Peru to Chile into Argentina

Tuesday March 26, 2013, Cafayate, Argentina.

Whew, need to cover some ground here so hold on…..

Wednesday March 20th, 237 miles from Arequipa to Tacna in order to setup for a Thursday border crossing into Chile. We rode through some of the most amazing desert topography I’ve been in. 

Long straight sections. 

Into beautifully colored hills. My wimpy camera didn’t come close to capturing the feel of this place. At times I felt like we were riding on Mars. 

Thursday the 21st, we rode the short distance to the Chile border and actually had a pretty easy crossing. The country may have changed but the topology was very similar. The main difference was that we were within site of the ocean most of the time. 

With long stretches between gas stops we had to carefully manage our fuel. Michael ran into a problem because the attendant didn’t fill his tank completely at one of the stops. Good thing we carry a couple of extra gallons. 

Again, more amazing scenery. Words or pictures really can’t capture it, well, at least mine. I would highly recommend this route. 

After 235 miles for the day, we found a place in the unique city of Iquique, Chile. I added it to my list of large resort cities I’ve never heard of. Interesting place, huge high rises and expensive hotel rates to go with them.

Friday the 22nd marked the 33rd wedding anniversary for me and Deby. We rode 144 miles from Iquique to Tocopilla Chile where we happened on a pretty nice hotel, the hotel Bahai. More riding along the Chilean coast which was bigger than life.

We stopped to take a picture of this small fishing village, the white stuff is salt.

Long lengths of road and mountains. 

We celebrated with some happy anniversary wine thanks to Michael. 

Saturday the 23rd we turned east into the mountains in preparation for a Sunday border crossing into Argentina. The route for the day took us from Tocopilla 172 miles, to the tourist town of San Pedro.  A large section of the trip followed a power line corridor into the mountains. 

Then more long straight sections. 

Before we came into the foothills of the Andes. 

For some reason we had advance warning that the hotels in San Pedro might be full so we made online reservations at the Casa Don Estaban Rural. The problem was that the road to the hotel was closed due to construction. In our effort to find a detour we ended up on a loose gravel road in someones back yard. While negotiating a U-turn, Deby’s front wheel slipped out and the bike fell on Deby’s ankle. Just then a person from the hotel appeared, I think he heard the commotion and knowing some motorcycle riders were looking for his hotel came over to help. We were within eyesight of the hotel but it was a long drive around several blocks to get to it. He drove around with his car lead us. We lifted the bike off Deby but it looked like she had a sprained ankle so she rode in car and we took turns shuttling the bikes to the hotel.

Back at the hotel we immediately applied the first aide we learned in our class, RICE, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Oh, and beer. 

We expected the worst, perhaps her ankle would swell, turn black and blue and she wouldn’t be able to ride for a few days. Later in the evening the proprietress came over. She knew no English and we only had a couple of words of Spanish but she managed to convey she was a “medico” and specialized in natural medicine. With permission she treated Deby’s leg. 

She made a concoction of this plant. 

Soaked a cloth in the fluid and wrapped Deby’s leg with it. She told us to then wrap it with an Ace bandage and leave it on all night.

Sunday the 24th we woke up wondering if we would be able to ride. To our amazement and the credit of natural medicine Deby’s ankle looked great with only a little swelling. On  with the boots and off we went headed for the Argentina border.

The Argentinian border crossing was one of the easiest we had for the whole trip. We had been clued in by our riding partners, who were a few days ahead of us that we needed to print an online form with a barcode to show at the remote border. We also found out that we needed to check out of Chile 100 miles from the border at a small office in San Pedro. We lucked out and had all our paperwork correct and managed to get across the border in record time, less than about 45 minutes.

More desert riding. 

Michael rounding a corner. 

We came to a Salar and met 6 other adventure riders. We had a great time hanging out and taking pictures. They were from Buenos Aries and were using their vacation to ride the area. We knew we were coming into a great riding area by the huge increase in motorcycles we started coming across. 

