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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JimsBeemer, Mar 6, 2019.
Thanks - I will let them know about that!
I saw that thread on the Panamerican Riders FB page - thanks so much for helping them out. Sounds like the perfect solution if the Ecuadoran transportation issue can be solved. Perhaps the FB group ScotsFire mentioned can help.
Glad our reports and experiences have been of use!
Time for some catch up! We are in Cusco at the moment. But we got here via Nazca, coming down the coast south from Lima. Based on our "pace", we needed a half-way stop and I was planning to stay in Ica, but another rider named Glenn Hamburger, who has followed our FB page, had been through there and sent me a message recommending we stay at this oasis just outside of Ica, called Huacachina. And that's how he described it - an oasis. So I looked at the Google satellite view, and ... it is a classic desert oasis! We have benefited so much from the trip reports and direct input from other riders; Glenn's tip turned what we expected to be a forgettable whistle-stop into an unforgettable stay! We were only there just hte one night, but we got in early enough to explore and enjoy the oasis and dunes, and there were a lot of good options for dinner. Only downside is that it is a tourist destination with lots of ... tourist. But so are we!
Google Earth satellite view of Huachachina. When I saw this, I thought "... got to go there!"
We found a hotel (Hotel Claudia II) with a garage right at the entrance to the village that is comprised of a band of businesses and hotels surrounding the small lake at the center of the oasis. This is the street just outside the garage, going into the village. The "mountain" in the background is a giant sand dune - the oaisis is surrounded by huge sand dunes that are something to behold.
This is a zoom shot of the ridge of the largest dune. People were climbing up to the top, and "sand-boarding" down on what looked just like snow boards. There were a few that were good at it, and they looked just like snow boarders as they came down.
We hiked up on the ridge of this dune to watch sunset.
Run Carol! There were a lot of dune buggies offering rides out on the dunes. As you will see below, the dunes just go on and on as far as you can see. Lots of space for these buggies to roam around. I saw one guy on a motorcycle!
Selfie by sunset glow.
From Ica we headed to Nazca, to see the famous lines. But on the way, right on the side of the Panamerican, you come to a tower where you can pay a few Soles see the Palpa lines. The Nazca were ancient, pre-Incan civilization, dating from about 200BC to 650AD. But the Palpa lines are thought to pre-date the Nazca by a 1,000 years. History here in Peru is so "deep" in time scale.
This is the tower for the Palpa lines view. We were the only people there until we were about to leave. It was unattended when we went up the tower, but the attendant showed up so we had to pay - but it was very cheap, something like 5 /S each (less than $1 USD). Nice view not only of the lines but the expansive, flat, desert.
View of the driveway to the tower, off the Panamerican, our motorcycles parked in the foreground (Carol walking).
I read that over 1600 Palpa lines and geoglyphs have been discovered - you can only see a few from the tower, but they are very interesting and it was worth the short detour and small cost.
Seems to be like a family - then up to the far upper right is a lone figure. Since there is no written or surviving oral history left by any of these people groups (Palpa, Nazca or the other pre-Incan cultures), it is anyone's guess as to what they represent, which is part of the intrigue.
In Nazca, we checked in for two nights at La Posada don Horno (great secure parking area, large enough for overlander rigs) and booked a flight ($70 each) for the next day, to see the Nazca lines as they are best observed, from above.
I think I have mentioned ... I get motion sickness. I have some scopolamine patches that work wonderfullly - you stick one behind your ear, they are waterproof, and last three days. I used them on the Stahratte and on our Galapagos tour, and it worked wonders. But they are expensive, impossible to find (I've looked) here in South America, and I have only two left. And we are hoping we can do one of the chartered flights from Ushuaia to Antartica once we get down there, and I will need one for that!! So .. not wanting to waste a patch for a 30 minute ride, I just took an anti-nausea pill I had, and figured I'd last 30 minutes.
I was wrong.
Here we are in front of the instrument of torture. I'm all smiles at this point!
