Condors and rivers

The further south you go in Peru the more remote things get. Leaving Cusco I headed to Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru. Riding out of the valleys and mountains, the landscape transformed to a lifeless high plain with rolling hills as far as the eye could see. These are the moments you hope you don’t have any bike problems. There is nothing here.

There seems to be some new construction happening in the south as well. A new road, not on the map was one of the only options. I’ve learned that digital maps are not always the best idea. As I would find out later on my out of Colca Canyon.

Halfway to Arequipa I stayed in a simple town for a night. Most of the towns here in the south are quite depressed. They are stops for truckers and travelers, but offer nothing more than a bed for the night.

Arequipa is an oasis in a desolate land. The city sits in a small valley and is the only green patch in a 100 miles. The city had one of the nicer plazas I have seen in some time.

Traveling reminds me of a old movie call 200 motels. It was a bizarre Frank Zappa movie about a band on the road and how every town looked just like the last one.

I was fortunate enough to meet up with my friend Philip. He had been riding the Americas, but after a crash and surgery, he had to travel my other means. Last time we met was in Guatemala.

It’s often hard to write about new and interesting things when you end up in “Centerville” every week. Plaza de Armas, churches, and monasteries. Ruins, and landscapes. Peru is one of the most amazing places I’ve been thus far because the landscape is so amazing and ever changing.

A few days in Arequipa is all one needs. If traveling by other means, this is great place to jump off to Colca Canyon.

Colca Canyon is arguably the second or third deepest canyon in the world at 3,270 meters deep it is impressive. The ride to Colca Canyon was amazing. Taking the routa 109 out of Arequipa you begin to climb in to higher desert plains. Riding the dusty road through the valleys mountain peaks would make special appearances. The landscape was breathtaking. You would peak over one mountain, and you could see the road leading off in the distance to the next mountain peak.

Coming over the final mountain range, the valley revealed itself in glory. A massive cavernous crack in the ground.

Spending the night in Cabanaconde is where most of the trekking to the bottom of the canyon takes place. Temperatures range from 35 in the day to 5 at night. It’s not uncommon to get a sunburn in the day and then freeze at night.

For me the ride to Colca Canyon was enough, I didn’t take the trek to the bottom. I did some small hikes to some miradors and that was enough for me.

After my morning hike my plan was to ride to Puno. My last official stop in Peru. Leaving, Cabanaconde, I stopped at the famous Mirador to see the Condors. There were so many people there I thought to myself, there won’t be any Condors here. Leaving my camera behind, I walked to rails at the edge of the canyon. Not two seconds later two giant Condors flew by my head! Okay….I’ll get the camera. I didn’t have to wait much longer before seeing more Condors sailing by running the edges of the cliffs and soaring high when catching a thermal lift.

After getting my shots, I rode a little further down the road to see a geyser.

One more night in a small town and the off to Puno.

(Founds some hot baths)

So this is where maybe not relying on gps and electric maps is a good idea. The next morning I started my trek to Puno. 5 hours according to the GPS. A lovey paved road took my out of the canyon and over a beautiful, but cold mountain range. Down into a valley. The GPS wanted me to take a road that was listed and numbered, but looking like a two track trail, I checked the gps for other options. Further down the road an improved dirt road took me closer to Puno. Signs of construction and signs of towns were along the route. This was reassuring. Next the GPS says take a right. Again on a numbered route and there was a sign for a town. The road was less improved but appeared well traveled. I reached the town listed on the sign, and after the town, that’s when things go interesting.

The route out of the town started to deteriorate, but it still looked as if it was well traveled and I did pass on suv coming the other way. Not to far after I came across what I most wanted to avoid, a river crossing.
I could see the road across the river, and from what I could see, the river didn’t seem very deep. The water was low and there were patches of earth dashed across the river. I could see tire tracks going in in several locations. I scouted up and down and decided that I could cross with little effort.

