Wha' happen?

Posts tagged ‘Lima’

Huayhuash

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Advertisements

Diversity

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Diversity

Lima, 20-Sept-2010

Peru is an amazingly rich country, cradle to many cultures, home to an incredible diversity of flora & fauna (it boasts to have 84 of the 117 recognized ecological microclimates in the world, and 28 of the 32 world climates) and is inhabited by welcoming and warm Peruvian.  So my decision was easy:  I will take the beautiful road on my way to Lima vs. the short & easy one.  I will pass by Abancay before veering north through unpaved roads and breathtaking scenery toward Ayacucho.   From there, I plan to head to Huancayo before turning west to Lima.

Kilometer 28,633; Cusco, 14-Sep-10 @ 9:45: The trip started on beautiful fresh tarmac along an undulating road passing again next to Cachora and reaching Abancay (Kilometer 28,833; Abancay, 14-Sep-10 @ 13:05).  Not much to see there, Abancay being a crossroad between Nazca to the West via an asphalted road and Ayacucho to the North via a beautiful off-road.  I kept heading north as my plan was to ride as far as possible today, stopping in Andayhualas for the night (Kilometer 28,981; Andayhualas, 14-Sep-10 @ 17:00) and reaching Ayacucho the following day in the evening.  My route turned out to be spectacular, a real sweet ride and the off-roads good enough to fully enjoy the surrounding nature.  The only hick-up were the on-going construction: some stretches were pure loose gravel & sand and many road blocks ensued.  Twice I had to ask the locals for detours and avoid the hours of blockades mandated by the construction crews.  However, just an hour before Ayacucho, a major construction site blocked the road for 1.5 hour with no way around it.  We were only allowed to continue by 18:00, sundown.  It is one thing tackling these roads during daylight but a totally different ball game to do so at night: it’s hard to distinguish the perturbing rocks popping up from the ground, the sand patches I need to slowly cross and the best/safest path for my tires to ride over.  But this is how the game is played and I’ll tackle whatever is thrown at me.  I arrived late to Ayacucho and immediately went ahead looking for a hotel with a built-in garage (Kilometer 29,237; Ayacucho, 15-Sep-10 @ 19:30).  After knocking on a few doors and explaining to the owners that I sleep wherever my bike sleeps, I finally found a hotel which allowed me to park my baby inside the main hallway, safe and dry.  They were so nice they even brought me a hose the next morning so I can clean my bike’s chain from all the sand and dust accumulated.

Ayacucho is a nice small city, with many lovely churches scattered around and a beautiful plaza de Armas surrounded by colonial buildings.  The churches in Peru and worst, in Bolivia, have unpredictable opening hours, if they open at all during the day that is.  So I long figured out the best way to visit is after sunset during the night masse: so go ahead, go confess all your sins J.  Back at my hotel, I hooked up with Jacob and Yagna, a polish backpacker couple and we decide to visit the major Wari ruins outside Ayacucho (it was the capital of the Wari state) before continuing further afield toward Quinoa.  So my bike will stay put today and we will take the combi to our destination.

The Wari culture was renowned for their expertise in urbanization and social planning.  Their cities were very tightly ordered, organized in square sectors, crisscrossed by wide streets and surrounded by high walls (sometime a double set of outer walls with a street in the middle) and harboring up to 20,000 people.  The Incas took much of the Wari urbanization expertise and further improved it, allowing them to better build and manage their cities.  Even the famous Inca roads were actually built on top of the earlier Wari roads and then further extended to cover the Tawantinsuyu (i.e. Inca empire).  Although not as well preserved (read “reconstructed”) as Pikillacta, quite a few sectors, walls and temples are marvelous to see and I spent a couple of ours just strolling a tiny part of this huge complex (estimated at 10 sq.km).  Our trip then took us to Quinoa, a tranquil little village whose inhabitants are masters of ceramic work, renowned to decorate their house’s rooftops with their sculptures.  It’s a joy to stroll Quinoa’s small cobble streets before heading uphill to the plains were the major battle of Ayacucho occurred back in 1824.  It is here where General Antonio Jose de Sucre (him again :)) fought the larger and better armed royalist forces in a final and decisive battle.  His victory on 9th December 1824 finally granted Peru it’s independence from the Spanish after years of civil war which started back in 1809 and the tide only turned in favor of the Nationalists following San Martin initial attack from southern Chile back in 1820.

Today I will head to the sea :)! …and what an exciting thought it was.  I left the Atlantic coast more than 4 month ago and now I’ll finally reach the Pacific.  All I was thinking about was the endless extent of blue sea, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.  I decided to stay in Paracas, next to the peninsula of the same name renowned for its beautiful dunes and shoreline.   To top it all off, the excellent asphalted road from Ayacucho to the coast provided an amazing track of twisty roads that went up and down mountains until reaching Abra Apacheta @ 4,750m before starting my long and winding road down toward the Panamericana.  The strong Pacific winds met me again on this final stretch bidding me welcome back to its territories.  Just before reaching the Panamericana, I stopped at Tambo Colorado, an ancient Inca city and a major resting place for the travelers up to Cusco (Kilometer 28,543; Tambo Colorado, 17-Sep-10 @ 15:00).  It’s one of the few, definitely the biggest, Inca city built from adobe vs. the usual stonework.  But Inca signature abounds with its typical trapezoidal doorway, baths, zigzag motif and the 3 level Chacana.  The dry weather of the coast even preserved a few walls with the original red, yellow and white painting adorning the city (hence the name).

