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Posts tagged ‘Peru’

Voyages

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Voyages

Quito, 26-Oct-2010

The rain was again to the rendez-vous this morning as I got ready to ride north toward the Peruvian border.  I was looking forward to slice through the twisties of Chachapoyas road down to Pedro Ruiz but it wasn’t to be.  I just put some trance music on and cruised the way down.  I still managed to make very good time to reach Jaen early afternoon.  And Peru’s road crews significantly improved the gravel road between Jaen and San Ignacio, now being well packed compared to last January’s loose gravel.  It allowed me to reach San Ignacio early enough to stroll around the city and taste its local pastries and liquors (San Ignacio is known in Peru for its Cacao & Coffee plantations) (Kilometer 31,818; San Ignacio, 19-Oct-10 @ 14:15).  However the rain didn’t take a break; it rather intensified and it poured heavily the whole night up to mid next morning.  I wasn’t in a rush to reach the border and even less eager to tackle these roads in muddy conditions so I just decided to wait out the rain; the pleasure of riding has its moments and today was definitely not a good one.  So I hanged out around the city, talked to a few locals and met the other resident of my hotel.  Quite a few were farmers and plantation owner who were in San Ignacio stocking up on provisions and they too decided to stay put today; these conditions are not suited for their work.  So we spent the day chatting, had a few drinks, went out for dinner and then had some more drinks.  Living the local life I guess.

My decision to stay an extra day turned out to be excellent: the following morning the sun was again shining bright.  The roads will be drying up soon and I happily rode again.  Another advantage of crossing through this border is the fact it’s isolated and I knew here I had a better chance to get out of some tricky situations.  In particular, my bikes ownership and insurance both expired and the Ecuadorian law mandates that you present the original ones prior to renewal.  Well, the original are with me and Alisson & Barry tried in vain to get them renewed threw agencies in Quito.  Side note as I think some of you would be thinking along these lines :): It would have been worse if we told the Transportation Ministry that my papers were stolen/lost so the renewal can go ahead without the original ones.  It will just put me and my bike in deep trouble crossing the border.    Kilometer 31,868; La Balsa, 21-Oct-10 @ 9:30: Once at the tiny Ecuadorian border outpost of La Balsa, I made it known loud and clear 😉 I was sooo happy to come back “home”: “Whoo-hoo, no more corrupt Peruvian Policia de Transito!” (hint: Peru and Ecuador had a war here back in 1996).  The immigration and custom guys were just ecstatic with my reaction, not to mention they were more interested in my adventures than anything else.  The entry procedures were a breeze and I spent the majority of my time chatting and laughing with the officers.   By the time I hit the roads again after both border formalities, they were fully dry and I was singing in my helmet.  I passed through Palanda followed by Vilcabamba (my original destination) and decided to keep riding up to Loja.  What took Barry and I 16 hours last January (2 miserable days under rain) took me a cool and enjoyable 6 hours today.

Kilometer 32,076; Loja, 21-Oct-10 @ 16:20: Loja is not a highlight on anyone’s travels in Ecuador but I still wanted to visit.  All I did was walk its streets and a couple of its plazas and parks which was good enough for me.  Next morning I headed north to Cuenca which, to the opposite of its southern neighbor, is a beautiful city.  To my surprise, the 220Km road was excellent cement paved and being back “home” with no more Peruvian police 🙂 I let it rip and took immense satisfaction and pleasure slicing through these twisties.  I arrived by noon time to Cuenca (Kilometer 32,295; Cuenca, 22-Oct-10 @ 11:50), settled in and went for a stroll in the city before hitting the party scene at night.   It was also great listening to some good Latin music again (salsa, meringue, batchata,…), the ones I have grown to like while living with Barry & Alisson not to mention listening during my trip to the music given to me by Gina.  It really felt as I was back home 🙂

I spent a total of 3 days in Cuenca just enjoying the city.  I was reminded that the coming weekend is Cuenca’s fiesta and it’s a wild celebration.  I won’t stay here until then but I am trying to gather a few of my rider friends from Quito to see who’s up for the ride.  For the time being and since the weather is holding up I wanted to discover a new route; I can head straight north and be in Quito in about 6 hours:  it is still an amazing ride through what is known as Volcano Highway but I wanted to ride a new road with another type of wonderful scenery:   heading east and climbing the Cordillera Real before dropping from the Andes to the tropical forests and then back up to Quito: You’ld be surprised how vivid and vibrant are the green colors here in Ecuador, unlike any other country I visited.  Analyzing the route on my map and talking to a couple of local riders I met on the streets of Cuenca, it will require me 3 days to tackle this hard terrain assuming no rain.

