Back in Peru, we finish our time in the jungle and head into the mountains. We meet all sorts of exotic animals and see the creepiest fingers that we’ve ever encountered. We pass through Cusco for a second time and take some time off of the bike.
Saturday, August 1st (cont.)
When we last saw our wayward son, he was carrying on over the bridge between between Brazil and Peru. We were still being accompanied by Pescador, our Brazilian friend, heading towards Cusco. We would aim for Puerto Maldonado on the night.
In the map above, Brazil is on top, Peru is to the left and Bolivia is on the right.
It was nice to cross a real Latin American border again. The borders between Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil had been so…hmmmm….sterile?
But not this one. The office was in an old shipping container, a pack of chickens patrolled the grounds and we were sent to the adjacent cafe to make a handful of copies. It felt oddly familiar for me. Almost like I was coming home.
The little shop where copies were made was covered in stickers and pictures from fellow motorcyclists. I even saw some Brazilians that I knew. Amarildo, who greeted us in Porto Velho:
…and Mamute and Sol, our incredible hosts in Rio Branco:
This was Pescador’s first time in Peru, so I got the first round of Inca Kolas.
Our total crossing time was about two hours, but I’d say at least half of that was social time. We made lots of new friends.
It was interesting how the relationship between Pescador and I shifted after crossing this border. Now I was the one riding lead, planning our stops and communicating with strangers. Though Portuguese and Spanish have lots of similarities, knowing one does not mean that you can communicate perfectly in the other. I sometimes hesitated to step in and translate as I enjoyed watching Pescador repeat his Portuguese words louder and slower to uncomprehending Peruvians. I might be a terrible person. 🙂
Our ride was uneventful, through hot, flat, jungle terrain. Dedicated readers of this quality publication will note that I don’t write about temperature too often. As a Nebraskan, I’m pretty well acclimated to any climate. However, this was perhaps the most uncomfortable day, heat-wise, in South America.
Lots of “moto-trucks” in this region:
We just reached Puerto Maldonado in the last gasps of daylight. It had been a long day. I found an eco-lodge (whatever the heck that means) on the edge of town called Villa Hermosa. They had just built a multiple room, elevated hut to house travelers. It was a really interesting place, with a pool, restaurant and lots of activities. Cost was about $13 for the night. We had to pass through a little party to reach our parking spots.
Our hut was a little hike down a verdant path. (pic from next morning)
As we got cleaned up, I made a startling discovery. Though our room had a lock on the door and nets over the bed to protect from mosquitoes, the top was completely open. They had neglected to secure our room from the most malicious of invaders: Monkeys.
In case you’re new here, I have a strange aversion towards monkeys. Indeed, the picture above is rather blurry as my hands were shaking with a mixture of rage and fear.
This was how I met my new nemesis. As I never took the time to ask him his name, he will be referred to henceforth as Jerkface McCreepyhands. That’s a good name for any monkey.
Though I’ve never really learned how to properly use profanity (I must have been absent from school that day), I yelled every threatening sounding phrase I could think of. He took our roll of toilet paper in his eponymous creepy hands and I thought he was going to run away with it.
Thankfully Pescador returned just in time to scare him away. My hero.
I walked back over to the lodge, made some supper and tried to pull in a stream of the Huskers’ first game of the year. Unfortunately, it was called off due to lightning.
Realtime update: Who’d of thought that would be our best result of the year? Let’s move on…
I slept well, though slightly on edge that my nemesis would return. Thankfully, the monkeys were only in my nightmares.
Sunday, August 2nd
The lodge provided breakfast.
As we ate, we were visited by a much more welcome intruder.
This is Waca, the local parrot who usually drops by in the morning to see what’s going on. I found it so interesting the way she used her beak to climb around the rafters.
The owners, Manuel and Blanca, were eager to show us around a bit more. They had some nice dogs, including the one below who had a huge head. I’ve always found there is a positive correlation among dogs between head size and friendliness.
Unfortunately, Jerkface McCreepyhands decided to add himself to our happy outing. He accompanied us all the way back to the lodge.
During my loading process, I had left my trunk open. To my horror, Jerkface McCreepyhands had jumped inside and was sorting through my things. I shooed him out and almost pinched his creepy fingers as I was shutting it. After that, he just dejectedly sat on top.
Sorry, buddy, I don’t have the space or the patience for a pet monkey.
Before leaving, I got my first Peruvian signatures in a few months.
I also took a photo that almost completely sums up the Peruvian jungle:
After one more double-check that I had no primate hitchhikers, we rolled out of our comfortable home.
It may have been possible to reach Cusco this day, but we got a late start and decided to take two days to get there.
We were still riding on the Interoceanic Highway, the coast-to-coast route that was finally finished in 2012. This section between Puerto Maldonado and Cusco was one of the last to be completed. Before, it could take weeks to travel by land between these cities. Now, it only takes about eight hours. As I understand it, this portion was actually paid for by Brazil to deliver goods to the Pacific coast for shipping.
The route was more interesting than I expected with lots of sweeping curves and steep elevation changes.
The only bad thing about this road was that it was used by Peruvians. Though I haven’t been to every country in South America, I can say with utmost confidence that the drivers in Peru are the worst that I have seen on this continent. High aggression, low skill.
