Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Global Reports => Topic started by: BlueBull2007 on August 25, 2013, 05:07:47 pm

Title: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on August 25, 2013, 05:07:47 pm
Seven months ago I smashed my tibia into smithereens coming off a bike. After a five hour operation I had someone else's bone, a plate and 12 screws inserted into my shin. I lay on my back for 3 months thinking about life the universe and everything, but especially thinking about riding.

Three weeks ago I took my first uncertain steps without crutches. Time was drawing near to a much needed bike adventure. It couldn't be too rough because I was pensive and nervous about riding again, and Daleen had not ridden in months either.

So when I was able to stand unassisted for about an hour, I decided it was time for an "easy" bike trip, to get back into things again without overstressing myself. This was not to be.

Perhaps I should have realized that slotting in 3 x 4,000m high mountain passes, one of which would be track leading down into the Amazon jungle is not what most normal people would call easy, even if some of the route would be asphalted. ::)

It was just going to be the two of us, Daleen on a 650GS and myself on an 800GS.

Lets begin with a quick geography lesson. We live in Lima, the teeming, coastal capital of Peru, home to 11 million people squashed between the Pacific ocean and the Andes mountains running down the Western length of South America.

A narrow strip of desert runs along the coast for some 5,000km, all the way from the north of Peru down into Chile against the Andes mountains, which acts as a rain shadow from the tropical weather on the other side. The Cordillera Blanca which forms part of the Peruvian Andes goes up to almost 6,900m above sea level but adjacent to where we are it peaks out 120km inland from us at about 5,500m. On the other side of the mountains lies the vast Amazon jungle, which stretches a further 4,000km East to the Atlantic ocean, much of it lying only at an altitude of a couple of hundred meters. So the mountains really define South America and its climate: Hot and moist in the east, cold in the mountains and warm and very dry in the west.

Our route was to weave a route south along the cost before cutting into the central cordillera. Thereafter we were to go north, dropping down into the Amazon before turning east again back to Lima, a total distance of only about 1,300km. It is not far but the incredibly tight curves in the mountain roads make traveling very slow, and unless you are in the lowlands it is hard to get ones daily average travel speed above 25-30km/hr.


This is profile of the route.

Having broken bones before on bikes, nothing compared to the level of pain resulting from this last one, so I find myself ahead of this trip uncharacteristically nervous and pensive about riding in general. The idea of holding up a 200kg bike on my still healing leg is not a good one, but pissies will never be heroes and I need to get out there again so we force ourselves to schedule a week - no matter what.

A taster of things to come:


Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: rubiblue on August 25, 2013, 05:42:34 pm
Awesome, waiting for more.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Slaaiblaar on August 25, 2013, 06:20:41 pm
Nice  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Draadwerk on August 25, 2013, 06:26:07 pm
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Jag man on August 25, 2013, 06:34:10 pm
 :peepwall:Awsome will be watching.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: bungycool on August 25, 2013, 06:56:22 pm
 :happy1: poopcorn!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: N[]vA on August 26, 2013, 02:50:23 am
Cant wait!

Good on ya for jumping back into the saddle
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: dirtyXT on August 26, 2013, 06:44:01 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: J-dog on August 26, 2013, 06:51:23 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: 1ougat on August 26, 2013, 07:01:20 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Minora on August 26, 2013, 07:39:09 am
This is going to be good!

Gooi, ons wag in spanning  :lamer:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Bashplate on August 26, 2013, 08:21:32 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: CoolBreeze on August 26, 2013, 09:29:47 am
This sounds Awsome :ricky:
Can't wait for more!!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Malibu on August 26, 2013, 09:37:28 am
Definite *sub* :)
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Mooch on August 26, 2013, 10:34:47 am
Looks Cool, Sub

Tough one mentally and physically with a newly repaired injury like that... But it has to be done...
Just be careful with that leg!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: RyanI on August 26, 2013, 10:58:18 am
Great to see you back in the saddle Neil. Can't wait for the rest.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: J-dog on August 26, 2013, 11:02:00 am
LOL Neil. So you could stand for an hour only, and then decided the time was ripe for a long bike trip  :imaposer:

BTW, were you immobile for three weeks?  ???
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Wolzak on August 26, 2013, 11:24:53 am
Hell yes!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Hentie06 on August 26, 2013, 03:17:52 pm
Sub  :happy1:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Hentie @ Riders on August 26, 2013, 04:00:40 pm
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: cloudgazer on August 26, 2013, 04:21:25 pm
hell yes....

i'm ready to read.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Hingsding on August 26, 2013, 07:26:04 pm
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: badballie on August 26, 2013, 07:30:51 pm
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on August 27, 2013, 03:47:05 am
LOL Neil. So you could stand for an hour only, and then decided the time was ripe for a long bike trip  :imaposer:

BTW, were you immobile for three weeks?  ???

Hehe, that's right yes. I can stand up to about 1 hour before things really start to hurt. Each day it gets better I suppose. ::) The thing is when is a good time to start doing stuff again? Should I wait until the end of the year once I am fully fit or go for it now? The doc was okay with me putting weight on it and wants me to exercise. That's a green light in my heart but in my head I was nervous. This was part of the reason why I found this trip a very big personal challenge.

Pissies will never be heroes...   :snorting:

I had an accident on the 26th Dec 2012, and took my first limping steps without crutches on the 1st August 2013. Anyway on with the story:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Mev Vis Arend on August 27, 2013, 04:47:59 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Camelman on August 27, 2013, 05:23:08 am
Lekka Neil!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Buff on August 27, 2013, 07:44:40 am
Good to see you back in the saddle Neil, looking forward to the rest of your report  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Malibu on August 27, 2013, 08:08:53 am
Neil, you are procrastinating too long here... if you treated your RR with the same energy you treated your trip, we'd be a lot further into the story by now.... COME NOW! 

Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: >>Thump°C on August 27, 2013, 08:41:43 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on August 27, 2013, 09:09:45 am
First we planned to leave on Thursday, then when I went to change the rear tyre on Daleen's bike I noticed the cylinder head gasket was leaking. This is the third time in 4 years that I have had to replace it ::)  So we ended up working all Thursday night on prepping the bikes. We hadn't even packed yet and my leg was damn sore so we decided to postpone again and leave, relaxed on Saturday 17th August. No point in starting out exhausted especially seeing our first day would be a very long one most likely. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

So its Friday night and I can't go to sleep. There is party next door and the pre-trip excitement has my mind whirring like a 1950's typewriter at the hands of a no-nonsense, blonde courtroom stenographer wearing horn-rimmed glasses. I lie there thinking about riding again after 7 months convalescence. Its going to be awesome, but I cannot, must not crash and hurt my leg. That would be truly terrible. At 03h30 I nod off and 5 minutes later my blackberry hums us awake at 05h30. Woohoo!

Somehow preparations never seem to end. We make some last minute gear adjustments, and finally get going at about 06h30. Its a wet, grey, drizzly day outside. The fog comes in very heavy sometimes at this time of year, a cold pea soup not unlike that which is served in some boarding school canteens. This is the only precipitation Lima ever gets and it does not wash things clean, it just makes the dust, the city soot and everything else rather moist. Mixed with the grease and oil dripping and oozing onto the roads from 2 million aging vehicles it turns already seething streets into black slicks as slippery as weasel snot.

Its too wet to bother with cameras at this early stage and we struggle though heavy traffic to the Pan American Sud (south) highway. It Saturday, but it makes no difference in Lima, traffic is always worse as 100,000 new vehicles are added to an already overloaded traffic system each year. Welcome to the capital city of a country whose economy has expanded 6.4% year on year for the past 10 years. Its boom time in Peru, and even in 2008 it was one of only two countries in the world whose economies grew rather than contracted. Consequently the middle class has grown dramatically and everyone wants a car, taxi or a bus Company.

Wrestling with black belching buses and trucks, mixed in with a healthy dose of dodging, blaring, minibus taxis and the odd fast four by four with darkened windows is character building. Its absolute chaos, everyone cuts everyone else off and there is a complete absence of the rule of law, never mind road etiquette. South African or Indian or Asian drivers horrified by local traffic can come here for therapy. They will go back thinking their traffic is more like a lazy Sunday afternoon jaunt.

To make matters worse, I have also forgotten how much the drizzle can obscure the view through my visor. I'm stressed, overdressed and steaming hot and my visor has misted up. I can't see where Daleen is. I'm doing my best to go a little faster than the traffic in order to stay alive, but I cant see properly and its like riding on ice between rolling wheels of death. I'm scared, terrified in fact. My whole body is tense.

Wiping my visor does not help so I lift it up and blink my eyes rapidly to keep out the drops of mud and gunk. I finally see Daleen right behind me in my mirrors, its going to be okay. Slowly, very slowly I get into a rhythm, aiming for the biggest and safest gaps between the honking and swerving moving hulks around me. Sometimes we are in the left lane other times in the right and sometimes in the middle lane. It makes no difference because the locals here ignore the lines anyway and drive where they please - screw everyone else. The usual third world nightmare with a bit of extra selfishness. Most of the time no one even notices us and we have to move around to avoid being squashed. Having an escape route at all times is essential and we have anxious moments when these get shut off.

Its everyman for himself, but somehow we make it to this fuel station alive. Its taken us the better part of an hour to get near the edge of the city.

I dismount my bike, trembling a little, covered in grey muck and slime. I am still in an uncharacteristically fragile state of mind. I know it is foolishness to be fearful, so I do my best to shake it off. Daleen smiles at me and seems quite relaxed. Afterall we have been living in this place for six years and she is no longer surprised by the carnage. I tell her it found it horrific. She is surprised at first but understands given my injury and her calmness reassures me a little. 'It will ride off,' I tell myself without a lot of conviction. But she agrees. Just as well 60% of this trip will be on asphalt.

Pushing on, we cut through the first toll gate and it does begin to wear off a little. In Peru motorbikes are exempt from paying, but are not allowed to ride through the gate. There is always a slot on the side between cones that one can zip through and this is where we go, skipping perhaps 50 vehicles in queues. Its a nice, liberating feeling that detracts from the thinning traffic.

