Day 74 to 80 – Peru – A Navigation Error into Isolation

2016-11-24 – Day 74 – Huamachuco, PE to Pallasca, PE (176 km – 9:00 hrs)
2016-11-25 – Day 75 – Pallasca, PE to Huaraz, PE (253 km – 6:00 hrs)
2016-11-26 – Day 76 – Huaraz, PE to Laguna 69 (et retour) (176 km – 5:00 hrs)
2016-11-27 – Day 77 – Huaraz, PE to Lima (384 km – 5:20 hrs)
2016-11-28 – Day 78 – Lima (Touratech) (25 km – 1:00 hrs)
2016-11-29 – Day 79 – Lima
2016-11-30 – Day 80 – Lima

Paul (the Englishman met the day before) and I awaken at sunset and dismount our respective installations under the nice sun.

My objective for the next days is to get to Huaraz, located in Cordillera Blanca, an imposing series of snowy peaks of very high altitude but where it is impossible to get in the single day of driving. There is an easy way to get there, heading back towards the ocean and by using the Panamericana, or another that is a bit more delicate, by going thru the mountain. Of course, this is the one I must choose!

The final route is not so obvious to decide on. In fact, you should not look at roads offered by your GPS blindly in Peru. I end up discussing route options with Paul before heading for the 119, which crosses into the mountains as wanted.

I must go thru Huamachuco and its many construction obstacles again. The first turn that my GPS asks me to take is on a tiny dirt road. No way I’m taking this path! I have several hundred kilometres drive, therefore I must do my homework once more. I end up finding another dirt road which looks in much better shape.

The first day will be done to get to the village of Pallasca, located about 160 km south of Huamachuco. Options of roads are numerous and the one that I chose seems interesting. From looking at it on Google Map!

OMG…

After about an hour of difficult driving on a bad dirt road, covering only 20 kilometres, mostly due to the presence of big rocks and sand, the situation is going to take a critical turn.

The road becomes more and more challenging and isolated, with river crossings and bridges made of doubtful pieces of wood. At a certain point, I find myself in a very remote high altitude area, on a path where it is extremely difficult to keep the motorbike up. I come close to falling many times.

The beauty of the place leaves me speechless, but I nevertheless think about my options. I drive in first speed most of the time, the road deteriorates more and more, I find myself more often than not, on edges of very high cliffs.

At some point, I think about turning back but my calculations tell me that it would take the same time to backtrack as to continue on to the next village.

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I made a short video of the first part of the itinerary, where driving was easier.

Later, stones on the road make things very difficult, but it is especially being so often driving close to several hundred metres cliffs that is bewildering. There is no protection, of course.

I drive very carefully but sand and big stones demand a huge amount of work and constant full concentration. The worst of all is that the more I make progress, the more it becomes difficult as conditions deteriorate even more.

I had to go thru many river crossings or bridges in very bad shape, and I am completely alone, with some 75 km more to be covered.

The photo does not show that this bridge is on top of a several hundred metres deep crevasse! Boards are not solid nor levelled, and there is no protection. Hesitation, tests, hesitation, tests, thinking about options, well, there is only one f… option here my friend, closing of the eyes and full throttle… I finally ended up the other side!

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At some point, I fell into surviving mode.

As I must drive the motorbike standing on the pegs all the time, this is to make it easier passing on rocks, in water, sand and this, for now more than 4 hours, and because I do not see improvement of conditions close by, at least for the next 3 hours, I begin getting worried.

Besides, I must also say that I ended up staring to fear driving on the cliff side of the road. I favour the track created by the passage of the trucks which is located along the mountain side, in opposite to the one close to the cliff, even if, however, it is not always the best option.

At some point, I’m faced with a difficult passage and I got hesitant to take the easiest line, which was on the edge of the cliff, and what had to happen, well, happened…

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The image does not show the extent of the cliff to the right. But not too much damage. Only an auxiliary headlight is broken (that turned out to be wrong but we’ll get to it later on!) but I must work rather hard to pick up the motorbike from its bad position.

I take a few minutes to rest, eat a little and then, back to the difficult task of driving south.

The hours that followed were even more difficult, physically but also mentally. It was very worrying to go through such an isolated region without knowing if an obstacle or worst road conditions were going to prevent me from continuing on. To know that there is absolutely nobody around, possibly for several dozen kilometres north or south, is also worrying and impossible to forget.

Around 15:00, 8 hours after the beginning of my driving day, I come across a man watching his sheep. What happiness! I asked him how to get out of this situation and where to find an asphalt road. He tells me to get to Pampas, where the blacktop road starts. Good news, except that I still have at least one hour on this bad road to get to the village.

My petrol reserves are also beginning to become more and more limited. I cross a small village 30 minutes later and stop confirming the way. A very nice man draws me a tarmac route on a piece of paper, all the way to Huaraz! He asks his daughter to go to get the family camera to take a picture with me. Nice and helping character! (Do I look tired???)

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I finally get to Pampas at around 16:00.