We ended our day fairly early, stopping at the charming little town of Quince Mil (literally “fifteen thousand”). The theories as to the origin of the name of this place are really interesting. They range from a story of explorers losing 15,000 pesos in the region to the amount of annual rainfall in millimeters (it is one of the rainiest places in South America). I asked a few locals about the name and received varied responses.
I introduced Pescador to lomo saltado as his first real Peruvian meal.
The lady in the adjacent stall had a huge vat of chicha morada, the sweet drink made from purple corn. It was probably the best I had in all of my time in Peru.
We stayed at a little hotel that let us park inside.
If I ever get to design the ultimate man-cave, you bet that I will install a “urinario” in the hallway.
We walked around town for a bit and Pescador was excited to find a Peru flag.
Gold mining has caused a real population boom in this formerly tiny town.
The completion of the Interoceanic Highway has changed the lives of everyone here. Though a few expressed concerns about deforestation and other environmental factors, most seemed very thankful that the long-planned road had finally been completed.
Monday, August 3rd
Another morning, another pretty bird.
Our goal for the day was to reach Cusco. This stretch was possibly my favorite ride in all of South America.
We began the day at about 2,000 ft (620 m) of elevation. This is actually less than the average elevation of the state of Nebraska. The road winded alongside a river through more jungle terrain.
I took a video of our ride through one of the little towns. Although I’m really used to all of these otherworldly sights, you might find it interesting.
Slowly but surely, the mountains began to close in around us.
The climb began and the scenery changed quickly. The road was in really good condition, except for a small section that was closed for construction. We were routed over an interesting gravel road.
Even though I knew we would be gaining so much elevation on the day, the speed at which we did it still surprised me. After being in the dense, humid jungle just a couple of hours previously, I was now staring an alpaca in the face.
At one point Pescador stopped really suddenly by the side of the road. He excitedly hollered something in Portuguese which I couldn’t understand, then he began climbing up a steep slope. I decided I better follow him.
It turns out that this was the first time in his life that he had ever seen snow. I gladly played photographer as he executed every thinkable pose with the little patch of precipitation.
Shortly after this, the road reached it’s peak at 15,900 ft (4,850 m). A good way to explain elevation to Americans is to use the city of Denver, which sits at 5,280 ft., as a benchmark. We were at more then three Denvers of elevation.
We stopped at a little house which advertised fried fish.
Pescador did some shopping for alpaca hides.
At this altitude, even chewing my food caused me to feel out of breath!
Though our climb was complete, the roads continued to be winding and well paved.
Sonic wasn’t complaining.
I was so distracted by the scenery that I actually missed the moment when Annie rolled beyond 70,000 lifetime miles. I’m still not sure if I’ve passed the recommended break-in period.
Pescador had been in contact with a Brazilian rider in Cusco and he met us at the edge of town. This was the first time in my trip that I was visiting a city for the second time. I felt strange to actually know where I was going for once.
He led us to a hotel that way out of both of our price ranges. I looked for a place on the iOverlander app and we navigated to Chelito’s backpacker hostel. I met our host, Yta, and things began to get progressively more awesome.
We can bring the bikes inside. Great.
It is less than $6 per night. Wonderful!
My internet test yielded 12mpbs upload speed. OH MY GOSH I MAY NEVER LEAVE!!!!
I knew right away that I would be here for awhile.
OK. At this point, I’m going to depart from the day-by-narrative. Most of these days were really uneventful, with me spending 10-12 hours on the computer. I was working mainly on catching up on my writing and planning my shipping method back to the US. I’ll just share a handful of anecdotes and pictures from my eight day stay in Cusco.
It took Pescador a few days to adjust to the altitude, then he went to visit Machu Picchu. After he returned, it was time for our paths to diverge.
It was such a pleasure to travel with him. His help in Brazil was absolutely essential.
He’s working on his English and is hoping that there is a US trip in his future. We may share the road again someday. Boa viajem, irmão!
There was a house cat that accompanied me during many of my work days:
I had a bit of a struggle readjusting to Spanish, as I was still talking to Pescador in Portuguese during the first few days here. Thankfully, I had a Venezuelan roommate named Moises who helped me a lot.
Venezuelan Spanish is one of the fastest versions of Spanish. It was a good workout just chatting with him. He even taught me to make arepas one day.
I met a really fun group of Israelis and Annie got her first Hebrew tattoo.
I made a new friend from Switzerland too.
Mechanically, I wanted to find a new rear tire as well as a set of chain/sprockets. All I was able to find was a new chain, which I put on my ageing sprockets. It wasn’t an ideal solution, but I hoped it would get me the rest of my way through South America.
My days here passed really quickly as I kept myself busy. After eight days I still wasn’t caught up on everything, but I knew it was time to get back on the road. I was sad to leave my wonderful host, Yta:
I really think this section of Peru is one of the most interesting in all of South America. I really wish I had the words to explain what it feels like physically to go from jungle to mountains in just a few hours. Additionally, one could continue towards the Nazca area and be in the desert in just another day or two. I enjoyed my first stint in this area with my family. Being back here on a motorcycle allowed me to see a whole other side of this area.
Stay out of my trunk, everybody
Realtime update: I’m back in Cayambe, Ecuador with my wonderful Ecuafamilia. It feels really good to be here, especially since I haven’t been enjoying myself as thoroughly as I usually do recently. I’m feeling a little homesick and the stress of figuring out my shipping method back home is wearing on me. Additionally I’m still way behind in my writing. I’ll probably be a bit more brief in my coming posts as I try to plan out my next steps.