We get clear of Lima eventually and slab it for 240km at about 140km/hr, south along the coast, slowing a lot though the equally busy and congested city of Chincha Alta, known for its cotton plantations and as the infamous landing destination for west African slaves in the 1530's. You can read more about the slaves trade and Afro-Peruvians here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Peruvian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Peruvian)

Finally we arrive at Pisco, famous for its Pisco hard-tack made from grapes. Peruvians and Chileans always argue which country first invented the brandy, both claiming the title. I personally think the country with a city named after its brandy wins hands down. There is a refreshing peruvian cocktail drink made with pisco, limes, egg white, some sugar called pisco sours. They're most refressing with a little bit of a bite and as the saying goes they are similar to a woman's breasts: One is too few and three are too many. They are potent things - The Pisco sours I mean.

Being too early for Pisco we stop to refuel and get out the map. Daleen worries about us not having a GPS but I tell her confidently there is a very good GPS inside my head. I'm one of those people who may get lost but always know I am somewhere  >:D ;D

We are weary, but we are still feeling pretty good seeing we are almost half way to our destination city of Ayacucho in just 3.5 hours including city traffic and pit stops. At least it has dried out a bit.

Looking back towards the coast.

My road book is a crude, primitive setup, but it works well for me. Apologies, but I am not one of those Mr. Gadget types.

A view (looking East) of our route so far

340km of mountain twisties to come. Yes its asphalt but come on, who would not kill to ride something like this?   :ricky:

The road is now heading East away from the Pacific ocean towards the mountains just a few kilometers away.

A rather odd-looking piece of farming equipment.

Even though we are in a very dry desert, rivers from the mountains makes parts of it very fertile and green. Its always quite a contrast.

Finally we break clear of the coastal fog, and it unveils a harsh but magnificent landscape.




In the far distance we can make just make out the 5,000m peaks, appearing in the haze like some kind of ghostly apparition.

But first we have to cut through the foothills. The road is a constant left, right, left right litany of curves. There are no straight bits. We take it easy. I'm still quite uncomfortable, braking too hard in the front and over steering in my nervousness. And I'm also wrestling with my camera. Its irritating because I am normally relaxed and confident. My knee-moania is acting up, my leg is not enjoying its cramped position on the bike and letting me know about it.

Its quite strange that though we are steadily climbing, it does not feel like it at all. In fact it feels like we are travelling downhill, but that is just the perspective one tends to get when going up these huge mountain passes. Only the direction of the river below gives it away, and then it somehow seems like it is running uphill.

We pass this fellow doing about 100km/hr on his motorcycle.

Clearly helmets are either not meant for people with superior skill levels or if you're modeling the latest rural fashion.

We are both getting serious monkey butt so we decide to stop under some trees for a quick lunch.

Helmet hair in the strong wind: Freaky, don't photograph me now!

I burn like a pig in the sun so I take cover and tuck into homemade meatballs with dates for pudding.

There are these little, innocent black flies that take a liking to us and leave us with bites that itch for days and days.  

The view is surreal compared to what we see in Lima. A peacefulness decends on us


A truck grinds past us in 2nd gear on the main road, highlighting the deceptive gradient. They can build roads these guys, the gradients are very consistent, unlike what we are used to in South African mountain roads. This is not a problem at home, but it becomes a major factor above 4,000m when engine power is down by 30% or more due to the altitude.

In Peru it appear people love to build walls. They are excellent dry stone wall builders. There are walls everywhere. Here is a example of a roughly built one, but some of them are truly exquisite - Inca walls aside.

I find the local farming interesting. Maize grows between lime trees, and is harvested 3 times per year.

Temperatures at these altitudes of about 2,000m is still warm all year round with a surplus of irrigation water from the river.

We press on and within the next 1,000m gain in elevation we see the first signs of rain: Grass is growing on these mountains, and the road coils up into an aggressive series of tight turns and switchbacks.

A view back the way we came from 4,000m

Well clear from the coastal haze, a big sky and lofty, grassy plateau (pampas) greets us as we top out around 4,300m


Passing though a small village. No one is around, all are out tending their llamas in the fields.

I consider the local way of life as I pass an old lady bent by age and a life in the mountains.  To fast to get a photo, but anyway these people don't like it because they believe you are stealing their spirits by taking pictures of them. How people survive up here is anyone's guess but they do. I suppose if you have little you do what you can do with what you have available to you and that's all there is to it. Sometimes we make life so busy with our little things and schedules, and values. What is valuable today? We are told by television that we owe this or that to ourselves, that we need something, that we must have it, work towards it, obtain it at all costs. In my case a new bike maybe, or some career position or achievement. Looking at these people it all of becomes meaningless if you think about it. Yet the pursuit of happiness seems so difficult for so many these days. Poor people seem to be more happy somehow. There is something to be said in that. They say they know God and He looks after them. I believe them.

We climb even higher and reach a the highest point for the day. I thought I took a photo of the sign but it must be the altitude, sorry. Anyway it says 4,750m above sea level. That's pretty cool. Its so high the grass does not even grow properly here.

I'm feeling light headed and dizzy, like I just had ten beers. My headache feels like my brain is going to burst. Clear signs of altitude sickness. You find yourself catching your breath, yet it is so easy to breathe in this air. If you think about it too much you start to feel worse. I always get it and it takes about a day to acclimatize. The best thing for it is something sweet and limiting exertion until one feels a bit better. Often tour companies will take a bottle of oxygen to help with the suffering, but we have no such luxury.

We drop down maybe 700m into a valley but anything above 4000 makes me feel rats. At least the fresh, cold air blasting my face helps a tiny bit. We stop for a break anyway because that monkey bit our butts again, and my knee is agony.


In the president Fujimori days of the early 90's just after the shining path guerillas were wiped out by the military the country lay in economic ruin. Lines were cut into all the high altitude plains to collect water for some reason.

Apparently it was a country wide economic project to kick start the rural economy. These days these plains are filled with healthy herds of llamas.

Daleen stretches her back muscles.

I do the same and then wait for her to finish.

Which way now? My GPS and map say this way  :lol8:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on August 27, 2013, 09:10:23 am
We ride another two hour leg. Now we are really tired and sore. The many switchbacks and curves make it all slow. The number of images per km also drops off.

Hey, check out this giant limestone tufa deposit, its about 500m long

Its not a mine, its a natural secondary limestone formation, the biggest I have ever seen. A natural concrete pavement - who would have thought up here.

We press on, past some amazing natural mountain formations. Looks man-made but its not.

This next bit is hard to write about but I will try.

Not long after this I lose my clutch. Hmm. I stop and need to make an adjustment. hopefully it will work fine with just a cable adjustment. I feel so helpless and can hardly walk. So I sit down on a rock to rest and instantly am not sure I can get up again. I feel so weak. I'm in so much pain I decide to remove my knee brace. My knee has swollen into a round orange. We have 100km or so to go still. I don't know how I am going to do it. It dawns on me that there is now nothing to protect my knee at all if I fall. Oh God, don't let me fall!  Then I realize there is no way I will be able to pick up either of the two bikes whether I fall or not. If one of them goes down both of us together will not get it back up again. No ways I am in a position to help Daleen if something happens to her. What if I crash?

Trying as I have been, I have not been enjoying this ride. The nervousness is still there, and me being tense for 8 hours on the road has completely sapped my strength.

Now get this: I get a certain comfort knowing that though we are far from civilization, most of the time I am in a position to self rescue. But this little clutch cable incident and the altitude, and my leg highlights a vulnerability I am not used to being in, never mind admitting. I feel so hopeless, lost and pathetic. Fear and hopelessness grabs hold of me again. Its irrational but its real and it engulfs me. A dog from a nearby farm hamlet smells our last meatballs and comes looking for food. Its very cautiously friendly and I pat its head, tears streaming down my face. What a bloody miserable mess I am. I'm angry at my emotional state but the trip has become simply too overwhelming. I can't do it. I have overstepped the mark. I have taken this trip too soon, I need more time to recover.

Daleen calms me down. I am blessed guy to have a wife like this. She is so strong when I am weak. She has been strong for me all year in fact since my accident. Eventually after several minutes of weeping, I pull myself together and munch down a few more dates. Amazing things dates are. They are like energy bursts. We have to get going. At the speed we are doing and given the number of stops we will get in after dark.


I limp badly to the bike get the tools out, and breathing a prayer to God while I tighten up the cable a bit. I start her up and she pulls away just fine. Its working again! Thank you Lord Jesus! now there some tears of joy. It is going to be okay. I can do this. I must do this. There is no option of staying out here exposed on this cold mountain tonight.

Less than 10 minutes later my clutch goes again, like the cable broke or something. That's it, I think. Without stopping I lean down and fiddle with the lever where it goes into the engine casing. I'm stunned to find that its not the cable but something inside my engine that has gone. Maybe the lever broke inside the casing. There is no resistance on the lever no matter what I do. What now? Shit, I can't stop now....the road is winding up a mountain and I still have to ride in a city like this! Daleen follows me, oblivious to my predicament. Please Lord help me!

At least I know how to change gears without a clutch, so as long I am moving I am fine. Changing down gear I find much harder to do, especially when engine braking as one does in the mountains and tight curves a lot. Its hard work grinding down behind trucks and things. My body is really sore now and we will have to stop soon anyway. After all we have ridden 480km tight and slow kilometers so far. I notice my riding is erratic. Am I seriously this tired? I guess I am. I cannot press on like this much longer. I'm going to have to stop and what to do then? I look for a wider section of road and judder to a halt. The sun is setting.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Heimer on August 27, 2013, 10:10:36 am
I am engrossed, enthralled and in anticipation.

Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: roxenz on August 27, 2013, 12:01:01 pm
I find myself saying: "Come-on Neil, you can do it!" because the way you write it one feels right there with you, boet!  Thanks for talking us along.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: XTRICK on August 28, 2013, 11:38:15 pm
Don't stop, keep going bru.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Crossed-up on August 29, 2013, 06:42:56 am
Hang in there, boet!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: TornadoF5 on August 29, 2013, 07:14:02 am
Neil has hidden power reserves......
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Cave Girl on August 29, 2013, 07:27:56 am
Love your writing style! As Roxens says!! Can't wait for the rest!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Minora on August 29, 2013, 08:05:20 am

Briljant! Kan nie wag vir die res nie

Neil - jy het 'n talent met woorde en weet net hoe om almal in spanning te hou - well done!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Carnivore on August 29, 2013, 10:47:34 am
Is this a live report, or is the Man home and writing....? Eish, I can feel the pain and fear..!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Wolzak on August 29, 2013, 11:32:32 am
Nou wat nou Ouboet, ons wag in spanning.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Mooch on August 29, 2013, 12:36:27 pm
Good stuff Niel.  :thumleft:
You are a brave man. It took me 9 months before I went on a long tour/ride (including some dirt roads etc) after I smashed my knee. That was also with knee braces and I was pretty damn nervous at times too!!

