[Geoff] Mac Trucks

The blokes at the bike shop in Puerto Asis were all very friendly and helpful.

The blokes at the bike shop in Puerto Asis were all very friendly and helpful.

We could of sat at the bar at the roundabout all day watching the passing procession of motorcycles.  In Puerto Asis bikes outnumber cars around forty to one and not surprisingly get right of way.  It’s truly amazing what they do and transport on their bikes, it was not uncommon to see four people on a bike, or a couple of bags of cement, or even 3 milk churns strapped to the sides.  Motorcycles have really made a huge impact to the way of life here and in particular this town.

Today was a short 80km ride north to Mocoa to a hostel in the ‘jungle’ for a few days.  The large Army and Police presence was still evident along highway 45, especially around bridges, airports and any important type of infrastructure.  The number of petrol tankers on this highway added to the importance of the security detail, as from what I could work out, they were transporting oil towards Bogota for refining and this was part of the country’s lifeblood.

Unfortunately the procession of trucks made for light sleeping as our ‘jungle hostel’ was located on the highway  and the truck exhaust brakes were defeaning after hours.  The humidity which come part and parcel with the jungle terrain just drips off you and the swift flowing river makes temporary relief.  I spotted a family of monkey’s jumping from treetop to treetop making their own highway quite swiftly through the canopy.  Some Macau birds feeding their young in a nearby tree trunk.

We took the opportunity to check the brakes on Gus’s bike and decided it needed new pads, so Bogota was reluctantly to be our next destination and we did this 800km in a long one day ride, arriving into Sunday evening traffic, akin to Sydney’s but ten times worse.  Our Garmin had us for once, to the exact address of our hostel.  We spotted a Maccas a few blocks away and we both agreed on a junki food fix for dinner, the first in 4 months since leaving Santiago.  Reluctantly I have to say a Macburglar is nice to have occasionally and we both enjoyed the fat fix and yes, it tasted just like the last one I ate back in Georgia, USA in 2010 !

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[Geoff] Persona Non Grata

For a moment today I was beginning to think we were going to be neighbours of Julian Assange, Ecuadorian Immigration was not going to let us out of the country and Colombia Immigration was not going to let us in ?  We made 5 x 25km trips between both border posts and the scenery and people became very familiar over those few hours.  Turns out we were never entered into the Ecuadorian computer system when we landed ex Peru.  We did have stamps in our passports and permits for our motorcycles, but we never existed in Ecuador ?  A nice place though ?

Part of our Colombian 'welcoming' committee...

Part of our Colombian ‘welcoming’ committee… (check his ‘gun’ out !)

Eventually it all got sorted and riding over the bridge into Colombia was a huge effort and great relief.  We were greeted with open arms and the ‘arms’ on the border guards were VERY serious (?) Our Colombian welcoming party was very very friendly, we chatted to many passers by, taxi drivers and everyone wanted photos in front of our bikes.  It did make up for the previous tedious hours of officialdom.  One strange aspect was the Customs Office was 140km away on a very bumpy road in Puerto Asis and just finding the town was an effort, let alone the Customs Office itself !   But with the help of a taxi driver who let us follow him and took no money for his efforts, we eventually found the place right opposite the airport and once again Colombian hospitality rained supreme.  The whole Customs Office joined in and we eventually got our motorcycle entry permits processed.

Our very HELPFUL Customs folks in Puerto Asis ( we nearly got invited for dinner ! )

Our very HELPFUL Customs folks in Puerto Asis ( we nearly got invited to dinner ! )

The day stretched far too long, but as I always allow one full day for border crossings, we still fell short of our original destination, so with the help of our lovely Customs lady, she pointed us to a nice hotel in the centre of town and once again the hospitality and friendliness of the staff really hit home to us and within one day of entering Colombia, we feel so welcomed here, we hope it’s a good sign !

Rodriquez and his family joined our Colombia welcoming party !

Rodriquez and his family joined our Colombian welcoming party too !

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[Geoff] Jungle Boy

Gus wanted to visit the Amazon jungle and Ecuador happens to have a huge junk of it on it’s eastern border with Brazil, so I found a new road that would get us from Cuenco onto Highway 45 and north.  This so called Highway 40 was very elusive on Google Maps, my Garmin GPS and anywhere else I could find reference to it.  So we took a punt and it started out well, which turned into a ‘work in progress’ aka never ending project for the Ecuadorian Transport Department, and then into a construction zone and eventually a beautiful concrete road across a mountain.

Edgar spoke better English than we spoke Spanish...

Edgar spoke better English than we spoke Spanish…

So highway 45 is real and nice bitumen too and that had us zooming north along the outskirts of the rainforest and back down around the 500-1000 metre altitude and of course higher temperatures and humidity…  we stopped several times to wipe away the sweat, de-clothe a few layers, chat with some locals, and just admire all the lush greenery and new vegetation.  We crossed numerous rivers, some bloody wide but not that much water despite it being the rainy season.

