Deathly Routes and Salty Spouts

We pass through southern Peru on a mixture of roads: Some wonderful, some dangerous and one built for a train. We get our first Nebraska signature, lose a faithful companion, reunite with old friends and try to survive another ride through Lima.

 

Wednesday, September 12th

Happy North Day! On this day I would finally be heading in the direction of home. I decided to stay in the mountains for a few more days, rather than dropping down to the faster coastal route.

Adios, Cusco!

I wanted to make one stop on the day: To see the Salinas de Maras, just an hour or so from Cusco. I think I took a wrong turn, since I was on gravel most of the way there.

My primary focus was logging miles and getting home, but I thought that visiting the salinas would be a new experience for me. It turned out to be quite incredible.

The work performed here is a very “old school” way of harvesting salt. This “mine” has been active since Inca times. The salty water is directed into 3,000 individual pools where it can be scooped up.

I hope you are having a good day. Perhaps you are not feeling very happy with your job. Just remember, you could be carrying heavy bags of salt uphill all day.

I met some nice people and Annie got her picture taken lots of times. It was well worth the detour.

Back on the main road, I was treated to spectacular riding and scenery.

Just like the last time in Peru, I was impressed with the quality of the highways. It’s not that they are better than surrounding countries. It’s that despite being a relatively poor country, they’ve invested heavily in good roads. Hmmm…. sounds like I need to make a graph:

There are just a few words in existence that when printed on a sign will cause me to slam on my brakes and whip a u-turn. “Nebraska” is one of those words.

It turns out that “a Nebraska” is their name for a creamy fruity drink. Of course I had to try one!

They seemed vaguely aware that there was a place called Nebraska and were amused by my license plate.

Who would have thought that the first person to write “Nebraska” on Annie was in a tiny little village in the Peruvian Andes.

This was a fun pit stop.

The beauty of the Andes continued to impress.

The roads looked like they’d drank a few too many Cusqueñas (Peru’s best beer).

The following picture shows the city of Abancay, my home for the night. From this point it was still a 30 minute ride to wind down into the valley.

I made my home at Hospedaje Centenario for about $8.

 

Thursday, September 13th

The hospedaje didn’t include breakfast, but my hosts made me some anyway. 🙂

The exit was a little interesting as I had to go fast enough not to fall off of the skinny ramp, but slow enough that I wouldn’t shoot right into the street.

Thankfully, my hosts Carlos and Joni stopped traffic for me. They were really great.

Ayacucho was the aim for the day:

It was more of the same this day. Beautiful, curvy roads and great scenery.

I had to do a real Spiderman stance on a hillside for this photo:

About half-way through my ride, I was getting a little chilly. I opened up my trunk to put on my ubiquitous Chiefs sweatshirt, but realized that I had left it in Abancay. They had stripped my sheets as I was packing up and it had left it among the covers.

I was actually pretty sad. I’ve had that shirt since I was about 14 years old. It was nice to have an article of clothing that was older than some of the travelers I’ve met. I can’t find any contact info for the hospedaje so I guess I have to consider it a loss. I almost thought about riding back for it, but it would have cost me a full day.

Thanks for all of the warmth, old friend, from Jellico to Guatemala and beyond.

I guess if anyone is passing through the Peruvian Andes soon, let me know! I’ll pay for shipping!

I found a home for the night at Hospedaje Mi Sueño in Ayacucho ($11, I think). My host was a really nice guy named Maximo. The hospedaje didn’t have parking, but he arranged for me to park securely at the restaurant across the street.

The internet was pretty good and I got quite a bit of work done.

 

Friday, September 14th

My alarm didn’t go off and I ended up sleeping longer than I had planned. When I write a sentence like this, it usually means it is important to the story later. We ended up having a pretty wild day, after we bid farewell to our host, Maximo.

I normally ask at least one person about my planned route for the day, whether that be a host at a hostel or someone who is pumping my gas. As I was behind, I neglected this step. However, I’m not sure that the route pictured below was the wrong one. It very well might be the best route between these towns. Perhaps google maps was confused because there are two roads named “3S”

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for adventure, here is your route:

The road was really nice for another hour or so before everything changed. I dropped down into a river valley where the road was half-paved, half-gravel, and half the width of a normal road.

It was sort of interesting and exciting for awhile, but eventually the rough road began to wear on me. The sheer cliff which loomed to my left required my full attention at all times. Every time I met a truck, I was very thankful that I was on the inside of the road.

On the day, I probably saw well over 100 roadside memorials commemorating where people had died on this stretch. Given the nature of this road and the driving habits of Peruvians, that number seems really low.

I had neglected to eat breakfast and I actually didn’t have any food along (odd for me). I passed a few places to eat, but I decided I wanted to wait to stop until I was through this rough stretch. That was a mistake….

Trucks on this route were pretty discourteous.

“Oh…you’re a motorcycle? Well…sucks to be you!”

I eventually reached a construction zone around 2:30pm. I hoped that this would signal an improvement in the road. The wait was pretty long but I had plenty of work to do.