We decided to ride together down one of the best canyons I’ve been in. 

About 4:30 we all stopped in the town of Purmamarca. We didn’t realize it was one of the top tourist stops in Argentina, once we stopped and saw how beautiful the town was with the colorful mountains surrounding it we decided to spend the night. 

I didn’t take this picture but you can see the town with the hills behind it. Total miles for the day was 259 fantastic miles.

Monday the 25th we rode south towards Salta and on to our final destination, the town of Cafeyate. A tourist destination on the famed ruta 40 in the heart of the Argentina wine region.

Along the way we saw signs for a hot springs so we took a short detour for a soak. When we parked the bikes we had the first signs of fall. 

South on highway 9 was some of the most twisty road we’ve been on this whole trip. 

After Salta we came across this stop with close to 10 adventure motorcycles parked. We had to stop for a break. It was a group of riders from Uruguay and Buenos Aries who were up riding for a week. During our stop at least a dozen other motorcycles rode by. We knew we were in one of the best riding area in Argentina. 

After lunch we continued south into the Quebrada (Canyon) de Cafayate.  Lonely Planet describes it as a “Martian-like” landscape. We didn’t expect to be totally awed by this fantastic place. It was like riding through the Grand Canyon. My pictures just don’t do it justice. 

Some more pictures are HERE.

We rolled into Cafayate and were lucky to find a room in the mostly full touristy town. This morning we woke up and decided we needed a day for recharging batteries, doing laundry, and wine tasting so it was a day off from riding.

Tomorrow we ride south on the famous ruta 40 and hope to catch up with our amigos who are only a couple of hundred miles ahead.

To see more of my Peru Pictures click HERE.

To see more Chile pictures click HERE.

Argentina Pictures are HERE.

So far Argentina has been the most amazing, I might say it’s my favorite so far but that may be because we’ve just had three days of the most incredible riding ever.

Thanks for following, we love the comments and e-mails!

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂



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 🙂 🙂

Machu Picchu – The Final Ascent

Wednesday March 20, 2013, Arequipa, Peru. La Casa de Margott Hostal

Yesterday was Deby’s birthday so instead of blogging we had fun strolling around the square in Arequipa and a nice dinner. I took this picture outside the restaurant, we didn’t try this featured dish. 

Back to Machu Picchu…..

Here is the day 4 elevation plot. 

The day started with a steep climb called the “Gringo Killer”.

At the top of the “killer” is the famous Sun Gate which his high above Machu Picchu, It is at this point where all the famous pictures of the site come from.

The sun gate. 

Here is what it is supposed to look like. 

All we saw was fog so after a brief rest we continued to the site walking in the fog.

After almost 4 days of hiking, we arrived. I thought we earned our visit to this historic site. We were greeted by crowds of people who rode the bus and probably slept in a nice bed the night before. I’m sure none of them stunk as bad as we did. 

Ahhh, finally the site came into view. 

A city made of stone! Deby was in heaven.

Deby and Dee Dee, Rock Stars!

An amazing place. 

Here is a picture of what they call the sun dial. There is some controversy about it’s real purpose but it is a rock that sticks up near the highest point of the site. A lot of people believe this is the vortex for all the mystical energy that envelops Machu Picchu. I didn’t feel any energy but my camera battery was almost dead after four days so I held it near the rock and it seemed to charge enough for me to take a few more pictures.

I have many more pictures HERE.

Note: Today we will cross the border into Chile. I’ve been having some technical difficulties with the blog so it’s slowing me down with posts. I think I’m getting it worked out so hopefully I can get caught up. We had the best day riding on Deby’s birthday and it will make a fun post.

Thanks for following our adventure,

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂

Machu Picchu Part 2

Sunday March 12, 2013, Puno, Peru. Hotel Hacienda Plaza de Armas

Today we were back on the bikes after a week off. It felt good to be on the road again, we rode south from Cusco to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Puno is at 12,500 feet msl, good thing I’m getting a little used to the elevation. I don’t feel sick at all but just a wee bit woosie so if this blog entry gets a little off track you know why.