And we did see the lines - this one is a whale, pretty obvious. I think trying to take photos with my camera was a major factor in getting sick. Looking through the viewfinder, zoomed in, while the plane pitched side to side to give everyone a view, was not a good combination!
This one is anyone's guess as far as I could tell. The tour guides call it "The Astronaut", to tap into the intrigue surrounding some of the fringe theories on the origins of the lines.
I played with the lighting curves on this one to pull out the detail.
If that smile looks forced, it is! What you can't see is the plastic bag I'm holding in the other hand. I spent a good part of the flight staring into the plastic bag :-( Carol was fine, as usual - I'm jealous of her constitution. But I don't get altitude sickness, she does, so I guess we are even.
To me, what is equally or maybe even more fascinating about Nazca are the Puquios, the cork-screw wells that the Nazca dug down into the underground aquifer that flows from the mountains to the sea, right under the otherwise arid desert. The Nazca tapped into this aquifer to create a thriving civilization based on agriculture, in the desert! The actual purpose of the Puquios has been debated - but a leading theory is that they corkscrew design forced wind down into the underground river, forcing the water along and into the horizontal canals that took the water to the fields. There is evidence of hundreds of these Puquios, with about 60 remaining, and some being actively used as water sources by local peoples.
You can see them clearly from the air, and it is a quick trip to go and see them up close, just outside the city.
This is a ine of Puquios, seen from the airplane. Carol took this shot while I was communing with the plastic bag.
Just outside of Nazca, you can visit this string of Puquios (I do not know if this is the same set as was seen from the plane). Cost was 10/S each, but they were out of boletas (tickets) so the young man at the gate let us in for free!
To give you an idea of scale.
You can see the aquifer flowing at the bottom of each Puquio.
We are still in Cusco, planning to head towards Lake Titicaca tomorrow. But today we got our Bolivian visas for US citizens, here in Cusco at the Bolivian Consulate. There is a lot out there on the internet on how to do this, but I wrote up our experience for another rider, and I thought I'd post it here since some of the other posts and blogs are a few years old. That said - the whole experience was pretty much what I expected based on my research - no real surprises. Useful websites:
General instructions - basically what I've summarized here: https://43bluedoors.com/2018/03/20/bolivia-visa-made-easy-for-us-passport-holders/
Official Bolivian document specifying visa requirements: Bolivian Visa Requirements - PDF
The whole process at the consulate took two hours, much of that waiting in line. The steps are the same no matter if you do this at the consulate or at the border, so I figured we saved a good hour or more of border hassle - well worth the morning spent.
Note that we did this in Cusco, but the process should be the same at any consulate (e.g., Lima or Puno). Here is the sequence of events/steps:
Step 1 - get all your documents and needed cash ready. You will need digital copies of all of these documents for Step 2.
1. Passport-type photos. You need to get the .jpg files of these images. We did not end up using the hard-copy prints we got at the same time. But the format needs to be the Passport size, in aspect ratio and print size. I read that you can just take your own with your phone (against a white background) if you know how to edit it to the right size and aspect ratio. We used a place on Ave. de Sol in Cusco. The establishment had a sign right out front saying "Passport Photos". We saw others in same area - copy places typically can do this.
2. Itinerary. Just make one up if you are not sure (like us!) I made a simple spreadsheet. This was never scrutinized, as far as I could tell. If you are entering by bus, the itinerary should match your bus ticket I guess. I did make an itinerary that ended at the border with Chile, since we do not (obviously) have airline or bus tickets out of the country - but that may have been over-thinking it.
3. Evidence of financial solvency - which can just be a recent bank statement. You can black out the account number.
4. Hotel booking. I secured a reservation for one night, matching the itinerary (Item #2), through booking.com, and printed the confirmation. I have no intention to keep this and will cancel it now that I have the visa. As with most of these documents, no one seems to look at them other than to check the box.