After about 90 minutes, we were allowed to go….right into another construction zone. It was another wait of about 30 minutes.

Now let me say this: I’m a pretty patient person. But at this point, I was weary, hungry, covered in dust and worried that I’d get back to civilization before sunset.

We finally got the go ahead and began to push on through the construction zone. Unfortunately, it appeared as though someone had also given the go ahead to the traffic waiting to come the other way. Our two long lines of traffic met in a little town and we were all officially stuck.

There didn’t seem to be anyone in charge. Some random people grabbed shovels and tried to create an alternate pathway for traffic. It was in this moment that I came to a realization:

I am done with Latin American adventure.

Don’t get me wrong. This chapter has been amazing. I’ve made so many friends and had so many unforgettable experiences, but a part of me is really pining to be back in a world that is more predictable. Whereas I may have found this whole snafu endearing eight months ago, now it felt frustrating.

A group of us noticed that there were some train tracks alongside the road which appeared navigable. We asked some of the local observers (who seemed to be finding some amusement from the situation) whether the tracks connected with the road further down the line. They affirmed.

Since I was the lightest vehicle, I was elected to go first. (Thanks, guys) Honestly, I should have at least walked the route before taking it, but I was low on patience and time. Choo-choo, Annie.

There are so many golden moments in this video: All the animals around, the lady crossing my path with a freshly plucked chicken, me accidentally using a Portuguese word (“a lá”), the guy who says “Ohhh…gringo.” At least I can enjoy this moment looking back.

I was free of the traffic jam and back on the open-ish road. I actually didn’t get my camera turned off, so it ran for the next twenty minutes or so. Rather than write all the details about that, I’ll just post an accelerated video. There were some tight squeezes passed trucks, interesting bridges, lots of dust, a police checkpoint. A lot can happen quickly in these places!

 

I finally lost all of my daylight as I continued to ride towards the next town. I had probably the fastest speed bump hit of my whole trip during this stretch. It was unmarked and on a wide open stretch of road. I probably hit it at about 50mph, but luckily I was able to get my butt of the seat at the last moment to keep from getting bucked off. This was just another good reminder of why I never ride at night in Latin America.

Thoroughly tired, hungry and fed up, I finally reached the town of Huayucachi. I found a hostal on the iOverlander app which seemed to have parking (Hospedaje Kaypim Cruz). I met my host Jhonny who seemed really happy to have me. He really enjoys hosting travelers and showed me pictures of other foreigners who had stayed there. It was a nice place and just $10. I was able to park in the back of their store/bar. Pic from later:

I walked a few blocks into town and finally had breakfast at a Chinese restaurant at 8pm.

Phew. What a day.

 

Saturday, September 15th

I decided to take a rest day. I felt pretty beat up from the previous day’s ride. As I’m nearing the end of my Latin American journey, I can use my gas stove more liberally. It’s oftentimes easier than finding a decent cup of coffee elsewhere.

My day was actually kind of frustrating, as I didn’t get as much work done as I would have liked. Sometimes when I am way behind, it feels harder to get started on things.

On this day I got an email from a couple named Mike and Cindy. They have done some international motorcycle traveling too, and shipped their bike from Lima back to the US. Their blog is here: https://trvlin.wordpress.com/

Given this new information and the fact that I was ready to get back on some more predictable roads, I decided to head towards Lima the next day.

 

Sunday, September 16th

I said goodbye to Jhonny and his family and we exchanged information.

The goal for the day was to get within spitting distance of Lima, without getting spat on ourselves. (I’m not the biggest fan of Lima…)

This route really surprised me. I don’t know why, but I was expecting it to be pretty flat and uneventful. It was actually a winding road through chilly mountain passes.

I got to witness a jailbreak early in the day:

You could say they were…

….on the lam(b)?

(It’s a good thing my Dad is such a wonderful person, because I am totally turning into him.)

I don’t know if I can say that this was a great stretch of riding, since there was a ton of truck traffic, but the scenery was spectacular.

I stopped for lunch in one of the little towns. In one of them, each restaurant had a designated “basket waver” to direct traffic to their place. I choose the one whose waver demonstrated the best wrist action.

I stopped at the edge of town and had a bit of a hard time finding a cheap place to stay. The best we could do was a room for about $15.

 

Monday, September 17th

I reluctantly made my way into Lima in the morning. I already felt like I’d spent too much time in this city, as I had about a ten day layover here waiting for my Brazilian visa. Hello, traffic:

I began my day with a search for a rear tire. I was getting pretty low on tread so I shopped around for awhile. The business below, Endurance Motors, was really helpful. They let me sit in their place and use their wifi as I was communicating with potential shippers.

A quick note: I’ve been really happy with the Google Project Fi cellular service that I’ve used on this trip. It is a single sim card that functions almost everywhere. The only country where I had issues was Peru. On this trip through, I could not connect to data even once. It would have been better to just buy a local sim here.

Passing through Miraflores:

Though I wan’t too happy to be back in Lima, I did have one stop which I was eager to make: The home of my Venezuelan friend, Omar. I met Omar on the street in front of the Brazilian embassy and he invited me into his home for a wonderful Venezuelan meal a few days later.

