Cusco – by truck

Ok, I won’t get ahead of myself  here….

Thursday March 2, 2017. We were just up early so decided to make the short run to the Peruvian border before it got busy. We were on the bikes by 8:30 and to the border only about a half hour later. Nobody was around so we sailed through the exit process for Bolivia checking out us and then the bikes as is the normal procedure. The Bolivian Aduana was quick and professional, they asked if we liked their country and thanked us for our visit. Nice. I was reminded that when we entered the country they thanked us for visiting.

After exiting Bolivia we rode a short distance to the Peruvian entry point. We were the only ones there so we were easily stamped through immigration and then needed to walk across the street to Peru Aduana. Again there was no other people crossing the border but we were told to wait in some folding chairs against the wall. I could hear the border patrol guys finishing their breakfast in the back room. Oh well. On the wall in front of us was a HUGE mural with the emblem of the border patrol, honor, service, integrity, it said. A few minutes later one of the guys came out to inspect our papers. For the first time the whole trip they wanted to see our international drivers licenses along with our insurance papers. Of course we had everything so we handed it over. He spent a long time going over each document in minute detail. Finally he looks up and says “problema.” The “problem” was that our license plates were not typed into the box for licence plates. However, it was clear the paperwork was for our bikes because the Vehicle ID’s, year, color and brand were all properly typed in. Ummmm, give me a pen – I can fix that. No, not possible I’m told. After a little bit of a stand off Deby noticed him rubbing his fingers together and suggests he’s asking for a bribe. Really? I look at him and he looks around and indicates I should put some money on the table when el hefe is not looking. Geesh, I reach in my pocket and happen to have a $20USD bill sitting there. What the heck, I slide it over and suddenly the process begins with a big smile. Soon stamps are flying and we are being given the royal treatment. Welcome to Peru. I was reminded of entering Peru on our last trip at a small crossing with Ecuador. The process took forever and we didn’t get across until I gave the guy my lunch. Interesting for a country that is trying to really improve it’s tourist trade.

Oh well, back on the road. We knew we were in for a long ride to our destination of Arequipa, over 300 miles. More high elevations as well.

Our route climbed to over 15,000 feet (gasping for air) then actually down to sea level for a very brief breather and then climbing back up to Arequipa at 7,600 feet.

As usual we hit every kind of weather, cold and some rain in the mountains then sun and warmth as we skirted within sight of the Pacific Ocean and finally arriving in Arequipa during a torrential rain storm.

15,500 on the GPS with beautiful scenery through the crusty windscreen. 

Great vistas.

Even better vista.

Some great twisty roads and more green as we climb to Arequipa. 

Ahhh, but then the rain starts and the traffic stops and we grind the last 10Km into the city, It takes almost an hour into the downtown square. 

We follow the rainbow over the heart of the city hoping for a pot of gold. Or at least a hotel. Lack of internet access for the previous few days meant we didn’t have a reservation for the night. We were relying on our old method from MotoRaidII of riding to the main square and looking for a hotel nearby. We finally arrived well after dark and find the main square is now blocked off to vehicular traffic.

Great, what to do now. Deby has an idea…… hey Donn, let’s ride on the sidewalk, around the barricade and up to the main square where we can park out of the traffic. Ummm, I don’t know…. why not? In most peoples minds adventure motorcycle riding involves mountain roads, rough terrain and tight turns around obstacles. In South America and probably many parts of the world you have to be just as adept at jumping curbs and riding on sidewalks. We are getting to be experts.

It’s late, it’s wet, we’re cold, we’re tired and are standing in the rain wondering what to do. I grab my cell phone and take off walking asking Dr. Google for hotel advice. Almost an hour later I return with success, a nice looking hotel on the other side of the square with parking. Hotel Tierra Viva.

I get back and Deby is standing next to the bikes talking to a tall stranger. Of course, what guy wouldn’t gravitate towards a good looking blond woman (a rare thing in SA) guarding two fully loaded adventure motorcycles. That is how we meet Steffen from Germany.

Steffen is basically travelling our same route from Ushuaia to somewhere north. He is riding an older Africa Twin which is a rare 650cc version. Here is a daylight picture of his bike. 

I’m too exhausted to get through all 20 questions so we decide to meet in the morning and ride together to Chivay a small city near Colca Canyon, home of the deepest canyon in the world?, and viewpoint for Condors. We can catch up on particulars later.