5. Copy of your passport front page. I read that it should be on A4 paper - we already had copies on 8.5x11, but I went ahead and got copies made on A4. Not sure it was necessary - the people at the consulate seemed pretty laid back about things, but I didn't want chance it.
6. Proof of onward travel - NOT!. Well ... we don't have any such thing, since we are traveling by our own vehicles. And it isn't in the official requirements document (link above). But in my reading, this does show up sometimes as being requested when getting the visa at the border. I just ignored this and figured I would talk to it if it came up - it did not.
7. Cash, in USD. $160 per person. Here in Cusco, the ATM's in the touristy areas (cerca de Plaza de Armas) can dispense dollars as well as soles. But they all seem to have a $200 per transaction withdrawal limit (I tried several), so I had to do two withdrawals to cover the cash needed for both of us. Thank you Charles Schwab (Charles Schwab refunds all ATM transaction fees). There is no escaping this visa fee: I read some post that implied you could escape this fee if you did the process at a consulate - not true!
Step 2 - complete the on-line application form at http://www.rree.gob.bo/formvisas/
Fairly straightforward, with most instructions in Spanish and English. You have to upload digital copies of all of the above documents as part of this on-line application process (near the end), and there are file-size limits on the uploads (clearly stated), so pay attention. I had to reduce the resolution on Carol's passport .jpg file because it was over the size limit.
When you are done, you will get a link to download a PDF of the filled-out application form, and an application number (which is also on the form). Download the completed application PDF file for the next step.
Step 3 - get a printout of the completed application you downloaded in Step 2
Go to one of the many copy shops or internet cafes to print out this and if you don't already have them, copies of the documents from Step 1. I printed out the application form in color - not sure that was needed, but the photo that you upload during the on-line application process ends up on the first page of the application pdf file, in color, so I printed it in color. Printing cost for all our documents was a few dollars.
Step 4 - Go to the Bolivian Consulate. (Oswaldo Baca 105, Cusco 08003, Peru. Google Map Link)
It is about a 30 min walk from Plaza de Armas but we took a taxi. Bring with you the documents from Step 1 plus the application form created from the on-line application in Steps 2/3. At the consulate, the sequence of events (as we experienced) is;
1. Wait in line. We had to wait 15 minutes or so at the beginning, and similar after Step 4. There were about six other people from various countries also going through the visa process.
2. Someone from the consulate staff will first take your passport and all the required documents to make sure you have everything needed. Note: I offered up my Yellow Fever vaccination certificate, but they did not want it. That requirement (or lack of) is a mystery to me - I've read all sorts of conflicting reports on the internet.
3. Once they have that packet of docs verified, they will give you a slip of paper with the amount ($160 per person) needed to be paid, and tell you to take that piece of paper to the nearby BCP bank to pay the fee. Is maybe 5 minute walk away - they gave directions (in Spanish) but I couldn't follow, so I used Google Maps - it was easy to find and is close by.
4. Walk into the BCP bank, go up the stairs to the second floor (where the tellers are), wait in line and give them the slip of paper - they know what to do, this will be no surprise to them. Pay your money (in cash), get a receipt (hold on to it!) and walk back to the consulate. Note that your passport is being held with your other documents at the consulate during this time - no worry.
5. Back at the consulate, you may have to wait in line again, but eventually they will call you and take the receipt, and complete the visa process and put the visa in your passport - this part was very quick, only 10 minutes or less for both of us.
And done! The whole process at the consulate took us 2 hours, and I probably spent a good additional hour or more getting the documents for Step 1 ready. We got to the consulate at 10:00AM, probably would have been quicker (fewer people) if we got there at 8:00AM.
