new light bulbs. I have to say I love the motorcycle parts shops you can find in South America and Central America. You just drive up and there is an army of “mechanics” ready to tackle whatever problem you have, right there on the spot, right outside the shop, and you don’t even need to pay for the service. You just pay for the part you need and they fit it. I usually drop them a few dollars anyway. Its cheap and you can oversee what they are doing.
We headed on from Jaen and stayed at Geoff’s place. American Geoff is a big British motorcycle fan and also the owner of a famous biker bar in Cusco called the Norton Rats Tavern. His campsite and hotel that was under construction at the time is located near a small town called San Pablo.
We camped at Geoff’s for 2 nights. The first night we ate in a small eatery in the local town and that’s when Gordon got the “squits” (sorry Gordo). The next day we hiked a nearby waterfall and when we got back Gordon couldnt face another meal in the local restaurant. He felt it was like returning to the scene of the crime so we decided we would cook up some pasta I had been carrying around with me in my sexy front basket.
Gordon assumed the cooking duties, presumable as he was the hungriest having not eaten for the whole day, following being sick. We were all starving and I was salvating at the thought of this hot and hearty meal, and despite all the bits of dirt and soil in the pasta, it still tasted pretty good. Gordon having spilled the entire contents of the pot over the wall when draining it. Gordon’s pride was hurt, severely. He later admitted to having to restrain himself from not smashing the pot to pieces as a result of his minor mishap. The Canadian-outdoorsman’s pride was at stake and as far as he was concerned Canada’s reputation. He had let himself down and embarrassed his country. Shame on you Gordon! While Gordon was licking his wounds myself and Gavin were tucking in to a much needed meal and spitting out the odd piece of dirt. Eventually he came around and we all ate together and had a good laugh at the situation.
When packing our gear the next day, I was startled by what I thought was a little school girl screaming, I turned around and saw Gavin peering into his tent in horror. He had left his tent door open while we were eating the previous night and he had spent the night in his tent with a large hairy taranchula. The spider presumably had been creeping around Gavin as he slept.
When packed up we headed on on what we thought was going to be a straightforward ride to Cajamarca, it was only about 200km or so on the map but it turned out to be a very long and tough day. The start was probably an indication of things to come as we took a wrong turn and climbed pretty high before realising we had taken the wrong way and so we had to back track.
We got off the main road and we wound our way for hours through the hills and mountain. It was a great ride and we were all really enjoying it despite the progress being very slow. We had left around 9 am and by it was now lunch time and we were all starting to become concerned about our fuel. We stopped by a tiny mud shop and inquired whether there was any fuel. There was none and I was running on fumes. We had underestimated this journey severely. Gordan had expressed a desire for sugary gummy bear jellies. I spotted what i thought was jellies but turned out to be just jelly powered. Tough guy Gordon would have to wait for his gummy bears.
We decided we needed to share some fuel in order to make our destination. We tried syphoning fuel from Gordon’s bike, but the tank was too high and his hose not long enough. But while doing so I sucked in a mouthful of petrol and swallowed it. I tired to get it up but it wouldn’t come. I felt a severe burn in my gut. In hindsight I really cant believe we hadn’t just pulled off the supply from Gavin’s carburettor instead, but Gordon had pulled out his syphon pipe before we had really considered the situation. So syphoning it was. (Having read that a third time it seems a bit risqué and maybe a bit gay). (Note to Ladies: we are all hetro single men, rough and ready, and dirty..)
With some more fuel in my tank, and some in my belly we headed on. We were soon climbing again and skirting along the edge of a beautiful mountain range. We could see the crumpled landscape falling away and unfolding as far as the eye could see to the west. The drop was almost sheer and fell away for hundreds of meters. As I drove I was burping pure gasoline fumes and the taste in my mouth was sickening. It had started to rain slightly when myself and Gavin had pulled in to take some photos and that’s when Gordon came coasting along behind us.
Gordon’s choice of motorcycle for the trip was rather unfortunate as he had evidently chosen a motorcycle that did not work in the rain! This was perhaps the third time his bike had just decided to stop mysteriously in the rain. We spent a half and hour on the side of the road trouble shooting his problem. The problem we deducted was that the vacuum operated fuel valve in his tank was not opening. This didn’t seem to fit with the theory of it being caused by rain but Sod’s Law dictates if your motorcycle should stop for whatever reason well it might as well rain too, just for good measure. After removing the tank, very scientifically shaking it about a bit the fuel started to flow again. We were soon on our way again but only after I tried to puke up the petrol I had drank, which didn’t work. I was destined to burp gasoline for the next 2 days!
An hour later we reached a road block. A road crew were cutting a trench directly across the road from the inner the cliff wall right to the outer side of the drop off to the cliff. There was no way around. We approached them and they were pretty dismissive of us initially telling us we couldn’t cross and to turn back. But using my best (or worst) Spanish I managed to crack a few jokes with them and they soon warmed up to us. A few moments later we were dragging planks from the back of their truck to span their trench to allow us to cross. Gordon was first to cross followed by Gavin and then myself.
