Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 54/55 - Loja - Cuenca/Cuenca

Day 52 - Loja - Cuenca

Distance travelled (by bike): 7315

Driving from Loja through the mountains on route 35 was stunning and worth taking time to ride, luckily toady it didn't rain, though it was bitterly cold. Unlike all the counties in South America so far Equador seems to actually have some road signs. This helped hugely as the GPS is still dead. 
After loads of twists and turns i arrived at Cuenca, about 30 minutes before the heavens opened and remained so for the rest of the day, serious rain. Grabbing a bit to eat i met an american who was a political fund raiser, he had decided to take 6 months off and travel, though so far he'd only travelled from Quito to Cuenca.

driving above the clouds 

looking down one of the valleys

Day 53 - Cuenca

Casual day in Cuenca. Cuenca is the third largest city in Equador, and since 1999 the city centre has been designated UNESCO world heritage site. Beautiful laid back city with huge amounts of colonial character. The city centre is made up of small cobbled streets and dominated by two cathedral, the old and new. The new Cathederal was constructed in 1880so all the 10,000 inhabitants of Cuenca's could fit at once. The city also has a Panama hat museum, there are a huge amount of hat makers in the city, over 70% of the hats they make get exported (most to Panama). I was very tempted to buy one, then reality hit me and i realised i had no way to carry it!

bike parked in the central courtyard of hostel

some of the 1000's of hats for sale at the museum 

Day 53 - Chiclayo - Loja (Equador)

Distance travelled (by bike): 7180

I wasn't going to cross the border today, not the plan, but as things fell into place i did. Leaving Chiclayo i met some bikers from Austria who were riding around the world with a group called Globebusters, They told me they were riding to Piura, staying there the night then into Equator the following day. Riding off my plan was to get to Sullana, stop and cross the border tomorrow. 
Crossing the desert de sechura was dull! 200 miles of sand, one road and hot, reaching Piura by 10 I decided to get to Sullana and stop for the day, would be there by 11am, it was only another 60 miles.
Arriving at Sullana i realised why the Globebusters group were staying in Piura, nowhere to stay in Sullana! A policeman thought there might be somewhere in the next town, so i drove on. No luck.
Eventually realising that the was only another 50 miles, and surely near the border there would be somewhere to stay i drove on, the scenery changed, mountains and colour appeared.  But alas again i was wrong, no places at the border!
The border i was the quickest i have been through so far, and the guards really helpful, thou informed me that camping was a bad idea and the nearest place to stay was Loja, approx 200km north. Wasn't happy, but what can you do, off i drove into equator determined to make it to Loja before nightfall. Driving up the mountain roads the weather quickly change (realise why i was originally driving along the coast) the rain started, followed by mist, then fog. Soaked i rolled into Loja, by this point in the injuries from yesterdays bus accident were really arching, glad to stop.

middle of the desert


more desert

paddy fields

just entering Equador

patriotic fence posts

before the rain

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 52 - Huarmey - Chiclayo

Distance travelled (by bike): 6775

Driving primarily through the desert is dull! Heading up to Trujillo to see the ruins at Chan Chan, what i didn't realise until i arrived is how vast the ruins are. Can Chan was the capital of the Chimu Kingdom (600AD-1470, when the Incas conquered them) and covered 28km2. Presently the archaeologists are excavating 14km2 discovering over 10 palaces. The only one currently open to the public is the smallest. The ruins were not discovered until 1911, the majority not unearthed until the 80's.  The same ticket admitted me to 3 other sites, If your ever passing these ruins are worth the visit. 
The areas slightly further north is the start of the Peruvian surf territory, its claimed that this area has the longest waves in the world. Heading up the highway i stopped at a cafe for very late lunch, which turned out to specialise in seafood, another bonus. Heading further north i had a small altercation with a bus, arriving at Chiclayo, hot and and aching i collapsed.

chan chan




one of the corridors 

one of the springs 

the main course from the set menu!!!

Day 51 - Lima - Huarmey

Distance travelled (by bike): 6470

Arriving at the BMW dealer at 10 i was informed the bike would take another hour, no problem. When i was hanging about i met a Canadian couple who's bikes were having the engines replaced, they had been waiting a month!
Eventually leaving at 12 i pulled into the hot, sweaty, crazy mess that is Lima traffic. After what seemed like and age (and loads of diversions) i ascended out of the city and into the desert. 
The highlight of the day was been pulled over by two corrupt policemen. As i pleaded ignorance, (which i was as i had no idea why i was pulled over) the two policemen where trying to explain they wanted money. After 20 minutes and when i wrote down their badge numbers they got fed up and told me to go, but wouldn't pose for a photo.
The road ran parallel to the sea, picturesque at times, but for a majority of the time large chicken units lay in-between the road and sea, i must have seen over 100.
Stopping at Huarmey, turns out i was the only gringo in town, and whilst i was eating people wanted to talk, not easy as my spanish is still horrific!!