As I understand, you have to go through the same process if you get your visa at the border, so I feel we saved ourselves a good hour or more of border-hassle, which to me was well worth the morning spent. And the consulate staff were professional but pleasant and helpful - border staff are not universally so disposed, in my experience
We spent two nights in Nazca, then rode straight on to Cusco. We took four days to get there - it could be done in a lot less depending on your tolerance for time in the seat, but we try to stick to a "no more than 4 hours in the saddle per day" pace (which translates to a 5 to 6 hour day with stops), and there are not a lot of stopping-off locations on the route we took between Nazca and Cusco. We might extend that rule to five hours in a rare case, but even that was not enough - the stopping places were more or less 3 hours or 6 hours (skipping a town) apart. So we ended up with a series of ~3 hour (in the saddle) days, which worked well. We have no reason to push it.
The ride was very scenic with a series of climbs followed by high Andean pain at around 13,000 - 14,000 feet, with nothing but grass, sheep, alpaca and mountains in the distance. I really enjoy this type of landscape, I think for the same reason I enjoy the High Sierra in California. It is landscape that seems to tell you "you shouldn't be here", but yet here I am, defying the fact that it seems almost uninhabitable and somewhat otherworldly. Mind you I wouldn't want to LIVE in such an environment, but I rather enjoy visiting it.
The map below shows our route from Lima all the way to Cusco - we left Lima on Sept 29, 2019 and arrived in Cusco on Oct 5, 2019, traveling every day except for one extra day spent in Nazca.
Gracias para la ruta!
Here are some photos from the four days riding from Nazca to Cusco. The four days went like this:
Day 1: Nazca to Puguio
Day 2: Puguio to Chalhuanca
Day 3: Chalhuanca to Abancay (shortest day - a little over two hours in the saddle).
Day 4: Abancay to Cusco (longest day - over four hours in the saddle)
Day 1 - headed up from Nazca and the desert. It was a nice climb, but even though you get up in mountains, it is still desert - pretty barren. But great views.
This is a "Guanaco", of which we saw many on this ride. It is one of the four Camelids of Peru, the others being the Llama, Alpaca and Vicuña. Only the Llama and Aplaca have been domesticated. The Guanaco is the only one of the four that can adapt and be found from sea level to high-Andean altitudes. This was a maxed out zoom shot - they kept their distance.
This! Just grass and rolling hills, at an altitude of about 13,000 feet according to the photo's geotag.
Lovely valley, low enough in elevation for some agriculture.
This is so typical - elevation here is 14,500 feet.
Looks like we are the bad-ass adv riders coming in from a long dirt track, but no - was just a bathroom stop right off the paved road!
Based on date/time, I think (!) this is Abancay. No geotag on this one for some reason.
Lots and lots of switchbacks over these four days - but all good road, and all good fun. Trafic was VERY light on this route, and not having to deal with lots of trucks and buses made this an enjoyable ride.
Coming into Cusco on the last day, it was raining and cold (around 40F), and we stopped in at this woman's road-side "restaurant" for lunch and to warm up. Her name is Maria. The setting was very typical; what might best be called a shack with a small kitchen, a room with few tables and chairs. Dogs, sheep and chickens running all around, and we realized that she and her husband lived in the small room behind the kitchen. Typical lunch - chicken, rice, potatoes.
But Maria was not so typical - most of the more rural people we have met have not been as interested to engage with us (we always try), she was very interested to talk with us, despite the effort invovled due to our poor Spanish. She wanted to know about our trip, where we lived in the United States - very open and friendly. We find this typical in cities and larger towns, but not in the rurual areas where we have found people to be more reserved and shy when it comes to talking to us.
The Inca! After nearly two months of continual regression in time, going from one pre-Inca archeological site to another and ending with the 5,000 year old Caral civilization, we arrived in Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire. A civilization that is contemporary in comparison to the Chimu, Moche, Huari and other civilizations we have been learning about to this point. Also, by comparison, the Inca empire did not last long; only about 200 years, before the Spanish brought it to an end. But the near-contemporary status, combined with all they accomplished in that short time, makes their presence in Peruvian society today not a shadow, but a real thing. There is a real sense of being among "the Inca" as you travel in and around Cusco.