Keep it coming, Its only gonna get better, I can see!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: J-dog on August 29, 2013, 02:09:53 pm
Neil is back in hospital getting another leg fitted out  :imaposer:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on September 01, 2013, 10:57:25 pm
Some pictures just before the fatal clutch problem. Yours truly convincing himself his clutch adjustment will be okay.
It is about 5-6 degrees, so quite chilly despite bright mountain sunshine. Don't forget we are at about 4,000m here.

Bye bye meatball loving doggie. He sure is friendly.  :biggrin:

Daleen told me to ride in front. I was feeling pretty fragile at that point so I immediately agreed.


Tough high altitude cows.


Here is that "oh dang" Moment. My clutch - she is not wekking

Waggling that lever near the red arrow in the picture was easy; so it was not the cable but something inside the engine casing.

Oh crap... So I have no choice but to ride. The road is uphill for miles so there is no ways I am going to attempt to stop now.

Fast forward an hour or so to continue our story.

Despite my clutch we ride like Spartans because we need to make the distance. I want to stop but will myself on by talking to myself, 'Come on Neil, don't be a pissie, yes hurts but you can go a bit more before you really have to stop.'  

I notice my riding is becoming erratic. Am I seriously this tired? I guess I am. I cannot press on like this much longer. I'm going to have to stop and what to do then? I look for a wider section of road and judder to a halt. The sun is about to set behind the mountains, and though its still nice and bright now, once its gone it gets cold and dark really quickly. The sun disappears really fast 10 degrees south of the equator, we will have less than one hour of light left.

The GPS in my head tells me we cant be too far from civilization, and I know it must be down in that valley somewhere. My gut tells me 20-30km which is not far, but I'm so tired and sore. I can hardly walk, my gammy leg caving every time I put any weight on it.  


Daleens stops next to me unaware of the clutch predicament.
'Oh no, your bike broke again? Are you able to fix it do you think?' I'm so out of it I know this will be impossible unless I get some food in me and also some rest. But if I do that we will still be exposed out here tonight.
'No, this time its something inside the engine...no way I can fix it here.' I reply curtly. I'm quite depressed and negative, and she can see I am ready to throw in the towel.
'Well its only 20km to Ayacucho from here, maybe we could-..'
Cutting her off, 'What? How do you know that?'
'I saw a sign about 5 km ago saying 25km to Ayacucho.' Amazing. I missed that one. It lifts my spirits and I start to get teary eyed again. This really all has been a bit much. 'Anyway' she says, 'We can't stay here. We have to go on. We have no choice.' She's right of course. I'm just going to have to pull myself together and dig deep.


The city is so close but 20km still seems about as much as I can take, hell I am hardly able to lift my leg over the saddle without help! Talking about biting off more than I can chew. I suppose I could always just roll the bike into town. The problem is how do I negotiate the busy city streets, traffic lights busses and pedestrians without stalling the bike? Its going to be a difficult and dangerous situation in my condition.


If I stall, I'm not going to be able to push the bike about, and Daleen has her own bike to worry about. Hopeless. This will have to be a faith thing. I take a deep breath and a sip some water. Once again I consider the alternatives but end up with the same conclusion. Postponing the inevitable, leaving the unknown for another day is often too easy in normal everyday life but out here on our bikes is no for procrastination.

I tell Daleen I am going to get going if she can just give me a little push, then I will stop in town at a safe place where I able to roll start the bike. That point we can decide what do to when we are there. No point in speculating what its going to be like seeing we have never been there before. Lets deal with each problem one at a time, and right now our immediate problem is that we are not yet in town.

Daleen gives me a push I'm off down the hill in neutral with the engine running in neutral. Picking up some speed  I toe it into second and I'm off. After that its pretty easy to change up gears by synchronizing the throttle and I stay stay in fourth as much as possible, willing Ayacucho towards me.

We spiral and wind down an amazing road back that curls around the hillsides. The hard part is slowing down behind trucks braking in low range while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass; I have slam down through the gears to 1st on occasion. The clacking and grinding doesn't sound too pleasant and its not too easy to do either but I figure this will be good practice for the city. After a while I can see the town far down almost directly below us, everything is miniature-sized like a model train set. Thank God! We have almost arrived. But city is vast and sprawling. I feel the fear of dealing with the dodgy traffic gnawing in the pit of my stomach with a vengeance.

As dusk falls we enter the city. I have no photos or video - sorry. Its swamped with people bustling about, selling things, people running across the streets, the type of thing one typically sees in any third world city. There are those little 3 wheeled 'moto taxis' erratically flitting about like butterflies looking for fares. They do U-turns in front of us and others. Its a hair-raising, crazy, stressful and irritating place but at least we are at a lower altitude and in civilization. Someone will help us somehow and we will soon have place to sleep. I jump a couple of traffic lights with Daleen hot on my tail and eventually stop in a wide, main street in front of some parked taxis, its steep enough to get going again from here. I figure we can't be too far from the main plaza las armas or central square they have in every latin American city, town and village. We had previously heard there was some good hotels on the plaza so that is where I plan to go.

Daleen is very nervous now too. Its getting dark and she can't see well at night. I suggest that she go ahead and find the plaza and a suitable place to crash while I wait. That way we can decide if I will be able to ride there or not. She reminds me that she would never be able to find her away back to me again, and instead suggests I just stop and leave the bike at a garage. But there is no way I am going to do that for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there are no skills outside Lima which have any kind of experience on bikes this size. I realize that its also too late to split up.

We ask a guy sitting on a park bench for some directions, he tells us we are not too far from the plaza las armas. Just turn right after the second traffic light but just don't follow the taxis they go the wrong way. We are like 'What you mean?' Ignoring our question, he is like 'Two blocks later turn left and then go straight for 4 or five sets of lights.' Great. Is it busy? Yes it is. Awesome, it is not. We shrug and accept our lot in life. What else can one do?  I eye the traffic light changing in front of me and its cycle. There are five or six busses and perhaps fifteen cars that cram into the double lanes each time it the traffic lights change. When it does each time a slow decongestion of traffic takes place. Timing will be everything. I wont be able to pass them or the lights if I get it wrong, and I wont be able to get started again if duff it up. I tell Daleen I'm just going to go for it, after all, what could possibly go wrong? If I crash or get stuck, everyone will just have to drive around the wreckage which will be me.

I wait for the light to go green before I start. Rolling down behind the busses, I think maybe I have started too soon. It gets worse: There is a delay for some reason. Then I see the bus in the front of the queue has stopped to pick someone up. Naturally everyone is held up behind it in the usual fashion horns start blaring without effect. Shit. A slow race in 1st begins. How slow can I go before I stall? Will the light stay green long enough for all the busses to clear the intersection? Go guys go! Go, go, GO Dammit! The light goes orange and there are still 3 busses in front of me, and now they're slowing to a halt. Crap, crap crap crap! There is nothing left but to gun it for the narrow gap between last two busses and try turn right in front of the traffic about to rolling across. Holy, moly this is going to be tight.

My boney's panniers are about 1.3m wide, offset a bit to the left due to the exhaust. I don't know if it'll fit through. Its going to be close but there is simply no time for second thoughts. I hold my breath and feel my panniers scraping along the one side of the bus but I'm still moving. Shiiiit!! The road has these nasty potholes and missing cobblestones as if things are not challenging enough already.  I dart out from the tunnel between cut hard right in front of a gravel truck lumbering along from the left. Unbelievably he brakes and I make it in one piece! The adrenaline high is something else. I wonder how Daleen is going to stay with me but miraculously I see her dodge out from behind the same truck and pass it to join me. But a new set of busses are now bunched up in front of me at the next red set of lights and this time there is simply no way to slip between them. I'm just going to have to go ride in the oncoming lane on a prayer.

Blessedly because the lights are red there is not much traffic in that lane. The problem is the lights don't change by the time I get to the front, so I'm forced to keep going through the intersection.  Somehow its clear as well. The lights at following intersection also red. Here we need to turn across the oncoming traffic waiting at the light. It changes to green as we get there and we flit across like guilty dogs before the rumbling deluge coming the other way cuts us off.

The road is now one way, tremendously in the same direction that we are now travelling. Now, if our directions are correct its just a straight line to the plaza for four or five blocks. They turn into the longest four blocks of my life. Each time I have to look for moving gaps and shoot for them between the crossing traffic, hoping not to become a pavement pizza under something big. Daleen is further back now, unable to keep up with my suicidal antics. At the last traffic light I come up behind two cops also on motorbikes. The game is over now. I'm going to have to stop this time. Funny how we can risk life and limb breaking rules but then will stop for authority.

Just then the light changes. Stunned by my change in fortune, I innocently slip past them into the plaza las armas. The only problem is too late I realize the road I'm on has been closed for construction and there is no way out so I have to stall the bike. That's it. I'm just happy to be here and alive. I slump over my bars, relief washing over me quickly turning into a dazed exhaustion. I'm too tired to get off my bike. Daleen joins me, parks up and goes to look for a hotel while I guard the bikes. The place is a mass of people enjoying their Saturday evening in the park. Our BMW's become a center of attraction, no one here has anything bigger than a 125 or 250cc. So I pose for photographs, the exhausted adventurer together with smiling kids, aunties, uncles, grandparents you name it. It feels good to have made it and I force a smile or two.

After some time Daleen comes back with good and bad news. The good news is that there is a hotel where we can store the bikes and they have space for us. The bad news is that there is no way to ride them there due to the construction going on. There is one way but this involves riding up a flight stairs. No problem if you're on a trials bike or maybe even a 450 but they're too steep and the steps too big for our loaded pigs, one of them sans a clutch. There is nothing for but to go back to the intersection where we came in, do a U-turn, mount the pavement and ride up onto the walkway where it is a little easier to, then push the bike about one hundred and fifty meters to the hotel entrance through a plethora of people.  