Kilometer 29,602; Paracas, 17-Sep-10 @ 17:25: To my surprise Paracas is a very touristy beach town.  In the morning, heading to the quay with July and Helen for a tour of Isla Ballestas, hordes of tourists, mostly middle aged, were waiting at the dock.  It felt like a retiree reunion of some sort and I couldn’t help but compare it to some Florida beach towns.  Here, everyone wanted to marvel at the tens of thousands (maybe hundred thousand?) of birds living on the islands.  A half an hour boat ride took us there (no one can disembark as it’s a protected area)  and I was surprised, even shocked, to witness such a huge number of birds: they were using nearly every free sq.inch of the island to stand on or doting the skies above us while flying (watch out for bird dropping!).  To give you an idea on the number of birds in these islands, the guano, i.e. bird excrement, was so abundant that in certain areas it was up to 50m deep!  The Incas used the guano as fertilizer to increase crop yield but the European only discovered its benefit back in the 1800’s.  Because of the regions’ dry weather (it barely rains) the guano preserves its properties and especially its nitrate content making it the much thought after fertilizer.  And so started Peru’s guano golden age:  from 1840-1880 Peru had a tremendous boon exporting ~20 million tons of guano and earning around U$D 2 billion in profit.  To put it in perspective, it exceeds current Peru’s GDP numbers!!  The advent of synthetic fertilizer killed this golden “fecal” mine and the birds were left to do their thing.  Guano today has a second breath as a natural fertilizer vs. all the chemicals we use:  it is harvested once every 7 year (for it to accumulate and for preservation of the environment, the birds and their habitat).

Once back on shore and after a quick breakfast with Julie and Hélène, I loaded all my stuff on my bike and headed toward the peninsula.  The scenery was high in color were dunes, red volcanic hills, sandy beaches and blue water mix.  I took my time riding this 21Km circuit and admiring its beauty.  By mid afternoon I stopped at the tiny fishing hamlet of Lagunillas where a few restaurants conglomerate near the shore and waiters fight to offer you their services (Kilometer 29,641; Paracas, 18-Sep-10 @ 14:35).  A delicious grilled fish with a Pisco Sour was to culminate my excursion and I headed (late) toward Lima.  I arrived on its outskirt after nightfall right in the middle of the drive home rush hour.  Crazy drivers & aggressive buses were my welcoming committee.  It was such a stressful stop-and-go ride that I completely missed my exit; I was more concerned about the cars surrounding me, forcefully trying to make their way passed me.  I exited the highway, did a u-turn and asked for directions.  And that’s the other nightmare: Similar to Bolivia, everyone will tell you to just go “recto”, i.e. straight.  But buddy, the roads split in a “Y”, left & right, which way?  “Recto amigo, siga no mas”.  Great… and then?  “Just turn and follow the road”…  O-Kaaay… the name of the road?  Where do I turn?  “Just turn this way” gesturing in the air.  The way I understand it is that people won’t tell you they actually don’t know the route, instead just gesture their way out of it.  You ask someone about a certain direction and just 100 meter later someone else tells you something completely different.  Even taxi drivers throw you on a zigzag trail (well, they know all the shortcuts, so can’t really blame them).  And I was asking to reach a very famous roundabout, not even the street I wanted to get too!  I played this ping-pong game (me being the ball) for a good half-hour, slowly honing-in to Miraflores and miraculously I stumbled upon Avenida Arequipa.  That’s the major thoroughfare that crosses Lima from its center to past Miraflores.  All I needed to know now was which way to head: left or right?  Once I had 3 different guys telling me the same way to go (OK, I am exaggerating now 😉 I just rode in that direction.  And I knew that I will remember exactly the streets I needed to take once I reached the neighborhood I stayed in back in January.  Sure enough, my visual memory never fails and I was happily making my way through the streets up to my hostel, Kilometer 29,939; Miraflores, 18-Sep-10 @ 19:35.

I only stayed for a few days in Lima: it was Saturday and I hit Barranco club’s street again and the following day just visited the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia.  On Monday I went to visit Suzuki Lima and managed to get a meeting for Tuesday morning with Juan Pablo, general manager of Peru’s Suzuki motos.  The plan is to continue straight on to Huaraz; the summer might be arriving into the Southern hemisphere but in the cordilleras, it’s the winter and rainy season is at the doorstep.

Ride up!

Sami

Photo Album

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

Changes For The Better

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.