And so it begins...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Malindi, May 2, 2012.

  1. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Yeah, but I'm leaving tomorrow via a brand new beautiful 500 km road through the Amazon jungle. Should be fun.
  2. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    That should be neat. I'd very much like to see the Amazon someday.
  3. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    October 26, 2012 - From Baños I rode along the eastern route down Ecuador, thereby staying off the Pan American highway. The latter is a much better road and quite fast but it passes by a lot of nicer areas.

    The eastern route takes you down along the outskirts of the Amazon rainforest, although I failed to spot any Anacondas on the way. From the E45 I took the E40, which is a brand new road snaking together a number of towns and villages. Close to Cuenca, you get deposited on the Pan American again. For those who like an unending amount of twisties on a new concrete road, this is definitely the way to go.

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    In Cuenca, I ended up in a hotel that was probably of stature back in the 50's or 60's. Although grand in design, it had wilted over the years to become a caricature of itself, with staff dressed in museum quality outfits with an attitude to match.

    Cuenca is reputed to be one of the nicest cities in Ecuador.

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    The downtown core has a number of worthwhile sights for sure, but personally I didn't understand the fuss about the place. I visited a few of the museums, including the reputed central bank museum with its mock displays of Ecuadorian life. The most interesting items where the shrunken heads, created by the natives.

    The churches were quite elaborate inside.

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    All in all Cuenca wasn't my place and after a day of thoroughly crisscrossing the place on foot I decided to press on.
  4. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    October 28, 2012 - I pressed West to stay off the Pan American again. For the first time in months, I dropped below 2,000 meters and got all the way down to about 30 meters above sea level. The quality of the roads in places was excellent and using 5th gear again was a happy change too, with speeds to match for longer stretches.

    The target for the day was a small town called Zaruma, nestled high in the mountains. On the way there, I went through all sorts of terrain, from desert mountain roads with endless gravel to lower Amazon-like vegetation and fog so dense I could not see my own front wheel anymore.

    Slowly the road climbed out of the clouds and fog created by the Garua, the dry wind that hits the lower western slopes of the Andes during this time of the year. Zaruma is a small town that is on the UNESCO watch list to be a world heritage site. It's pretty unspoiled with scarcely a decent hotel to be found and restaurants that all serve the same food, three times a day.

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    I found a small hostal right on the main square with a room overlooking the square and church above. Since it is somewhat higher up, the sun seems to shine all day long, with clouds visible in the valleys.

    Small, steep streets with stairs everywhere are the order of the day.

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    The tourismo office remained firmly closed during my time there. I met one other Western tourist in my three days here. Sadly she had to leave back home to Germany all too soon...

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    You can usually tell when people are not used to tourists in a small town. My Teva sandals caused glances and smiles wherever I went. The next stop from here is the Peruvian border.
  5. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    November 4, 2012 - I crossed the border into Peru a few days ago. It was relatively painless, probably one of the better border crossings to take. Mind you, I avoided the Pan American highway crossing and went for the crossing at Huaquillas.

    The target for day one in Peru was Piura, a large town on the coast and quite far into Peru. The desert of Northern Peru is incredibly uninteresting but unlike Baja, there were some very long stretches of absolutely straight road that made for great day dreamers. There was no traffic at all for hours it seemed and the mind could work overtime as the bike practically floated by itself. Ultimate helmet time.

    Piura came and went, and the next day I headed for Trujillo. On the way there, I had the unique opportunity to combine business and pleasure. I pulled off at six degrees south of the equator and peered into the desert. And there it was, a large shimmering salt lake, part of Growmax Agricorp. It's always good to go and take a look at your own investments.

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    Growmax is about to start producing potash and other minerals using simple solar evaporation. It's a sideline business to Americas Petrogas, an Argentinean oil company I invested in about five years ago.