Photo: A daylight view of the said pedestrian walkway from the hotel looking back to the intersection, a lot less people around than on Saturday night.

Daleen is not keen to do this so I get onto her bike and ride it for her. I get only one chance at this tricky move, and I must make it happen. Riding into the intersection I take control and bring all traffic to a complete halt, adopting the a well-known but commanding talk-to-the-hand posture with my gloved hand. Gloves, lots of bike revving, and black riding kit has a certain air of authority at times. Completely disregarding the police officer blowing like a banshee on his whistle, I pull off a perfect tight uwie, ramp the high pavement and enter walkway shouting 'Cuidado!' at a stunned pedestrian audience. They break out of their paralysis when they realize I am not going to stop for them and leap out of the way before I lose all my momentum.

I kill the engine in the walkway amid agitated pedestrians yelling at us that this is not a road, and hand the machine over to Daleen who insists on pushing it all the way to the hotel. Now for my bike. Luckily the hotel manager was there to help me push. We repeated the same maneuver only this time pushing the bike the whole way. Surprisingly I was able dig deep and push the bike without too much trouble despite a very weak leg.  It just shows you that when you have to do something and you have no other option, no matter how much your mind might try and convince you that it is impossible, it often can still be done.

What a drama class. The satisfaction was something else.

We ended up parking our bikes in the hotel's central quadrangle among the breakfast tables, which was very accommodating of them. First order of business was food and beer of course. I wolfed down two meals: A plate of spaghetti and then a second dinner of fried trout, rice and salad. Daleen settled on just the trout.

Its amazing how things looked so much better again on a full stomach. We relaxed in the considerable satisfaction that we had made it despite difficulty. Pleasant gratification, sore bodies and tired muscles: It can't get better than this. Tomorrow would be another day and we would tackle those challenges when they came.

Within the hour we have showered, and crashing to sleep like newborn puppies.  

Day 1 Stats:
Distance travelled - 589km Not very far normall, but really far for us given the very slow roads.  
Highest altitude - 4,750m, three passes over 4,200m
Lowest altitude - 4m
Time on the road - 11 hours, including rest and maintenance stops.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on September 02, 2013, 06:25:23 am
Day 2 R & R - Rest and Repairs

We wake up to a glorious Sunday. The church bell across the square is ringing. We get up late. I decide to take a look outside at the breakfast scene.


My leg feels surprisingly good after some warming up exercises as well.

We get our room sorted out. It was a pretty nice place actually.

Ours has a nice little private nook.

I'm obviously keen to have a look at my bike, so I dump the oil, and at 2.5 liters I forgot what a lot of oil that is! I'm glad Daleen sourced a bigger container for it.

If you're not a wannabe mechanic, please bear with the next few pics and paragraphs.

I whip off the gear leaver and disconnect the clutch cable. The side stand is in the way and comes off. Fortunately the crash bars don't need to come off because those things are a beastly job to do.

I remove the cover careful not to damage the seal and to my astonishment, the whole clutch falls out with it!  :shocked:

I immediately shove it back in to be sure how it goes. This is what it looks like.

Its not all that complicated but I have never worked on a clutch before so I am nervous. I make a few posts and ask some technical questions but no one really seems to know. Thanks to some clever guys I have the workshop manual on my laptop. I look at the drawings. The whole thing is supposed to be locked in place on the bike when you take off the cover. This thing:

I find out to replace a clutch is actually very easy. All you do is take off the 6 bolts in the picture above pulls out the discs and put in some new ones separated by the steel plates between them. Piece of cake. The first and last plate have flanges that are a little narrower and only the last plate is supposed to be offset, all the others are lined up. Should take less than an hour to do. So if you're doing a long overland trip, consider taking some spare clutch plates with you.


I look at my plates but they are not worn. Hardly surprising, this bike has only got about 20 hours on it since the new ones were fitted. So what went wrong? A little later in the morning I take it apart some more have another look at the drawings.



I notice the washer 5 is missing completely? WTF?? How could BMW Peru have missed putting that back in??  :doh: Ah well, doesn't help us now does it?

I look at the next drawing and observe that nut No 1 has fallen off inside the clutch, and washer No 2 is quite deformed. Everything else seems fine.

It looks like somehow that spacer/washer gave the basket nut enough room to work loose and fall off. Well that's what I hope. Hmm. Well I am going to need another washer and today is Sunday so that means we will be here at least another day. I'm also going to need a very, very strong arm to tighten the offending nut to the prescribed 180Nm. What? That's like 3 times tighter than an axle nut has to be! Besides I don't have any torque wrench or a 32 spanner in my kit. I'm also warned by my online friends that tightening that nut is going to be very hard to do without the special tool to stop the engine and everything from turning. I decide to leave that problem for later and have lunch with Daleen instead. Not much more to be done today except maybe see a little bit of the a town and relax.

Does my expression say it all?  :biggrin:

Daleen has a salad and I go for the local dish, sopa criole. Want some of this?  :grin:

Actually, it tastes better than it looks, especially if you are sick with altitude and feeling cold. I'm neither of those today but I have it anyway because I can. Its like a hot bolognaise soup with lots of spaghetti noodles at the bottom with meat and an egg on top for fun. We both have fresh mango juices.

Daleen is not an egg person and is horrified by the scene.   :imaposer:
Our luncheon view:

Life is great.

Below us are the Sunday homemade ice cream ladies, complete with an ad-hoc taxi drive-through. Amazing.

If you look a bit closer you will see they are spinning tubs of liquid ice cream by hand inside bowls filled with ice. The liquid freezes to the side of the tubs and they scrape it off, filling cups of soft, fluffy product for their customers on order. Talk about fresh, and it's fascinating and quite soothing to watch. We decide on ice cream after lunch.  

Then we are treated to a performance of the local oompah band celebrating something or other preceded by a large crowd. This is very typical every week, everywhere in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia.


They're playing a local, but pleasant version of amazing grace. Its loud alright. Thinking about it this lot could quite easily be a school band.

Tambourine girls

Afterwards it's ice cream time. I watch with a smile as the little boy in the foreground manages to get ice cream all over his hands and naturally wipes it off all over his pants and jersey much to the horror of his father. Good boy - Well done! The ice cream lady smiles and I share our amusement.

The flavor of the ice cream was the same. Made with local milk, vanilla bean, cloves, raspberry, cinnamon and some other stuff in it that I'm not sure about. Its tastes pretty good, but also a little wild, unlike anything I have had anywhere else. Cost for a small cup is two Soles, that's less than 70 US cents, or about six Rand in South Africa.

Everyone is into this thing. Clearly Ice cream is a big deal in Ayachucho.

We go for a stroll to walk off lunch to view libertador Snr. Bolivar on his horse and the monument erected in recognition of all those who died fighting in wars for Peru.

The words in the garden say 'Ayacucho, the cradle of American Liberty'.

Ayacucho is famous for its 33 churches, which represent one for each year of Jesus' life. Ayacucho has large religious celebrations, especially during the Holy Week of Easter.

This one, just off the plaza, was built in 1644. That's almost 400 years ago!

These celebrations include horse races featuring Peruvian Caballos de Paso and the traditional running of the bulls, known locally as the jalatoro or pascuatoro. The jalatoro is similar to the Spanish encierro, except that the bulls are led by horses of the Morochucos.


This is an old place.

Vestiges of human settlements more than 15,000 years old have been found in the site of Pikimachay, about 25 km north of Ayacucho. From 500 to 900, the region became occupied by the Huari Culture (Wari), which became known as the first expansionist empire based in the Andes before the Incas.

The Ayacucho region was inhabited by varying indigenous cultures for thousands of years, including the Wari, Chanka people, and Nasca before the Inca.

The Spanish colonial founding of Ayacucho was led by the invader Francisco Pizarro on April 25, 1540, who named it San Juan de la Frontera de Huamanga. Due to the constant Incan rebellion led by Manco Inca against the Spanish in the zone, Pizarro was quick to populate the settlement with a small number of Spaniards brought from Lima and Cusco. On May 17, 1544, by Royal decree, Ayacucho was titled La Muy Noble y Leal Ciudad de Huamanga (the most noble and loyal city of Huamanga). The city's main University was founded on July 3, 1677 as the Universidad Nacional San Cristóbal de Huamanga.

Rustic architecture somewhat blocked by the construction going on at the moment.

Cathedral of Vilcashuaman, built on remains of Inca temple.
Picture from wikipedia

On February 15, 1825, Simón Bolívar changed the city's name to Ayacucho.

The city is named after the historical Battle of Ayacucho. Upon seeing so many casualties on the battlefield, citizens called the area Ayakuchu, aya meaning "dead" and kuchu meaning "corner" in the Quechua language. The Battle of Ayacucho was the last armed clash between Spanish armies and patriots during the Peruvian War of Independence. The battle developed in the nearby pampa of La Quinua on December 9, 1824. In it a over 6,000 people fought for Spain and 5,500 for Peru. Over 3,000 people from both sides lost their lives, two thirds being Spanish, and 3,500 Spanish troops were captured. The patriot victory sealed the independence of Peru and South America. La Paz, now the capital of Bolivia, was similarly renamed La Paz de Ayacucho following this battle. You can read more about it here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ayacucho).


The city's economy is based on agriculture and light manufactures, including textiles, pottery, leather goods and filigree ware. It is a regional tourism destination, known for its 33 churches built in the colonial period, and for the nearby battlefield of La Quinua, where the Ayacucho battle was fought in 1824.


In 1980, the terrorist organization known as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) used Ayachucho as its base for its campaign against the Peruvian government, even staging an assault on the Ayacucho prison in 1982. The campaign faded after the leader Abimael Guzmán Reynoso was captured in 1992 and put in prison. Some followers are actively allied with the narcos for cocaine's traffic and earn cash by protecting them; people are concerned that the movement can revive if social issues remain unchanged. The region headed by Ayacucho is rural and one of the poorest of all the country. With the peace of the last 20 years, the citizens work hard to improve the living conditions and attract jobs.

While some people here are still very poor things seem to be going well for the city.