Overnighted in Puyo at a huge hotel smack bang in the middle of town on a major block of land which the town appeared to roll around on all sides. We decided to change plans and now head towards a different border crossing into Colombia, a little further east into the Amazonia region.  We checked with the Police at a passing town to see if there was any safety issues and we g0t the thumbs up, so we kept to our plan, the rain came down and at our original planned turn off there was an Army checkpoint (?) they flagged us through and we jumped over the Equator (missing the photo opportunity) and bumped into another Army checkpoint a little further on and there was  a Police checkpoint somewhere in there as well (?)  Mmmmm.. are we getting close to Colombia ?

We crashed into Lago Agrio with off street parking and air-conditioning and that’s where I am right now typing this.  Interesting day coming up…

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[GUS] Miracle Water ???

We arrived in the village of Villacabamba where the locals are said to live to the ripe old age of 140 !!! due to the water here. So off to shop to buy this magic water and Geoff drank 2 litres of it.(He doesn’t look any younger mind you.. )  Naturally I thought it was crap and didn’t sample this wonderful cure for age and what a good decision by me. We rolled out of town heading for the historic city of Cuenca on some winding roads with great views of the edge of Amazonias.  First up was a new rear tyre for my bike and a bargain at $109 compared to Argentina which cost $220). Also they washed both bikes for $10 and they look as new as day one. Geoff is lounging around at hostel and got him out of bed to see the Pumaparque ruins across the road including a shrunken head collection and some gold and silver relics found on site. Back to hostel where Geoff is back in bed and not feeling well with a touch of diorrahae so rather than pushing on we made the decision to get it checked out..

No manner of praying will help this guy !

No manner of praying will help this guy !

The Ecuadorian healthcare system works quite well and Geoff was admitted via the ‘Emergencia’ department of one of the local private hospitals without any wait whatsoever.  The difficult part was tracking down an English speaking Doctor and we hit the  jackpot at Santa Innes hospital. An examination, ultrasound and some blood tests confirmed he had a major parasitic infection causing the acute abdominal pain.  He spent 36 hours on a drip laced with all sorts of additives, so $700 later (cheap) we were out the door with a bag of drugs and nothing to show for that wonderful ‘miracle water’ !

Some great old buildings and churches and of course little bars to sample the local beer called Club. As we have now spent 4 days here we will be flying thru the rest of Ecuador to get to our final destination of Colombia.

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[Geoff] ‘Was that Julian Assange… ?’

Welcome to Ecuador.  It took two hours to ride to the border, this time on a nice Peruvian road (still under construction of course..) and we got stamped out of Peru very smartly, crossed the bridge, stamped us into Ecuador, but then the nice Customs man had problems doing our Temporary Import Permit and he could not tie our bike title address to our Australian address which is not printed in our passport, the Drivers Licence saved the day.

I was not a popular person on this muddy rainy choice of road...

I was not a popular person on this muddy rainy choice of road…

Off we go. Mmmm… interesting road into Ecuador, it was a bush track, far removed from the gorgeous lump of bitumen leaving Peru.  Well everything turned to shit pretty quick when the rain started falling and the track turned to slushy mud…. for 50km !  We spent 4 hours dodging steams turned into rivers, landslides and huge pieces of earth moving equipment which appears to be the norm in this region.  Throw in some sticks of dynamite and it was a ‘challenging’ day, but I loved every minute of it !

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[Gus / Geoff] Split Level II

[Geoff] I didn’t want to visit the coast as heading down the Andes I’d lose my altitude aclimitisation which has taken me a long time to gain.  We split ways after a roadside argument and we were both probably happy to see the backs of each other.  I zoomed down to Huraez  for a single night then onto a route recommended by a fellow motorcycle traveller.  Well all I can say, it was FANTASTIC !  The varied geography in Peru astounds me and getting off the beaten track by motorcycle gives you a freedom most other tourists never get to experience.

IMG_3178-1Using maps downloaded from the Peruvian Mnistry of ‘Transport’ turned out to be a big mistake as they had roads printed which did not exist and roads which don’t exist on maps ?  This along with some dodgy Peruvian GPS files caused all manner of grief to my navigation.  As for asking the locals…. many have not even ventured outside of their village and even some advice from local Police is questionable.  A late night into Huamachuco, hamburgler, cheesecake had me crashed out.

Another long ride north west through mountainous terrain had me stopped at a Sunday road block as the Peruvian ‘Transport’ Ministry installed a new drain under a road.  Well the one hour dealy turned into 2.5 hours and that pulled the plug on one of the best rides in Peru as the sun set in the west and I was riding in total blackness.  Oh well that’s the way it goes…

I made quick time into San Ignacio to meet back up with Gus, but with little internet over the past few days, some extended messaging got me to the right hotel.