He invited me for lunch again this time and I had a great time with him, his girlfriend Evelin and her daughter, and their friend Pilar.

Though I’d only interacted with these people for a few hours previously, they really felt like old friends.

Using Omar’s wifi, I finally got the final price for shipping from Lima. It would be about $2,500 for sea freight, with a transit time of about one month. I decided this was too expensive and too much time. Decision made, I bid farewell to Omar and decided to try to get out of Lima before sunset.

Most of the freeways around Lima do not permit motorcycles, so I had a confusing time getting out of town. Our path went by a lot of familiar sites: Hostels at which I had stayed, the Subway restaurant where I almost got in a fight, even the Brazilian embassy. On the edge of town, motorcycles were finally allowed on the seaside highway.

It was here that we officially completed the work that began in Salvador, Brazil: A ride from coast to coast through the heart of the continent.

What a ride it was! It was completely unnecessary, as our song places on this continent were already completed, but this was without a doubt the most hospitable path of our whole trip. I made so many friends on this route.

Although, if you’re looking for a more expedient coast-to-coast route, Panama City to Colon is probably a little bit easier. 🙂

I got to the edge of town by nightfall and found a nice, little hospedaje.

 

On these days I noticed a real shift in my attitude. I was enjoying myself a bit less than normal, but theses feelings were presenting themselves at an appropriate time. I was glad to feel that I was pining for home, as that will make it easier to leave this spectacular continent. I’m sure that I will appreciate the experiences of these days more thoroughly as more time passes.

Stay on track, everybody

BA

 

Realtime update: One of the hardest things about this trip is deciding to leave my Ecuafamilia. Predictably a three or four day stop here has turned into ten. 🙂 It appeared that I may have a good option for shipping from Quito, but the cargo plane that leaves this week is already full. I think I will begin riding for Bogota tomorrow, but I’m waiting to hear the finalization of dates on that flight too.

Generally speaking, I am so ready to know how Annie is getting home. I am tired of thinking about it. Just like my first shipping experience, this one has been thoroughly frustrating. I’ve spent so much time on it and still don’t have a solid plan. Knowing that the associated expense is going to be a budget-wrecker, causes me even more stress.

Sorry for the depressing rant. I should have a sunnier disposition once Annie and I are both safely back on our home continent.

 

Author: BA

I get really frightened when someone reads the 'About Me' of my profile.....AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

9 thoughts on “Deathly Routes and Salty Spouts”

  1. Well my friend, I know you’re getting a bit travel weary and down, but this is honestly one of the best updates to date in my opinion. They have all been excellent mind you, worth twice what I paid for them, but this one just has it all from the highs to the lows and everything in between.

    This: “…but this was without a doubt the most hospitable path of our whole trip. I made so many friends on this route.” says a lot more about you than it does the route.

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  2. Oh man, thankful you made it through that awful road! Sorry to hear about the Chiefs sweatshirt 😦 But how cool to have a drink named Nebraska! What did it taste like?! Glad you had a few more days with our Ecuafamilia 🙂 Praying you get a good shipping solution figured out soon! Love you! -B&E

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  3. What a post!! Some random thoughts:
    *Glad you got to see Salinas de Maras. I was hoping we could fit that in during our time in Peru but couldn’t.
    *I get excited just thinking about riding/driving through the Andes! Your pictures and videos did not disappoint! Excellent!! What a beautiful experience!
    *Those roads and the rails! Thankful I didn’t see how dangerous they were before you rode them. I thank God for protecting you!
    *I’m sad about your sweatshirt! That’s been part of your persona for a long time! The Chiefs seem to be doing OK without it but I know you will miss it!
    *Good pun. Dad had a belly laugh!
    *It really was an accomplishment for you to ride ocean to ocean and I agree with Wyoming George. What friends you made and I’d add what experiences you’ll treasure forever.
    *Don’t worry about the money! The amounts will be forgotten in a short while but the memories last forever!
    *Love you, proud of you, and pray for you often!!!!
    Mom

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    1. Mom, will you quit showing me up with these amazing comments? I’m supposed to be the writer here! 🙂 Thank you for those thoughts. I’m glad Dad enjoyed the pun. Sometimes I write jokes aimed exclusively at him. 🙂

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  4. Oh Brett so much to love in this post! Your moment of epiphany that you were DONE. Your leading the pack over the railroad tracks. The photo of those salt fields with you standing there looking so, uh, salty. Love the videos, including the speeded up 20 minutes in 2 minutes. I bet your family would like the rest of your trip to go at that pace. Sorry about your Chiefs sweatshirt but those things happen when one big phase is over and another one about to start. One more thought – I wonder how this trip might look if you would do a graph with “unnecessary” as one axis and “rewarding” as another. But don’t do that graph right now!

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    1. Ha! Good question about the graph. I often refer to this trip as the “most foolish of fool’s errands.” I can’t think of many things more unnecessary to do with one’s time and money. Still, my regrets are very few.

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