Deby’s Birthday Ride

Saturday March 23, 2013, Tocopilla, Chile, Hotel Bahia

Tuesday was Deby’s birthday and the plan for the day was to ride Colca Canyon to check out the deepest canyon in the world and take a chance on seeing the soaring condors. We ended up in Chivay, Peru the night before after a long ride from Puno. We  rode into Chivay well after dark with all three bikes almost out of gas even after we exhausted our extra gas we carry. The last 10 miles were on a twisty mountain road in the dark. I did manage a couple of pictures.

We stopped here to add the extra fuel because we were almost out, the weather was threatening, we were heading into the mountains and it was getting dark. 

We climbed to well over 15,000 feet as the sun was setting behind the clouds. The color in the sky was fantastic. 

Here is my GPS, “driving on road”, notice the fuel light is on? That means less than one gallon left. It’s dark, it’s cold, we are almost out of gas, we are above 15,000 feet and soon it starts to hail. 

From about 10 miles out we came around a bend and saw the city lights below us. We dropped in the dark down the twisty road into town to find a hotel for the night.

The next day, Deby’s birthday started with morning (instant) coffee served in bed.

Before long we were on the gravel road riding towards the canyon, the weather was perfect, clear skies and cool temperatures at our 12,000 foot elevation.

Who me? Getting older?

Living on the edge. 

Looking for condors, we were so high that they soar below our level. 

A truly impressively deep canyon. 

It wasn’t long before we got a glimpse of one of the giant birds. Evidently the best time to view the condors is at sunrise when they drop from the cliffs in search of prey. We considered an early ride for the best viewing but Deby was having nothing to do with getting up at 4:00 AM on her birthday. I wasn’t about to argue. 

There were some local women selling snacks to the tourists, since the prime viewing time was over we were about the only ones there so they were standing around looking pretty bored. They let me take a picture since we bought some over priced candy and nuts. 

Birthday girl.

Local donkeys came out to pose for us. 

According to the map we could have continued through the canyon to the south but it was unclear if it was really a road or a cow path. We decided to turn around and re-ride the excellent gravel road back to Chivay and then back up the twisty road we took at night to see what it looked like during the day.

Here is a picture of that road looking back towards Chivay during the day. 

You can see Chivay in the distance. 

South of Chivay the road climbs and climbs until we hit the summit at 15,800 feet. A new altitude record for me on a motorcycle. Probably the highest I’ve ever been anytime other than an airplane. I was glad that we had been over 10,000 feet everyday for the past week and actually felt pretty good in the thin air, just slightly euphoric.

At the summit there were rocks everywhere. It is evidently a tradition that visitors leave behind a little rock stack monument. Deby was thrilled, rocks on her birthday. 

Michael and I prepared a special birthday lunch for Deby, we celebrated at the summit with leftover pizza, M&M’s and beer. 

Beer at 15,800 feet? Hmmmm, it must have been the altitude that made us think that was a good idea but it actually worked out OK and added to the birthday, altitude record experience. 

We were all pretty happy.

Deby was pretty happy. 

The summit was pretty desolate. 

Until you turn around and see some hardy locals trying to sell a few things to the tourists. I’m pretty sure they are there for the occasional tourist buses that stop on their way to the canyon. 

Rocks everywhere, a great birthday for Deby. 

Eventually we had to leave to make our way to Arequipa. The elevation stayed high but the road straightened in the high Altiplano of Peru. 

The views were stunning. 

After a few hours of incredible riding we ended up in Arequipa. We had the name of a hotel we found in a tour book so per our usual procedure, we rode to el centro and asked directions. Michael has this new thing about always asking the cute traffic cops. In Peru they are all women with guns in white holsters. 

Deby and I waited while they went out of their way to help Michael with directions. 

The downtown square in Arequipa is fantastic, made of the local white volcanic stone, it’s known as the White City. I could see coming back and spending some time here. 

We eventually found the hotel and guess what…. it was full. Really? Fortunately, they had a recommendation of a place not far away. The hotel called ahead and verified they had room and gave us directions. That is how we ended up here. 

The La Casa de Margott hostel. For parking we drove up the curb, into the lobby and parked in a hallway. 

We’ve stayed at enough hotels, hostels, hostelerias and other places to know that we never know what to expect when we open the door to our room. This place was totally unexpected. Who would have thought that on Deby’s birthday, the woman who loves everything that has to do with stones and rocks that our room would be completely made of brick and block.


After checking in we went for a walk about town, had dinner at a nice restaurant and called it a day. 

Deby said it was one of her best birthdays ever. I couldn’t think of one that even came close to this one. In one day we saw the deepest canyon in the world, rode to the highest road we’ve ever been on and slept in a stone hotel room in Peru. Yes, unforgettable indeed.

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂

3 thoughts on “Deby’s Birthday Ride

  1. This truly was a fantastic day! Thanks Donn and Michael for making it so memorable, just thinking about it will always put a smile on my face! You guys are very sweet!

  2. Happy Birthday Deby. What a great way to spend it. I think I’m enjoying this adventure as much as you are. My old body could not hold up to that much riding. I look forward to each new post. Wishing you all a safe ride and may you never run out of gas.

  3. We haven’t met (yet), but I feel like I know you and am glad you had an amazing birthday, Deby!

    (Friend of Michael & Dee Dee)

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