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[Gus / Geoff] Split Level

[Gus] Moving on to huancayo we found a real shopping mall complete with food court and a cinema!and and feasted on our first real steak in a long time then on to Huanuco passing thru Cerro De Pasco 4,338m once again 265 km of riding mountain hairpins took 6 hours through more winding pavement and dirt ‘roads’.   The views and riding were spectacular once again.

This could of become an expensive 'photograph'.

This could of become an expensive ‘photograph’.

We decided to part company once again for a few days as we were getting on each other’s nerves, Geoff preferring to stay in the mountians and me down to the west coast.  I headed to Lambayeque to see the ancient Inca pyramids but they were a little dissapointing after Machu Picchu.  I headed along the west coast  Pan American Highway to Huarmey, a small town with a great little hostel  called Jamie’s Crazy  Hostel, once again good hospitality with a smile. Then on to Chimbote to more pre incan ruins,Trujillo (chan chan ruins) and along the way I saw a terrible head on between 2 semi trailers which were unrecognisable.  Did you know the unofficial Peruvian road toll is around 8,000 fatalities a year !

I then arrived in the hectic city of Chiclayo which has more mototaxis (3 wheled motorcycles with cabs similar to Tuk Tuks) than cars, another dumpy hotel but at least it had parking. An early start for the Lambeyeque Pyramids and I arrived before the gates opened and the family who lived next door took me in for coffee and mango juice  but refused any attempt for me to pay – nice South American hospitality.  Anyhow the site was a complete ripoff and you could not take photo’ss inside (?) although I sneaked a couple.  I took a rear exit road on the bike where I took some pics of pyramids, when a ‘Security Guard’  came flashing up on his 100cc bike to ‘catch me’ but had no hope of catching me on a 650cc, cya ruins, so off to San Ignatio towards the Ecuador border to meet Geoff.

Once again I was flagged over by some local Police who wanted to see Passport and bike papers, of course it’s time to extract a bridbe ! I had done nothing wrong but of course they found a ‘problem’ and wanted an extorsionate US$300 before they would let me go. They like to start high and then you bid low but I stood my ground and with enough shouting and hollering and threats by me to ring the Australian Embassy for ‘translation’ assistance they eventually backed down.. but not before asking for SOL300 (AU$100) instead. They let me go, but strangely only after a ‘friendly departure photo.

When I arrived in San Ignacio I could not contact Geoff by email but luckily my nephew in Australia sent him a message, but in the end he just had no internet up in the ‘hills’.  Despite my unfortunate Police incident in Peru it has been a great country to visit and time to head to Ecuador.

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[Gus] Highs and lows…

We didn't want to leave !

We didn’t want to leave !

Saying goodbe to our wonderful hosts we headed north to Colca Canyon the second deepest canyon in the world doing a loop via Chivay,(a one horse town) where we were slugged 70 sole($20) each for entry,pushed on to Cabanaconde thru more dirt and some crazy tunnels thru Mts with no lights where bad weather saw us find  a hotel and as usual the Peruvian hospitality showed with a great hostess who gave us gifts on our depature.

We headed for Colca Canyon and 9 miles down on some rugged terrain we were in sight of the bottom but turned around and headed back up which was equally as challenging then thru to Camana a beachside town 10 km’s from the ocean? From here we headed to Puquio along the boring Pan American Hwy and only stayed awake due to winding road and glimpses of the Pacific ocean.  Passed Nasca with it’s unimpressive lines then heading up Mt Abre Condorena we struck snow, ice and a long line of stranded trucks which we eventually we got through following some semi’s tyre tracks (a huge challenge) .

IMG_3163-1Next day saw us head to Ayachuco first part of the road was great red clay and after good progress went through to Pampacher then the roads became goat tracks where I got stuck in the middle of a river crossing, bloody wet socks and boots and Geoff laughing and shaking his head which led to me having a temper tantrum. (At least I didn’t drop the bike! [This time]) and on to Andohuay with great pavement which at last saw ‘Evil Kneival’ (aka Geoff) leave me behind on winding hairpins. We ended up in Chincheros with pouring rain and muddy roads, lost GM, and on advice from a local turned back for a hotel where I found GM.  The storm knocked out the power so no hot water or anything for that matter, so next day with assurances from the local Policia we headed out and got through with no porblem.

Well this is Peru’s new road of death with sheer drops on the side of a new road under construction. It took us 5 hours to travel 154km’s but when it is finished it will be a motorcyclists dream and we have finally arrived in Ayacucho.  I am over dirt roads but know there is more to come so have to stop whinging and toughen up… [He’s a been a BIG GIRL lately ?].