Later in the afternoon we meet a very nice Dutch guy called Charlie from Suriname, which until 1976 used to be a South American Dutch colony and is situated north of Brazil. He is a manager for a company that leases diesel generators, and he tell us they have nine 600kW generators in Ayacucho that run at peak power times in the evening to supply the city with power. If this is anything to go on, it indicates the economy is still ramping up here. Certainly Ayacucho is a lot better off than many Bolivian towns I have been to.

He also has a mechanic who has the tools I need to fix my bike and will make him available in the morning!

Day 2 Stats:

Distance travelled: 0km

Day 3 is pretty much the same. its a lot busier in town today.


I spend the morning rushing around from ferreteria to ferreteria looking for a washer the size I need without much hope. Eventually I find a guy who has one but its not an exact fit. It fits but is not perfect. It will have to do.

Then I go with Charlies mechanic to see his generators. They're in containers quite impressive. We also pick up a torque wrench in imperial units but without the necessary connections for the metric nut. Useful - not. But we do find a big wrench and a 32 socket. So we rush back to the hotel and put it all back together.


It eventually takes the weight of two people on the back of the bike with it in gear to stop turning the engine with the spanner while we tighten that lock nut, and it goes on as tight as we can make it.

There, 180Nm,  :thumleft: and it had better hold!

In two ticks we have it all back together again with an oil change to boot. She started up great and after some adjustments to the cable the clutch worked just fine. We are good to go baby!

Woohoo!!  (http://www.roamafrica.co.za/forum/Smileys/roamafrica/yay.gif)

We spend the rest of the day chatting in Spanish with two Swiss cyclists Stefan and Magali. They had taken the year off and were doing South America on their bicycles.


Crazy if you ask me, but that is quite a popular thing these days. We normally see more of them than moto guys out in these parts, which is strange really because the roads are amazing.

We have waste two days but at least the trip is still on and we have re-charged the batteries not to mention things in the confidence department. I am good to go and will just wear my knee brace loose and move my leg more while riding, that's all.

Day 3 - Ayacucho - Huancayo

A distance of 2-300km which is a little more reasonable in terms of distance and certainly, it  looks like it will be pretty exciting. We are to set out North now staying in the main, central Cordillera belt.

Our route was originally going to follow the mountain tops but we asked around and locals reckon the road in the valley (arrow) is nicer.

We are up early and at 06h30 we are packed and ready to go.

I'm feeling much, much more confident today. Like chalk and cheese. Traffic does not scare me. My leg is good. Maybe it was the broken clutch that I was able to fix, maybe it was the sleep, the good food, perhaps the ice cream, perhaps the committed local culture. Truthfully, I think it is was a bit of all of it. Blue bull is back!

Bring it on!  :ricky:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Minora on September 02, 2013, 07:32:15 am
 :blob1: :blob10: :blob3: :blob5: :blob6: :blob7: :blob8: :blob9:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: >>Thump°C on September 02, 2013, 07:33:56 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Wolzak on September 02, 2013, 08:06:50 am
What a way to start my Monday Morning! Thanks Neil, keep on rolling :ricky:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: RD on September 02, 2013, 08:08:45 pm
Lekker  man Lekker ! ;D
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: SteveD on September 02, 2013, 09:34:07 pm
Epic, you tough bugger  :thumleft:
You should write a book, you have a gift. Put a cover around your last few ride reports and I'd buy it....  :pot:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: J-dog on September 02, 2013, 09:54:55 pm
neil, you got fat since dos sertos.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: jimjim on September 04, 2013, 01:22:45 pm
Now this is one thorough ride report! It's always nice to be served with the complete picture: the road, the bikes, the location, the food, the people. Thanks, really enjoying it  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Minora on October 29, 2013, 02:09:40 pm
Hi Neil

Know you are very busy but please don't let this report die a silent death....

We need to know what happened next  :ricky:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Draad on November 30, 2013, 09:47:26 am
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Orangeswifty on December 21, 2013, 01:09:54 pm
Me thinks this RR was all a farce :o
A case of identity theft.
Some-one high-jacked Neil and his lovely wife, stole their camera's, tortured him to get his password for wilddogs and posted here on his behalf...............only to leave the rest of us hanging in suspense

Does anyone know where Neil is?
.................probably still held captive in some mountain hut outside Ayacucho by some Militia Rebels?
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on January 27, 2014, 01:54:38 pm
I must apologize for the delay in finishing this report. Life caught up with me I guess, stress at work, then the silly season hit, and lastly the Dakar!

I have no excuse, but I will finish it now. So I will start with something I forgot to mention about the ice cream ladies from Ayacucho. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.


This ice cream is made by hand! No machines involved. They put huge blocks of ice in tubs, and then in a smaller pot have a liquid which contain all the ingredients they want in the ice cream. They then deftly spin this pot in the tub of water and ice with one hand. It reminds me a little bit of someone skateboarding, you know pushing off with repeatedly with the foot as they get going?  We its almost, but not quite - totally unlike that, but they flick these pots repeatedly into quite a spin and a thin layer of the fluid freezes to the side of the pot. They then scoop this fresh ice cream out and into little cups.

One medium sized cup cost me S/.1.50, which is about R5.00.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on January 27, 2014, 01:58:55 pm
We roll out of Ayacucho and stop to refuel.

The petrol attendant is delighted to meet some people from South Africa, who are touring his country on these bikes.

"Impresionante!!" He says, and asks me in Spanish the questions they always ask everywhere we go.

"How fast can this go?"
"How much does it cost?"
"How big is the engine?" when we tell them, they always exclaim "Pucha Madre!" They are used to bikes up to 250cc, no more.

Daleen waits patiently while the men have a yarn. I think she may be rolling her eyes at us behind those glasses. She wants to get going already.

The road takes us for about 80km over these hills set beneath mountains that rise 2,000m up around us.

There is hardly any traffic on the road at this time of day and its fantastic.


We are on a good, reasonable asphalted piste, with lots of curves and as we get into things we lean lower and lower into the hairpin corners, scraping our foot pegs on the rough tar beneath.  I'm not that brave yet to risk scraping the pegs and shooting pictures one-handed at the same time, so this is the all I am able to get.    ::)


I am feeling so good today I consider twisting the wrist and really ripping up the corners, but then I would not be able to record the trip with my camera. Not that we are going slowly, mind you. We are maintaining a fairly decent pace, but we are also in our comfort zones. Whats more, this is our first trip in a while and it wouldn't be nice to ruin it, doing something stupid. I remind myself that we are in the Andes mountains after all, and its a minimum of 12 hours driving back to the world and a hospital.  So I am content to just take it easy instead, just enjoying riding at the back, and taking pictures of myself taking pictures.

Amazing how bright the sun is so early in the morning in the thin air.

Its a glorious day and all is well in our world. Its a gift to be alive and experience this magnificent place. I am living in the moment, and I think Daleen is too.

Soon enough we get to the little town of Huanta. Its a nondescript place of under 10,000 people, but its big enough for us to get lost in it trying to find our way through to the other side.


Stopping to ask directions I notice the local Ferrari (Look carefully on the front of the car).  I'm guessing they were pushing it a bit too hard. :ImaPoser:


People never retire in these parts. Life is short, hard and brutish, and older folk work with their hands until they can work no more.  They often get caught out by the fast paced modern life...like trying to cross the road as two bike moto's come cruising past.


After stopping a couple of times, we find ourselves on a dirt road at last!! Whooohoo!  :ricky:



Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on January 27, 2014, 02:00:00 pm
The view...well...the pictures don't do it justice.


It never seems to end.

Its like something out of a western movie.


And then in the middle of nowhere, we come across this suspension bridge.




I'm so busy marveling at the engineering, I nearly manage to lose it on the slippery surface and ride off the bridge!

I save it though, but without a lot of margin to spare.  The landscape unrolls and we soak it up. Its impossible to put the miles of marvelous views into words, so I'll let the photos do the talking.









Soon enough we pass a group of surveyors on the road...oh no, another dirt road to be surfaced! We ride on, but I am expecting construction ahead. Never nice.


Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on January 27, 2014, 02:00:16 pm
Instead we are gifted with another cool bridge.


Come on, lets ride it together!!  :ricky:





After the bridge we hit a village and asphalt road again. After just 80km.  :sad: This is a huge shame.



Our hopes are lifted when we see this

But it is short lived.  It looks like it may be black top all the way to Hunacayo now, but the road is very narrow. This was something we did not expect.


It time for breakfast. We have done 120km already and progress has been great. So D's bike decides it want to lie down for a rest. 

I of course do the right thing and take a picture, while she talks her bike out of it.  :ImaPoser:


I may as well make a mention about the top box you can see there. Daleen hates the thing but it works quite well. She says it make it look like a delivery bike. See how it a tied on? Not pretty I know, but there is a story behind that. Anyway, it contains  some tools, a sleeping bag (which would prove fortuitous in a day or so!!), some spare tie downs, emergency rations (biltong), and spare tubes. Its a Hepco Bekker top box. I have a set of Hepco panniers too. Had.

Well, Hepco Schmecker is what I say now.

Its an overrated, overpriced, larney, way-too-shiny piece of bike bling - is what it is. We got it from Cytech back in RSA when we were still new to biking and swallowed the whole  "these are the best bike luggage in the world," story hook, line and sinker. The lock-on, lock-off bracket has long since broken along with the brackets for my side hard panniers on my bike. We tie it on now so it wont go anywhere, and that works better. Its the only thing we still use. Those and the pannier brackets on my bike.

I have discarded my hard boxes for soft panniers: Soft panniers don't break when you put the bike down, they're more streamlined and narrower too. Hard luggage have also caught riders out and broken legs in slow speed off's. Given, the soft ones are a bit of a pain to take off and mount, but they're easier to carry around and we live with the 10 minutes required to pack our clothes in plastic to keep our stuff dry.

But enough of that - On with our adventure.

There is nothing around for miles as we unpack breakfast. The ambiance and tranquility of the place is unbelievable. The only thing we can hear are the cicadas warming up, a flock of wild, bright green parrots nearby and the rustling river in the valley far below us. Its timeless.


After a long while we see a tiny figure on the far bank with his dogs, he must be a farmer making his way to work. We sit there on a rock, taking in the view while chewing on our dates and biltong, pausing to sip water out of my camel back. The place has a bushveld feel to it, but for the parrots. I wonder what people farm for a living here. They do irrigate and citrus down there must be oranges or apples. He also has prickly pear.


