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Huayhuash

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Huayhuash

Huaraz, 30-Sep-2010

I went early morning for my meeting with Juan Pablo, Peru’s Suzuki motorcycle country director (Kilometer 29,958; Lima’s Derco office, 21-Sep-10 @ 10:20).  We had a very interesting and enlightening conversation about the moto industry in Peru.  It was a long meeting, definitely well worth it but it meant I left for Huaraz just after noon time.  Normally, it should have been ample time to reach Huaraz except it was raining and I was again caught up in Lima’s horrendous traffic and its many road constructions and detours.  When I finally exited Lima I was hit by a heavy fog, reducing my visibility to less than 5 meters.  An hour went by before I exited the fog only to be stopped, yet again 😦 by the Peruvian Transit Police (Kilometer 30,164; intersection with Huaraz route, 21-Sep-10 @ 15:00).  This time they had a radar and they “caught” me riding 71Km/h in a 65Km/h zone.  Great!  One cop started writing me a ticket in the crazy amount of S/.680 == U$D240!  I laughed at his face and bluntly told him this is theft and I will not pay.  Who in Peru can pay the almost minimum monthly salary as a fine?  Surprise, surprise, he then hinted that allowing me to leave depends on my “cariño”, i.e. my love.  Well, he wasn’t going to get that today.  But he was a stubborn little fellow and kept me there waiting…. enough time for me to see him stopping other cars, usually luxury SUVs, and showing them the same frikin 71Km/h radar reading!.  But these people were used to this game and their love consisted of handing their license papers with S/.10 Nuevo Soles before immediately being let go.  All this in a very ordinary and casual way, right in front of my eyes.  I guess you figured out what I needed to do…. Damn, at this rate, that little fucker can buy a truckload of chickens every day ;).

Kilometer 30,388; Huaraz, 21-Sep-10 @ 19:00: Huaraz lies in a valley between the snowy Cordillera Blanca to the east and the dry & windswept Cordillera Negra (i.e. no snow) to the west.  And what an extraordinary sight is the Cordillera Blanca.  Snow capped mountains and glaciers litter this chain, each summit more magnificent than the other.  It is home to the Huascaran, the highest peak in Peru @ 6,768m.a.s.l. and the beautiful pyramid shaped Alpamayo.  Looking at these peaks just made my heart race and I quickly jumped on the phone to call Roy:  Let’s climb one of them!  Unfortunately, Roy was getting ready for his jungle work and anyway, it was the end of the season and dangerous snowy conditions are upon us… no worries, it will be for another year.

There are still many things to do in Huaraz.: I visited Chavin de Huantar, the religious site of the “oldest” civilization of the Americas. (Side note: Caral culture is 1,500 year older than Chavin, dating back to at least 2,500B.C. (and older), yet there’s a heated debate between archeologists/researchers upon calling Caral a civilization: no major ceramics, sculptures, drawings, musical instruments, tools, weapons (hunting or military),… were found there.  I visited Caral’s pyramid complex back in January and I am no expert but to my eyes and after what I saw, Caral definitely deserve being called a civilization).  Chavin archeological site has recently been painfully restored after a mud slide in 1945 covered the complex.  Nowadays, I could visit the many ceremonial plazas, temples, the labyrinth like quarters and not to forget its many monolith and stone carving representing their gods.  I also visited and hiked Laguna Llanganuco before heading back to town to prepare for my 8 day Huayhuash trek.  This trek is extremely popular with Israelis and a group of 18 of them (most were loud and “agitated”) registered for the hike.  Ouch! That doesn’t sit well with exploring nature.  To my luck, 5 of them, extremely cool, funny and open minded decided to split from the others for exactly the same reason and hike it separately:  they too wanted to fully enjoy Huaywash, undisturbed, dwelling in its beauty and absorbing each moments and I was more than happy to tag along.  To do so, we had to leave Huaraz at 2:00AM and start our hike by 8:00AM to get a 1 day head start over the other group.  During the next 7 days, I joined Ira, Shachar, Amir and Shay to hike the incredibly marvelous cordillera Huaywash, a route lying between 4,000 and 5,100 m.a.s.l surrounded by a gorgeous mountain chain of breathtaking snowy peaks & glaciers and walking through steppe plains beside gorgeous turquoise lakes reflecting the mountains,…  Add to that we really hit it out as a group (and with Theo and Tonio, our guide + ariero) so we had great fun all along our hike (Ori, the 6th guy in our group had to drop off of the hike and return to base after the first few hours due to severe altitude sickness).  Bref, I would describe it as the absolutely most beautiful trek I ever did.  Again, pictures speak a thousand words and I’ll let you enjoy all 120+ of them ;).

And that’s not all:  As a group we developed such a strong friendship that we decided to undertake a few more activities together… read all about it in my following update.

Ride up!

Sami

Photo Album

or click on “page 2” below to see the photo album.

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Changes For The Better

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Changes For The Better

Arequipa, 20-Jan-2010

Having stopped in Barranca the night before because of, in between others, all the cops’ delays, I took the opportunity to go visit Caral in the morning (Kilometer 3,592, Caral, 14-Jan-10 @9:15).  Caral is the site and name of the oldest known civilization in the Americas, dating back to ~2,500BC.  To put it in perspective, that’s the same time as the Mesopotamian and early Egyptian cultures.   It is suspected that Caral was a “peaceful” society of around 3,000 people built around religion as no weapons, no violent destructions or wars and no sacrifice rituals were found (only one child body).