on of the ruins on the way (it was closed)


sand dunes

one for Goerge

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 50 - Nasca - Lima

Distance travelled (by bike): 6240

Leaving Nasca at 7am to get to the BMW dealer at lima, thought it would be a quick journey, i was wrong. After a serious look at the bike last night i realised that i really needed new tyres, brake pads and chain and sprockets. After call ing BMW Lima they confirmed they had the parts and could fit them in one day. Bonus.
The journey to Lima skirted along the coast, unfortunately i could hear the sea but not see it as a huge amount of mist engulfed the coast. Arriving at BMW (after a few wrong turns, as the GPS power unit is now not working so depending on maps) i was greeted by Dina and Eduardo, who thankfully both spoke good english. Parking my bike next to all the other international BMW's they had in for service (from Canada, USA and Germany) i decided that it was time for the bike to have a service. Would be done by 10am tomorrow. Excellent!

no wheels, brakes or sprokets

lined next to the Canadian bikes

After sorting out some accommodation and famished i asked if they know a good place to eat, no problem, I was dropped off at an all you could eat restaurant. As i walked in i realised i looked slightly out of place among the suits, but i was hungary. Turns out the restaurant specialised in meat, the all you can eat was a huge buffet of salads to accompany the main event, 14 different cuts of meat, (Ed, for you a small selection: Roast Pork, Rump Staek, Pork Belly, Fillet of Beef, Ribs, the list goes on) as much as you wanted. All slowly spit roasted and served off swords at the table. I had to try them all. I was told that i needed to try the local Peruvian Merlot as the perfect accompaniment, sadly you could only buy the bottle, done…they saw me coming! The best meal in South America to date.
After 3 hours of grazing i waddled back to try and sleep off the excess

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 48/49 - Cusco - Nasca (Nasca Lines)

Day 48 - Cusco - Nasca

Distance travelled (by bike): 5892

Setting off in the rain is never fun, but necessary. My original thought had been to get to Nasca over two days, stopping at Chalhuanca for the night. This road must have more corners and hairpin bends over its length than any other in the world. Amazing in the sun, not so fun in the rain! After 4 small river crossings i arrived at number 5 and it was slightly bigger, as i drove to the front of the queue passed buses and truck i saw how much bigger. But already wet and encouraged by the local highway workers i thought i'd give it a go. All went well, just. I misjudged how deep it was, water came over my boot whilst standing on the footpegs, with rocks underfoot the steering was not good. Fearing that the water was going to get into the airbox and up the exhaust i gunned the engine and thankfully made it to the other side, the works started to applause. if they saw my face they would have see it was fear and adrenaline that got me across rather than skill. Soaked i arrived at Chalhuanca, deciding that i might as well carry on off i drove. The road ascended and soon i was driving over what could've been the Scottish or york Moors (in November). It was cold enough to have snow on the ground. After 150 miles, the surrounding suddenly changed, the sun appeared and the rain stopped. Decending from 4000metres to 500 metres is 20 miles i entered Nasca, famous for the Nasca lines. The 450 mile journey had taken over 12 hours!

Day 49 - Nasca (Nasca Lines)

The best/only way to see all the Nasca lines is by Plane. 
The Nasca lines are parallel lines, geometrical figures and other designs etched into the ground by three different groups of people. The Paracas people 900-200BC, The Nascas 200BC-600AD and the Huari 630AD. 
No one know what the lines and symbols represent, most maintain its some vast calendar. Some of the figures represented are over 300metres long and the lines extend for over miles. The figures include:- Humming bird, spider, condor, heron, monkey, dog, person (or as they call it hear 'astronaut') and hands.

Having got the bike washed and had a good look, i really need new tyres (as nearly bald) and sprockets, thinking Lima tomorrow!!

standing next to the trusty plane

some of the lines

the landscape


the person, or astronaut 


the monkey






Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 45/46/47 - Puno - Cusco (Macha Picchu)

Day 45 - After getting woken up at 5am by other travellers I decided to get on the road early. In hindsight i had underestimated the distance and time it would take to get to Cusco. The weather was foul, wind and constant rain. I think the roads in Peru are the worst so far in south america, pot holes that would swallow the motorbike given the chance, speed bumps in random locations, not good. In all it took 7 hours to get to Cusco, arriving cold and fed up. As I was trying to navigate the streets a motorbike cop puled alongside and asked if i needed help, i explained i was looking for somewhere to stay in the centre of the old town, with this information he told me to follow him, in the traffic jams he turned on the sirens to get us passed. As we got to the centre he actually had to work and sped off. Finding somewhere to stay i immediately booked the Macha Picchu tour for the following morning, this involved a 4am start!

the policeman

Day 46 - Macha Picchu - it is quite incredible. The 4am Start was a struggle, the bus took us from Cusco to Urubamba, Where we got a train to Macha Picchu, followed by a bus up the mountain to ruins. Macha Picchu is amazing, unfortunately it was raining and cloudy, for this reason i decided not to do the hike up to Wayna Picchu. 
Built in the 1500's by the Inkas is was deserted after about 100 years with only 70% of the city built. It was rediscovered in 1912. No one actually knows what Macha Picchu was built for, thou there are lots of theories, which are guide explained. The construction, engineering and architecture is amazing. Thou i didn't get so see the whole view i could imagine that it would be breathtaking.

Day 47 - Cusco - day of rest and recuperation. Cusco is a beautiful city even with the rain and has a very european feel (Spanish influence) and a designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. well worth a visit, as a bonus I got to eat Guinea Pig!