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Old 06-24-2011, 09:21 AM   #1
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Sacred Valley of the Incas

Sacred Valley of the Incas

I was preparing to celebrate a half century of living on this planet, and was thinking how fortunate I am to be blessed with a wonderful family, fulfilling marriage, strong faith, excellent health, and a rewarding career.

Is it possible to be excessively blessed?

With a tang of guilt I was also feeling that life had gotten too comfortable lately, too predictable. I needed a challenge, a chance to face the unfamiliar, to get well outside my comfort zone and let the adrenaline flow. My wife supported the idea of a motorcycle trip.

My friend Culin had a milestone birthday coming as well; he was about to turn 40. We were business partners for many years, so I know he travels well. He also loves a good adventure. Not surprisingly the call went something like this:

Me: Hey Culin, want to go on a motorcycle trip?
Culin: Sure, where to?
Me: How about Africa?
Culin: I can't - my wife loves Africa and I wouldn't feel right going without her.
Me: How about Peru?
Culin: Sure, when?
Me: April would be good, right at the end of the rainy season. I'll book the airline tickets.







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Old 06-24-2011, 10:07 AM   #2
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Coooool
Looking forward to the rest!
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Old 06-24-2011, 11:24 AM   #3
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Lookin' good!
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Old 06-24-2011, 03:00 PM   #4
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Arriving in Cusco, Peru

Why Peru? The Sacred Valley, once the domain of the Inca Empire, would provide the opportunity to experience tremendous variations in terrain, culture, and climate. We would be traveling through tiny jungle villages at 2,000 ft. elevation and traversing 15,000 ft. Andean mountain passes. Riding at the end of the rainy season would ensure challenging water crossings, lush greenery, and (hopefully) minimal dust. Plus, we would have a chance to explore Machu Picchu.

So where in the world are we going? Peru:


The Sacred Valley:


Note: I was using a new waterproof (jungleproof) camera on this trip, and for some reason most of the pictures taken during the first part of the journey have a strong blue/green hue. Fortunately, the issue resolved itself. To complicate matters, Culin's camera was lost toward the end of the trip. He did get some great Flip videos, and hopefully he will post some to this thread .


Our flight itinerary brought us from Washington, DC to El Salvador to Lima, then on to Cusco the following day.

The gear drew a few suspicious glances on the plane.


Surprisingly, I was the only passenger using Giant Loop motorcycle luggage as checked baggage.


Jorge Chavez Airport in Lima


We had to catch an early flight to Cusco, so we stayed at the Ramada Hotel adjacent to the Lima airport and connected to it by a skywalk. It was overpriced, but clean and extremely convenient.


Due to some lung damage, my doctor had prescribed the medication Diamox to help with altitude acclimatization. It changes one's blood chemistry, affecting the processing of carbon dioxide. An unfortunate side effect is the inability to taste carbonation. As a result, beer tasted completely flat. I was unable to enjoy Culin's toast to our arrival in South America, which of course led Culin to elaborate on the fine qualities of the Peruvian beer he was enjoying. Next time I think I will take my risks with the altitude.

It was here that the first beer issue of the trip occurred. It was to become a theme.


Flying to Cusco the next morning he had our first view of Andean switchbacks.


Arriving in Cusco is an interesting experience; at an elevation of 10,860 feet above sea level the airport is one of the three highest in the world, sharing this distinction with Banga, Tibet and La Paz, Bolivia. We planned to spend two days in Cusco acclimating to the altitude before beginning our motorcycle journey, which of course would entail ascending to much higher elevations. Coming from sea level (the Washington, DC area), proper acclimatization can mean the difference between completing the trip and suffering life-threatening HAPE/HACE.

We were advised to rest upon our arrival to Cusco, but there was too much to see.

Our hotel in Cusco


The air is quite thin, and we are told the mate de coca is the best antidote.


Culin reminds me that turning 40 is far better than turning 50.


Looking down the street toward the Plaza de Arms, just a few blocks away.


An elaborate niche in the lobby of our hotel.


Fifteen minutes after checking in we decide to explore downtown Cusco:






















We happened to arrive on market day:








I cannot attest to the freshness of the Llama snouts, but they are readily available.


The local dogs are having a chill day.






Children from nearby villages bring baby llama, alpaca, and sheep to the main plaza in the hope that tourists will tip a sole ($.32 USD) or two for the photo opportunity.




We enjoyed an outdoor dinner of Lomo Saltado, local pizza, and potatoes before calling it an early night. The food was great, but again I couldn't taste the beer.