    More desert lay ahead and I pressed on, zooming out on the GPS to see how far I could go before cities would start to appear on the map. All twelve satellites were at more than 75 percent strength, something only seen when far out at sea usually. Emptiness redefined. I had a blast.

    Arriving in Trujillo, I parked the bike in the lobby of Hostal Colonial, a huge compound with more than fifty rooms I estimate. It's a very friendly place to hang out and they got everything right.

    Right in front of the hostal, a wedding was taking place later in the evening and I ran back to grab my camera.

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    The photographer was a bit of a strange character. He ran up to me and asked what I was shooting with while his assistant was duly waiting with some lights for the bride and groom to appear from the bowels of the church.

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    Trujillo is a very pleasant little town. I loitered around taking pictures pretty much every day.

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    On day two of my visit, I booked a Spanish speaking tour of the Chan Chan ruins, in part to force-feed myself some Spanish. It was a hopeless effort, as the guide rattled on at warp speed to the point where even the locals had to ask him to repeat himself.

    Chan Chan is somewhat interesting. Although a decent set of pictures will do you more good than visiting the site itself.

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    The toy museum was a nice change from the mildly boring anthropological museum.

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    Tomorrow I head into the mountains, away from civilization.
  6. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    November 8, 2012 - I stayed an extra day in Trujillo to buy and mount a front tire. I was glad I did, because the day after, it got put to good use.

    From Trujillo I went direction Chimbote, from where I cut up to Cañón del Pato, after seeing a GoPro video of it from a fellow rider. It certainly proved to be a challenge, with hours upon hours of rough gravel roads, some parts with extensive damage from construction equipment.

    The place was barren and rugged, with not a soul in sight a lot of the time.

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    The canyon walls at places overhang so much they are separated by a mere six meters. Spot the bike.

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    And tunnels, endless tunnels. All covered in fine sand with hidden ruts and nothing to provide any reflection. Single track, all of them, so honking profusely is the only way to get noticed as a bike. This is a small one. Some of them were just featureless black holes you offer your life to.

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    The ride ended in Huaraz, a place I had visited in 1996. Close to the main square I found a small hotel. I decided to stay a day and fix my speedo which had lost the magnetic pickup when I changed the tire. It rained pretty much constantly for the 36 hours I was in Huaraz. I left in the rain early in the morning and was rolling by 7:00 AM.

    The ride to Huánuco was really varied but not technically challenging. Aside from a muddy detour for about a kilometer, it was all paved.

    About half an hour out of Huaraz, I found myself at 4,000 meters - the highest point for the day ended up being 4,667 meters. To my left I had a nice view of the Cordillera Blanca.

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    The roads twisted and turned higher and lower all day, with lots of blind corners and looming truck traffic. No near misses, but it wasn't a place to gaze off dreamily in the distance for too long either. Numerous small villages scroll past your visor, women dressed in traditional outfits, cows lingering on the road while suspicious looks from small children follow you.

    A lot of people are "chimping" their phones and don't even notice me ride by. Nobody escapes Claro and Movistar's influence, even here.

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    And then I came upon this.

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    The Toyota van I'd been playing tag with for most of the day. He was faster most of the time, but then I overtook him when he was letting people on and off at various points. The van was toast as the drive train was laying on the ground. The truck was going to need a bigger truck to get moving again. The van was pulled backwards, leaving enough room to skirt around, which everyone did at the same time, South American style.
  7. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    What does chimping a cell phone mean?
  8. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    "Chimping", as in being transfixed by the pixels on your smart phone while at the same time manipulating the keyboard with both hands. Similar to what a Chimpanzee does when he examines whether something is edible.
  9. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    November 12, 2012 - From Huánuco to Huancayo, more stunning scenery and smooth roads made up most of the ride.

    The road slowly winds its way higher and higher to Huancayo.