The following is from Wikipedia, you can read more HERE.

“It is often called the highest navigable lake in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812 m (12,507 ft).[4][5] Although this refers to navigation by large boats, it’s generally considered to mean commercial craft. At least two dozen bodies of water around the world are at higher elevations, but all are much smaller and shallower.”

Now, back to day two on the Inca trail.

Below is the elevation plot for day two. Climbed roughly 4,000 feet in about 4 miles to the peak of almost 14,000 feet, which is called Dead Women’s Pass.

The locals watched us as we cheerfully started our day. 

No worries, the bridge looks safe. 

Up we go, stopping only to let the porters pass. We were glad every time the came along. 

I only look tired. 

We got our first glimpse of the formidable Dead Woman’s Pass. 

We were heading right for the saddle of the pass. Here’s a butt shot…. not sure why.

Climbing and climbing…..

Getting closer.

Eventually we make it! Here is the group shot to prove it. Our guide Richard is in the center.

Looking back…

Little did we know that we were crossing from the dry side of the mountain into the rainy side. Time for the rain gear!

And the climb down..

Soon the rain ended and we continued on.When we arrived at our lunch stop hot spaghetti was waiting for us. 

Back on the trail it wasn’t long before we were at our campsite for the night.

The clouds and views from our campsite were magical.

We ate another meal in the mess tent and settled into our tents for another great nights sleep.


Day Three

The elevation plot for the day is below, a climb right at the beginning and then mild terrain.

First we go up….

Then down…

Over a few bridges. 

The fog came and went all day. 

At times the trail went into some short tunnels formed by fallen rock. 

The trail leading into the fog. 

Inca ruins along the way. 

Local fauna along the trail. 

As we descended, the terrain became more jungle like.  

We arrived at our last camp before reaching Machu Picchu, dinner was excellent as usual. 

Since the porters would be leaving us in the morning we got the group together for a group shot. It took six people to guide the four of us on the trek. These guys were great. 

I’ll save the final visit to Machu Picchu for the next post. Stay tuned.

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂

Machu Picchu!

Saturday March 16, 2013, Cusco, Peru. Back at the Casa SanBlas Hotel.

Yesterday started at 3:30 AM to the wake up call of a porter outside out tent. I fumbled in the dark for the zipper and reached may hand out for my morning cup of hot coffee. I had time for one sip before Deby’s cup was ready and she eagerly sat up to accept her morning offering. Yesterday ended with a 2 hour train ride, 2 hour long bus ride and finally a shuttle to our hotel for a 9:00 PM return. As badly as we wanted to crawl under the soft covers with the provided hot water bottles, we both opted for the necessary hot showers to wash off four days of hiking dirt, sweat and mud. No blog posting last night.

Today we woke up early but not early enough to say goodbye to Dee Dee who needed to catch an 8:00 AM flight home. We had a fantastic time getting to know Dee Dee on the trail. You really get to know someone when you share four days of hiking, camping, sweating, climbing and fighting exhaustion, in weather that alternated between hot, cold, damp, really damp and the occasional downpour. Dee Dee showed her stuff hiking up Dead Woman’s Pass and the “Gringo Killer” like a pro. Deby and I made it but not without a little more huffing and puffing. Dee Dee, I hope you get home safe and keep in touch, we’ll miss you but not as much as Michael will, I’m sure.

I’ll get to the Machu Picchu story after I catch up on a few things. This morning we met with German Canales Flores to return our backpacks and rucksacks for the trip. German (pronounced Her-‘man) is the owner of Viajes Destino Peru, a Peru travel company. He arranged our whole Machu Picchu trip including guide, porters, transportation and the hotel. Everything was taken care of with the utmost professionalism. If you are ever in Peru and find need of any travel services he covers the whole country and can arrange tours or hotels. Click HERE for his web site.