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Old 06-27-2011, 07:23 AM   #5
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Cusco and Pisac

We had planned to spend the second day in Cusco acclimating before beginning the ride, but at breakfast we decided we were ready to hit the road. I made a quick stop at the clinic for some meds (the doctor said I'd picked up Cryptosporidium and Giardia from the local water), and we were off to pick up the bikes.

We had breakfast at the highest Irish pub in the world.


Given the logistics involved in shipping our own bikes and the time constraints of a two week trip, we made arrangements with Alex Luna, owner of Peru Moto Tours. Alex is the winner of multiple Peruvian National Motocross titles and runs a quality motorcycle rental and tour outfit in downtown Cusco. Apart from Alex's riding prowess he is also perceptive; at the airport he had no trouble recognizing two guys garnishing motocross boots and carrying helmets and full riding gear as his clients.

Alex set us up with Brazilian-built Honda NX400 Falcons, equipped with Pirelli knobbies, and properly jetted for high altitude.

Picking up the bikes.




We left Cusco en route to Pisaq, viewing the archeological ruins of Sacsayhuaman on the mountainside. Overlooking Cusco is the Cristo Blanco.


Nice view of Cusco from above.




We rode through Huayllarcocha and Tambomachay, and then found an amazing vista overlooking the Urubamba River. To lend perspective, we are at 12,000 feet, the valley below is at 9,000 feet, and the snow capped mountains in the background tower to 17,000 feet.


We then descended through a series of switchbacks and crossed the Urubamba River into the town of Pisaq.






I was feeling the fever and lack of oxygen at this point, so I tried to drag Culin back to Cusco before dark. We almost made it.






It was a short but stunning ride; the following day we would hit the dirt!

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Old 06-27-2011, 05:30 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Motojournalism View Post
Coooool
Looking forward to the rest!

Thanks Motojournalism, I'm weeding through the pictures and will continue soon.

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Old 06-27-2011, 07:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by MeanStreaker View Post
Lookin' good!
MeanStreaker,

Thanks, enjoy your popcorn and I'll get through the touristy parts and on to the real ride soon.

poolman screwed with this post 03-02-2012 at 07:56 AM
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Old 06-28-2011, 07:27 AM   #8
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Huassaco, Oropesa, Pikillaqta, and El Salvador

I awoke several times during the night with fever and cold sweats. While awake I couldn't help but notice an odd phenomenon happening with Culin as he slept across the room. There is 30% less available oxygen at this altitude, so the human body compensates by hyperventilating. This hyperventilation increases the carbon dioxide concentration in the bloodstream, which in turn causes the body to cease breathing completely for ten to fifteen seconds at a time. This phase of the process is quite unnerving. Then the cycle repeats. Culin tends to snore in a prolific fashion, making him a great case study.

To experience as much as possible during our limited time Alex arraigned for Juan, a local guide, to ride with us. This was a difficult decision, but Juan turned out to be a great riding companion and proved to be invaluable in our travels through the small tribal villages, where local dialects are spoken rather than Spanish. We agreed we would each ride our own ride, meeting up at strategic points.

Our route for the day:


We traveled from Cusco to Huasaco by dirt.








I was leading down a long, tight set of switchbacks when four vicious feral dogs suddenly jumped out of the bush and attacked me. Not only were they brutal, they were clever too. When I escaped on a straightaway, they would run directly down the mountain and wait for me at the next turn. This went on at least four times. Fortunately the damage was limited to my boots; unfortunately I was wearing brand new Sidi Adventures that I bought for the trip.





The many roadside crosses illustrate the true danger of traveling in this region.


From Huassaco we continued to Oropesa by asphalt, then back on dirt to Pikillaqta, and finally on to El Salvador.




This father said his little girl liked the bike, but he wanted to know how fast it would go.








Altitude is a powerful natural diuretic.




We caught a glimpse of the road ahead, and hoped landslides wouldn't interfere with our travel. Pure naiveté, of course they would.


Remember earlier I mentioned that beer issues were to be a theme of this trip? Due to the Peruvian National elections, the sale of all alcohol, in the entire Country, had been banned from Friday through Sunday! Not a big issue in my condition, but I felt for Culin and Juan.


It wasn't until we finished our day that I noticed how drained I was; the fever had not yet broken and I hadn't been able to retain food or water for two days. The riding, however, was so exhilarating that I felt great as long as we kept moving. The adrenaline was beginning to flow.


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Old 06-29-2011, 04:52 AM   #9
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What an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-29-2011, 05:09 AM   #10
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I returned from Cuzco, Lima, Tarma on 18 June. You are dead on about the altitude......you can be in great physical shape but if you're not acclimated to the altitude, you're going to get bonked!