Next morning, I headed east climbing higher through the Andes toward a pass at 3,800m.  As expected, the route was very rough, a muddy mix of gravel and sand, holes, bumps and protruding rocks from the ground.  But I’ve grown up to love these routes and trust me it was worth it:  Looking down from the high mountain to the vast extent of lush and vibrant green tropical forest.   Kilometer 32,407; Limon, 25-Oct-10 @ 12:15: 3 1/2  hours and 110km later, as my route veered north and to my great surprise, I hit asphalt!!  Hmmm… “Must be a village up ahead” I thought.  Few kilometers went by and still ongoing asphalt.  I rode alongside another rider (lots of small Chinese bikes in South America) and shouted: “Up to where does the asphalt extends?”: “Hasta Quito!”… Damn! And I wanted a challenging ride through the jungle.  Disappointed, I kept riding and passed Macas by noon time, the village I expected to reach late afternoon and sleep in tonight.  But since the day was young I decided to keep riding and see if I can reach Baños…. which I did, even after taking the opportunity of ridding through Baños famous old road and snap a few pictures.

Kilometer 32,723; Baños, 25-Oct-10 @ 17:00: Baños is a village at the footstep of the Tungurahua Volcano and a very popular tourist spot.  Surrounded by majestic mountains and a strong river, it’s an outdoor adventure getaway.   I visited Baños a couple of time before and all I wanted to do this time is go to the thermal bath.  The thermal pool reaches 49oC, fed by the mineral rich hot streams heated by Tungurahua’s entrails.  There’s also an ice-cold glacier and snow melt water from the mountain top which reaches the pool in a superb 40m waterfall.  So at night, I joined the locals in their daily therapy session, relaxing in the hot pool then dipping into the cold one and so on.

… and that’s it!  Today is my final riding day on this adventure.   Wow… who would have imagined my trip would have taken so long?  Or who would have said it will actually end? :).  Well, not to disappoint you guys, I prefer to think about it as a pause vs. a stop.   As I was saddling my bags on the bike, I felt slow, tired as if I was lifting a heavy load behind me.  Something was holding me back… something didn’t want this to end.  I knew this moment will come but never gave it a second thought.  Now it seems the thought is paralyzing me.

And what a coincidence.  In my hostel was a Polish couple on a Honda Africa Twin.  They had a sticker on the bike saying: “Singapore 2 Poland”.  They made it all the way here?  Now that’s a weird path on a route to Poland: Personally, I would have chosen to ride through Asia, Russia, the Middle East,….  As I questioned Kamil about his trip he answered: “Yeah, we did Singapore to Poland via China, Mongolia, Russia down to Kazakhstan, Pakistan…. then we decided to just keep riding: UAE to Yemen before crossing to Africa: Kenya to South Africa then all the way up the African west coast to Morocco.  We shipped the bike to Cuba then Venezuela and we’ve been touring South America for 10 month.  We left 2.5 years ago, 125,000Km under our belt and next we’re going to Australia”.  Wow!  Talk about temptation.

~250Km separate me from Quito and my friends.  During this final ride, I was replaying the many moments, adventures, discoveries, laughter,… I lived on this trip and remembering the many new friends I’ve met along the way.  I felt so rich & overwhelmed by what I have experienced and done, feeling lucky to have the opportunity and courage to have accomplished it.  And it will not be the end, oh no!  When you set your soul free, you can never tie it back down.  Other adventures await me: They might not be as free or wild as what I have done (hey, I might surpass it 🙂 but it will definitely be as enlightening and pleasurable.   I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life.

What would I do now?  I really don’t know.  I have lots of plans and ideas boiling in my head and I am eager to put them to action.  But all in good time and I am sure when the moment is right, I will take the best decision.

32,981 Kilometers, 305 days (10 months), 6 countries, 1 continent…

The Llama Show

Ride up!

Sami

 

Note: Out of the 32,981Km I travelled, less than 1,300Km were the same road twice (excluding daytrips to tourist sites).  Majority of this 1,300Km were in the last weeks while riding back to Ecuador.

Note 2: I invite you to read my final thoughts after viewing the Photo Album.

Photo Album

Final thoughts...

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Cordilleras

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Cordilleras

Chachapoyas, 18-Oct-2010

What else can we do in Huaraz? A whole lot more.  I could stay for months on end here and probably still wanting for more.  Shachar was a rock climbing guide and he was eager to introduce us to his sport.  Ira, Shai and I were also excited by this opportunity and being here in Huaraz we couldn’t have chosen a more convenient venue.  We went to Andean Kingdom agency and its owner Andres, a very cool & professional Argentinean rock climber.  He has a refuge 15min away from Hatun Machay, a very diverse rock formation and a climbing Mecca in this region: We could stay at his refuge (which was very well equipped), rent all equipments necessary from him and go wild on the rocks.

