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Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Road Less Traveled | Northern Peru...


Sunday, May 11, 2014

First off, happy Mother's Day to everyone...  It's extremely challenging to be away from family, especially on days like today when I'd love to be having a nice warm lunch and/or dinner with my own mother.  However, I think she understands my desire to pursue this journey in its entirety, and the reasons behind it.  So, hopefully moms won't hold it against me for missing out this round!  

Speaking of the journey, the past week has been incredible to say the least!  I went 5 days with no shower, experienced tears of joy, tears of pain, landslides, roadblocks, intense wilderness, 1k-16k ft altitude changes, 33F-88F temp changes, bike issues (cutting out/stalling when coming to a stop - possible fuel pump?), desolate camping, $2 dingy hotel rooms, and an amazingly diverse mix of emotions along the way.  Somehow, this past week was my favorite, and least favorite all wrapped in one.  I was scared at times, lost on occasion, dropped the F8 a few times in deep mud, became frustrated with the bike for the first time, and was very, very tired.  However, when I rolled into Huaraz late yesterday all of the memories of the past week were positive, and continue to put a smile on my face.  Peru has been equal parts misery and euphoria, pleasure and pain, all wrapped in one.  Something I've found very difficult to explain... 

My last post was from Cajamarca, a beautiful colonial city nestled high in the northern Andes.  I didn't have a plan on where to stay when I arrived, so rode around the town and square a bit to get acclimated.  I popped in one hostel, but they didn't have estacionamiento (parking) for the bike.  The nice gentleman directed me a couple blocks down to another hospedaje (inexpensive hotel), which turned out to be perfect.  There was a basic private room and secure parking for the bike directly outside my door.  When I arrived (after my rough night in Pimentel) I immediately stripped down and took a hot shower, which was amazing and would turn out to be my last for some time.  I explored Cajamarca and especially liked the main plaza, and Cerro Santa Apolonia (garden mirador/lookout point). 

From Cajamarca I made my way south to Huamachuco.  I found a nice little hotel directly on the main plaza for somewhere around $5 USD.  Again, the accommodations were VERY basic (read jail cell basic), and had a shared bath, but it was nice to flop down on the bed after the day's ride to get some much needed rest.  Literally the only thing I had energy to explore was a cafe two doors down, and a few of the shops surrounding the plaza.  Huamachuco is a beautiful little village with very nice people, but there isn't much to see/experience, so it was just a stopping point for me.  

From Huamachuco I intended to head south quickly to Pallasca.  Well, that certainly did NOT happen.  First, my route was interrupted by several roadblocks and landslides.  Then, as I turned off to head southeast towards Mollebamba there was a bridge out, which forced me to turn around and replan the route/day.  I ended up having to climb higher and higher through the freezing cold Andes west, and then take 3N south and then east through Santiago de Chuco, ultimately to Mollebamba.  The route was tough, long, curvy, and miserably cold and wet.  But, once I made it to Mollebamba, I had a memory card full of incredible pictures and a smile on my face.  From Mollebamba it was a short jaunt south, up another incredibly twisty road to the small village of Pallasca for the night.  Pallasca was the sleepiest/smallest of them all.  However, through some advice from fellow ADVrider Toby from Huanuco, I was able to easily find the only hospedaje in town, which also allowed me to pull my bike into the hallway for the evening. After the tough day, I was out like a light at around 7:30pm after a steaming bowl of cock foot soup (what I have started calling the soup here w/ a huge chicken foot sticking out typically).  

The next morning I woke at 6am ready for another tough, long, but amazing couple of days on the bike.  The route would take me south/southwest from Pallasca on majority dirt/mud/rocky roads down to Chuquicara.  From there, I hooked a left (east) and rode through the absolutely amazing Cañon del Pato.  CdP dropped me into Caraz, and then from there I headed south to Huaraz, which is where I am now.  I was scrolling through the pictures, and trying to think of a way to write/describe the route, roads, scenery, and emotions experienced along the way.  However, it is absolutely impossible.  The area is indescribable and has to be seen to believe.  It's the most wild, beautiful, difficult, remote terrain that I've ever had the opportunity to face.  Being on a motorcycle adds an element that can't be matched.  There were times as I was descending a mountain, standing on the pegs, the perfect song playing in my helmet, and I couldn't help but smile and try to soak it all in.  However, 'soaking it all in' is extremely difficult as the sheer scale of things is so intense.  I descended and ascended over and over again.  I was as low as 1k ft, then would rip back up to 12-14k feet.  This continued throughout the rides.  All I can say is, if you have the chance to do a similar route, don't hesitate!  It was probably one of the most intense experiences/weeks that I've ever had.  

Tonight I'll spend my second night in Huaraz.  This place is great.  The town is surrounded by mountains in all directions.  One range in particular stands out.  The Cordillera Blanca includes 33 different peaks, some reaching well over 19k feet.  For the first time in seven months, as I was sitting in a park having lunch today, I was mesmerized at the sight of huge snowcapped mountains that tower over Huaraz.  They are beautiful, which is probably the reason Paramount Pictures chose it as their logo.  The original plan was to take some routes up and through the range tomorrow en route to La Union, then Huanuco.  However, due to the bike issues, I think I'll wake up early and make a beeline for Huanuco.  A shame, as I'd like one more day of epic exploring before making my way there, but the thought of being stranded at 16k+ feet surrounded by snowcapped mountains with a bike that won't run doesn't sound very appealing.  After writing this, I think I'll swap out the air filter, reset the EFI, and track down some Techron/injection cleaner.  I did swap out the battery in Antigua, but never reset the EFI (some say necessary after battery disconnect/swap).  In Huanuco, I'll work with Sam and Toby to tear apart the fuel pump to see if there is any 'gumming'.  Anyway, cross your fingers it's an easy fix, and not a gremlin that will haunt the remainder of my trip. :/ 

I guess that's that for now...  I'll head to Huanuco tomorrow to meet up with my buddy Sam who is renting an XR650 from Toby.  We'll ride for almost two weeks together and end in Lima.  I can't wait to spend some time with a good friend from back 'home'.  Sam and I met at the racetrack years ago and have been great friends ever since.  Along with a couple of other mates (namely Peter and Brooks), we've shared some fun times, incredible memories, and endless laughter.  Check out these two vids for a sample of some fun times with Sammy...  Moab guys weekend / WSBK Dudes weekend

I hope everyone is doing well out there.  I look forward to the next update.  However, I don't think it will be for some time.  I think Sam and I will be back off the beaten path for the next couple of weeks.  Between information from Toby and my buddy Andrew Palmer (who has traveled for years through SA), we should be able to piece together a pretty killer/off the grid loop.  So, until next time...  

Adios and kiss yo mamas!

Ciao,   ~ D

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