Also, before I get to the Machu Picchu tale I want to thank Alex at Peru Moto Tours for helping me get my bike fixed! Yes, while we were hiking Alex made arrangements with a local mechanic to repair my blown rear shock absorber. I thought it would need replacing but there was not one to be found in the whole country. No problem for the resourceful people of Peru, if you can’t buy something fix the old one. Nice.

Alex and I with the motorcycle. They not only fixed it, they did a total detail cleaning job, it hasn’t looked this clean in months!

Thanks Alex! Check out Alex if you are in Cusco and need any type of motorcycle assistance. Of course his main business is motorcycle tours and motorcycle rentals. This is a beautiful place to ride, maybe consider saving the hassle of using your own bike and just fly down and rent one of his or better yet take one of his tours. His web site is

Now for the main feature…….

In case not everyone is familiar with Machu Picchu, it is the most famous Inca site and was built around 1450  The Wikipedia Link HERE has a good overview.  It was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an explorer from Yale that is credited as being the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Our co-riders Keith and Dave visited the site 50 years ago on the original Motoraid trip. They said they were almost the only people there. Today it is the most popular tourist spot in Peru, the government limits the number of visitors to 2500 per day. As you can imagine, our experience was much different from theirs. Dave and Keith had such an incredible time in 1962 that they didn’t want to go back and see the commercialization of the site. They encouraged us to make our first time visit but they decided to ride south and we agreed to catch up later.

Most people who visit Machu Picchu, 2000 to be exact, do it as a day trip. There is a bus and train option from Cusco or one of the nearby cities. The other way to visit Machu Picchu is to hike the Inca Trail. The government allows 500 people per day to depart on the four day hike. Guess what route we took?

Richard, our guide, was waiting for us at 6:30 AM on Tuesday in the hotel lobby. We had been up for a while storing our luggage, drinking coffee and getting our provided backpacks and duffel bags ready. We met Richard the night before when he came to our hotel for a pre-hike briefing. We would carry the backpacks with water, snacks and what ever personal items we thought we would need, and the porters would carry our duffel bags which contained our provided down sleeping bags and up to 10kg of other stuff we might need. I liked the plan.

We rode in van for a couple of hours on our way to the starting point of the hike. Along the way we picked up porters until we had 4 hikers, 1 guide, 5 porters and the driver with all our gear loaded in the relatively small van.  We stopped at a small town on the way for the porters to purchase food to last 4 days on the trip.

Finally,at the trail head we stopped to pack the gear.

We weren’t alone, there were many groups, most much bigger than ours. 

By about 10:30 we were at the starting gate, ready to go!

The trail starts off really easy, the guys with the big packs are the porters, the guys with the wimpy packs are the tourists, and the guides.

The weather was just right and the views were fantastic. 

It wasn’t long before we stopped for lunch. The porters run ahead and set up the tent, cook lunch and have it all waiting for us along the trail. Hmmm, I’m going to like this!

Back on the trail we meet some of the locals.

This lady was coming back from the bar where she downed a few checha’s, the local corn brew. 

Still close enough to civilization, we had opportunities to buy drinks or rent a horse. Had we seen this the next day I would have opted for the horse. 

After 7.3 miles of hiking we came to our camp for the night. Tea was waiting for us at our private mess tent. Did I mention how much I like camping like this?

Our tents were ready with the air pads blown up and duffel bags delivered. 

One of the locals came to check us out. 

Dinner was served promptly 7:00. 

This was the view out my tent flap.

The only problem we had was beer. There was no practical way to carry the quantity we needed, with ice, so we assumed we would have to be on the wagon for a few days. A hardship to be sure, but manageable. Then a miracle occurred, we looked out of our tent and this bucket of beer and water was there. No one knew where it came from but it looked OK so we each had a beer and filled our water bottles with the mineral water. Life was good!Ahhh, the end to a perfect day hiking. When it was dark I looked up and saw for the first time, the southern cross right in the middle of the milky way – wow. Of course the lyrics ran through my head…..

