December 28-29, 2011
Ever since the brake line went out and I decided to stay in Peru my holiday plans have been altered. The original plan was Lima for Christmas and Ecuador for New Years. I still wanted to make it to Lima for New Years to see Penny and her family. So Wednesday morning I set off to cross Peru. I really wanted to take the northern route this time because I have read on several motorcyclists’ posts that it is one of the most incredible stretches of road between Alaska and Argentina. Okay, I’m in.
Wednesday morning I set off to Abancay. I have done this road once but I was in a massive hurry and didn’t have time to take any pictures or enjoy it. The morning began with dense fog and I was pretty disappointed, but it started to clear up when I got to a lower altitude and man was it amazing. I’ll let the pictures to the talking.
I got to Abancay in 4 hours and then headed off on a road I’ve never taken before to Andahuaylas. It was a one lane dirt road that immediately twisted up over 6,000 feet from where I started! The views were simply amazing.
The whole time I just kept thinking, “This is so amazing. This is so amazing. Wow.” I don’t usually get lonely and I wasn’t this day, but all I could think was that someone needs to get down here and experience this life with me. Volunteering at an awesome project and sprinkle in these killer rides? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
But when I got to the top all of a sudden my steering felt way out of wack. I pulled over and saw I had my first flat of the trip. Great. But I was ready for it. I got the tire off the bike no problem, but I had a ton of trouble breaking the bead (getting the tire off the rim). Somehow it was melted on or something. But I finally got it off and found a hole in the tube. I could patch that later, I always carry an extra. A woman from the mountains walked by and stopped to help, laughing at me and calling me gringo. We had a nice little chat and soon enough I was ready to go again. I still had a long way to go and it was 2 hours from getting dark. I wasn’t super excited about showing up in a new city after dark but I wanted to press on so I took off.
I ended up making it with plenty of light and settled in at a pretty nice place. I was impressed with the town. There were tons of people out and they seemed pretty friendly. I had to park my motorcycle a few blocks away at someone’s house which worked out well. I counted 122 complete 180 degree turns from Ollanta to Andahuaylas. That is a good day.
The next morning I was up early because I knew I had over 9 hours of driving through some rather spectacular mountains. During the night I was awoken several times from the heavy rains outside. It is rainy season and I knew I was taking a chance heading through the mountains. I hoped I would avoid the worst of it.
It was down to a sprinkle when I left around 7:30 am. The first 20 minutes weren’t so bad even though it was really cloudy, but as soon as I got up to around 11,000 feet it got ugly. The fog was so thick I could barely see anything. Then it started pouring down rain. Every once in awhile the fog would clear enough so I could catch a glimpse of a vast valley or monstrous peak, but that was it. My rain gear was good, so I felt comfortable on the bike, but after several hours I started to get really frustrated. I still had a day and a half of riding through the mountains. And this was it? Fog and rain? But then it started to get dangerous. By the third time I almost flew off the road on an unmarked hairpin curve I couldn’t see fully in the fog, I thought about heading back. My options were slow way down, take an extra day and miss New Years with Penny, or turn around. I was upset that I could see none of this famed scenery too. I stopped in a small town at a gas station and chatted up the locals for about a half hour. They told me it was basically the same for the next 12 hours of driving I had ahead of me. Arg.
In the end I decided that safety and not wanting to push it would win out. I can do it again in June and actually see stuff. I turned around. So that was it. I really was hoping to be sitting there after New Year’s staring at the Pan American and having the crossroads post come true. But instead it happened at a gas station in Chincheros chatting with a few locals. Driving home would be a killer adventure that I could still easily do someday. But life is good here and the thought of two more months in Ollantaytambo makes me happy. I will probably import the bike officially and bounce back and forth between teaching at Grand Haven and helping at the dorm in Peru for the summers. Maybe I’ll start a motorcycle tour company.
The ride back to Albancay was more fog. I had to drive with my visor up in order to see, and my face was soon covered in ice. And that single lane dirt road was actually really dangerous. It had buses, trucks, semis, mini vans, and taxis mixed in with dozens of blind curves. During one stretch of construction a double-decker bus cut me off on a corner. My right leg was hanging over a 1,000 foot drop and the bus actually hit my left side case as I squeezed by. Not fun.
But right at the end of the dirt road, I saw a large creature scurry across the road. I slammed on the brakes. Was it? YES! It was a gigantic wild tarantula! Sweet! I took a bunch of pictures and tried to get my head in the shot with it. It was a spectacular creature and I wanted to take it home. But I didn’t want to hurt it so I just let it be.