Peru Offroad – Part 4

Rolling out of the other side of the Olimpica Tunnel at over 4700 meters you are just hit by a blast of freezing wind blowing off the glaciers but you just have to stop and sit and admire the view

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A few days of rising on high plateaus over 4000/ 13,100′ meters daily and hoping those clouds will just stay where they are because I know that some freezing rain I really don’t want to deal with right now

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A lonely dirt road is what I need, quite helmet time to think (of the above post) and keep distracted and away from crowds

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The downward descent is keeping me focused which is a good thing, one mistake here could be my last

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I know there’s a bottom to this valley but from my position, I can’t see it from up here at 4500m

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Riding thru a little village that is almost abandoned, stopping for a short break a little dog appears out of nowhere, he gives me that look, he doesn’t want attention he wants food, all I have is a few tuna packets…do dogs like fish?

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When they are starving and shivering from the cold…yes they do!

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I continue and still can’t see the bottom of the valley

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The sun comes out for a brief moment and the valley comes alive, but still, the bottom is out of sight

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I take a few of those dirt hairpins you see there and then I see it, its know as ‘that bridge’; a bridge that was washed away and made this valley a rarely visited area in the last few years, but I read that a few months back it had finally been replaced…what a relief!

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After crossing ‘that bridge’ no one mentioned what an awesome canyon it took you in to

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and with each turn, it got better and tighter

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and then dumped out into the next canyon on the other side

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the big problem with Peru is you run out of superlatives!

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you know that saying – ‘what goes up must come down’, its the opposite in Peru, ‘what goes down must go up’ and up I went…

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ending up on a track that seemed like a road to a mine, it just had that feeling, and it was. Eventually, in the distance the mine became visible and the track went right thru the middle of it and included going thru a graveyard at the side of the road that I can only imagine is miners who lost their lives

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Taking the track forever upwards thru the mine and looking down where I had come from

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cresting the top next to a lake and a peak that looked like rusted iron ore in front of me

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just when you think it can’t get any better the pass route down the track into a totally different landscape, and each turn you think Peru cannot get any better but it does

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More dirt, more remoteness, and more amazing scenery

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The following day somewhere up a very rarely used track I stopped to take this photo (that surprisingly Google has been up HERE), and the bike wouldn’t start, just a click and then nothing. Sitting at 4850 meters and a storm slowly coming in my direction there was no choice to turn the bike around and try and roll it to a lower elevation…as nothing obvious was wrong that I could find after a quick inspection.

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I rolled about 95% of the way down plus a little pushing and pulling to the town of Charlacayo HERE the freewheel was over 80km/ 50 miles, none stop, a reduction of elevation of around 4000m

at the same time, my Sena battery died so I just hand held my little P&S and videoed a small section

What was it that caused the issue?…this!

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A connector going into the regulator had snapped, allegedly a rare problem that seems to happen to a lot of DR’s, there is a very sharp bend where the positive wire goes in. Vibration over time causes the issue, the problem was, it has broken and the battery wasn’t charging but the wire was still in place but not touching…took me a while to find it!

The following day heading back up the same general direction I decided to take a different route..who knows why!

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…and somehow got caught up in an army march in the middle of nowhere

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In a small town looking for somewhere to stay, I had to stop and take a photo of this for the English reading who think the tour companies in South America don’t like them

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life continues on at a slow and steady pace, the only way you might know the years have changed is the updated dates of politicians pitching themselves for the next government seat

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Riding roads like this it made me think of the riders who make a beeline for Ushuaia and how much good fun is missed by so many by not spending more time in the Andes…just to get south to collect ‘that photo’

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The lessor ridden areas of Peru offer some of the absolute best riding in South America, paved and unpaved

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Meandering slowly on deserted back roads and tracks the higher more jagged peaks of the Andes have turned to smooth rolling hills but still the altitude tops 4000 meters

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tiny little villages pop up and probably not too much change up here for the last 100 years, save electricity

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Miles and miles of nothing, Peru is the equivalent size of the range of the Mexican border to the Canadian border. With a population of 32 million and a little more than 10 million of those living in Lima, the Andes offers solitude whether you want it or not.

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I had met up with an Indian rider months before, he was currently in Peru somewhere else and had sent me a message, he put Peru in perspective from his point of view – “India is slightly more than double the size of Peru, India has a population of 1.3 billion…Peru is empty, and quiet, I love it.” I could tell he was smiling as he wrote this.

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The occasional small towns are friendly and welcoming, food is available, it is just to fill you and keep you moving…not made to make you sit down and write a 5-star review.

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Each day offers more, a different perspective, a different landscape. I am just glad I am using a digital camera and not film, untold rolls could be used on a daily basis here

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On the occasion you do see some movement in the distance, as you get closer its usually just a llama, vicuña or alpaca looking for better grass.

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Another track, another horizon, another mystery to find over that hill, I haven’t seen any other adventure riders in so long it makes me wonder, where are they riding?…but I’m not looking for them either!

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over that hill was a small finca, no one around but an interesting looking setup, from above on the dirt track

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I decided to head down to the coast to make a decision of where to head next, the population grew

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it’s all downhill from here

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I eventually got to the beach, the point of coming here was having good wifi, and good wifi lives in populated areas…as I need to make a decision

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Peru is great, but just wasn’t feeling South America right now so I decided to leave the continent, but the big question was how?