So after a night of party and dance in Huaraz we headed toward Hatun Machay.  Shachar was very meticulous and a good instructor which gave me the confidence I needed to start my climb: remember, me and heights are not the best of friends.   We started by tackling a 5+ graded cliff and by the end of day I was able to climb a 6.  The following morning, we tackled a few more 6 / 6+ before I tried my luck on a 6a (yeah, I know, the ranking of each climb is complicated & I still need to get my head around it: it depends on the size of the holes, supports, cliff angle,… and most probably the guide’s opinion).  While climbing this 6a, I fell 1/3 of the way up though but I wasn’t to be stopped.  Ira and I, joined by Kevin (a strong American climber of intermediate level but this guy will improve very quickly!) decided to stay 1 extra day to practice.  Andres had no issue for us crashing one more night at his refuge even if he had to head back to Huaraz.  He left us in charge of the refuge, gave us food for dinner and will be bringing lunch with him tomorrow.  How cool is that?!  Lead by Kevin, I got 1 extra day to practice my 6a which I made it up 2/3 of the way before I fell: during the climb, I had no force left in my arms and couldn’t hold on (any climber will tell you you should only use your arm for support, but it’s easier said than done).   All in all, it was an exhilarating experience and I was more that satisfied with my rock climbing initiation.  I might have found another hobby to follow…

Back in Huaraz, after yet another “pollo” diner (to the great pleasure of Shachar), it was time for another challenge: Vallunaraju, a 5,765m snowy peak.  It is ranked as an easy climb and I would have skipped it to save the costs except for 2 major points: 1) the views of the cordilleras Blanca and Negra will be outstanding from the top; and 2) I couldn’t say no to another adventure with Shachar, Shay and Ira, especially this being their first 5,00+m.a.s.l. mountain climb.  Again, we hired Andres’s company service to undertake the climb and as usual we had a blast as a gang.  For the ascent, we had 2 guides: Shachar and I went with Edwin while Ira and Shai went with Rolando (“mono”).  We had the speed advantage on the other groups and out of everyone, we made it to the top first, witnessing the sunrise above the cordillera Blanca.  It also meant we arrived early to camp and had a 2 hour rest and sleep before the others came back.

But all good things have to end and it was time to say goodbye: Shachar, Shay and Ira were heading south to Ica, Nasca, Cusco,… while I was heading north.  I was sad to leave the guys but as I told them, I am sure one day, not in the distant future, we will meet again.

I saddled up the next morning for a short ride up to Caraz (Kilometer 30,460; Caraz, 7-Oct-10 @ 10:40).  There, I checked into a hostel, unloaded my bike and then rode up to Laguna Paron, a total of ~2,000m of vertical denivelation (Kilometer 30,494; Laguna Paron, 7-Oct-10 @ 15:00).  It was a very tough ride especially inside the park, with narrow loose gravel roads zigzagging their way up the rock face.  As usual, the descent was the hardest part and it took serious effort to keep the rubber side down.  But the trip was definitely worth it, riding between 1,000m high granite walls all the way up to the lake with its turquoise waters and surrounded by magnificent peaks of the Cordillera Blanca.

It was also a good practice for my next ride.  I was to head north through “Cañon del Pato” a stunning canyon where the cordillera Blanca and Negra almost meet, separated by a mere 20m at their closest points.  Kilometer 30,550; Cañon del Pato, 8-Oct-10 @ 9:45: It was a terrific road, a narrow path lounging the vertical cliffs of the cordillera Negra to the west, while to the east sheer drops plunge straight down to the rio Santa below before the cliff façade of the cordillera Blanca rise vertically to the sky like a rock wall on the other shore of Santa river.  What was even more stunning was passing through 45 or more tunnels during this route: these tunnels are 1 lane wide, just enough for a truck to squeeze by (watch out for incoming traffic, although very rare), they were drilled by hand in the sheer cliff of the mountain and are as-is, i.e. pure rock walls and roof.  At some point you have 3 or 4 tunnels in a row, a few of them twisting and turning.  I am not exaggerating when I am telling you it was a mesmerizing ride: only about 17Km long but it took me around an hour to ride through it, thanks to the million picture break I took :).  To top it off, on the road toward the sea I asked the local mine to allow me to cross through their land and cut approximately a 50Km on my route (Kilometer 30,648; red bridge, 8-Oct-10 @ 13:50).  The guards where more than happy to allow me through and I even took a long break at the exit to eat and chat with them: of course the discussion centered around Llama (she loves attention ;)).   As for the road itself, it was a very easy off-road ride with colorful scenery surrounding me.