It was a very interesting and beautiful visit and I only made it back to Barranca in early afternoon where I quickly saddled up and hit the road to Lima (Kilometer 3,634, Barranca, 14-Jan-10 @ 14:25).  What started as being a little funny is now putting a chill on my trip.  The Peruvian police are just too much.  Now that I am riding solo, I am getting stopped left, right and center. .. and for whatever reasons.   Once I got stopped because I went through the green light at the toll, while bikes should go through the red “X” closed lane… don’t even ask.  Another time was because I have daylight running lights on my bike!! What gives?  The police just take your paper and ask for $$.  One guy asked for a $100 USD otherwise he will keep my passport! (the first and only time I gave my passport.  From that moment on my passport does not leave my pouch and I made color photocopy + plasticized all my other documents to look like original.  The cops (a.k.a. “guzanos” can keeps them as souvenir :)).  AnywayZ, with the police I always act as if I do not know a single word of Spanish.  But I have to keep a straight face and try hard not to laugh when I hear them talking between them figuring out a way to make me understand they want money.  Well, I am out of chickens 🙂  Remember the Louisiana man? “No more chicken?!? What do you mean no more chicken!??  Aaaaahhh, you mean you RAN out of chicken!” 🙂 .  Well, I let them tire themselves trying to explain and in the end, most of the time they let me through.  But it’s just delaying my trip by couple of hours every day.

Kilometer 3,853, Miraflores, 14-Jan-10 @ 17:50:  My highlight of Lima was receiving a Skype call from Yasmina who played me a mini-concert of 3 songs on her violin :).  Pretty impressive, even drew a few on-lookers in my hostel.  Bon, back to Lima, well it changed for the better.  Still not my favorite city but it’s a little bit more secure, cleaner and the preservation & maintenance efforts of the historical monuments are yielding great results.  I spent 5 nights there.  First few days I just chilled and partied around Miraflores and Baranco (it was Friday and Saturday and I needed to move some other body muscles ;).  On Sunday, it was Lima’s day, celebrating its 475 years.  I went to the Plaza de Armas where all the festivities were happening.  They had a parade were every city of Peru had a “show” to celebrate Lima.  I saw kings from Lambayeque, Inca’s from the imperial city of Cuzco, tribes from the jungles,… un spectacle vraimment haut en couleur.  I managed to squeeze some time to visit a few of the downtown attractions.  I even got lucky to see the change of the guard in front of the presidential palace where 30 or so soldiers were marching and juggling with their rifles for a good 15 minutes.  Imagine 30 Peruvian Michael Jacksons ;).  Finally on Monday, I actually did my tourist part and visited a couple of museums.  If you are in Lima check out Museo Larco, displaying a fine collection of ceramics and jewelry from the many cultures that inhabited Peru.  The best part is you can see the evolution of art, metallurgy, ceramic,… spanning from 1,000BC, through the many pre-Colombian cultures up-to and including the first years of the conquista.

Tuesday: time to hit the road again.  I stopped in the morning by Kelly’s place, a friend from Canada and one of Alisson’s best friends.  Kelly also decided to move back to her country Peru and she was just settling in (Kilometer 3,898, “Kelly’s beach house”, 19-Jan-10 @ 11:00).  A short visit though as by 13:00 I was on the road again.  There was a bus strike in Peru a nightmare for all tourists but for me it was great to ride without all these crazy bus drivers.  The road to Nazca (and then to Arequipa) passes through Peru’s different deserts: rock and stones desert, red dirt desert, golden sand deserts,…  you name it.  While riding, every once in a while, like a mirage in the horizon, a village starts materializing.  As I get closer and the village grows ever so bigger, the wavy view soon clears up to reveal a lush valley dissected by a river where trees abound and green field lines the river shores.  People here live out of agriculture and farming.  I enter this green paradise, pass through it in few seconds only to see it disappear in my rearview mirror as I ride away and find myself driving again through a dusty and windy, arid and desolate land.

Kilometer 4,323, Nazca, 19-Jan-10 @ 18:15:  I passed through Ica, Pisco and only stayed 1 night in Nazca as I’ve been here before and visited the Nazca cemetery, aqueduct and flew above the famous Nazca lines.  And since the prices skyrocketed I just didn’t feel like flying over the lines again even if I would have liked too.  The following morning I continued to Arequipa:  Thank god, no cops.  Actually there was barely anyone on the road.  But the winds were ever so ferocious blowing sand onto the highway nearly blocking the Panamericana at a certain point.  It took some careful, strong and “tilted” driving 🙂 to face the wind and getting through this.  Kilometer 4,918, Arequipa, 20-Jan-10 @ 17:50, Arequipa is the 2nd biggest city in Peru and somehow I ended deep inside it’s suburb, not at all an inviting place.  Arriving late, in traffic, no street signs, I was just like a blind man there.  So I paid a Taxi 4$ to take me to the Plaza de Armas where I checked-in into a perfectly located hotel with secure parking.

I ended up staying 7 days in and around Arequipa.  It’s a beautiful city and a perfect hub for many activities.  I managed to do some amazing and extreme things, you got to hear about it… so check out my next e-mail 🙂

Ride up!

Sami

Photo Album

or click on “page 2” below to see the photo album.