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day

(Crosby, Stills and Nash)

What a day, below is the elevation plot, we started at around 8,000 feet and ended up at close to 10,000 feet. My acclamation time in Cusco was paying off, I felt great and drifted off into one of the best nights sleep on the trip.

So, this seems like too long a post already so I’m going to stop here. Stay tuned, I’ll get the next post out soon!

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂




All About Michael – Three Days in Hell

As you may recall we met Michael on the dirt road outside of Duck Canyon. He was turned around and saved us 4 hours riding time, he lost 8 hours riding time trying to get to Cusco before us. We spent the night in Chimbote and Michael left early the next morning to get ahead of us. The 5 of us went towards Lima and Michael took a route we thought we would take to Huancayo to take the original highway three to Cusco. Michael went to pre-run the route a day ahead of us. When we arrived in Lima to get tires from Ivan he strongly recommended we not take the Huancayo route, he said it was cold, snow, possibly ice and there was over 100 miles of dirt roads that turn into slick mud in the rain. Ummmm, too late for us to tell Michael, he was on his way.

On Tuesday the 5th Michael left the Lima area and headed into the mountains in decent weather but as he approached the 15,000 foot summit in Abra Anticona (4843 meters) it started raining and then it turned to snow over the summit and the flooding.

The summit.


Snow and rain. 

After the summit in the rain and snow, Michael continued into Huancayo in drenching rain, cold, and traffic. In Huancayo Michael stopped for the night and when checking his e-mail found a message from Keith about the road conditions ahead. It was Tuesday night and Michael decided he had to turn around to to make it to Cusco to meet Dee Dee. Now he had 1380 km to go including the backtrack to Lima.

Wednesday morning Michael was on the road by 8:00, the weather was better over the 15,000 summit. The flooding in the picture was worse the second time. He crossed the water which was halfway up his boots and a truck blasted in the other direction drenching him the rest of the way. A good way to start the day. Back down to Lima, just outside of Lima Michael stopped for soup. In the English / Spanish translation he ended up with pig jaw soup. It was a pig jaw in some mystery broth. The tongue is not shown. (Ethan, this picture is for you!)

After a late afternoon fight with Lima traffic Michael found his way to the four lane Zona de Billboardos and flew south trying to get all the way to Pisco. Late in the afternoon he had a flat along the road. 

Michael didn’t have an air pump but managed to get a plug in the hole and filled up the tire  to about 15psi with a couple of CO2 cartridges. He managed to get to Pisco for the night. Total mileage for the day was 325 miles including the flat.

Thursday, with one day and 540 miles to go he left with the goal of 300 miles through the hot desert into Nazca. Somewhere near Nazca Michael’s wallet with his charge cards, drivers license and some cash disappeared. Left at a gas station? Stolen? Left on the seat at a stop to fly away along the road? We still don’t know. Michael didn’t even know it was missing and rode on into the 14,000 foot Andes.

Remember in my report we stopped Puguio because it looked like the last stop and the clouds were forming? Michael rode through there at 4:00 and saw the same dark clouds but didn’t have his 300 miles in so he kept going. Big mistake. Sure enough when he hit the 13,000 plus level the rain started and turned into snow. It was getting dark, cold, snow and with fogged visor couldn’t see a thing but kept going. Finally he arrived at Negro Mayo a small town consisting of about six huts. The snow, cold and dark meant the end of the ride for the day. He went and knocked at a hut and communicated in his limited Spanish that he was near frozen and needed a place to stay for the night. After some negotiation he ended up in a shed along a house. Home for the night, freezing cold, no heat.

Here is the room. It was during the night that Michael realized his wallet was gone and he didn’t have any money to pay for his stay at the beautiful hotel.