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    The route crosses the Altiplano, frequently well over 4,000 meters. The Altiplano is the second largest and highest plateau in the world after Tibet, with an average height of 3,750 meters. The main road is in perfect shape and there is little traffic. Unremarkable little towns come and go and sometimes the area is really deserted as far as the eye can see.

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    In Huancayo a waypoint from Adam Lewis leads me straight to Hostal America, a small leafy place a few blocks off the main drag with a spot to park the bike. In a small eatery I order the most expensive thing on the menu at about $4.

    The plan from here was to go to Ayacucho and then onwards to Cuzco, following the highlands. The next morning a conversation with the hostal owner makes me question the wisdom of my route and twenty kilometers onwards, the paved road ends, with bumpy ruts snaking overtop a hill out of sight. A quick check with some elderly fixtures on the local main square confirms it's about eight to ten hours with a minibus for a mere 150 kms. Hearing of my plans, I am handed a bottle of water and some crackers by a woman from a nearby stall. Her gesture, in combination with the 500+ kms of brutal road from Ayacucho to Cuzco ahead make me cave in and I turn around towards Lima.

    The ride to Lima is unremarkable and crossing the Carretera Cental is a snooze, although the route touches 4,781 meters at one point.

    In Lima I head for Miraflores and take refuge in The Flying Dog, a fancier hostal with tiled floors in the bathroom and consistent hot water, a novelty, for a few days. From here the plan is to head to Arequipa and then Bolivia.
  10. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    November 16, 2012 - The ride from Lima was a novelty. Smooth tarmac, fast highways and no mud or ruts as had been the routine of the last few riding days. We made good time to Nazca, where we spent the night.

    Having already seen the Nazca lines once, we passed on that adventure. We did take a quick detour to take a look again at Chuachilla, the dessert burial grounds where in 1996 we saw Inca mummies scattered in the dessert.

    The place had been Disney-fied, with mummies propped up in their respective graves, skulls cleaned and hair put back where it once belonged. A far cry from the open pit graves and randomly scattered bones we saw before.

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    Nevertheless, it still had a certain charm and novelty, but it was a far cry from before.

    The ride continued and by nightfall we reached Arequipa, a city I absolutely loved in 1996 and thankfully, not much had changed here. The central square hadn't changed a bit.

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    We rode around a bit and ended up in the same hostal Regis we stayed in back in 1996. It hadn't changed a bit but they had cleaned up the place a lot. A bargain for $12 per person, two blocks from the Plaza de Armas.

    Nighttime photography was the first order of business.

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    There is no end to the interesting little backstreets.

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    I spent an entire day shooting inside the Santa Catalina Monastery.

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    After a few days in Arequipa, we moved to Hostal Pirwa, as our old place was now in the middle of the party district and we got little sleep. Our new hostal was a mini-palace, with a huge room, wood paneled siding and sculpted ceilings. We found it thanks to two Aussies, Linda and Andy, whom we had met in hostal Regis. At one point, we all went to the cathedral and suffered through the guided tour to allow us on the roof and to see some more of the interior.

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    Some of the hardware in the bell tower was quite impressive.

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    The tenth or so largest pipe organ in the world.

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    It's said that the Mayan calendar ends somewhere around December 18, 2012. The sun was certainly a little spooky at times.

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    Jan left a few days ahead of me to visit Colca Canyon. He returned the next day with an intermittent charging problem that we'll have to tackle before we can move on.
  11. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

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    Dammit. I wish I wouldn't have seen this thread. Its hare enough keeping my thread up to date without getting distracted by threads like yours! :lol3:rofl:lol3

    Great pics! Nice to see some people on REAL BMWs. :deal

    Shiny(ish)-side up!
  12. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Sometimes you get lucky. This morning we pulled off the front cover of Jan's bike and the charging problem was plainly obvious. His brushes were worn to the point they were not contacting the rotor properly. They were replaced jut before his trip and whoever did the job messed it up. Dead brushes and stator in hand, we flagged down a cab to see if he could take us to a car repair shop. He got the hint looking at what we were holding and dropped us off near a string of car repair and parts supply places. Within a few minutes we were in possession of two new brushes (all of $77 cents...) and got a friendly pointer to another store where I could use a soldering iron. Half an hour later we were on our way back and the problem was solved. Tomorrow we press on to Puno, before hopping into Bolivia via Copacabana.
  13. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    November 27, 2012 - After replacing the brushes on Jan's bike, we left Arequipa the next morning for Puno. The road was smooth and fast. Right out of Arequipa, the road winds ever upwards. The high of the day was around 4,600 meters.