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I try to fill up but no petrol station in the small village. I must buy 3 gallons from a makeshift vendor. I also have difficulties getting out of the town because the indications from my GPS are the opposite to that of the people to whom I asked for advice, and even directions from the different people go in opposite ways!

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The road towards Pallasca is only one hour of driving and will be done on a road with pavement. A luxury which I look forward to with a lot of enthusiasm! But he was way too early to claim victory!

Even if it is blacktop, the road is in very bad shape and narrow. It also runs along a very high cliff. It is very intimidating. Some vehicles that I come across from the opposite direction sometimes asked me (read: forced me) towards the precipice in order to make it possible to pass to my left. I still have shivers thinking about it and writing these lines.

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I get to Pallasca around 17:00, a bit exhausted, physically and mentally. The village is under an electrical power failure, therefore I have an quick candle dinner go to bed very early, in a small and simple hotel room for 20 Sole (10$).

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This day represents in a very concrete way, the challenges of navigating the roads of Peru, and the risks of travelling alone.

Humbly, even if I lived a unique experience and have been stunned by the beauty and the extreme size of the landscapes which encircled me, I made a mistake to venture on this road without having verified the nature of the place, and especially, to have done it solo.

It is a lesson which will be with me for the rest of the trip and that, unquestionably, will lead me to review some of my plans.

I want to see many things, but I will not isolate myself and put me at risk in that way again, even if it means forgetting about some destinations in the future.

I prefer going or multi-day trek on foot, in high mountains, to live and to see such landscapes!

The following morning, I get on the road to Huaraz. I am unfortunately not at the end of my troubles and I still have to drive at very high altitude, on narrow and bad roads, with deep and steep cliffs to test my newly discovered fear of heights!

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At some some point, I’m taken over by a vehicle! A first in such a long time. I love it!

I take advantage of its presence to speed up because by following it, I am sure to see a possible vehicle coming in the opposite direction, instead of appearing out of nowhere in the very narrow corners! And it is a good idea because at the speed that this guy drives, I prefer to follow than have him come head on, in a curve, with a precipice of a kilometre down on one side!

For the first time of my life, I am happy to smell this good burned diesel as I follow him for a while!

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When I finally the high mountains, I follow a nice river with, as a reward, a remarkable show.

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Just before arriving at destination, I do a quick washing of the motorbike and a tire examination. It is about time to change them!

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Huaraz is a relatively big city, with the traffic that comes with it. There is a tremendous number of people (and a few tourists) on streets. What contrasts with the last 2 days! But it is comforting!

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I decide to stay in this region for 2 days because first, I must go to Lima and want to arrive on a Sunday, and second, and more importantly, there are several possibilities of hiking and it would be mad to miss this opportunity.

On Saturdays, I get back on the motorbike and go back north to get to a hiking trail at Laguna 69, located in about 100 km north. And in the high mountains. After the village of Yungay, I am, once again, confronted by a dirt road! I was not expected it at all!

Although much larger, less dangerous and because of the fact that I was on a motorbike without any added weight (luggage), driving was difficult because there is a tremendous amount of big stones, sometimes round, sometimes very sharp, and the presence of sand. This road was very demanding on the suspension of the bike. Lots of bangs and not other not very pleasant rattles!

The reward is nevertheless worth it. I end up doing a memorable 5-hour trek and also met many interesting people from all over the world.

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“Hey Tim how do you like the scenery?”

“Well, Geoffrey, it’s a just lot like yesterday…”

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I take a bit of time to walk in town for a few hours when the sun sets. Anyone interested in sharing my meal?

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I leave November 27th for Lima. It is very cold but the show is, once again, very unreal and impressive!

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After few hours of driving, I find myself in a desert region. The poverty which is present along the highway leaves me speechless.

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For months, several persons told me to avoid Lima at all costs, because traffic is hell and because it is a polluted city of little interests. However, my arrival was, let’s say, sporty, but much easier than in Medellin or any other big cities of Colombia, especially because there are much fewer motorbikes that pass just a few centimetres on each side of you at all time.

I quickly arrive at the flat which I had reserved for 4 nights on Airbnb. Ali, my guest, is very nice and welcomes me warmly by giving me plenty of advice and suggestions. We also go for a good cold beer. His flat, simple and modern, is comfortable and homely!

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On Mondays mornings, I drive to Touratech Lima for an event for which I had waited for weeks. The installation of new tires!!!

Traffic is bad but I have a good time with my motorbike which, without luggage, is so light and quick! Rapidly, La Gorda is in the workshop they start the work.

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Unfortunately, a very bad news was waiting for me that morning. While taking off the rear wheel, we saw what I had feared for some days now, with all these bad roads… My back suspension lets some oil out, which means that it must be replaced.

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This causes 2 major issues.

First, there is the financial aspect.

The part is very expensive in Canada. Here, it is a complete joke. At the BMW Motorrad dealer, the suspension goes for more than 5000$ US! At Touratech, they offer a solution for 2700$ US.

The other aspect is that the part is not available locally, either at Touratech or BMW. I would have to wait for 2, maybe 3 weeks for a delivery from Germany if I went with one these alternatives.

