• Peru – Making our way South

    Posted by Loren on April 4, 2011

    I have had a standing invitation to Carjamarca for many years, as that is where my good friends Mike and Melinda live. An endless supply of fresh coffee, good food, hot swimming pool and great company is a very good reason to park the bikes and make use of the invitation. So that’s exactly what we did – kind of. A 100km ride is considered parking in our world. The ride was way up into the mountains for a personal tour by Mike of the property of his employer, a very large gold mine. We swapped our helmets and riding gear for hard hats, safety vests and steel toed boots and headed down into the pit, avoiding the 80 some odd Caterpillar 797′s (BIG) dump trucks carrying 360 tonnes of dirt up out of the pit. It is incredible the amount of earth that is moved and processed to extract a small quantity of gold. I shall forever think of that huge pit whenever I put on my gold chains and bling.

    After one last swim in the spring fed hot pool, clothes cleaned, and eyeballs rolling from caffeine, we left behind our haven in Carjamarca and headed west in what would be a two day journey to sea level. The continual Carnival celebrations find us on the lookout through each town, dodging badly aimed water balloons and attempted assassination by water gun. We have so many images in our memories of these little villages, people going about their daily life, stopping for one moment as our lives intersect briefly, and then pass by. For each photo we take, there are hundreds that we want to take but time necessitates we keep moving. And so we do; avoiding animals and their shepherds; finding a route that won’t jar the rear wheel off the bike through what could generously be called a road; breaking and accelerating in and out of corners, up and down mountains; water dripping out the sleeves of our jackets from the heat, turning into icicles at the next mountain pass as heated grips are turned to max and legs are tucked into the engine; turning a corner to find brilliantly smooth, mining company built road which abruptly ends after 5km with yet another flag person waving us to slow through one of the countless construction sites; working to keep the bike upright through mud, gravel and worst of all, bull dust.

    We are always excited to exit off the paved roads, hit the dirt and let our bikes do what they were designed for, which they do brilliantly. We are also extremely happy after hours of banging over gravel roads and clogging our lungs up with dust, to return to mans great creation of pavement. So it was with this exhilaration that we washed the dust off our visors, knocked back a room temperature Coke, and road the final 100km to Trujillo and an early mark on the beach Huanchaco. With an average rainfall of 24mm, we were surprised to see puddles of water on the main road next to the ocean. We were told that it was a result of some large waves earlier that morning, caused by the tsunami in Japan. What an awesome display of power from so far across the ocean.

    Melinda had given us clear directions to some friends house in the sugar cane fields north of Hunachaco, which we proceeded to completely confuse, getting lost in fog and sand dunes and sugar cane. A strange combination to be sure. After flashing the families photo to a dozen or so baffled farmers and tuk tuk drivers, we dismounted the bikes at their home, only to note from the GPS we had been within 100m coming in the other direction. Melinda had been watching our tracker from their computer in Carjamarca, wondering what we were doing. As is often the case, others knew where we were more than we did as a result of our tracker.

    Heading south along the flat plains we road through a hundred kilometres of asparagus and sugar cane growing in the desert sand. Irrigation from the nearby mountains provides water for this otherwise desolate land, resulting in thick, tasteless asparagus for Australians during their off season. Crossing the Rio Santa, we turned inland for the golden hour of photography, when the light pops everything that little bit more. We love riding at this time of the afternoon as the light normally coincides with no wind and less cars on the road. A harvested chili field was the backdrop for our camping site, and hundreds of firefly’s blinking like a faraway city was the main attraction. A gourmet dinner of pasta and a can of tomato sauce cooked over burning chili plants filled our tummies, and an early night was in order in preparation for our ride the next day through the Canon del Pata.

    The Canon del Pata (Duck Canyon) is the convergence of two imposing, near vertical ragged walls, eaten away by a torrid brown river and a slight, rocky, dusty stretch of semi flat area that is being passed off as a road. The “road” is 140km long, containing 32 tunnels, is 6m wide at it’s narrowest, is likely to cause heart failure to anyone that has hypertension blood pressure, and to shake out any bolt from your bike that isn’t tightened to 140 kgf. So it was with surprise that we found the road was paved, the river wasn’t beside us, and there was a lack of tunnels. Discussions with the locals at our now daily morning break of warm Coke, a muesli bar and whatever can pass as chocolate, revealed that we had missed a turn at the bottom of the mountain, a not so pleasing 1 hour 45 minutes in the opposite direction. Our fuel tanks were half full when we returned to the clearly non-signposted route, and began the pins-and-needles inducing ride through the canyon.

    When planning our trip, the Canon del Pata was one of the supposed Top 10 rides in South America. I am brought to question the criteria for the ranking, as this was the first time on the trip I actually despise being on my bike. No one component was the result of this: the heat; the dust; the jarring; the constant fear of dropping your bike into the raging Rio Santa; or sliding off the side of the cliff; or having a dust filled rut take control of your bike, pummelling you into the side of yet another, dark, black tunnel; the 5 hour detour up the wrong way; stomachs that were crying for food, sustained only by the tinniest bag of chips; but I did not enjoy it. Finally leaving the canyon behind, another 100km of sporadically joined sections of rounds of pavement unenjoyable strung together with teeth quivering potholes, found us in Huaraz, in a hot shower and eating an extremely delicious dinner.  Huaraz is located in the Cordillera Blanca, one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world. Our ride tomorrow promises to be a highlight. A very long day on the bikes makes for deep, dreamless sleep.

8 Comments | Leave a Reply

  1. Colette on April 4, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I really enjoy reading about your tour! Wish I could experience a trip like this, but reading your blog posts is the next best thing! You should consider publishing a book upon you return!!! Safe journey home!

  2. Donna on April 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Your comment: I always have a comment, or two! 1. I like your view out of the tent. 2. Are those guinea pigs for supper!? 3. Whatcha doing to that cactus!?

    • Loren on April 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Those are guinea pigs for supper, luckily not ours! I am carving Steel Horse Tour into it, which is somewhat apparent in the next photo.

  3. Sue Sparks on April 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    It’s been too long since I have visited your site and I can see what I am missing.You look like you are having an amazing time,thanks for sharing it with us.
    Murray are you okay? There is a rumour going around auzzie and would love to know if all is just okedoke.
    It is still dry here Mart is about to sell his beloved cows as it will by a while before any green grass comes this way! Nick turned 18 on Sunday Love from us all Sue Mart,Harry,Nick.Emma and Laura

  4. philip orth on April 7, 2011 at 4:26 am

    met you in at the border in mexico,glad your doing ok
    philip in sierra vista AZ

    • Loren on April 15, 2011 at 12:58 am

      That seems many moons ago! Mexico was great, no problems at all, thanks for your encouragement on that first tentative day.

  5. Suzette on April 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    After all the great photos and stories, I’m sorta embarrassed to be commenting on the cow and chicken (but obviously not embarrassed enough to not post) , but that is funny. Who is asking who, I wonder?? Suzette (Linda & Reece’s friend)

  6. Kim-Marie on April 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Wow, the mine looks really interesting (how sad am I?) Enjoy the next few legs, and I will look forward to the next installment KMC