Friday morning, cold, damp, broke and with almost no gas in his tank and a leaking rear tire that was pretty low Michael got up early after not really sleeping and jumped on the bike and left feeling bad for running out without paying. Good thing Michael had a spare charge card stashed away, all he needed to do was 1) find a gas station and 2) find one that accepted charge cards……

Eventually after draining his spare gas can and with the bike computer saying he was out of gas he found a station that accepted cards and even had an air pump for his tire. He was ready to go!

From there with 15 sole’s which is about 6 dollars he had enough money for a bite to eat and some money left over to pay a cab in Cusco to find the hotel. Determined to arrive the same day as Dee Dee he blasted through the twisty mountain road the final 265 miles to the hotel where Dee Dee was waiting!

There, the tale is told, Michael’s three days in hell.






High Adventure in Peru

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.

Finally, the billboard frequency dropped off until we were back to the long, hot and straight road….. boring. 

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.

Just outside of Nazca there is a spot where we climbed a tower to see some of the ancient patterns. 

It’s hard to tell from my pictures but here is a petroglyph of a bird. 

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.

In the morning we arranged a flight with a local tour operator to see the Nazca lines from the air. 

I took a bunch of pictures of the lines but none really turned out that well. Deby took a good one of me. 

Here is the surrounding countryside. 

The city of Nazca from above. 

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,

It’s a little hard to tell in the picture but that is a mountain completely covered with sand. 

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?

Our hotel on the main square. Nothing to write home about but it only cost the equivalent of about $20.00 USD. 

This picture pretty much covers the whole room. 

We went for a short walk around the not very crowded town, found a bite to eat and called it a night. 

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.

Immediately the road climbed still higher into the Andes. I took this picture looking back at the city of Puquio. 

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. 

I took this picture on the way out looking back to show how remote this outpost was. See it along the road?

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.

After paying our tab for a huge breakfast of rice, eggs and chicken the owner signaled for us to follow her to the kitchen. Hmmmm, what’s this about? She wanted to show off her baby llama.

And a pet falcon who had his own room!Wow, what a great stop. We left full of coffee and food and climbed even higher into the mountains with a great feeling about the day.

By 11:00 AM, we were at the highest point of the day. 

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 had a much better ride, Llamas were everywhere. 

One of the few small villages we rode through. 

Pictures really don’t do the beauty justice. 

As we neared Cusco there were dozens of water crossings, waterfalls, and evidence of many landslides across the road from the heavy rains over the past few weeks. 

Finally, towards the end of the day on the outskirts of Cusco we stop to check the map and make a plan to navigate the crazy city traffic. 

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. 

Ahhh, a really nice place to call home for three nights. 

With a view of the city off our patio. 

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 🙂 🙂





Wednesday March 6th 2013, Lima Peru, Hotel Senorial

Tuesday was a leisurely start for the short ride into Lima. We immediately were back in the mountainous desert. On the way into Lima we rode past this encampment that we learned was basically a squatters camp on some ex-military property. 

It was a great road into the city. 

Before we knew it we were getting into famous Lima traffic. 

We managed to find the hotel on after about an hour of crazy riding through thick traffic with only a minimum of diversion (getting lost). At one point we saw what looked like a freeway going our direction and eagerly took the on ramp to get out of the gridlock. Somehow we missed the sign that motorcycles were not allowed on this road. We wondered why the cab drivers were all frantically waving at us. Eventually we came upon a traffic cop directing traffic who forcefully waved to us signally us to pull over. We have a rule…. we don’t stop for cops unless we see a gun…. so we kept going. Dave even waved back. I think we might now be wanted by the Lima police for evading arrest.

Shortly after checking into the hotel, we were met by Ivan Guerrero who owns the local Touratech franchise. Dave knew him through a connection and made arrangements for him to assist us getting tires on four of the bikes. Check his shop out on Facebook HERE. Ivan was over the top with his help coordinating new tires including letting us follow him through the crazy streets of Lima to the shop. If you are ever adventure riding in Lima be sure to look him up.