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[Geoff] Going in Circles

IMG_3131-1I have been an avid follower of the Dakar race for 20 years or so and with the race now in South America, wetook the opportunity of visiting the ‘flying circus’ as it winged it’s way through Peru south.  So from Cusco we headed south west to Arequipe nearer the west coast, climbing +4,000m over the Andes with some touches of snow on a nice piece of bitumen road.  We were planning on using a dirt road but we could not find the turn off and with darkening clouds mountain top, decided on the safer option, but doing some back tracking in the process.

Arequipe is surrounded by a couple of volcano’s which were quite awe-inspiring in the afternoon twilight, these huge monuments made the Arequipe desert quite an opposite sight as you would never expect a desert with mountains… We stayed 3 nights at the delightful Santa Mara Hostel whose staff were the friendliest we have encountered on our trip, always smiling and happy and they made us right feel at home and nothing was a bother.

The Dakar bivoirac was 25km out of town so with no luggage on board the trip was fast and we camped by the roadway with a few thousand other Peruvian fans greeting the bikes, quads, cars and trucks as they arrived to camp the night.  The atmosphere was crazy and the local fans really got into the swing of things.  We never went thirsty or hungry as the roadside sellers were well equipped including cold beer on tap !

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[Gus] Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley

"All aboard..."

“All aboard…”

Machu Piccu was the place I wanted to visit the most on this trip so we splurged and played ‘turista’ on an organised tour by bus and train.  From Cusco we headed to the Sacred Valley as a pre warm up and the weather was great and our driver and tour guide were also excellent.  First stop was the local markets with lots of touristy shit (no thanks) then to the ruins of Pisac where we were taught a lesson on how the Incas lived atop this cliff top township still in good shape.  The rabbit holes in the cliff sides was where they buried their dead complete with treasures just like the Egyptians did and all pillaged for their gold, silver and belongings.

Ticked this on the 'bucket list'.

Ticked this on the ‘bucket list’.

The Peruvian buffet lunch was very good and the Alpaca was a hit but no Guinea Pigs in sight ? (GM gained another 20 pounds) and then off to Ollantaytambo to an even more  impressive Inca site. This terraced cliff top site served as a town and a fort which the Inca’s built to ward off the Spanish and the arhitecture and build quality was excellent and still intact. Construction was amazing with 40 tonne rocks hauled up to build the fortified walls which fitted together like a glove.

There are no roads to Machu Picchu so we boarded our Inca Rail train (in First Class) and followed the river downstream to Agues Calayante with some spectacular scenery through huge deep ravines and towering mountains along the way, on the opposite side of the raging river the Inca Trail parallels the railway line which is a 3 day trek in the same direction.

There was more than one rabbitt on Machu Picchu...

There was more than one rabbitt on Machu Picchu…

We disembarked and looked for our Hostel ‘transfer’ outside the station platform but could not find our names on anyone’s signs, eventually as everyone left there was only one guide left and her sign read “Cedfrie Magnon” – I wonder who that could be ?  The only vehicles in Agues Calayante are buses, so walking this river side township squeezed between gorges and a raging river is actually quite quaint despite it’s only cause of existance to serve the tourist trade visiting the ruins atop the hill.  Funnily it was easy to find the bus stop next morning.

The ride up was steep with hair pin turn after turn and we entered the historical site and met our tour guide Pedro who looked after the Engrish speaking Gringos for the day.  Unfortunately you can’t change the weather so our visit was shrouded in mist which detracted from our visit.  Despite this it was a mind blowing space and huge.  It has survived intact as the Incas had abandoned the city and destroyed the trail leading to it so the Spanish never found it.  There is so much to see it is impossible to describe and a lifetime trip for me and one I recommend to everyone as a must see.

[GM] So who has the hairiest arse in this photo ???

[GM] So who has the hairiest arse in this photo ???

The added bonus was the local Alpaca herd which look after the lawn mowing duties and are not concerned about the pesky ‘visitors’,the one in the pic tried to kiss me(yuk).  Another hair raising bus ride back to town, a dip in thermal baths, then some beers with some Aussie backpackers from Brisbane and our Canadian ‘stalkers’ (Dominigue and his wife) who kept following us everywhere all day (?)  The train ride back to Ollantaytambo was full of very tired tourists and then an uncomfortable mini bus ride to Cusco which dumped us in the local square with no map, but luckily the local Police gave us exact instructions to our hotel, so at 11pm we grabbed more excellent pizza on the way and crashed out.

Every tour includes a ‘FREE’ American.

The lads from Brisbane.

How many tired 'Machu Piccuans' can you fit in a mini bus !

How many tired ‘Machu Piccuans’ can you fit in a mini bus !

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