It is not necessarily a scenario that I foresee nor want, even if being stuck in Lima is not the worst of things.

I therefore turn to social networks (Facebook and ADVRider) and my technical support team in Montreal (Thank you Geoffrey!). I end up finding a solution, in fact, 2 solutions, in Santiago, Chile.

The first one is to have the shock reconstructed at www.pedroschile.cl for 2050 $, or have it replaced with a Wilbers, at www.motouring.cl for 900$, where Carlos Ramirez is very quick to answer and gives me all information by telephone and then by email. This is my preferred option.

These 2 scenarios, however, come with a bit of a risk and a sad consequence.

I must take the chance to drive the distance between Lima and Santiago, a distance of about 3500 km if I go directly and by making sure I only use the best roads, asphalted, if at all possible, in order to making sure that I don’t damage anymore than necessary the faulty suspension.

Then, it also means that I must give up on the 1000 km detour towards Cusco, and Bolivia altogether.

After long discussions with Geoffrey, phone calls with some suspension specialists in the United States, and from the online comments and advice, which greatly helped me (Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Adventure Travellers), I therefore decide to go as directly as possible to Santiago for this must do repairs. Once the replacement is installed, I will take a second look at my itinerary options.

I possibly might want to come back north, on the Argentine side, before going down south towards Patagonia, perhaps the opposite. To be followed!

After this eventful morning, I spend 4 nice days in Lima.

I probably walked a hundred kilometres left and right. Strong points, Miraflores and San Isidro districts. The centre is also impressive, but it is necessary to endure very bad traffic and heavy noise which is omnipresent. Horns, lorries, old buses, street vendors, prostitutes, policemen’s whistles, dogs, and I probably forget more than what is listed.

It is a cacophony in which I could never live. The extreme poverty is also present and it is easy to get trapped in less touristy streets a get a few shivers, enough to backtrack fast!

Fortunately, in the wealthier districts of Miraflores and San Isidro, they are some parks which act as peace oasis. Even if I visited Lima 5 years ago, I am pleasantly surprised by the how the streets and sidewalks are clean, and the fact that some areas are very quiet.

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I also use the time to try to fix a few technical issues. The auxiliary headlight, which I had broken during my fall a few days ago, is now… Repaired.:)

Phew… Not very nice but it is out of the question for me to give BMW of Peru 1500$  for a part that cost 250$ in Canada (freaking thieves!). Thanks for your remote help Geoffrey, and in the strong qualities of epoxy glue. (You all will have gotten that I am not an artist!)

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There is also the remote controller of my heated vest powerletproducts.com that stopped working. With the vibrations of the motorbike, a connector cable inside the box broke. There is always a good Samaritan to help out but in spite of all his efforts, my new friend was not able to make the repair.

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After a message on Facebook, the company contacts me right away and offers to ship a new module, but in Montreal. It will be a good reason for my girlfriend to return to see me during the holidays! Thanks to powerletproducts.com.

Finally, my friend Jean-Paul read my post and offered a simple solution using tinfoil. And it worked! Thank you JP, a true MacGyver. It remains to see if this will resist vibrations…

And I had almost forgotten. I have new tires! What happiness!

I am impatient to get back on the road… I hope that my back rear shock agrees with me, at least for the next… 3500 kilometres! Ouch, Santiago seems so far away now that I need to get there fast!

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Day 81 to 83 - Peru - Sand, Concerns and Final Thoughts

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Day 71 to 73 - Peru - A Serious and Dusty Contrast!

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Marc Ouellet

Adventurer at heart. Travelling on 2 wheels to South America soon!

8 COMMENTS
  • chantal cournoyer
    Reply

    Je capote de lire tout ça et de voir toutes ces photos !

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Merci Chantal! J’ai hâte de prendre une bonne bière avec toi et ton copain et faire la rétroaction de ce périple!

  • Mykael
    Reply

    Les photos sont splendide!| Un jour j’y passerai aussi…:-)

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Je vous le souhaite!

  • Serge Savard StromSavard
    Reply

    Hey Marc, si c’était trop facile ça ne serait pas une aussi belle aventure! ça fait partie de l’aventure!! SUPER!!! et Merci!!

  • Peter Parsons
    Reply

    Marc, those roads would have been a blast back in my QTRF (Quebec Trail Rider Federation) FMSQ days. Of course, we were riding 250lb machines with full knobbies., As you mentioned, I can see why you looked beat. With that being said, the photos are wonderful. Oh, your tire looks like crap. I would like to, once again, offer my KLR, so you can continue in comfort. I know. You are too proud, Continue on with your Gorda. Broken as she is. Ride easy. It’s not a race. Look a little closer to the scenery, as you make your way to Santiago. Bon chance!! pp

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Thanks Peter! As for your KLR offer, I’ll have to pass. My bike gets its fog lights broken when it falls, not because of the wind!!! 😉

  • LUIS
    Reply

    Congratulations on your trip. The route from the city of huamachuco to the city of pallasca and then to the city of huaraz, is a difficult route. When you return, please contact me. Pushaqwari.
    Email: pushaqwari@gmail.com

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