I reached Trujillo mid-afternoon but headed straight to Huanchaco, a nearby fishing town and surf favorite; Kilometer 30,784; Huanchaco, 8-Oct-10 @ 16:20.  It was way more tranquil than Trujillo and I needed this break.  Perfect timing as Kevin was also here practicing surf and I crashed in the same hostel as him  Trujillo itself is a bustling town and its main tourist attractions are the presence of major pyramids and religious complexes nearby dating back to the Moche culture (Huaca  de la Luna y del Sol) followed by the Chimú culture (Chan Chan city, Huaca Arco Iris, Huaca Esmeralda,…).  As in the majority of South America’s archeological sites, we learn more about a culture and its people, their traditions, lives, believes,… through their dead: the tombs are usually filled with artifacts, ceramics, jewelry,… and studying the actual body, its position, the way it was buried and/or mummified, the tombs layout, architecture and surrounding building; who and what accompanied the dead,… everything teach us a little about these people.  Through death they live on… and we have to look beyond the objects to understand its creators.  During the next few days I visited these various complexes with Huaca de la Luna being an absolute highlight, an extraordinary site not to be missed.  And when I took off my tourist hat, I hanged-out with Kevin or the hotel chicos, gouged on cebiche at the many beach vendors and even got my initiation to surf…  which the locals were quick to point out:  just like any newbie, I was a “payaso”, a clown, in the water trying to stand on the board.

After a morning stop at El Brujo archaeological complex, a Moche culture temple where was recently discovered the tattooed mummified body of a high ranking priestess, I headed to Cajamarca: Kilometer 31,162; Cajamarca, 12-Oct-10 @ 17:00.  Not only I wanted to visit the city where the Spaniards caught and executed Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor who reigned over this marvelous culture, but it was also the start of my route that will take me again to Chachapoyas (remember, I was there with Barry back in early January).  Couple of things pushed me this way:  1) I hate riding the same route twice and love to take new and less travelled roads; and 2) it is described as an amazing drive by the locals.   But it’s also not an easy option: While the route from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas is all asphalted (Barry and I took it last year in the opposite direction) the route from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas is pure gravel.  No issues so far: this route goes up 2 mountain chains: first the Central Andes Cordillera up to 3,200m.a.s.l. then down to Balsas @ 950m.a.s.l. and crossing Rio Marañon before going up the Andes Eastern Cordillera up to 3,600m.a.s.l. through the dreaded “abra del Barro Negro” (Black Mud pass).  Just the name gave me chills and this was my great concern: the rainy season has already started (it rained heavily on Monday here) and I just didn’t want to tackle mud terrain alone.  I couldn’t find any rider willing or going this way so it was up to me.  Asking the locals (bus drivers, tourist info,…) they quickly pointed that the route is solidly packed & well maintained and since the rain is not permanent or strong enough yet, I should just go ahead.  The only warning I was given was to watch out for fog; when it covers the region up there, it’s so dense and opaque the drive becomes extremely dangerous, sometime tragic:  I could fall off the sheer cliffs on one side or get hit by fog-blinded incoming traffic (few people take this road but there are the infrequent buses).  So you might ask why do I even want to head that way?  Especially since I am only 3 riding days away from Quito if I take the asphalted coastal road?!  Well, take a look at the satellite pics below, I think you will understand :).

On Friday the sun was shining on me and I rode early morning; Kilometer 31,162; Cajamarca, 14-Oct-10 @ 7:40.  I really don’t remember the last time I was that early and even punctual for a ride; I usually just take it as it comes.  Well, I needed to leave as wide a margin as I can for any climate change.  But today luck, like the sun, was on my side: I couldn’t have asked for a better weather.  It was absolutely gorgeous allowing me to admire the views, stop for many photo & snack breaks along the way and enjoy my day to its fullest.  I arrived to Leimebamba (Kilometer 31,421; Leimebamba, 14-Oct-10 @ 15:20), a small village in a lush valley, way ahead of my estimates which allowed me to just go chill and do like the locals do:  sit in the local plaza, watching the people stroll by and chitchatting with the elders.  The next morning, Don Julio form the hostel I was staying in provided me with a guide for the 3 hour hike toward Congona (which I did in 1:45min to the astonishment of my out of breath guide), a small Chachapoyas site with some very unique structures and a couple of beautifully decorated house outer walls.   The afternoon, I went to visit the famous Leimebamba museum displaying artifacts and mummies (up to 211 of them) found in the sarcophagus and tombs on the cliffs of Lago de los Condores.  I also met a group of 11 retired Quebec birdwatchers at the museums and I spared time for some hummingbird watching: amazingly, I saw the marvelous Colibri dos Espatula, so small yet so graceful in its flight with its twin tail feathers.  At night, we all went out for dinner before I headed out with a couple of local “friends” for good laughs around a few beers. By the time I went back to my hostel it was raining heavily. What I thought would be a passing cloud decided to stay for the whole night and greet me in the morning.  I took my time packing hopping it will stop but the rain just didn’t want to subside.  So I just saddled up and headed to Chachapoyas; it was mostly light rain, not too much discomfort and I reached Chachapoyas at noon time: Kilometer 31,509; Chachapoyas, 16-Oct-10 @ 11:50.