    There was little to no traffic for most of the way.

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    Even at an average height of 4,400 meters, the bikes ran well and we covered a lot of distance at 100 km/h or so.

    We approached a deep blue lake ringed with green hills and Jan pulled over, I presumed to take a picture. Instead he said his electricals were acting up. A quick check revealed the battery was down to 8.8 volts so clearly no charging was taking place. Popping the front cover off the bike, a quick test confirmed the alternator rotor had malfunctioned. Luckily Jan had a spare so we contemplated changing it right then and there.

    Then, the unthinkable happened. A Brazilian motorcyclist pulled over and told us he was with a group of others, including an escort vehicle pulling a motorcycle trailer. Five minutes later, about ten other motorcyclists and a few escort vehicles were parked alongside the road and Jan's bike was on the trailer.

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    Off we went, back to Arequipa. The hotel owners had a good laugh at our expense and put us in the same room we had vacated a few hours earlier. After dinner we swapped the bad rotor out and brought the battery to a place where it could charge overnight.

    The next morning, our second attempt to head for Puno failed right at the start. Jan's bike refused to start as the battery didn't hold the overnight charge. Off we went to buy a new battery, which went surprisingly quickly. At the end of a long day, we ended up in Puno and connected with our Australian friends again. After dinner we all decided Puno wasn't that great of a place so tomorrow we're all heading for Copacabana in Bolivia.
  14. MikeinSA

    MikeinSA Long timer

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    Some of these pictures belong in National Geographic - absolutely fantastic. I'm really enjoying the report. Be safe!
  15. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Thanks! Much appreciate the comment. There are more pictures here:
    http://www.nohorizons.net/2012/slideshows.html
  16. canuck

    canuck Been here awhile

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    Rescued by a tour company.

    How embarassing :d
  17. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    True :-)
  18. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    December 1, 2012 - From Puno, the road to Bolivia runs alongside lake Titicaca. It was a tranquil ride and after a few hours we arrived at the most lackadaisical border crossing so far on our trip. No hassle, just a few quick stamps to get us out of Peru. Maybe all of ten minutes.

    The Bolivian side was just as relaxed. We had to wait for about twenty minutes before the customs officer came back from lunch. We sat in the shade and had out typical on-road lunch, a diet Coke and a bag of chips. A few kilometers further, we arrived in Copacabana, a dusty fishing town with a near-empty tourist infrastructure. It was a sleepy place and a good stop for a day.

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    The markets and surroundings made for good places to shoot some of the locals.

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    Aside from a day's rest and Jan changing his oil, not much happened. We connected with our Australian buddies again for dinner and a walk around town.

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    The next stop is La Paz, the highest capital in the world.

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  19. bkg123

    bkg123 Been here awhile

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    I just wanted to say thanks for this great ride report. I'm following a lot of your route in the spring from Portland down through Nevada to Yuma, then up the coast back home. You've given me some great insights into where to stop, what to see and mostly, what the roads will be like in early May. I want to ride before the furnace kicks on down south but after the passes are fairly clear. Its kind of a short window of opportunity. Thanks again.
  20. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Glad to hear it could help you out. One of these days I am going to post all the Garmin files on my site as well. I've kept the tracks of each riding day, organized by country. What might help there is that the end points are inevitably at a cheap hotel with wifi … :-)