Its a harsh beauty and we find it difficult to drag ourselves away to press on with our trip. As it turns out the road is a lot of fun to ride, often with dizzying drops off to the one side.



These two guys panicked a bit when we arrive. They had their legs tied together to keep them from running off I suppose. Effective, but quite cruel, I reckon.


Lots of these, this must be our tenth already.






Dont look down...


It feels like this road was made just for us. Its awesome. But we are careful, because meeting oncoming traffic on a blind corner would be fatal. There are tons of blind corners, and these slow us down a bit.

Remains of a old mine and its transport.



We ride on and on. I'm sorry for all the pictures but there was just so much that we have not shown you. It goes on for over 100km.


At one point Daleen stops. Is it safe ahead?


Ja, I'm sure it will be fine. It is.



Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Crossed-up on January 27, 2014, 02:29:31 pm
Well worth the wait!  :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Orangeswifty on January 27, 2014, 02:56:06 pm
Keep it coming Neil :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on January 27, 2014, 03:00:52 pm

Look this is tar, and I'm not a lover of the black stuff, but seriously.... This.....You have to agree this is a riding paradise  :ricky:







After a long time we are forced to stop for road works.

They are moving a few car-sized boulders off the road ahead of us. It will take 45 minutes before they open the stop-and-go. So now you can see my pannier setup. Its not pretty I know, but it works great. You'll also notice that I am wearing my knee braces outside my pants. This relived a lot of pain on my leg I had on the first day. The constant pressure on it was too much.


We end up chatting with other people waiting and looking down the gorge beneath us. Its a long, long way down. Lots of joking about, talking about falling off the edge, the Dakar and other cool stuff. 


Its getting very hot standing around in our black gear...


Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on January 27, 2014, 03:03:39 pm
Finally we are on the move and are first through. But then we have to negotiate the cars and trucks on the other side. Hairaising. Chapman's peak se moer.  :eek7:



I have some video of this, and will post later.

Took me a moment to realize there was a bike under all of that! They do this to stop the fuel losses in the sun apparently.


The paridise continues...






There is also more traffic on the road...




Amazing, these truck drivers...  :eek7:  :eek7:  :eek7:






After another 2 hours of riding we stop at this little place for a bite to eat.  It such a beautiful day, we ask if we could sit outside. They move tables, chairs,  and umbrella out for us.  Right there were some ladies de-cobbing maize meal, and they stopped their little operation and moved away so we could eat. Wow. We weren't expecting such a fuss, but there people are so keen to make us feel welcome.


The old guy's name is Javier, and he is very happy about the new asphalt road.


Javier tells me that its very hard to be a farmer out here, but the new road means more traffic, more tourists and travelers, and therefore his restaurant will do better. He does not have much but I can see he is content. He has good crop there under that blue tarpaulin.


The coke is cold and the fresh, fried trout with chopped onions, sweet potato and a healthy portion of mielies is just what we need for our last leg. Oh, dont forget the fruit juices...awesome fruit juices!


I ask Javier about that dry stone wall behind Daleen. He built it himself. Not a bit of cement in it. Its a work of art.

My leg is a bot sore now, but not as bad as the first day. Maybe I'm getting used to it. Regardless, I'm very thankful. This has been a really good day of riding.


We ride on after the lovely lunch. It cost us just S/.28.00, about $11.00. As the valley opens out the river joins others and suddenly gets bigger and deeper, and the engineering becomes more interesting. This is a Blondyn used to get guys out into the middle of the river to measure the flow rate and depth.


We sense we are getting closer to a bigger city. It doesn't take long before our little mountain road transforms into a normal one again.


At first I think this is a mining operation, and my heart breaks. But then I realize this actually the result of a new road being built up there. Incredible. Miners would never do this!!


We get to a place called Izcuchaca, which is where the worlds highest railway line ends,


and here it is.


If you have read the Tintin comic "Prisoners of the Sun" you will know about the railway line I am talking about. It goes up the Andes from Lima to La Oroya, Huancayo (our destination today), and ends in this place. On the way up the train has to reverse 27 times and goes through 80 tunnels. At its highest point at Ticlio it is in a tunnel at 4,800m above sea level. We will go past this point later in our trip, but first we are going to the Amazon jungle to the east.


For a moment I think of Dubrovnik. The water level is still low, near the end of the dry season.


We start to climb a series of switchbacks up over 4,200m altitude again. (http://bluebull2007.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/Ayacucho2013/i-f9hWxJF/0/XL/zhn-XL.jpg)

Things become bleak again, but the sunshine is warm and even up here it not too cold.


Once up on the altiplano, the road becomes a long boring straight. We pass a group of 20 cyclists going the other way. Bloody crazy I tell you. No way you would get me doing that. This is biking country.

Finally, after another 2 hours we arrive in Huancayo.


Its a big city, with 380,000 residents thriving on mining and agriculture. It is on one of the conduit routes of food and supplies from the mighty Amazon to the east to Lima in the west.

The adventure is far from over as we dodge crazy drivers, trucks, busses and three wheeled moto taxi's wheeling about like angry wasps. You have to keep an eye on the surface too, often the manhole covers are broken or missing.


I risk a snap of the local military barracks. Check out the Inca warrior boys on the walls. Cool!


As we draw into the city, it becomes increasingly congested.


Tough making a living in this place as well, even if you have sweetest pineapples in the world,



but they are also the biggest.

Let me say something: If you ever come to Peru, try the fruit. The mangoes...the pineapples...the apples...the passion fruits...the exotic fruits...they are seriously, seriously awesome. It makes our fruit very uninteresting and bland in comparison. They have this fruit called a Chirimoya - a Custard Apple. It has a whitish, fleshy texture but tastes like custard. Its about the size of rugby player's clenched fist and green coloured, irregular in shape and knobbly. It looks decidedly dodgy, like something out of a Douglas Adams novel. Its kinda weird but amazing to eat at the same time. I need to get a photo of one. These all come from the jungle.

You'll also find Inca Cola in Peru. Loved by many, it tastes damn awful to me. I think many drink it only because it sounds cool and its the right thing to do in Peru if you're a nationalist. Its like paying your tv licence in South Africa. Yeah, I know, I didn't either.



Huancayo is located in Huancayo Province, of which it is also capital. Situated in the Mantaro Valley at an altitude of 3,271 meters, it belongs to the Quechua region. Gets pretty cold at night too! See the blankets.


We finally arrive at a hotel I stayed in a few years back. Classic Spanish architecture

We offload the bikes and make beers the first call of business in the "lounge". They don't have bars in the hotels here for some reason. But there is a butler guy. Kinda. He offers to get us drinks which is all we want.


I order the coldest Cusquena they have. "Right away senor, two Cusquena's with ice."
"Two Cusquena's with ice, senor?"
"Oh no, don't you dare!...Just bring me two Cusquenas, por favor."  :rolleyes:
"Si, senor!"
 "And a limonda frozen for the Senora"
"Si senor."

We are quite tired and sore after 9 hours in the saddle. Okay not all of it was riding and we stopped often. Daleen drops one of her gloves and tries to pick it up.."Oh - my back!!"  :ImaPoser:

Meanwhile I'm focused on more important things.  :snorting:

How great is the taste of that first beer!?

We are both extremely satisfied after the truely awesome day. Without mishap and the smooth, flowing lines with a bit of dirt thrown in is a huge confidence booster after that tough first day. We are back! Tomorrow will be even better. 

The city of Huanacayo is the fifth most populous city of the country. It is the cultural and commercial center of the whole central Peruvian Andes area. Those shots are taken from our hotel window.



Down below there is also a cats choir in attendance, apparently.  :grin:

Its the first time I have seen so many cats in Peru. Its a dog country, and I always though Peruvian dogs eat cats, which is why there are hardly any, anywhere.

Honestly, we both agree the city is actually a horrible dump, but its a good place to stop in if you are travelling through the central Andes. The food in the hotel that night is dodgey, but the room is okay and not too dirty.


Tomorrow we plan to get onto some proper dirt. I have eyeballed a route that takes us off the beaten path over a 4,500m pass and down into a seldom visited jungle valley, which will eventually open out to a place celled La Merced, which is where we will stay. Its going to be a longer day than today, with a distance of over 300km, but this time almost all on dirt tracks.

Little do we know how long that day would really turn out to be...
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Wooly Bugger on January 27, 2014, 03:49:41 pm
awesome stuff Neill! Or is it Neil?
looks like the two of you are having a complete scream?!

so jealous, but very happy for you.


sub. again. still............. :biggrin:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: bungycool on January 27, 2014, 05:04:13 pm
Ag Neil. Just when I was getting my head round the fact it was the right idea to pass on the awesome opportunity you posted earlier. Definitely on the bucket list.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: westfrogger on January 28, 2014, 02:25:42 pm

Loving this. Hell, if I could I'd dunk it in my coffee (no. 5 for the day). Time for tea. Come on Neil, hurry will you, we need our fix.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: alanB on January 29, 2014, 08:17:58 pm
Just found this RR now.

Its superb  :thumleft:

Your description of the "speak to the hand" approach of stopping all traffic in front of the cops to ramp the pavement had me weeping with laughter  :thumleft: 

Really well written and gripping.


Glad you came through it OK (so far), even though maybe you were a tad ambitious.  Your wife sounds like a really great woman by the way!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on February 02, 2014, 11:23:47 pm
awesome stuff Neill! Or is it Neil?
looks like the two of you are having a complete scream?!

so jealous, but very happy for you.


sub. again. still............. :biggrin:

Its Neil ;)

Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: >>Thump°C on February 03, 2014, 07:55:04 pm
awesome stuff Neill! Or is it Neil?
looks like the two of you are having a complete scream?!

so jealous, but very happy for you.


sub. again. still............. :biggrin:

Its Neil ;)

hehe, must we kneel before you carry on Neil?
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on February 04, 2014, 07:41:12 am
We are getting into the routine of things waking up around 5 to be ready by 6 and today is no different.

Tying on the soft panniers is a bit of a mission, but we have had our fair share of losing stuff in the past.


We are in high spirits after yesterday and are looking forward to another awesome day of outstanding riding.