A quick wash of my bike’s chain (followed by washing “me”) before heading out to see Janet and Carlos again (they vaguely remembered me until I mentioned the bike) and booking a tour for tomorrow: there were a few excursions I missed the last time I was around here due to Barry being in a rush.  While at the agency, I met with Francois (a Quebecois) plus Eliana & fff (Arg): we were all going to visit Carajia tomorrow.  They were great fun, reminded me of why I liked so much Argentina J.  The day after, with Uri (Israel) and Helene & Julie (France) we all hiked to Catarata Gocta, a 771m waterfall and the 3rd highest in the world.  Needless to say the hike was amazing: the valley was lush and vibrant green and I was treated to a spectacle of life and color:  we saw a group of baby monkeys all huddled together and the famous Gallito de las Rockas, Peru national bird.  Once we reached the falls, Uri and I couldn’t resist jumping in: It was a powerful shower and extremely cold.  My body was numb and I was dizzy for  ½ hour after I exited!

Tomorrow I will start the final leg of my trip.  I plan to take the gravel road through Peru’s and Ecuador’s tropical forests toward Quito.  It will be an interesting ride, I just hope rain will hold off as the memories of last January are still fresh in my mind and I really do not want to re-visit them again.

Ride up!

Sami

Photo Album

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

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.

Diversity

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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

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Inti Raymi

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Inti Raymi (Sun Festival)

Cusco, 13-Sep-2010

We trekked the same road back from Agua Calientes to Hydroelectrica then after several combi and bus rides we were in Cusco by nighttime.  Next day, Carlos and I parted way: I headed by bus to Arequipa to meet my “patas” and Carlos went to Cachora to get his bicycle.  We agreed on meeting again here in Cusco to do a couple of other excursions.  As for my bus ride, well, it’s been such a long time that I didn’t travel by bus that I felt dizzy & nauseas the whole way, barely able to get any sleep.  Deliverance finally came when we arrived to Arequipa and I was so happy to get out of this “boat”.  I immediately hooked up with Ryan (US) and xxx (Arg.) who also just arrived to Arequipa from different destinations and we all headed to the same hostel.  A quick breakfast followed by a much needed power nap and it was only in mid-afternoon that we all went out strolling the city.  As for Roy and David, they were attending a climbing & rescue class to be ready for their jungle work so I could only meet them at night.  David was doing OK, life goes on as he painfully said.  Both were excited by this jungle job opportunity as it will bring in a good cash infusion: Now should they get a Mitsubishi L200 or a Toyota Hilux? :).  Tomorrow was their final exam and they had to head home early.  Not to worry, we will celebrate their success in good time :).  As for tonight, well Ryan and xxx were preparing the “pre-game” at the hostel before we hit the clubbing scene.  After a couple of bar hope we ended up at my favorite place, “Deja-Vu”, and I met with Shirley to dance the night away.   Next day, I finally hooked up with Rafa again and it was great chatting again with him.  He also helped me get in contact with Suzuki in Lima.  We headed for a quick stroll north of the city before heading out with his girlfriend for a nice lunch in a traditional restaurant around Arequipa.  We headed back to town late afternoon and hit the clubbing scene again.   And if you think that was enough, well, the following day the boys were finally free to spend the day with me.  I went rope climbing with Roy and David threw me of a bridge ;).  By noon time, we met up with the other guides, including Mitchel and Julver (from Aconcagua!) and soon thereafter the celebration started and a house party formed at Julver apartment which lasted until the wee hour of the morning.     Arequipa is one city I would love to come back to visit… or even stay in!!

I headed back to Cusco with Ryan and the party just continued there.  Carlos was back in town too and he was eager to visit the old Inca capital and its surroundings.  Cusco’s surroundings are a cultural treasure and every day we went on a different tour to explore Inca or Wari ruins or visit colonial villages before spending the afternoon in the city.  I’ll let the picture do the talking so scroll down below and enjoy.  At night, there was no lack of people at my hostel ready to hit the club scene: David and Garry also arrived from La Paz and brought it’s craziness with them ;), Davo & David were 2 Spaniards just out there to rock it all out and with Mani (Puerto-Rico), Julia (Italy) and Claudia (Arg.) the dancing was in full swing.