Friday March 3, 2017

Steffen gracefully agrees to meet in front of our hotel so we don’t have to navigate the city traffic to find his place. He is travelling without a GPS after a border incident where he thinks a guard stole it so he gratefully falls in behind us and I use Mr. Garmin to get us out of town.

It’s a great road and one we did on our last trip through with Michael on Deby’s birthday. If you want a blast from the past read the post here:

I didn’t take many pictures except for a few at the peak that was just a shade under 16,000 feet. A record for this trip. It brought back great memories of our stop there with Michael and the small celebration for Deby’s birthday. 

All three bikes at the summit. 

It was a great ride down the twisty gravel/paved road into Chivay. You can see the city in the distance. 

As we enter the town we stop to fill our tanks and this woman pulls up in the car next to us! 

Packer Fan??? !!! They’re everywhere. She’s laughing at my ridiculous Spanish as I’m trying to tell her I was born in Wisconsin and grew up as a Packers fan. She had no idea what I was talking about but I finally managed to convey that the team was very famous and she should be proud to be wearing the shirt.

It was a short ride and we found a nice hotel near the town square so we had time to unload the bikes and go for a walk about town. We were in luck, Carnival celebrations were just starting and it was just Friday night. They would be partying in the square all weekend!

Part of the celebration involves digging a hole in the middle of the road around the main square, good thing it wasn’t paved. Then a truck drops off a giant Eucalyptus tree and the strong men with a series of ropes lift it into place. We were watching this process that seemed to involve a lot of alcohol consumption. I decided I should join in and help.

Heck, I’m at least a foot taller than most of these guys and at least as strong and I certainly wasn’t drunk. They were all laughing and glad to have the gringo helping.

Good thing for some assistance from the local heavy equipment operator. 

Trust me, this was not as simple as it looked. It took a lot of time, yelling, pulling in various directions and many breaks so the men could be served pisco and chicha by the women passing by with cups and buckets. I took a shot of pisco because the men all insisted it would make me stronger. Hey… when in Peru…

The crowd looks on, uncertain about the whole thing.  

Jugs of hooch to make the men strong. 

I gave this little kid the end of my rope, he loved it…..

I have to point out in the following picture how close the tree is to the power lines on the left. One mistake and that tree was going for the power lines and would probably electrocute everyone holding ropes and knock out power to the town. I was keeping an eye on the angle of the tree. Nobody else seemed to care…

The whole thing went well into the night with dancing, singing and marching bands walking around the square. 

Hungry, we decided to duck into an Irish Pub on the main square where we could watch the festivities from a second floor window. On the way in a saw this sticker on the door! 

On the upper right hand corner is the MotoRaid sticker we placed there three years ago with MIchael. I had to add one of our new stickers. I forgot we ate there last time… (you reading this Michael?)

As we headed out of the pub there was a big crowd around the tree so we stopped to see what was going on. There was people taking turns swinging at it with a big axe! What the? We learned it’s part of the ceremony with men and women alike taking turns and everyone seemed to get three swings. Whoever gets the last swing and the tree falls has some place of honor in the next year. The tree was about to go over so we stood around to watch (and keep an eye on the power lines). When the tree finally started falling we jumped back…. not everyone else… they all ran towards the tree at full speed. What the? I didn’t realize the tree was loaded with candy and other treats and the kids all ran towards it to get their loot.

We rambled off to our hotel called it a night. Deby said she heard the music all night and at 6:30 the next morning a full on marching band went past our hotel playing music.

Saturday March 4, 2017 – Colca Canyon

I’ll keep this short. We decided to stay an extra day to get up early and ride to the canyon to see the condors. According to Wikipedia Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and Peru’s second deepest canyon. You can read more about it HERE.

We didn’t get an early start, we found out the OTHER Africa Twin didn’t like early mornings and we couldn’t get it to start. The city of Chivay is at 12,000 feet and between the elevation and cold weather the carburetors of the vintage Honda didn’t want to fire. 

We took everything apart a few times and cleaned the plugs over and over but finally it took until the clock struck 9:00 AM for the bike to fire up. Since then we call it the 9:00 motorcycle.

We had a nice ride to the viewing point but missed the sighting of the giant condors that only fly in the morning.

Nice road along the way. 

We returned, took naps and went back to the main square for more Carnival celebrating and decided to call it an early night.