From what I understand, the Inca were not so much original innovators as they were conquerors who incorporated the agricultural and building technologies they found among their conquered peoples, refined and improved on those and then spread them throughout their empire. They provided a governmental and physical infrastructure (e.g., the Inca Roads) that allowed the spread of a a common culture as well as technologies over a huge area - from Ecuador to Chile. And the fiscal resources of such a state allowed construction of huge infrastructure projects, like the Inca roads, Aqueducts and of course Machu Picchu and other sites. They were builders and master civil engineers, and they did it all without use of things like the wheel! This quote I found in Wikipedia sums it up:
The Incas lacked the use of wheeled vehicles. They lacked animals to ride and draft animals that could pull wagons and plows... [They] lacked the knowledge of iron and steel... Above all, they lacked a system of writing... Despite these supposed handicaps, the Incas were still able to construct one of the greatest imperial states in human history.
— Gordon McEwan, The Incas: New Perspectives
To come to Cusco is to come to the Inca Empire. Despite the numerous times we've read "... before it was destroyed by the Spanish..." there is still so much of their infrastructure and buildings remaining today that their thumbprint is all around you.
Some pictures of Cusco;
Coming into Cusco, Google took us down this street (and a bunch of other steep, bumpy and slick cobblestone streets). That was challenging enough - but then from our AirBnB, we had to walk down this street just about every day to get to sites and food. It is ridiculously narrow! Pedestrians basically glue themselves to the wall to let vehicles go by, and hope it isn't one of those wide tourist vans! I had my arm bumped by a mirror once. Carol is in the foreground, lookng ahead.
Plaza de Armas
In the vicinity of the Plaza De Armas - Carol wondering "Where did Jim go?"
Plaza De Armas - another view.
Cusco as seen from the Saqsaywaman archeological site, above Cusco. We visited several sites in the vicinity of the town, in addition to Machu Picchu (pics to follow).
Zoom shot of the Plaza de Armas taken from Saqsaywaman.
At Saqsaywaman, Carol coming up the hill, Cusco behind.
Here are some pictures specifically related to the Inca presence we observed, in and around Cusco.
Museums - lots of museums! There is this tourist ticket you need to get to many of the archeological sites and museums, the "Turistico Boleto", and it costs 130 soles (about $42 USD). So you want to get the most of it and see everything you can ... but there is a thing called "museum saturation"! We determined that 2 museums in a day is the maximum. After that your legs and brain are to tired to do anything more. But they were (mostly) interesting and tied together some of the things we had seen at the pre-inca sites earlier in the trip.
An alleyway in Cusco - what does this have to do with the Inca? The stone foundation you see on the left - that is Inca stonework. Many of the buildings in Cusco are built on Inca-made foundations. The Inca stonework is amazing - more in next photos.
This is called "The Temple of Qoricancha" - it was an Incan temple that the Spanish converted into a convent. The upper portions are Spanish colonial, but the foundations here are Incan.
This shows a technique that was used to "lock" portions of a wall together for stability. The troughs in these stones would be filled with molten bronze or copper, which when cooled formed a "lock" between the two halves. This was technology that came from the indians in the Lake Titicaca area, which the Inca conquered and then incorporated their technology.
Inside The Temple of Qoricancha, these stone walls are aligned to incredible precision - through the window you can see through the windows on two additional sister walls that make up adjoining rooms, with the windows perfectly lined up. Also - note the lack of any sort of mortar. The Incas did not use mortar, and this is one of the main ways you can distinguish an Incan wall from a Spanish colonial wall. That they could cut stones to such accuracy is impressive.
The archeological site Tambomachay - the Inca built here a series of aqueducts and pools that tapped into a natural spring. The exact use of this site (like many of the sites) is not known. It may have been a spa retreat for Inca elite. The alcoves in the upper level would have held idols or possibly even mummies - We this type of structure (alcoves) in all of the pre-Incan sites as well.