Here is the route looking to the north east. Travelling right to left, from Huancayo through Conception to Jauja the road is tarred, but after that there is 180km of dirt, crossing out of sight over the central Andes down to La Merced in the distance.


Of course we could keep straight on to Tarma (see the blue on the far left of the pic above) and down another canyon on tar, but that will not likely be as fun or challenging as our planned route. It would be too easy.  So instead we take the short cut as the crow flies on the map to La Merced, knowing it will take a longer in reality because these mountains are seriously huge and dirt road tend to be very slow going with staggering drop-offs on one side.

This route will climb from our start at 3,300m above sea level up to just over 4,500m above sea level and then drop down 3,700m into the Amazon basin. That's a total of nearly 5 kilometers in ascent or descent in just one day!! :ricky:

Here is a closer view of the descent off the top (also looking northeast).


Looking in the opposite direction. The point labelled Uchubamba looks to be about half way down.


Zooming in on Google earth shows nothing but hazy green jungle. It is one of those areas still not properly covered by satellite photo's, probably due to inclement weather every time a satellite is overhead. We know the road has a lot more switchbacks than shown! Anyway enough of the stats and theory, time for some riding!

The tarred section to Jauja (pronounced in Afrikaans like gau-ga) turns out to be a monotonous and boring stretch with a lot of traffic.


The only thing we have for entertainment are idiot drivers. We slow down to accommodate guys pulling in front of us, overtaking in stupid places, kids running into the road, and trucks doing u-turns on the highway. Nothing surprises us anymore. There is no point in getting irate about it like we did in Gauteng. Here it is way, way worse. Re-education of the masses is not going make one iota of a difference anyway. Our aim is just to try get to the end of it in one piece, a task that takes about two hours and leaves us feeling a little bit tired already.

We pull over just as we hit the dirt out of Jauja so I can make a scheduled call for work before we lose cell signal ::)  After this we will have no phones or contact with the outside world until we get to our hospedaje in la Merced.


We follow a road that I don't think has seen a grader in perhaps 10 years. Its rough and seems to consist of zinc plate and large stones which flick up and out from under our tyres. Soon enough we stop to wait for an excavator moving two huge rocks onto a truck as part of a bridge construction project. There is a lot of arm waving and instructions from the supervisors and I smile bemused as they get this earth moving job done. 


I miss the shot of the day so far as I put away my camera when an impatient taxi squeezes past on the left. At the same time the rock is dropped onto the back of the truck and almost rolls off the side onto the chancing driver in the car. Holy Moly that was close!! :eek: The irate traffic guard running, catches up to the taxi as he squeezes past us waiting there, and he hammers on the roof of the car with his fists and yells at the driver through a closed window. Non-plussed, the drivers looks over, smiles and drives away.

Not much further on we come across a fuel station and take the opportunity to top up. Never go past a fuel station if you think you might run short on petrol. We are given a fantastic welcome by the people there. Clearly gringos on big bikes are not common place in these parts.

This lady and her daughter walk up to us and ask us about our journey. Initially we are surprised by their forwardness, and being South African, we are naturally a little suspicious. But we quickly realize this is genuine curiosity.


"Where are you coming from?" they ask.
We tell them Lima, via Ayacucho. They are wowed by this. Even more so when they see a female rider!

They offer us some fresh granadillas and we graciously accept. It is so humbling that such poor people give away the little they have so easily.


There is a lesson in this for us all I think.  Sometime life catches us up so much in the big rat race in the cities - We are so busy looking at our I pads and our I phones - its all about me me and me, and we stop noticing what is going on around us altogether, and treat any kind of intrusion on our cocooned lives as an offence to our sensibilities. These people don't even this thing called the internet, neither do they really care. They are just delighted to have us visiting them, and I realize I was too quick to draw a wrong conclusion.

So we chat with them animatedly for a while. This old guy also explains how happy he is to to see us. He does not ask for money; he has no need for that.


Where are we going? To La Merced. Ah but there is another way that is easier. Yes, we reply. We are more interested in going to La Merced via Uchubamba rather than Tarma. Their faces brighten up and they welcome us telling us that it really beautiful there. We ask how far it is to Uchubamba and La Merced. He says "Oh its close, on your bikes just 2 hours, probably." We know this is grossly underestimated but we don't argue. He probably seldom goes there anyway. He does tell us the way to the next village, Molinas (Maize Mills), and gives us a few tips on the road conditions and where to turn. We thank him and with that we are off again.



The road quickly turns into a narrow, bouncy challenge with a lot of very fine dust which makes passing cars quite difficult.


Its about half an hour later and we arrive in Molinas the hard way. We have somehow missed the unmarked "desvio" and now have to  dodge some deep, unprotected holes in the road.


As we admire the little square ("Plaza las Armas") that is a feature of every Peruvian city, town and village. These are always the pride and joy of every municipality to the point that they are a status symbol of sorts. Some a very grandiose and colonial, while others are quite unpretentious and practical places to relax with one's family on a Saturday afternoon. As we putter past, this guy runs up to us and stops us. He also has a huge smile on his face.


He tells us he is the mayor and welcomes us as the first tourists to Molinas. His delight is contagious as he shakes our hands vigorously and then asks us permission for a photograph. He looks like he wants to tell someone else about us but there is no-one in sight. I guess that is why he wants the picture. Our presence there is certainly a big deal for him, so maybe we really are the first tourists on bikes there.


"Please enjoy your stay," he says, and we are once again overwhelmed. We move on, rolling higher and higher into the mountains, and the valley begins to narrow slowly and characteristically.



Check out the terracing going on, even here on these steep slopes. This is Inca-aged stuff.


We have this theory that the Inca people had a lot of time on their hands; so to keep them from getting bored, the Inca king set his people to terrace the whole countryside and to build stone walls everywhere.  ;D


I apologize about the picture quality, most of these were taken on the move with a wide angle lens and cropped. But to me, they capture the essence of our journey.



After a good hour or so of the most amazing winding dirt road, we arrive in another village where the single street is completely blocked by an excavator digging a 6 foot trench in the middle of the road. There is no diversion. To the left is a huge heap of dirt, so I look that the options to pass on the other side: Not enough space past that pole is my conclusion. Anyway, there is a deep drainage channel there, a slot and a worthy challenge for Graham Jarvis but not for us on loaded E-beemwes. When will we ever learn? ::) ;D

It crosses my mind that we will have to turn back here, but if you know me, and I am not to be outdone so easily.

I eventually decide the only way through is to ride up next to the excavator on the left, but once I am committed I realize it might have been a bit rash: There is a steep slope down to the left. I am now blocked by a big pile of earth in front and cannot get off my bike without falling over. 

Hmm.  :idea1: 

Now my only option is to cross in front under the bucket of this furiously working machine over to the drain side of the road. I notice the drain on the right is little bit shallower in front, filled with rocks and rubbish. There is also a couple of lengths of 4 inch plastic pipes strewn about. Meanwhile the excavator is still digging furiously away. I wave and yell and eventually convey my intentions to the operator. He does not shut it down but merely holds the bucket up in the air, dangling it really, and motions me to go through beneath it.

Oh shite.... :eek: If he drops it or slips his hand on the lever or something I will be dead. 'Dear Lord, just go for it', I say. It will be spectacular if I can pull this off, and spectacular if I can't. :laughing7:

I kick into first and pull gingerly beneath the bucket. It's a bit of a job to get the bike around the excavator but with some wheel spin its doable. The sphincter factor is now really high. I purse my lips and push on, hunching my head down instinctively. Then its a hard left turn onto and along and over the parallel pipes. The one moves about as I go over it, but I focus on not looking down and just gun it for the end hoping not to crash into the trench. Its wobbly as anything but somehow I make it with a quick foot out here and there. Not very graceful but I'm still delighted.

I leap off the bike and take this shot.


I walk back and take D's bike through for her, while she plays with the camera. Unfortunately the battery dies after that and we only have the 'mik en druk' camera with us now and my go pro.


D is happy about that me taking the bike through for her is not keen at all to ride this kind of thing. Neither am I really but we must get through. To my surprise I pull it off a second time. The construction guys are delighted and the operator comes over and offers me some dried maize in a packet. I tell him thanks but no thanks, but he insists. Little do I know how important this will be come later on.

This village is the last we see of people for quite some time. The road winds up into some really big mountains and the air becomes frigid despite the bright sunshine. Can you spot D? Awe inspiring riding.


Still climbing, we enter an areas of pampas -highveldt if you prefer- but way above the treeline.



The road becomes a series of tortuously tight switchbacks. D is battling a bit with these and goes around them slower and slower as her confidence wanes. Its happened to me too. No matter what you have learnt and know, when fear kicks in it starts to affect one's riding ability. Something that would normally easy becomes hard, and the prospect of bouncing down a steep mountainside can be really paralyzing. She stops and prays, gathering her wits.


I stop with her waiting patiently for her resolve to return. We have lots of time. We can afford to take it slow for a bit. Its high here, we are very close to the top, and the air is very thin. I am feeling horrible again and focus on taking long deep breaths. After while we ride on and within twenty minutes are nearing the top. There is yet another tight switchback and I stop, this time holding my breath as I watch D tackle it.


D takes it slowly and negotiates the turn successful. I'm delighted and proud of this simple achievement.


The top is not quite as impressive as I had imagined, but it is still beautiful.


A series of switchbacks starts our descent ahead of close to four kilometers. I'm hoping that D's confidence is growing after those last few switchbacks as we are going to need it for sure somewhere in front.

Author's side note* As I sit here now typing this I realize how much in cloud cuckoo land I must have been to continue. My leg was not great by any means and we should have capitalized on the previous day's success and built on that with another easy day to grow our self confidence. I should have taken the warning signs to heart but I did not. Overconfidence had won the day and we took a bit of a chance.  But isn't that what life is about - You know sometimes testing the limits? What I will say is if we had turned back at this point I am sure we would not have had such a big adventure as we did. Was it irresponsible? I can now say it probably was with 20/20 hindsight, but therein lies the rub. Pissies will never be heroes, and we would have just had a nice trip instead of an epic adventure, and it is the latter which we remember fondly, not so much the tourist trip, even though it was nice.

The road ahead does not look too bad after all!