I was literally halfway between Bogota and Santiago, the two easiest place to escape the continent from. The prices were comparable but it would mean riding around 4000km thru Chile and the expense was a lot higher, so I decided on Bogota. Plus, there are other options to get out, containers, boats, etc…

So, northbound and back into the mountains

a quick buzz up the Pan Am, wow it sucks, how do people ride this all day every day!!! …and got stopped four times by the cops in less than 100km

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right before making the turn to the Andes and remoteness I stopped and grabbed a drink, and when people say the DR650 isn’t a big bike…well it is down here, imagine how big your GSA would look in this shot

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It doesn’t take long to be back to the tracks I love, hope the pavement will end soon

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This bridge marks the end of the pavement…

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I found a track on the GPS that looked like it’d be remote, headed off the main road and went up, and up and up

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reaching a plateau and a lake that wasn’t on the map my speedo clicked over 62,137 miles, but why is that significant? Well its 100,000km and a milestone for some bikes, just another day for the DR

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The remnants of what used to be a paved road right at the top, weird how that happens in so many places…dirt for miles and miles then a random piece of blacktop albeit very old and barely there

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At 4850m it was like riding on the surface of the moon, a little loss of power but not much, still have the same jetting as I did at sea level

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There’s an option for a more desolate road… I take it

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Occasional small glacial lakes are dotted along the side of the road, rarely having to get off the bike to get a shot, good, air is thin up here and the less unnecessary movements are better for the breathing

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I get dropped back out on to bigger dirt track, and see potential signs of life ahead

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Two men are working llamas and are the first people I have seen in hours up here, I shock the heard a little, with the noise from the exhaust and the men turn and see me, acknowledge me with a wave then carry on doing whatever it is llama farmers do!

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a few km’s further I ride thru a settlement with no name, if I hadn’t seen the two guys minutes earlier I would have thought this place was abandoned, but the buildings look in slightly better condition than theirs so I guess this is a thriving metropolis in the mountains and the people are somewhere out there working the land

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Still finding solitude and its great

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Even though there is signs of life, tracks, and manicured fields there is just no one here, Peru really is empty.

A few weeks back talking to locals they were saying the Venezuelan crisis could be good for Peru. “We have loads and loads of land and no one to work it, if the Venezuelans are willing to work hard they can make a great life for themselves in Peru.”

I could see where I was headed, following the single track thru and the valley and somewhere out there it would climb to the top and over the other side

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I eventually came out on a rare piece of pavement and rode by a line of motorcycle cops at least 100+ strong, then not a km along the road I am stopped by motorcycle cops, they want to see my license, that’s all. a few km later I’m stopped again, motorcycle cops, this time, “Passport Señor?”

Another km and more motorcycle cops, they have a line of cars pulled over so I just ride by. And then there is it, a walled complex to my right on the side of the road…Police Acadamy.

Not even a few km on the other side more motorcycle cops have drivers lined up, they wave me thru without stopping…time to get off this road.

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I find a dirt track off the pavement and take regardless, and head back upwards, now my only company has no interest in me at all.

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At an overnight in a small town I find a hotel with amazingly fast wifi, the owner asks where I’m headed and I tell him vaguely north. “Do you like dirt roads in the middle of nowhere because there is a good one from here that will lead you to the eastern side of the Huascarán national park?”

I pull out a map and he shows me the road, “it’ll be very dusty to start, but then get past a few small villages and it’ll be you and the llama farmers until you hit Chacas, the views of the Andes are amazing, but get up early its a long ride!”

I woke up late but took the track anyway.

This shot was at around 9.45am and I didn’t see another vehicle until it was dark.

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he was right about the view

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Even though passing thru villages there were just no cars around

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…but the Peruvians sure do know how to make a road up a hill

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…and he was right about the llamas

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He forgot to mention waterfalls though

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My track clung to the side of a mountain, just another death road, one of many

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small settlements clung to the edge of hillsides and I slowly made my way thru them

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then back to being by myself up and down, I went

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I took this shot just after 6 pm and almost dark (yes i know it doesn’t look like it, i really had to up the exposure to make it show up), it was my birthday and I considered setting up a wild camp here, the sun had already set, it seemed like it would be a cool place to set up camp. Then I came to my senses I was sitting at over 4500m. I really needed to get lower

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After the lake the sun dropped and the temperature dropped quicker, the track became worse or maybe it was my imagination, the headlight was making the track look like it was lined with basketball size rocks with the huge shadows it created.

eventually, the tarmac started and I was in San Luis, a tiny little town that I immediately recognized. It was the same town I was chased out of a parking lot by a guy wielding shears. I recognized it straight away, but this time around I saw an ambulance outside and maybe it was a small hospital or insane asylum!!!

I carried on because on the GPS there was another town close by called Charcas. I rode to the town square, it was very dark and as I stopped to look at my GPS to see if there was a hotel/ hostel close by a lady approached me and offered me a room in her ‘hotel’ that was nearly finished.

I inquired about the possibilities of food and she offered to make me dinner. She was intrigued if I had been here before. I replied “no!”

“Ok, so I will give you a room with a view over the plaza so when you wake in the morning you can go outside and take it in, its one of the nicest colonial plaza of any small ton in Peru.”

I woke up to this…

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The plan for the day was a short 111km ride to Caraz via Huascarán National Park (again)

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This time I decided to take it a lot slower and take it in, this would be my last really up-close look at the Andes for a while

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I’d read about others that had been up here recently had snow or rain and virtually no visibility…not me

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I came thru the tunnel at the top and must have sat in the spot for a few hours just absorbing the view

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To give you an idea of the 360-degree view from up here …this was behind me

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A few minor side tracks reveal different views, you honestly can’t get enough of this if the weather is on your side

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One Comment

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  1. Hi Paul.

    Your blog has inspired me. My wife and I have 2 Honda Tornados in Chile and we are about to ride them off-road to Cartagena.

    Would you be willing to share some of your GPS tracks with us? We love tough off-road trails and hate highways!

    I’d really appreciate it.

    Bruce and Jessie

    Like

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