Monday March 11, 2013, Cusco Peru. Casa SanBlas Hotel, elevation 11,200 feet MSL.
Deby and I arrived in Cusco Saturday the 9th of March after a 304 mile ride through some of the highest points in the Andes. I know from my days as a licensed pilot that supplemental oxygen is required for pilots in non-pressurized cabins above 12,500 feet. I was thinking of that as we rode for hours at elevations above 14,000 feet. What were the symptoms I learned about in my “high altitude training” class? I was’t thinking clearly enough to remember them all….. let’s see….. a sense of euphoria? Check. Confusion? Check. Impaired visual acuity? Check. Mild headache? Check. Perfect for riding on super twisty roads while enjoying the scenery and dodging cows, goats, llamas, and pigs and the normal road debris including potholes that would swallow a front wheel and sections where the road was just washed away. We had water crossings, washouts, mudslides to maneuver around and intermittent light showers to keep the road just a little slippery. It was a great day!
First, let me backtrack a little to fill in what we did since Lima. We left Lima on Thursday the 7th without the rest of the group. Dave, Keith and Jim decided they didn’t want to go to Cusco because they’ve been there already and they heard reports of rain and thunder showers. Deby and I had reservations to hike the Inca Trail on the 12th and needed to be there or loose a sizable deposit. We had been keeping in touch with Michael and he was on his way to Cusco to meet his fiance’ Dee Dee. Michael was a day ahead of us and had his own adventure that I will describe in a separate post, it was that good.
Alone for the first time, Deby and I headed south out of Lima back into a vast stretch of hot, straight desert. I called it the Zona de Billboardas.
Huge billboards cluttered the road for about 50 miles, it was almost surreal.
As we neared out destination of Nazca we saw a lone tree with a couple of chairs and a small shack. We stopped to re-hydrate and had a great conversation with the family that lived there. They only spoke Spanish us only English, it was comical but enjoyable.
Nazca is one of the famous tourist places to visit in Peru, it’s known for the famous Nazca lines. You can read about it HERE in Wikipedia. Some people think the lines were made by ancient aliens, you can read more about that HERE. Remember, the truth is out there……
Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:
” The extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region has preserved the lines well. The Nazca desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature around 25 °C (77 °F) all year round. The lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered and visible to the present day.”
What? Really? When we went through it was 95 degrees F with some of the strongest winds we’ve had on the trip. If that keeps up the Nazca lines will be blown away in no time.
Probably instead of my pictures you will get a better idea by clicking HERE
We stayed in Nazca at a really nice hotel that was recommended by our Touratech Peru friend Ivan. We were extremely grateful for air conditioning that night.
The flight was 30 minutes in a Cessna 207, we had a pilot, co-pilot and four passengers so it was pretty full. As you might expect the flight consisted of a non-stop series of steep bank turns so passengers on each side of the plane could see the images. It seemed that women can’t stomach the turns as well as men. Deby was woozy all day after that flight.
Back on the ground we took a cab to the hotel for a late checkout and headed into the mountains. Immediately we started climbing out of the desert heat. Ahhhhh, the cool air felt fantastic and the scenery almost instantly got more interesting. That’s the road in this picture winding up into the hills,
We climbed from 2,000 feet in Nazca to 13,000 feet in the first 60 miles. After a relatively short 95 miles we arrived in the small town of Puquio about 3:30 in the afternoon. The sky was threatening rain and according to my map we were heading into a relatively remote area of Peru so we decided to stop for the night. The elevation at Puquio was 10,400 feet. Would my altitude sickness return?
Friday we woke up at 6:00 AM, there was no coffee to be found so we took showers, that were thankfully hot, and packed up the bikes for an early departure, we were on the road by 7:15.
The road kept climbing higher and higher, well into the 14,000 foot range before leveling off and winding eastward through remote high tundra. After an hour or so we came to this shack, the only thing for miles so we stopped to see about desayuno, preferably with huevos and cafe.
When we stopped I recognized a few semi trucks that we had been passing off and on for the past two days parked in the parking lot. When we entered the door we were greeted with a chorus of Buenoss Dias amigos from the truck drivers. They were totally entertained that two motorcycles were traversing the mountain range and one of them was a woman! Even though they didn’t speak English we sensed that we were part of a special club of intrepid adventurers. They were really excited about our journey and the bikes and on the way out pulled out cameras for pictures of us.
I felt a little better knowing these guys were behind us in their big trucks, I’m sure they would have stopped and done anything needed if we had a problem.
This breaks a record elevation for me on the motorcycle, previously held at Mt. Evans last summer in Colorado. This time we climbed to that elevation and stayed there! I checked my GPS log and we were over 10,000 feet for over 100 miles before dropping briefly into a 8,000 foot valley. The scenery was stunning, we rode past a series of high lakes.
We found out later that Michael rode through this area the evening before as it was getting dark, while low on gas, broke because he lost his wallet and on a low tire that he had to fix along the road with a plug. Oh, and about here it started snowing.
We dropped into the maze of roads and got close before finding a cab to lead us the last half mile through the narrow streets to the hotel. Best $10 Soles ever spent (about $4.00). I fell back in a section with not much traffic to take a picture of Deby up ahead.
What you can’t tell from this picture his how steep an downhill grade it was. You can get a little feel by looking at the rooftops in the distance. Deby stopped at the point where we turn left into our hotel. Here is the view looking to the left towards the hotel lobby. This young girl was posing for pictures, awww, it was worth uno sol.
Whew, finally in Cusco, we reconnected with Michael and Dee Dee and settled in for a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude, see the city and prepare for our four day hike to Machu Picchu.
Not all was perfect however, somewhere while riding into Cusco my rear shock blew a seal and leaked all the fluid out making it somewhat useless. Everything was closed on Sunday in Cusco so this morning (Monday) Michael and I set out to find a fix for my shock and a repair for his tire. I sent a couple of e-mails to our friend Ivan from Touratech in Lima to see if he had a shock. No, he could order one and it would be here in about 3 weeks. Hmmm, that wouldn’t work. (Thanks again Ivan, you really helped us out).
Fortunately, Cusco is home to Peru Moto Tours that is run by a well known rider in the ADV world, Alex. I found out his shop was only a few blocks from our hotel so this morning Michael and I walked over to see what Alex recommended. No problem, Alex said as he called his mechanic. We made an appointment to return with the bikes at 11:00 to meet with his mechanic and see what could be done. The mechanic, Richard, looked at the shock and seemed to think he could repair it. I told him we were leaving on a 4 day hike and would be back late Friday night. Not a problem, he would ride it to his shop and have it ready when I return. I felt slightly strange giving him my keys and walking back to the hotel but I have complete confidence in the reputation of Peru Moto Tours and it’s owner. Alex sensed my slight apprehension and assured me that my bike was in good hands. That was good enough for me.
Michael’s bike was easier, all he had was a slow leak where he had plugged the tire on the side of the road (more later on that). The mechanic pulled off the tire and applied a patch to the inside. Good as new! Hopefully….
Tomorrow we leave for our four day hike up the the sacred site of Machu Picchu. I’ll blog about it when I get back and let you know what happens to my bike. I’ll try to have time to convey Michael’s story before we leave.
Whew, long post today. Hope you enjoyed it.
Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