Now, I know that I should have walked and scouted the entire crossing, but I was confident that I could do this with little effort, so off I went. The first section was maybe 20 feet (4 meters) wide and the water never went higher than axle. The second was shorter, but a little deeper, two more to go, so far so good! The third was even shorter and I could see that it was even deeper. Looking for a better path, I found what looked to be better. Powering up, and buffering with my clutch I entered the third water section. The water was deep, up to my knees. All was going well until my front tire reached the embankment on the other side I hit a notch in the rocks. The bike came to a stop. With the current and the depth, my bike started to tip. I knew I was going over, so I quickly hit the engine cutoff switch. The bike tipped, but my Mosko Moto luggage kept the bike from going under the water. Stepping off, I was able to lift the bike upright. Taking a moment to catch my breath, I cycled the ignition and the bike fired to life. Powering up, I was able to power walk the bike up on to the embankment. I was sure I saved the bike from drowning, but water had entered the airbox from holes I had drilled in the side to allow more air for the altitude. A minute after I restarted the bike and cleared the crossing, the bike stalled.

I knew the water had now been sucked into the engine, fortunately it was a small amount. I knew I had to clear the water from the piston. So I went to work. First. Take all the luggage to the far side of the crossing while I let the airbox drain. Next is to remove the gas tank and spark plug. Remove the air filter and squeeze the water from it. Let it dry in the sun. After removing the spark plug, I cycled the engine. The engine cranked and water came spraying out in spurts. I continued to crank the engine every couple of seconds so I would not over task the starter motor. I dried the spark plug and placed it back in the engine, reconnected the tank and gave the engine a try. The engine cranked, but would not come to life. I could tell my battery was not performing well either. Being almost two years old, I has intended to replace it in La Paz. But now it didn’t have enough power to continue starting the motorcycle. I was stuck.

I reassembled the motorcycle and was able to push it to the far side of the river. Now being on firm ground and on the far side of the road, I assessed my situation. Fortunately I had cell reception. I looked at my maps to see the closest town which was about 10kms. I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere on a road that seemed to have very little traffic. For two hours I waited without a single vehicle. I contemplated the fact that I might be here for the night. I even tried to bump start the bike without avail.

Stuck in the high altitude of the Peruvian desert, the sun was intense and beating down. But I knew the night was going to be freezing. I had message the hostel owner in Arequipa where I had stayed. He was a motorcycle guy and maybe he knew someone in the area. At best he would be able to get someone by tomorrow. Then, when I was preparing to bunker down for the day, a truck came on the horizon.

I met the truck at the river and explained my situation and he kindly offered me a lift with the motorcycle to the next town. I was saved! I knew that if I could get to the next town I could take the time to clear the engine of any remaining water. Using the dirt embankment of the road we loaded the bike and my gear on the truck and off we went. My saviour. Juan Carlos worked at the local damn as a geologist. He told me that this road is not traveled often and I was lucky. We arrived to the town and Juan Carlos asked around for a battery. I tried to explain that if I could get cables, I could start the bike. But he thought that we would find any in the small village. He told me that Arequipa would be the best bet, and that he was going there. That’s where he lived. So, I guess I am going back to Arequipa. I messaged Chamo the hostel owner and told him I was coming back and he awaited me.

We arrived in Arequipa a few hours later. I offered money for gas, but Juan Carlos refused. Sometimes I am completely amazed by the kindness that people have. The next day, Chamo, drove me around to find a good battery and helped me clean the bike and get it started again. He was also super nice and helpful.

The next day I set off to Puno, my last stop in Peru. Puno is the main town next to Lake Titicaca.

The road to Puno was paved all the way and, again, had spectacular views.

Puno was an okay town. It had a walking street with restaurants and bars and the lake. There I met up with my new friend Jacob, who I originally met in Caraz.

Jacob was also having a streak of bad luck. He was riding to Puno when a drunken idiot on a bicycle rolled out in front of him. He hit the bicycle and crashed. Although he had damage to his motorcycle he was able to ride to Puno. There I helped him straighten his steering and a few other bits. We decided that we would ride through Bolivia together.

My last bit in Peru was to visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. The islands are made from the reeds that grow on the lake. Apparently the islands were made to keep away from the Incas and the Spanish. As the reeds at the bottom of the island rot away, they add new ones to the top.

The tour was obviously a tourist trap. You pay to take a boat to one of the islands, and once there they put on a show and then put you in another boat which cost more money. All in all it was a fun experience and I guess worth paying the tourist fees.

Tomorrow we head off to the mystic land of deadly roads, salt flats, and Gasoline roulette. Bolivia


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