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Old 06-29-2011, 09:02 AM   #11
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What an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing.
zadok,

Thank you for the kind words...
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Old 06-29-2011, 09:11 AM   #12
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I returned from Cuzco, Lima, Tarma on 18 June. You are dead on about the altitude......you can be in great physical shape but if you're not acclimated to the altitude, you're going to get bonked!
It definitely adds to the challenge of riding in this region. Thanks for the post; I've thoroughly enjoyed your ride reports.
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Old 06-29-2011, 09:18 AM   #13
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Again I awoke several times during the night in cold sweats, hoping the fever was finally breaking. I had trouble getting back to sleep each time, anticipating the morning ride which would carry us past the Maras salt pans.

Our route for the day:


We would ride twisty asphalt as far as Anta, and then follow a dirt track through Chinchero to Maras.












The map indicated we were in the town of Huaypo.




The road opened up and so did the throttles. I was following Culin at nearly 100 KPH when I could see his bike doing some strange acrobatics in the distance. I slowed and found a steep, 24" deep washout crossing the entire road! I have no idea how he made it across at that speed, but he came through unscathed.


This unusual structure was located in an extremely remote area.




In this region it is common for children to be responsible for the family livestock. This boy was tending a large herd of cattle.






The salt pans of Maras have been used since pre-Inca times to capture salt water from a mineral spring and harvest salt through an evaporative process. The same "salt farmer" families have worked these ponds for generations, diverting the salty water into the hundreds of pools, waiting for the salt crystals to form as the water evaporates in the hot sun, and harvesting the salt. It is hard work, but salt was once a precious commodity.

These pictures do not depict the vastness of the salt pans of Maras. The complex is absolutely enormous.










From Maras, we continued on a dirt track to Urubamba. Juan knew of an outstanding lodge that was priced at 95 soles (less than $30 USD) per person, breakfast included.

Our lodge in Yanahuara, Urubamba






The llamas maintain the lawn, in terms of both trimming and fertilization. Come to think of it, llama was on the menu as well.


When we checked in to the lodge it was just mid-afternoon. Culin and Juan went to explore Urubamba on the bikes and I went straight to the room, completely drained. I still had a high fever, and had not been able to keep food or water down for three days. The trip to this point had been for the most part fluff, and we had some seriously challenging days ahead. As I lay in bed I faced the solemn realization that I couldn't complete the trip in this condition. I said a prayer for my family many thousands of miles away, and for my health. With dismal thoughts in my head, I drifted off and slept 14 of the next 16 hours.
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Old 06-29-2011, 11:45 AM   #14
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Great report and pictures. It brings back good memories of when I was there with my sister. The episode with the dogs sounds nerve racking.

It sounds like the Diamox is not working well for you. I guess it is hard to know without comparing the same activity with or without it. I tried to climb Kilimanjaro once but failed due to altitude sickness. I am always thinking about trying it again but using the Diamox. Did the Diamox make you nauseous?

How much did you pay for the bikes and the guide? I like to keep an eye out for cheap rentals overseas. Great that you have a good friend willing to do this with you. None of my good friends would ever do this .
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Old 06-29-2011, 12:27 PM   #15
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Great report and pictures. It brings back good memories of when I was there with my sister. The episode with the dogs sounds nerve racking.

It sounds like the Diamox is not working well for you. I guess it is hard to know without comparing the same activity with or without it. I tried to climb Kilimanjaro once but failed due to altitude sickness. I am always thinking about trying it again but using the Diamox. Did the Diamox make you nauseous?

How much did you pay for the bikes and the guide? I like to keep an eye out for cheap rentals overseas. Great that you have a good friend willing to do this with you. None of my good friends would ever do this .
Artlocks,

Juan and Culin must have somehow had advance knowledge as to where the vicious packs of dogs would be... to their great amusement I happened to be leading during each of the many attacks!

The Diamox seemed to do it's job as I had no altitude-related issues on this trip. I took it for three days before arriving in Cusco and two additional days once at altitude. The only side-effect was the inability to taste carbonation (read "beer"). The doctor was actually impressed with my pulse-ox level and diagnosed that I had contracted Cryptosporidium and Giardia infections from the local water.

The bikes and Guide were obtained through Alex Luna at Peru Moto Tours, and I highly recommend them. Their rates are published on their website, but Alex will work with you to outfit YOUR adventure and accommodate your itinerary, providing as little or much involvement as you desire.

www.perumototours.com

Thanks,
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