But as was the case for La Paz, I needed to “escape” from Cusco. But before, one final special night to celebrate my B-day :).  Tomorrow, 22 days after I arrived here I will finally rejoin with Llama and be on the road again.

Ride up!

Sami

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Citadels

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Citadels

Cusco, 1-Sep-2010

I crossed the border into Peru with a group of Italian riders on an organized tour from Santiago de Chile to Cusco and back in 21 days.  They were pampered: they had a LandCruiser with a guide + mechanic on board, loaded with spare parts, extra gas, tools and their entire luggage.  I tagged along until Puno which was my stop for the day while they kept riding toward Cusco (Kilometer 28,159; Puno, 24-Jul-10 @ 14:50). I quickly checked-in and jumped back on the bike to visit Sillustani funerary tombs (Kilometer 28,192; Sullustani, 24-Jul-10 @ 15:30).  I made it there and back by sunset including being stopped by my favorite buddies, the Peruvian Polica de Transito.  After realizing they won’t be able to extract money from me, one cop asked to be driven back to Puno as his shift ended.  He also wanted to see how fast I can go… fast enough on turns for him to scream for me to slow down 🙂

I didn’t linger more than the night in Puno.  It’s not a very attractive city and I previously visited it and also stayed in the nearby Amantani islands, plus I couldn’t hook-up with my buddy Rafa (whom I met back in January) since he’s living in Arequipa, so I just headed to Cusco the next morning (Kilometer 28,633; Cusco, 24-Jul-10 @ 17:50).  There, I settled comfortably in my hostel as I knew I will be staying in this city for a while.  I was joined by a bunch of cool French travelers – including Sarah who managed to find work at the hostel – and we spent the first couple of days doing what Cusco is known for: visiting this imperial city and partying.  Mama Africa popularity dwindled but Ukukus, Km-0, Mythology and especially IncaTeam took over harder than ever.  And if I thought to myself I will take it easy when Roy comes to town since we will be preparing our trek, I was soon corrected and put back into place.  Roy has led a group of French tourists down Colca Canyon and we met them again in Cusco for 2 nights of unbelievable party.

On Monday morning, after our second night of party and “after-party”, we said goodbye to the girls, went back to our hotel, packed our stuff, bought food for the trek and rushed to catch the bus to Cachora where our next adventure will start.  We were so tired we fell asleep in the bus and missed our drop-off point :)… but not by much and a short taxi ride corrected everything.

Cachora is the starting point of the Choquequirao trek, an Inca site little known by tourists and often skipped.  The other reason why it’s bypassed is: Choquequirao complex is nestled high up on a mountain overlooking the Apurimac river (Apurimac == “where the gods speak”), a steep and demanding trek requiring 2 days to get there and 2 days to get back.  There are no roads or train out here which is actually a great thing.  Roy and I decided to combine Choquequirao with Machu-Picchu, an 8 day trek.  This time we both agreed better to rent a donkey (not to mention the price was low) and we found Noel who will be our ariero for the trip, accompanied by Pedro (his donkey :)…  I also met Carlos, a Colombian traveler who is touring South America on his bicycle for a 2 year period:  www.pedaleandoalma.org.  His plans were to accompany us only up to Choquequirao but after spending couple of days with us, he couldn’t help but to tag along all the way up to Machu-Picchu :).  He is great company and the fun only grew, with Roy leading the way.

As we approached this majestic site, a sense of excitement overwhelmed me: Choquequirao was standing proud and strong facing the centuries and I was so eager to discover it.  The complex occupies an area bigger in size then Machu-Picchu but with fewer number of buildings and ceremonial centers than its more famous counterpart.  While it is believed Machu-Picchu was built as a ceremonial center for the Condor, Choquequirao was built as a temple for the Llama.  A tremendous count of steep terraces surrounds the complex with some of their walls having embedded white stones in the shape of llamas, a stunning sight to see.  But what rendered my visit an astounding experience is the fact that until 13:00, we were absolutely alone:  not a single soul was roaming the grounds.   We humbly wondered inside the complex, undisturbed, absorbing its mystical energy, admiring its beauty and letting our minds wonder and imagine how it could have been before.  Better let the pics do the talking.