It was now around 5pm.
We had been up high as 3200m and now we were descending. We had assumed we were descending into a town called Celendine, but in fact our adventure for the day was really only starting. We arrived in a place called Balsas. We were extremely confused and a little dispondent about our progress. We were all tiring from what was a very eventful day . We refuelled in Balsas topping up from some road side gas cans.
We were all pretty hungry at this stage but we decided we had to push on. Our destination for that day would now be Celendine. I had given up thoughts of reaching Cajamarca. It was now around after 6 in the afternoon and we had maybe 2 hours of light left. We had descended to around 1000m above sea level and as we set off again we were riding through a hot desert valley with boulders and cacti around us. We soon left that and started to climb again. We would climb back up to 3100m winding and winding, behind us lay beautiful vistas back through the valley. Up ahead all we saw were huge mountains on three sides and somehow we had to make our way over them. The going was slow and difficult, with switch back after switch back and my bike struggling upwards. Darkness started to descend as we wound up through the gravel roads hugging the side of the mountain. Gordon blasted on as I could tell he was getting frustrated with our progress. Gavin also went on ahead as it was easier for his bike if he kept up a good momentum.
I was holding things up. In times such as these on the trip I struggled with the different dynamic travelling in a group brought. While we were all great buddies I felt some slight tensions and it may have only been on my part. I hated to think anyone was waiting for me and it frustrated me. I had set out by myself and tackled a lot of difficult roads by myself and loved the challenge and I never cared whether I held anyone up so I didn’t like that feeling, so I would always tell the guys to go on.
And so as darkness fell on the mountain Gavin halted to wait for me and then Gordon halted. We were reunited in the darkness on the side of the mountain and maybe I speak for my myself but I think we got a second wind and renewed energy at this stage. We were reunited in our predicament now as we all stopped to ensure everyone was ok to continue. We had an extremely long day and had not eaten since breakfast and had no water. It was now around 9pm. We felt things were getting a little dangerous and it was best to stick together and look out for each other. It presented a duality for me, while I loved the no pressure solo riding I also loved the comradery and team spirit we had, and would have, on many of our future undertakings across the Andes.
And Although I may have been frustrated by those feelings brought about by the different dynamic and what it entailed for me and my trip, those times I would never take back and travelling in a group brought me experiences and times I could not have experienced any other way but I have to admit I struggled with that at different points on our way south but, in Gavin and Gordon you could not find more capable men, reliable friends and travelling companions.
And so with everyone feeling OK to continue we set off again. It was very strange to look up at the mountain side immediately in front and above us. We could see the lights of a few vehicles hundreds of feet above us. It seemed as if they were flying or hovering in lines on their way up and down what appeared to be a near vertical wall of a mountain that lay in front of us. In the pitch darkness we had no sense of depth. Large hairy Tarranchulas scampered across the track infornt of us as we rode.
When at last we had crested the mountain following several false dawns, energy came back again. We rounded the corner and Celendin came into view. It appeared as if were were making an approach by airplane as the town was located nearly 1km below us and nothing was between us except the darkness of open space and a long drop. The lights of the streets in the town spread out like run ways far below us. We wound down the mountains side eventually making our goal. We reflected on what was a very tough days riding.
The next day we continued on a short ride to a Cajamarca, the last hold out of the Inca’s before they were finally crushed by the Spanish. We were lucky enough that there was small festival on while we were there and were treated to some traditional dancing and music.
While I was in Cajamarca I was intent on finding a smaller front sprocket so I went to find Honda in Cajamarca. All my attempts at tweaking my carb were failing as above 2600m there simply wasn’t enough oxygen to burn the delivered fuel. I had spent some time with a Honda mechanic in Cali Colombia and after many attempts at trying different set ups we went back to the original set up. So changing the sprocket was the obvious next choice, in hindsight it is something I should have done before.
Honda were kind enough to fit a complete new chain and rear sprocket plus fitted a new 13 tooth front sprocket and give me a new spare standard 15 tooth sprocket. Thank you guys!!!
Having had enough of our dirt track pursuits, we decided we wanted a break, everything had been very intense and difficult since we left Cuenca in Ecuador, mostly on dirt roads, and off course I had the incident involving running across the border at night. We needed a break so we headed for the beach.
We spent a few days in Huanchaco relaxing and I met a few Irish girls there. Myself and Gav threw the girls up on the back and we brought them for a spin to the local city of Trujillo.
After we that we headed off on what was to be 2 weeks of some of the most adventurous and difficult riding I’ve done on the trip.
CLICK ON IMAGES TO OPEN SLIDE SHOW AND ENLARGE