Sunday March 5, 2017. Rain, mud, snow, cold…. breakdown

The plan for the day was simple, 167 miles over dirt roads to the small town of Sicuani. From there it would be only a couple of hours to Cusco so we could arrive there early enough in the day to enjoy the afternoon in the city.

Of course we couldn’t start before 9:00 AM because no matter what we tried the other Honda wouldn’t start but magically at 9:00… varoom and off we went.

Immediately we climbed from the thin air of 12,000 feet to over 15,000 feet. We climbed into the clouds and the road was wet from off and on rain.

It was cold but beautiful and we were actually having a great ride. 

Yes, that is snow.. what do you expect above 15,000 feet?

I stole a couple of pictures from Steffen’s GoPro. 

He seemed to be loving it, actually we all were in good spirits despite the cold and rain. 

The bikes weren’t so happy.. 

All the mud finally got to my Honda. About 20Km outside of our destination of Sicuani I was rounding a corner when I heard a horrible metal on metal sound coming from somewhere below my seat. This can not be good. I pulled over for a quick inspection and noticed that BOTH my front fork seals had huge amounts of oil pouring out from them, not good. As an actual puddle of oil formed around my front wheel I inspected the rest of the bike, the noise seemed to be coming from the rear of the bike. Transmission? Engine? Chain? Everything was caked with thick mud and a problem could be hidden. Cracked frame? Swing arm? Shock mounts?

We continued down the mountain with Steffen and Deby watching my bike, they could actually hear the grinding from their bikes. Yikes!

With nothing to do we slowly made it the last 20Km into town and looked for a hotel in the rain, on the third try we found one and checked in. It was dark and raining so I opted for a hot shower and decided to pull the rear wheel the next morning.

Monday March 6, 2017 – The long truck ride to Cusco

First thing in the morning I had the rear wheel off and found the problem, a spun bearing. That is this thing here…

The axle goes through there and the bearing makes the wheel turn smoothly. The bearing is not supposed to have a crack in it like this..

Well, that’s what adventure motorcycle riding is all about right? After exploring options the best one we came up with was this….find a couple of guys with a truck, locate some long planks of wood and load the bike.

Latch it down with some rope and off we went. 

Deby followed us to Cusco and I had a three hour Spanish lesson with my new amigos in the truck.

Next, a couple of days in Cusco. As I write this my bike is fixed and we are waiting an extra day to get a dent pounded out of Deby’s front wheel. When leaving Arequipa while driving in traffic Deby wasn’t watching the road because she was distracted by a heard of sheep along the busy four lane divided highway. Bam, hit a huge pothole square on and bent her cast rim. It wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t ride it but it was loosing about 10 lbs of air a day so we decided to just get it fixed. Good thing this is a common occurrence around here and our new friend at the Honda shop is getting it straightened out.

More to come…. I’m sure.

Donn and Deby


8 thoughts on “Cusco – by truck

  1. Were my girlfriends with the guns still on duty in Arequipa? And bad pizza at the Irish Pub! Great story, great memories. Ride safe me amigos!

    • Hi Michael, yes! They must be popular because in Cusco they are everywhere, white gun belts, tall boots, aviator glasses and they all ride motorcycles. I’ll post a picture.

  2. Donn,
    I’m enjoying your trip report. I want to know your impression of the Africa Twin so far. I’m buying a DCT as soon as the dealer gets one the color I want.
    Ride fast and take chances,

    • Hi Art, the DCT is great so far. What color you waiting for? Some countries get the flat black one which I think is pretty cool. A couple of downsides with the DCT I can tell you about but overall a big thumbs up. The Norton Rats Pub seems the same as always, which is good now that Jeff is not there. They now seem to be marketing it as the Norton Tavern…. maybe having the word RAT is not a good idea for a restaurant. Eventually Deby and I will be coming through Mexico… if you’re there I would love to buy you a beer.

      • I want the Tri color, red, white, and blue. I really wanted the silver but I understand they’re not offering that anywhere this year. I just opened the contract the dealer sent me and they have a picture of the red, white, and black bike so I’ve got to get that straightened out. This one has black wheels and I want gold wheels. So what is the downside of the DCT? For my level of off-road/dirt road riding it looks like it would be perfect. Not having to change gears with your foot when you’re standing up looks like a plus to me.

  3. Hey Don and
    Cousin Tom W. here. Awesome blogs. Aunt Phyllis sends them to me. Ride safe and just want to say- You’re both crazier than Hell!
    Tom and Judy

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