Puka Pukara, an Incan fort just outside of Cusco. The stonework here is impressive not only for it's precision, but mainly for its size! We were told that this site is the one that led to fringe speculations about alien involvement, because no one has been able to figure out how they moved such large stones with such precision.
Carol walking in Puka Pukara
Puka Pukara - big stones! How did they do this?
Carol at Puka Pukara - classic Inca doorway. They did not have arches in their architecture. And note that lintel-stone! Imagine getting that up there with only people-power. Similar to when we visited Teotihuacan in Mexico, I could not help but think of the human misery that must have been a part of making these grand structures.
Oh yeah - this is a motorcycle forum! So here is some motorcycle content, trip related. Carol has dropped her bike so many times on this trip we have lost count! Mostly in the dirt, and mostly when coming to a stop and not having good footing. She has had two encounters with vehicles hitting her panniers; an oncoming bus tagged her left pannier while we are on a dirt road near Quilotoa, Colombia, and a truck hit her on the same pannier on the Panamerican, near Lima (that one was her fault, she says). Both of those times she stayed up! But most of the pannier-beatings have been from falls when coming to an emergency stop on uneven ground; even with the low suspension option on her bike, she doesn't have a lot of foot on the ground at a standstill.
As a result, her panniers have taken quite a beating and there are now few if any clean right-angles to be found in their shape. Which of course means that the lids no longer make a water-proof seal.
But Carol is very creative, and faced with this problem she came up with an idea to make what she calls a "shower cap" for her panniers. We bought some water proof fabric in Popayan, Colombia, along with some elastic band and latches, and over the course of the next week or so she hand-sewed these covers. She even has slits for the anchor-points on the lids, where her rock straps attach, and has a piece that goes under that so that any rain that makes it through runs down past the lid.
We've been in lots of rain since, and her stuff has stayed dry!
This happens from time to time!
The "Shower Cap". The elastic band at the bottom holds it on, and has a buckle for quick release to pull up the fabric in order to open the lid.
Ouch! you can see that this right-side pannier has taken a few hits. But actually the left-side has the most damage.
I think the clever part is how she allowed for the anchor points to be exposed, but still capture and re-direct any water that makes it in at these four points. We later sealed all of the seams with silicon caulk. Note the dent in the pannier at the bottom.
Great pics! We loved Cusco. Some great food places there.
Great Ride Report!
We are currently in Bolivia and I need to catch up with pictures and report, but I am going to post some current information that is out of sequence with the trip report because it may be of use to others.
1. Situation in Bolivia. The current unrest is centered around the contested presidential election. We spent four nights in Copacabana, including Sunday 20-Oct, the day of the election. Things there were totally tranquil. Then we went to La Paz for four nights - protests every night, and some roadblocks during the day, but we had no issue getting into and out of the city. We left there three days ago and drove without incident to Ururo.
From Ururo we drove (yesterday) to Sucre - and that was a different story. Here is our experience as I just posted on the PanAmerican Riders Association Facebook page:
We (wife Carol and I, two motorcycles) rode yesterday (Monday October 28) from Ururo to Sucre on Route 6 (which despite Google Maps is a complete, paved route). We ran into quite a few (~6 mas o menos) roadblocks on the main highway, some unmanned, some with crowds which in one case were NOT friendly; picked up rocks, angrily told us to get off our bikes and take off our helmets - which we did not do. Some shook my bike - but eventually lightened up and let us through. Others were more amiable. But still a hassle and lots of stress not knowing if we were going to make it past each one we came to.
Coming into Sucre around 5:00PM, there were roadblocks literally ever other block - city was totally shut down. We lost count of how many we diverted around or talked our way through - until one person told us they would end at 6:00 PM, at which point we just waited, chatted and posed for pictures. And at 6:00PM, they MOSTLY did open up - but on the last few km to our hotel we still ran into a few who didn't seem to have gotten the memo.
All in all, a very stressful, long day, to which Carol wittingly commented "Let's not do that again!"