Ha ha, fat chance.  :snorting:


Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on February 04, 2014, 07:56:11 am
Aargh, the switchbacks go slower and slower as it becomes steeper and steeper, and they get tighter. There are lots of them.


Its only a matter of time before D's bike goes down. We stop and take stock. She is fine but it was unpleasant. Its the first time D has dropped the bike in a long time. Then again we have not been riding for ages before this trip either. We have a little bit to eat, after all its already 11h30 am. We read some Psalms together and pray.  Its really nice out there, with a cold breeze coming out of the canyon with the sun taking the edge off. We talk about all sorts of things, what we are seeing across the canyon up in the mountains, some llamas, and also about the deeper things in life and what God is doing in ours. We feel very close to one another and we draw comfort from that as well. After half an hour we feel better and continue.

At the very next corner, "BAM!" down the bike goes again. We grit our teeth as I stop, dismount and help her get it up again. D is fine but she is rattled. We get to the next switchback within 200m. She inches her way around it on her toes. Phew!! Now for the next one, which she does okay in 2nd gear, but she stops again. Whats wrong? It was scary for her. Very scary. I remind her of our prayers and that God is looking after us. She does not react. Maybe she did not hear; she seems to be focusing on the issues at hand. We press on past some magnificent boulders and then tackle more switchbacks.

Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on February 04, 2014, 08:25:44 am
At the next switchback she stops. No. She cannot go on. "Okay," I say and I get off and ride her bike around the hairpin. There is another one 100m away so I ride that one too. Then I stop, dismount and walk back to get my bike. It starts to become a pattern. Ride 200m, stop, dismount, walk back, mount D's bike, ride it around the corner, stop & dismount, trudge back up to my bike and so on. Its can work up a sweat at the best of times, but I find it tremendously exhausting, definitely because of the altitude, but also probably because my leg is weak and sore. I work out I can walk 25 to 30 steps before I am completely out of breath. I'm amazed at how unfit I am.

D is very thankful, apologetic and frustrated at the same time as she walks past down the hill. I decide to be stoic about it, grin and bear it. There is no point in being frustrated I reason to myself. I realize it has been my decision to come here, despite her doubts mentioned a few times, and so I blame myself for where we are. The other day she was so strong for me, today I must be strong for her. I never stop believing in her, never stop hoping she will somehow build up the courage to do the next hairpin. Some of them are truly horrendous, sticking out almost into thin air with beating, unprotected vertical drops of over one hundred meters just past gravel laden edges. One or two have characteristic catholic shrines left by grieving relatives to mark the last moments and position of poor souls just before they fell to oblivion. Seeing this type of thing does nothing to improve the confidence.


Sometimes D steels herself and inches around a corner without assistance. I am delighted each time this happens and get filled with renewed hope. She does another one and then she stops again. I groan, she shakes her head sadly and we go through out little ritual. Each time I take a bit longer.  Slowly, after a more than an hour we have negotiated perhaps 30 or 40 of these damn hairpins and get to section where the road contours down for a bit. This bit is a welcome relief, broken on by four of five switchbacks most of which D somehow manages by inching it around on her toes. Well done girl, now lets keep going. hopefully it will get better from here.


We get to this little hamlet tucked away between mammoth, moss-covered boulders. Its stunning beauty and tranquility is somewhat lost on us a little bit by this stage, but I snap away with the camera and try to force my mind into appreciation mode. Keep positive, that's the ticket! There is not a soul to be seen anywhere. Its a strange feeling. Must be a seasonal farming hamlet.


Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on February 04, 2014, 09:11:03 am
I tell D "It's going to get a bit easier from here." Shortly after that the road steepens up again and zigzags into a deeper section. Once again. Our lives have become a series of switchbacks. Sometimes it looks like this. Not too bad. Maybe 3 or 4 switchbacks to get down there...



when will it bloody end?? I tell myself at least those curves down there are gentle.


Try seven switchbacks. ::) But look! There is the bottom of the valley. After that it should be fine.   :deal:

Nope.  The road cuts around the corner into another massive canyon and it looks like this.


Now that might not look like much to you but believe me it was for us.


A one point we stop and both stare into the distance without seeing anything. This is taking ages and ages. We have the famous 1,000 yard stare that shell shocked troops are sometimes seen to get, or in our case exhausted riders facing a difficult situation. D's comes out of it first and suggests we go back.

What? Forget it. Do you know how many switchbacks we have done? We will have to do all those again, and then there are the ones on the other side as well, and the bloody excavator has probably completely closed the road up by now. No we have press on. It must get easier a bit further. D is the logical one at time like this and reasons that it could go on for a long time, much longer than we think. Its after 13h40 and I argue we will be nowhere by dark. Our only option is to press on.

So we do.


At last things level out and we come to a little village. Turns out its Urubamba. We are so happy! Then I think about it and realize that Google Earth is wrong, its higher up the gorge than indicated as we are at about 3,800m altitude still in clouds.


But the road is straight and easy. We cruise through the village, past fighting cocks and a group of kids playing football. Apart from one car we passed which was a service vehicle from "Luz de Sul" in Jauja to reconnect the power for the place we have seen no traffic. There are no cars anyway in the town, and there are no recent car tracks either. The way forward looks more like a wide cattle path.


The route is loose and stony and we stop again to take stock. We have a 'lively' discussion  whether to continue or return, now that the way forward seems even less traveled. I can't face the prospect of repeating perhaps 70 switchbacks in reverse, and feel that the worst is behind us. Look at the vegetation! We are dropping fast and will soon be in a wide open valley. Besides, look how gentle this bit really is....

Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Wolzak on February 04, 2014, 09:37:30 am
Awesome Stuff, you are a great Author and Photographer. This Adventure has me on the Edge of my Seat, I am sure my Staff thinks I am watching Pornography at Work. ;) Keep it coming. I admire your Yster Vroutjie!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: BlueBull2007 on February 04, 2014, 09:54:30 am
We leave the village and its quaintness behind us



The route is gentle for perhaps another two kilometers, and then we get a switchback and the road gradually steepens up. It becomes rocky as hell, the pictures do no justice.



As I walk back for my bike I can hear a big waterfall somewhere nearby. As it turns out we are entering a monster canyon well over 2,500m deep.


We wind down countless hairpins, some like this, most are a lot tighter. Its non-stop and getting quite funny- but we are not laughing. We both know its past the point of no return now. But the route is dropping fast at least. Its a pity we are taking so long to do it though. D tries every now and again and crashes the bike a lot. Fatigue is setting in big time for both of us. We have picked up the bike maybe 15 times by now, and we have been jumping off and on bikes for...well I don't remember how many times but it must have been a power factor more!

Just as we are wits end we come across this tributary, which blows us away and reminds us what a beautiful place this is. It transports us out of our misery for perhaps two minutes.  



This must be amazing to see in the rainy season.

Slowly, very slowly the bush becomes thicker and thicker.


The afternoon drags on. We are both wanting it to end but it is not. We get frustrated and stroppy, cursing the bikes. The emotions wash over us and we grit our teeth and battle on at other times. At one point after yet another crash we lie there for a while in the shade of a tree. The heat is now unbearable but at least we are still high enough not to be completely eaten alive by insects, but they have started. We are both so tired and feel like a sleep but this is impossible. I offer D some lunch. Biltong, dates and dried maize and river water. She is not interested in eating, she is really depressed now. I get agitated because I know she will need the food to sustain her in the coming hours. She is frustrated by her own inability to ride and puts herself down. I really battle to lift her spirits. But I cannot give up. If I give up, all will be lost. One of us has to stay positive so I force myself to try. I don't think I am doing very well at it.

I reflect on the route. Its not entry level by any means but not overly technical either. This is over D's level for sure though on this 240kg piece of BMW. The front wheel is only 19" and that makes it a bit more tricky. She can just touch the ground with her toes which means as soon as the bike is more than 5 degrees over she will go down. Its simply too much bike for her in this environment. I resolve there and then that this must addressed in future.  She is so disheartened by now on this mountain she wants to give up riding altogether. We are not in a happy place at all. I blame myself for getting her into this mess. We have to come to terms that we are in a process, a season of hardship and there is no way out but through it. Its mid afternoon. In the tropics dusk comes really fast, and lasts about 20 minutes. In these mountains it can be quicker than that. I estimate we have 2.5 tops 3 hours to go.

It dawns on me that it is likely we are going to be stuck out here in the Amazon with no tent unless we get to a better road soon....It cant be that far, surely. Crap, then I remember I did not even pack any matches. We may well epic tonight. We cannot stop.  We have to get to civilization somehow.

I jump up and get us into action again. D tries. She tries so hard. We ride for a while and my hope comes back. Then she looses it on a rocky, loose corner and I have to pull the bike off her. Her leg is sore but she has not broken anything - thank the Lord for these mercies!

Its getting brutal now. We are just going to have to try and keep going, no matter what.

Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: >>Thump°C on February 04, 2014, 10:01:32 am
Awesome Stuff, you are a great Author and Photographer. This Adventure has me on the Edge of my Seat, I am sure my Staff thinks I am watching Pornography at Work. ;) Keep it coming. I admire your Yster Vroutjie!
For sure
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Crossed-up on February 04, 2014, 11:08:59 am
You have us in awe and suspense!  What next for our intrepid adventurers?
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: westfrogger on February 04, 2014, 06:41:58 pm
"It was an epic report to follow. I was almost out of coffee, and my fingers ached from hitting refresh. Just then it occurred to me ... the F5 had finally worn away completely on the button. I needed a new keyboard, and I was still hundreds of miles from the end of the story. But pissies can't be heroes, so I just press the blank key between F4 and F6 ..."


Fine writing my good man, and enjoying the pictures too. Will be riding those very roads one day.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Wooly Bugger on February 05, 2014, 07:47:17 am
truly inspiring!
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Heimer on February 05, 2014, 05:42:43 pm
I am loving this report.
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Karoo Rider on February 05, 2014, 06:48:56 pm
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Fuzzy Muzzy on February 06, 2014, 04:39:43 pm
Can't wait... whoo  :sip:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Bashplate on May 02, 2014, 11:20:48 am
Awesome, awesome awesome!!!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: From the Andes to the Amazon
Post by: Diesel & Dust on June 30, 2014, 04:07:37 pm
Epic stuff :thumleft: