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Offline BlueBull2007

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Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« on: March 23, 2010, 05:04:57 am »
This thread will be where I record a series of trips exploring some of the highest and most spectacular mountain passes in the Andes mountain range in South America.  The area I am focusing on is the the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru forming the largest group of peaks over 6,500m high and in South America.



I have a nice map, but still have to take a picture of it and post it up for you. There are a number of roads and tracks that pass through these mountains and it is my intention to explore all of them with a view to perhaps finding a road that is the highest in the world. Right now the highest road in the world is this one:



Its called the Khardung La (Khardung Pass, la means pass in Tibetan) and is at an elevation of 5,359 m. Its located in the Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India. My local map shows around 4-5 passes all well over 4,500m in the Cordillera Blanca. There are also some roads that get up to altitudes well over 5,000m in places. I will have ride there with my GPS and check it out, if its high enough, take a photo and write into Ripleys believe ir not.  :mwink:

Warm up trip - 4 Days of familiarization.

Our first trip comprised the following riders:


D, my better half, soulmate and long-suffering wife. She is the one who has to put up with these hairbrained ideas, and pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.



And then there is yours truely: An rider of modest skills and way to much of a dreamer for his own good.  :deal:


D rides a BMW 650 Geen Sand and Im on a 800 Geen Sand lewensgevaarlik.

Day 1

Thursday 05h00 last week saw us doing final preparations outside our house.



Two emplty condom packets testify that someone got seriously busy last night while we were power napping in preparation for the trip. Talk about a wake up call.  :angry4:




We slab through Lima to the north and 300km up the Pan American highway, a mindnumbly boring stretch rip fraught with dodgey cops and the occasional overloaded vehicle.






While we stop for fuel I figure its worth taking a pic of the nice soft luggage I won from the WD 2008 photo comp, special  thanks to Topbox. :thumleft: You can see I overdid it a bit strapping it down, but after having lost a tent, all my tools and a sleeping bag off the back of our bikes somewhere between Ermelo and Middleburg we dont leave much to chance ;D Anyway its pays to enter the photocomp on this forum! The competition is fierce and the pictures great.




We turn east into the mountains: 130km of twisties taking us up from 23m to 4,200m above sea level.




Im not fond of tarred roads, but this is awesome stuff; we scrape our pegs on the sharp curves and it feels great.













Eventually we arrive at the mine where I work. The camp is at 3,985m the mine goes up to 4,900m. This is a view of part of the concentrator plant, some new civil work we have been busy with.




The boys are busy with the secondary crusher-Lots of commissioning issues.




One of our new toys: A fully refurbished 15 tonne underground dump truck.




Here is a pic of drilling work inside a 4mx4m development adit going into the side of the mountain. Anyway enough of the boring mining stuff, this is a RR for crying out loud. Still, this is why I am able to ride so much up here - I have to work in places like like this, and that of course requires travelling :ricky:



I humor our metallurgical engineer, and he rides with me up the side of a mountainside on the mine Kwat so we can "inspect the tailings dam". (apologies for the poor pic).




We get some ways up an old track that services a electrical pylon installation, and its quite view.






Its been a good day, around 6-7hours on the road. We turn in early after a couple of meetings with the management team in the evening. Work hard, play hard.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2010, 05:14:23 am by BlueBull2007 »
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2010, 05:42:22 am »
Day 2

We are up early, its raining.



Packing the bike with a drip down the back of the neck is not so fun, but pissies will never be heroes so we man up and do it. There is riding to be done.




D is unconcerned by the weather. Im proud of her.  8)







Back on the main road, we pass through a couple of mountain hamlets. They have dogs who fercociously chase bikes. This little black one just missed me but D went straight over it as it ran in front of her line.  :'(




We stop, the bike is fine, buts it pretty upsetting. A couple of days later I spot the dog hiding when I go past, seems he survived The fact he was hiding also meant he had learnt his lesson the hard way.   :D




As we go on, the view while spectacular is diminished a lot by the poor weather. Its the end of the rainy season next month and most normal people would ride in winter. This is a planning trip, and an excuse to get out so were are not too fussed.




We pass through a couple of small villages on the way to Huaraz. The all look pretty much the same. A bit pokey, very poor and simple folks living here in the mountains.




It elections next year and the politcal parties are advertising on every wall that can be painted. Politics here is almost as exciting as Africa, I wont go into the details here.




Weather clears up. Time to change. Again.





Some of the sights here really are unique.












D spots a sculpturing place. I think therye pretty hideous, but horses for courses. The workmanship I can at least appreciate.




We eventully reach Huaraz, its a bustling hole surrounded by really beautiful mountains.



This is what the main road into town looks like.







Still there is a quaintness about the place I suppose.






It rains again, so our superheroes have to get changed. Again.








We get closer to the mountains, soon we will find our way right up under them. We turn off the main road and finally onto the dirt stuff. It gets increasingly spectacular as we venture closer to Huscaran, the highest mountain in Peru at 6,858m. Of course with the weather we dont actually see all that much. But its enough.







More tomorrow, its late here now.  :thumleft:





« Last Edit: March 23, 2010, 05:48:20 am by BlueBull2007 »
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Offline Colyn

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2010, 06:39:32 am »
Thanks a lot for sharing.
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Offline Go Big

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2010, 03:06:42 pm »
Very nice, cant wait for the next bit.
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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2010, 03:16:08 pm »
Thanks for sharing............very nice and interesting.  :thumleft:

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Offline Tuareg

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2010, 04:54:26 pm »
Imponente........

:happy1:
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Offline >>ThumpC

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2010, 08:10:51 pm »
Very nice, I get jelous every time I read your reports.
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Offline h/hh

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2010, 05:41:38 am »
Yebo Mijnheer, Ekke laaik jou bike se nommer plaat.
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2010, 07:07:25 pm »
Sorry for the delay, been a bit busy at work. :P Its no excuse I know.

We climb perhaps 500-600m in altitude, and pass quite a few locals doing their thing (whatever that was  ???).


Notice how the women seem to do a lot of the grunt work here.




Unfortunately the mighty Huscaran is covered in cloud, but we can glimpse part of the glacier at least. We are on track for that forest seen on the final slopes, a place called "Copa Chica" which apparantly has some old inca ruins.  :patch:




The road breaks up into numerous small tracks and we get a bit lost. We not so much lost as not sure where to go. So We stop and ask this nice lady. Theyre very shy under normal conditions, and she had to laugh when I take my camera out for a shot. She shows us where to go nevertheless.






The track gets progressively worse and D decides she had enough and will pillion with me from here on. No problem! I aim for the biggest rocks and deepest mudpools and we go sliding all over the place together!  ;D





The people confirm that the ruins were "just up" there. Far? No not far perhaps an hour, but maybe 5 minutes on these bikes!




Well 15 minutes later we kinda get to the end of the road, Around 3,900m altitude which is still pretty low.  :-\ Ah well, this route wasnt even on the map so I suppose we should expect to be breaking any records just yet.




We meet this old guy, his son, and grandson, returning from a day in the community potato fields.



Such friendly people. Apparently we had past the "ruinas". So they show us where to go. We have to walk a bit through a gum tree plantation. Bloody australian vermin trees are everywhere! Still their leaves smell really nice, that rich gum smell.





I spent some time playing on the grass and posing.  O0 So much for Stand up, look up, open up!  ;)





These ruins dont look that old to us, there a total of 14 "houses", but no-one has done any research on this place. There are couple of places with really big, heavy rocks lifted up to form a roof of a house. Sorry, I dont take any photos, we are lost in the moment, enjoying ourselves too much to remember.



Still, interesting enough.





Spot the geen sand lewensgevaarlik.












When we got back to Ds bike perhaps half an hour later, we met this guy and no less than 100 "workers" all with picks and spades fixing the road. It was around 5 pm.  They wanted us to pay a toll fee to the community. :angry2: :angry5: We gave them around 20 bucks and left as the weather closed in.



Once again we have to stop and put on those hot rainsuits. It feels like we spend most of our time changing. The thing is if you dont the freezing rain will give you hypothermia. When its not raining you boil so you take off your kit. Exasperating.




A girl carrying a girl comes past us. Mothers seem really young here (12-13yrs).




The rain and sleet really pelts down. We push it back down the mountain, its great fun. The ride back to our hotel is very,very wet. The camera gets soaked but later on we are eating fresh  river trout beside a nice log fire. Its been a great day.







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Offline zetman

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2010, 07:34:19 pm »
Stunning views
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Offline Would I?

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2010, 07:52:26 pm »
great stuff :thumleft: keep it coming.
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2010, 08:13:16 pm »
Day 3

Its a beautiful day, promising much better weather! We overslept a bit but whats the hurry. We can actually see some of the mountains! The plan is make our way back to the mine via one of the ultra-high passes. Its going to be rough.
 



But before we get there Ds back really starts playing up. Shes is a lot of pain. We just dont understand it. She doesnt feel like hitting the dirt at all. Oh boy. Oh well. We decide just to push onto the mine where she can rest.





The ride is beautiful nevertheless, with lots of interesting sights, like these ladies going for a shave.  ;D

Three hours later we arrive at the mine. We get D inside and sorted out lying flat to reduce the pain. She falls asleep and there is nothing for me to do except watch some rugby. Im champing at the bit for a ride. Hmm, choices choices.  Forget the rugby, Im going to ride! I decide to see how high I can go on the old mine roads. Its awesome riding to the mine from the camp. In seven kilometers, I climb nearly 1,000m, all on powerslide dirt. Its awesome. I remember that I still need to take some photees.




Here is my first one.





Again, a little bit higher. Our mine has its own little 1,800m deep gorge topped off by a glacier and snow covered peaks. This mountain is called El Burro (The donkey), it used to be an old pass to the Amazon jungle. This pass is now only used occasionally as a drug route. Cocaine is carried on foot over from the Amazon to Lima from time to time, normally at night. This is put on on a plane in Lima to Sao Paulo in Brazil en route to Johannesburg and ultimately ends up in Europe. Thats the normal route for drugs coming out of Peru. The other main route is direct to the Netherlands. Colombia is still the biggest cocaine exporter (mostly to the US), the second biggest exporter is Peru, and its market is predominantley Europe. The reason the trafficers walk over the mountains is to avoid the road blocks on the main roads.

Drug trafficing is the reason why there are more South Africans in jail here than free. The SA embassy here runs a special branch of interpol specifically profiling South Africans and others coming into the country. Often the big busts you see on TV at Jozey international originate from Lima. The embassy prefers to have them arrested back home. Youll see why in a moment. What the dealers do (apparently) is pay "mules" (down-and-out white people in RSA) R20k or so to fetch a parcel and bring it back. They come out here for a week, make the pickup and fly back. Often they send 3-4 people separately on the same flight unknown to each other, knowing full well that one or two will get caught but the others will make it.

Its pretty grim stuff, because the jails here are really, really rough. Average sentence is 8-10 years, but thats not all. If you can find and pay someone to feed and clothe you, youre ok. This is normally someone back home. If not, youll die or become a slave to the underworld here. If you manage to get out, you still have to serve 3 years on parole, not in RSA, but in Peru. But youre considered an illegal alien because your free entry visa expired after 90 days, so its impossible to get a work/residence permit, and you arent allowed to leave until you have paid your fine, its USD1/day for every day over 90days that you stay in Peru - A vicious circle unless you have someone who can pay your way out and keep you living-  So if youre thinking about it, and youre coming to South America, DONT do drugs here, its really not worth it. Dont even snort, because theyre are people here who go round blackmailing tourists and undercover cops doing bad shit.

//hijack off :P




The road winds up countless tight switchbacks, and I eventually get to this altitude as provided by Garmin.  Its "Espectacular" as they say.  :ricky:
















This is part of an old compressor unit for the underground mine. Amazing to think that people actually work up here. Its difficult to breathe, difficult to ride the bike, never mind do hard manual labour!








I sneak out onto a narrow road that skirts the mountain on this slope, above some dizzing cliffs. I talk to myself sometimes:Whatever you do, Neil, dont drop your bike to the right!  :biggrin:





I follow another road in my effort to get to 5,000m but am stopped by this "waico" or washout. If I had been with someone, I would have considered giving it a bash, but retrieving a bike dropped down into deep, wet, gully is just too much for me to contemplate right now. I am sucking and huffing like an oxygen thief as it is.

As it is, the road back is littered with big rocks and rubble off the mountains, its really difficult riding, so no pics.




After a while I get back onto more normal stuff.



See the road down there at the bottom, in the distance, and then in the middle foregound, winding its way up the hill? Thats where I came from. Its a bikers paradise.

I cruise down the winding road, relaxed, cutting back and forth through the stream running down the middle, thinking about Mrs BB still probably suffering back at the mine house. I hope she is going to be okay. Im worrying and fretting and the next thing...WHAM!



Right on my bloody sore knee, the one I popped a ligament on just two weeks ago! I have to kick the bike off my trapped leg and foot. Its all a bit much for me. Sensory overload. Im angry at myself. Im out of breath, my ego is destroyed, Im just a little overwhelmed so soon after injury.  :'( Turns out my knee braces saved my bacon big time. Just some bruising and a very sore elbow, thanks to an out-of-place elbow pad. My foot is also not so lekker but itll live. I pull myself together and pick the bike up surprisingly easily. Concentration when riding is so important! Time to go and look at the mine stockpile situation. I get down the rest of the steep bit without further mishap.




This is one of the entrance portals we are going to use as we open up the mine again.




The one with the orange vent ducting going is is where were are working at the moment.


I make it back to the house fine, and feeling a lot better now that Ive had a nice 3 hour battle with the moutains. D is feeling not much better, we will have to see how she is in the morning.


Day 4

We get up early and prepare to return asap to Lima. The weather is good again. I adjusted Mrs BBs handlebars backwards so the impact on her lower back is minimal and she can ride sitting up straight. We get going but 20 minutes later she stops and says nope she does not think she can go on. We take off her kidney belt and she walks around stretching her back. Im seriously concerned now and pray she will heal somehow. She considers going back to the mine and taking a bud back to Lima  :eek7: but decides to give it another bash and see how far we get. I suppose if we have to stop every 10 minutes and only get back Sunday night or early Monday monirng it will be ok. Only there is no place to sleep on the way back so its going to be epic.



We get going.

Amazingly she doesnt stop anywhere until we have to refuel! Wowzers. When we do, she tells me her back is a lot better! Could it have been the kidney belt? Surely not as simple as that!? We dont get it, but dont complain and are very thankful to the big guy.



The ride back is uneventful, and goes by quite quickly. 4 hours later we find oursleves behind this cop in Lima, who gives us an escort. Checkout his back tyre!   :o



Thats it for now folks. Ill post future trips into these particular mountains here, as I fulfill the quest to find what I hope to be the highest navigable road/track on earth. Im planning to do at least another couple of trips before the rally in August, but dont want training for racing to be interrupted, we will see how we go. Thanks for following! :thumright:  :paw:
« Last Edit: March 24, 2010, 08:33:55 pm by BlueBull2007 »
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Offline Martin-DR650

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2010, 08:30:15 pm »
Very Nice BlueBull!! :thumleft:

You are very lucky,South America is  :drif:

I wanna ride there! LOL

Nice report :thumleft:
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2010, 03:37:43 am »
Martin, thanks for the comment. Ou boet you must keep dreaming, never lose sight of that dream, never give up on it, thats the only way it will become a goal and then a reality.  Anything really is possible.  :thumleft:
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Offline Colyn

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2010, 07:24:34 am »
Thank you ... some really good shots of the GS in the mountains.
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Offline Just Blip It!

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Re: Exploring the Cordillera Blanca
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2010, 09:02:59 pm »
Jeez, you guys have the ultimate riding, probably the best in the world, absolutely beautiful! Thanks for the ride report, really enjoyed it!
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