So that is our experience - hope it is of use to others. At least in the city, there appears to be some understood schedule for what days roadblocks will happen and what hours - but we don't have that schedule!
From here we were intending to head to Uyuni via route 5, breaking the ride up with an overnight stay in Potosi. But we are a bit spooked from yesterday's experience - if anyone has current info on conditions on the route, and the towns (Potosi and Uyuni) it would be greatly appreciated. Our other option may be heading to Cochabampa and then to La Paz and exiting back into Peru, skipping Uyuni, which I'd hate to do but I don't want to get stuck either.
Item #2: Insurance for southern South America, and a shout-out to inmate TeeTwo (currently headed towards Buenos Aires and the end of his trip - great ride report). TeeTwo introduced me to Roby Speiser at http://www.speiserseguros.com.ar/#!/-english/. They provide motorcycle liability insurance covering at a a reasonable price, for minimum 6 month policy period.
Their single policy offer's coverage a large number of countries: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile
I presume cost varies depending on type of motorcycle, but for our 2017 model years BMW's (R1200GSA and F700GS) it was $94 USD for both of us, for six months. Payment has to be by wire (not ACH) to a US bank account of the underwriter - if you have a Charles Schwab account (as many riders from the USA have due to their foreign ATM fee waiver), you can easily do this online from the linked investment account (you cannot setup online wire from the checking account, only the investment account). Cost for the wire was $25, which was $5 less than Bank of America wanted. Very convenient - entire transaction is done via email and you get a PDF with your policy, with clear instructions from Roby as to which pages you need to print out and carry with you.
Thanks for the shout out...you will make me blush! 95Monster, another inmate, helped me along the way with Roby's info. Good to share the knowledge.... which brings me to point #1. Ugh, sorry to learn of your difficult experiences in Bolivia and can well understand the stress it induced. I was not entirely surprised to read of the issues, when I took a tour of La Paz back in May the young people doing the tour intimated that all was not well with Morales and his 4 term ambitions given the constitution originally limited presidents to 2 terms.
South America is a bit volatile at the moment; Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, tough for inmates in those areas heading south like yourself.
Pleased to report that all quiet in Argentina after their election Sunday.
Sucre was a great experience, ditto Potosi and the Salar is the prize waiting to delight you both, I hope you manage to get there.
In the FWIW category:
I should have added that when in I was in Potosi the mine tour guide said that the area was very ANTI - Morales. Evidently when the miners were on strike a couple of years ago Morales turned his back on them...they have not forgotten or forgiven evidently. So you may want to try and get the locals to give you a sense of happenings there.
Uyuni is dependent on tourists, so it is hard to believe they would disrupt their big source of income.
Switching back to "where did we go and what did we see" mode - last post was about our time in Cusco. We did a tour of Machu Picchu in the middle of our Cusco stay. Our AirBnB host was gracious enough to let us leave our motorcycles parked there. And since she had no one reserved for the room, she even let us leave our stuff in the apartment while we traveled by train to spend two nights in Aguas Calientes to see Machu Picchu. And no charge for those two nights we were away - perfect arrangement! Thanks Yaquelin!
We met a couple of overlanders from Germany, Wilhelm and Isabelle Bucher (link to their blog), when we were in Huanuco, Peru. They were headed north, and had already been through Machu Picchu and just raved about the guide they had hired. I figured that even doing my own research and looking at online reviews, it can still be a bit of a crap shoot picking out a guide service (just today heard a story of a bad guide experience from highly rated tour company). But here were people in the flesh who were more than satisfied, and I had the name of their guide! It was a private guide service, which costs more, but I put Machu Picchu up there with the Galapagos Islands as one of those things we were just going to pay up for because it is a must see and we are likely only here once. So I contacted the Bucher's recommended service, "Peru Top Experience" and the tour arranger, Jose, agreed to come over to our apartment to discuss the details - we didn't even have to go down to the office. I told him we wanted "Eirton" - the guide that Isabelle and Wilhem had, and he said that Eirton was available. Jose booked everything for us - train tickets, hotel in Aguas Calientes and tickets for Machu Picchu, and also for the Taxi to pick us up at the apartment and another at the train station on our way back. So nice to have all this taken care of by someone else - you get what you pay for!
We had a great time - Augas Calientes is a fascinating town, both in terms of it's location as well as it's ambiance. It is a city tucked in between towering mountains, with a transient tourist population that grossly outnumbers the residents. And transient is REALLY transient - many people stay only one night. Staying two nights gave us the option of an early morning Machu Picchu tour, with the evening to relax before heading back on the train the next day. Eirton was a great guide - he was very knowledgeable and took his time to explain things, and allowed us time for photos and just staring and taking it all in - no rush. We spent over five hours inside of Machu Picchu - and I think that technically you are only allotted four hours. We have heard that the group tours can be very rushed with half-interested tour guides, so I'm glad we paid the extra for Eirton.
We took the train from the Poroy station, just outside of Cusco, into Aguas Calientes, but on the way back there were no seats available to Poroy, so we we took the train to Ollantaytambo and had a car waiting for us there for the ride back Cusco. Big windows, and the views were amazing. The train runs up a valley with the surrounding mountains so tall that you do spend a lot of time looking up through the windows on the ceiling.
View from the train on the way to Aguas Calientes
Since we got to Aguas Calientes a full day ahead of our Machu Picchu tour, we had some time to explore. So ... we went on this trail (despite the signs, and this is on the way out). We were trying to go to "Los Jardines de Mandor" but we were on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, and this trail looked interesting. It was really tough climbing, but despite the signs it was clearly regularly used. Then we came to (next photo) ...
We then we came to this. A cliff with a rope hanging down. A couple of young men came by (that is them climbing in the photo) and I asked where this trail went. I learned that it is the trail to Phutuq K'usi, a mountain vista on the other side of the valley from Machu Picchu that is famous for affording incredible views of the ancient city. The trail is also famous for people getting hurt on, so it is now "officially" closed - but it is such a well known destination that the closure signs do not stop the determined. We decided that we were NOT determined enough to scale the vertical cliff wall with nothing but a rope of dubious condition, and so we turned around at this point. But it was still a great hike, and we did get on the trail to Mandor after we got back to the train tracks, and completed that hike. It was a long day of hiking, and just before we were about to spend a day at Machu Picchu - in retrospect we should have been less ambitious and saved it for Machu Picchu. We were really beat that night.
Our partial ascent of Phutuq K'usi did afford us some incredible views of Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes. There are two rivers meet here, and divide the city, but several foot bridges get you from one part to the other.
This is our guide, Eirton. He was great.
Glenn and Diana! They are two-up on a BMW R1200GS, and Glenn is the rider I mentioned in an earlier post, who gave us the heads up on the Oasis outside of Nazca. I failed to mention that we had met up with them in Cusco for dinner. We did not expect to meet them in Machu Picchu - but at the end of the day, as we were getting in line for the bus back down, there they were! We had dinner with them again that night, and it is not the last time our paths will cross (see Bolivia, later). I love the way we keep crossing paths with various fellow travelers we have met along the way.
Aguas Calientes the morning we were leaving - the line extending way up the street is for people waiting to get on the bus for Machu Picchu. You get an entrance ticket with a time-stamp, and they will let you on the bus if your time stamp is within some range of the current time. With this timed-entry ticket methodology, they meter in over 6,000 visitors a day. So consider that and think of the transient population in this town - many people are staying one or two nights, so the overlap means that easily over 10,000 tourist at any time, most in and out in one or two days. Must be a strange place to live!
Pizza was good - but I did not try the last one at the bottom. Is that a tourist thing or what? Taste like chicken - gamey chicken (tried it in Peru). And note the humorous but understandable mistranslated item "Alpaca Jam ..." Makes sense when you realize that in Spanish, a "J" is pronounced like an English "H".