The total trek up to Machu-Picchu was a hard one, with 2 steep mountains passes to climb (highest @ 4,500m) separated by valleys, the lowest at about 1,600m.  The sun hits so hard in this region that we used to wake up at 5:00 and start walking immediately after breakfast to skip the blunt of the afternoon sun.  But it was really a wonderful hike with tremendous views along the way.  Each day we crossed different type of climates and vegetations as we climbed up & down these mountains or being on their eastern vs. western face.  And Roy picked up the jokes were he left them back in Aconcagua so the fun and laughter joined us for the whole trip, to the great amusement of Carlos and Noel.  We arrived at Santa Teresa in 6 days, earlier than expected… we actually could have arrived a day earlier if not for our donkey Pedro being tired and needed to rest! 🙂   However the fun was soon squashed:  In Santa Teresa, Roy received some devastating news and he had to rush back to Arequipa to be with David.  After some discussion, it was agreed I would stay behind with Carlos, visit Machu Picchu and then carry all the equipments back with me to join Roy & David in Arequipa.

To reach Machu-Picchu, we needed to go upstream along the Urubamba river: a path + road takes us from Santa Teresa to Hydroelectrica before we follow the railway track to Aguas Calientes, the base village below Machu-Picchu citadel.  This route not only saved us loads of money (the train ride from Cusco to Machu-Picchu and back costs U$D71), it also an easy and nice hike along the river, walking between steep mountains and their many rock cliffs.  Not to mention we passed by fields of bananas, limas and avocados which we gladly picked and ate (plus carrying some for dinner & next day snacks).  On our route, we also met with Jorge, a very cool local guide, which not only was fun company but also found us cheap accommodation in Aguas Calientes and gave us all the information & tips needed for our majestic visit.  Not all was rosy though; the rain hit us hard during the whole way and didn’t stop for the remainder part of our trip.  Our Machu-Picchu experience was soaked.  The following day we did manage to get 3 hours of dry weather in the early morning to enjoy Machu-Picchu’s complex but by 10:00 it was rainy, foggy and cold… very miserable.  Our hike to Huayna-Picchu was also affected by the weather as the fog rendered the postcard beautiful views of the citadel (and it shape of a condor) mostly obstructed.   Few people stayed long at the site which was the only positive side of this weather:  instead of the usual 2,500 visitors, there were less than a 100 walking the site in the afternoon.  As for Carlos and I, we stayed until closing time; soaked and drenched but not ready to let go of this mystical experience.  And I thought to myself: “I previously visited Machu-Picchu under sunny and blue skies, now I get to experience its other face”.  Positive thinking… although it didn’t make it any better 😦

However, a warm bath back in Aguas Calientes does do wonders.  Not to be outdone, the hearty dinner that followed further replenished my energies and I felt satisfied.  All I needed now was a good night sleep and I headed to bed replaying in my mind this discovery adventure that started back in Choquequirao.

Ride up!

Sami

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Loooong Chile

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Loooong Chile

Mendoza, 15-Feb-2010

Kilometer 4,923, Arequipa, 28-Jan-10 @ 10:00:  It’s been a while and I was eager to ride again.  The road to Tacna and then Arica in Chile was again through deserts: rocks, gravel and dirt.  The desert even climbs up to 1,300meters.  It makes for some very special twisties: rock walls on one side, cliff drops on the other and leaning into turns with my helmet skirting the rock facades; What a rush!  The border crossing into Chile is typical “a la South America”.  How should I know that I need to buy a border forms in Tacna… 20Km before the borders?!   I didn’t want to ride back and look for this form so I waited around until a couple had an extra one which they gladly gave me.

As soon as you are in Chile the local time jumps +2hours compared to Peru.  Hey, I don’t mind sunsets at 21:00 :).  Kilometer 5,364, Arica, 28-Jan-10 @ 20:30: Arica is most famous for the war of the Pacific, when Chile conquered this land from Bolivia and Peru back in the 1880’s during the nitrate mining golden era.  Also, there are a couple of Eiffel buildings near the main square, with the St. Mark Cathedral being the most impressive.

On the road again,  this time heading to Iquique, Kilometer 5,753, Iquique, 30-Jan-10 @ 17:20 and the many geoglyphs that dot the desert landscape.  Some of them are hard to locate and one of them took me a good 30min driving on dirt roads prior to finding it, but it was worth it.  No one can really explain the meaning of these geoglyphs although there are no shortages of interpretation including the obvious alien version (hey, they even made a visit when I was there; check the pic of the alien in the red helmet).  Somehow, I can’t help thinking that more than anything else, these guys just created their art and “sculptures/paintings” on these hills, nothing more.  More interesting sites lie next to Iquique like the remains of a couple of ghost towns from the old Nitrate boom, with Humberstone being the most fabulous one to see.  When the Germans invented the synthetic ammonia in 1929, the town’s importance and richness declined and eventually death was inevitable.   In a few year, what were the richest cities in South America turned to… nothing.  Can’t help but think how wonderful it will be if history repeat itself but this time for the oil industries (sorry Jay ;).   Back to Humberstone, because of the dry weather and almost no rain, the city has been extremely well preserved, including the saltpeter and factories.  In this ghost city you can enter the homes, church, theater, shopping store and even the public pool.  Feels likes I was thrown in a western movie.

In Iquique, I hooked up with a couple of very cool and funny Argentinean guys: Hernan and Augustin who also happened to be going to the same places I was.  From the beaches of Iquique we headed to San Pedro de Atacama (them by bus).  Kilometer 6,490, San Pedro, 2-Feb-10 @ 20:30, San Pedro is nice little town of 2,000 people and maybe 10,000 tourists… and it sure feels that way.  It’s a desert town build around an oasis surrounded by valleys, mountains, volcanoes, altiplanos, salt lakes,… making it a perfect center to visit them all.  From the absolutely gorgeous landscape of Valle de la Luna (the name fits perfectly, especially at sunset), to the heat of Valle de la Muerte where we sandboard, to the altiplano lakes (some of them frozen!) rich in mineral where thousands of flamencos live and are currently breading or nursing their young, to swimming in the salt lakes (which have higher concentration of salt then the Dead Sea), to witnessing the amazing contrast of color during the sunset while walking on salt plains, to observing the sunrise upon the geysers fields, 4,500m high.   You got to spend 5 days here, although it will cost you an arm and a leg.  This place will break your budget for a month… a lot of other tourists suggest I could have done the same activities in Bolivia for half the price.  I say let’s do it twice 🙂

Back on the road and now I am driving desert upon desert and accumulating kilometers… and it’s boring like hell.  There were practically no cars; I was just sharing these deserts with hundreds of funnel sand storms which roam the area like drunken men.

Kilometer 6,845, Antafagosta, 6-Feb -10 @ 13:50
Kilometer 7,368, Caldera, 6-Feb -10 @ 21:30
Kilometer 7,799, La Serena, 7-Feb -10 @ 15:40
Kilometer 8,290, Los Andes, 7-Feb-10 @ 21:00

1,500+ Km of nothing, barely a few gas station (twice I nearly ran out of gas, was running on fume (seriously!)).  Otherwise, thank god I have my MP3 player (and thanks to all who gave me music ;).  On my 3rd day of riding, I decided to completely skip Santiago (I visited the city a couple of years ago) and I directly head to Mendoza (Argentina).  Northern Chile is not my favorite place and actually in Chile I don’t even feel l am in South America, rather like in an eastern Montreal suburb.  It’s a very clean country, friendly people, great seafood and drivers here are extremely courteous to others, to riders and to pedestrian (bordering the ridiculous actually), but after visiting Peru and Ecuador the standard to meet is now high.  Having been to Santiago before, I really didn’t mind just turning east and start climbing the Andes:  not only the “caracoles” is an amazing road, zigzagging 1,500m (vertical) on a mountain side to reach the border pass at 3,200m but Mendoza is also the place where I want to accomplish my next dream expedition and I was eager to get there.  On the way I hooked up with an Australian lad on a KLR 650 who came up from Ushuaia and now heading to BA to ship his bike to England, which made the road more fun to ride.  At the border, I experienced firsthand the rivalry between Argentina and Chile.  Here, Argentinean and Chilean border guards sit together which makes it even more fun to joke with them:  The Argentinean agent throws a jab against the mediocre Chilean wine and bad food to which the Chilean agent responds:  “Well in fact, Argentina is not that great, they have only 2 good things: “carne y mujeres” to which I had to answer: “Aren’t they the same?” ;))))  …  (I can just see the grin on all the guys’ faces and the girls wanting to kill me ;)).   They didn’t stop here, the Chilean agent turns abruptly towards me and with a serious look tells me: “Do you have marijuana?”… very confused, I immediately responded: “No”. He smiled and responded: “Then probably he (pointing at the Argentinean agent) won’t let you in… you see, this is the tip you need to give them to enter the country” :).

Kilometer 8,596, Mendoza, 8-Feb-10 @ 19:20 Mendosa is a gorgeous city, lots of trees and parks, great parillada, excellent wines, delicious ice creams and where water canals run parallel to its shaded streets (to the danger of tourists: a British girl in our hostel broke her leg when she left a club at 5:00AM and “fell” in one of these canals).  AnywayZ, in the first part of my 5 days stay here, I just went around (and waited a lot) to fix the huge problems I was facing organizing my expedition.  Long story, I will tell you later, but from almost hell to finally everything falling into place and we’re good to go in a few hours (it’s Monday 15-Feb at 5:00AM).

Wish me luck, I really need it and I will tell you all about it in 20days.  In the mean time, I will be cut off from the world.

Take care

Ride up!

Sami

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