One of the things we needed to do was get a dent fixed in David’s rim, Ivan to the rescue. He made arrangements with a local wheel shop to repair the bend. Ivan drove us  to the shop which was behind a door in an unmarked blue wall. 

No problem, it can be fixed…. come on in!

Back at the hotel the group got together for some drinks and riding stories, Ivan is on the left. We were joined by his motorcycle-riding friend Ignacio (Nacho) who had a Mercy Corps connection with Dave. Thanks to them they strongly recommended we take the southern route into Cuzco because of heavy rain and muddy roads in the mountains.


Wednesday Deby and I signed up for a double decker bus tour on the Turibus !El Bus de Lima! on Ivan’s recommendation. The most amazing thing was a stop at the convent of San Francisco and it’s Catacombs. Take a minute to check out the Wikipedia link, pretty amazing.

Under the church are the catacombs where it is estimated 70,000 people were buried. The bones were dismantled and arranged in “bins” in geometric formations. We weren’t allowed to take pictures so here are a few I found online.

A well with skulls and bones.

It was pretty creepy ducking through the dark catacombs under the church with stale air and low ceilings and then seeing row after row after row of bones organized in patterns.

In a previous blog comment, my friend Sal asked, “when was the last time you did something for the first time?”. That was yet another first for me!

Somebody from the bus took a picture of us. 

More ancient ruins in the heart of Lima.

I’m not sure how this bus maneuvered the traffic but the driver managed. 

We happened to be at the capitol for the changing of the guard. 

One last picture for today…. having fun. 

Tomorrow Deby and I are leaving the group to get a jump on the ride to Cuzco where we are meeting Michael and his fiance’ Dee Dee. The four of us have an appointment with a guide for a 3 day hike up Machu Picchu Dave, Keith and Jim will linger a little longer in Lima and meet us in Cuzco on the 15th.

New tires and ready to roll!

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂




Peru – Chan Chan

Tuesday March 5, 2013, Chancay Peru, Hostal Villa de Arneda

The driver arrived Saturday morning at 10:00 to take us on a day long tour of the Huaca del Sol temple and then to the ruins of Chan Chan, both of which were pre-Inca civilizations in Peru.  I took a bunch of pictures which are on my SmugMug Peru page. It was an amazing day.

Here is one of the temples at the Hauca del Sol site that has yet to be excavated because of lack of funds.

Everything was made of these mud bricks. 

Carved and painted. 

The hole in the wall is where Spanish grave robbers broke in and looted in the 1500’s.

Shards of ancient ruins still exist!

This hairless Peruvian dog was greeting tourists at the visitor center. 

Next we went to Chan Chan, this place was HUGE!

Only a small part of the ancient city has been excavated. The Trans-american Highway bisects the site and only the southern half is protected. On the northern half of the site we saw crops, a garbage dump and some houses being built.

We enjoyed the day at the ruins and learned and experienced way more than I have time to write about here. Take a few minutes to click on the links above, pretty interesting  stuff.

Back to the ride!


Sunday morning we saddled up the moto’s and had a plan to explore Canyon del Pato. Do a search on You Tube for Canyon del Pato to see why we wanted to go there.

The day started with more desert riding. 

Then, after some difficulty finding the road because the two maps and the GPS did not agree if the road even existed, we headed into the canyon. 

After about 50 miles we stopped for a snack at the point where the pavement ends and the road heads up into the mountains through the difficult section of Duck Canyon. 

Into the canyon. 

This road was totally amazing, the views were larger than life and stunning. 

Sturdy bridges.

The rushing water of Rio Santa was nearly black.

My wimpy camera doesn’t even come close to capturing the majesty of this canyon. I almost just stopped taking pictures. 

Traffic was light with the occasional bus. Think about that bus going over that bridge….

Roughly 20 miles into the dirt section we see an adventure bike riding towards us. I can tell from the distance it’s a big BMW with panniers, as it gets closer I notice it’s yellow and as it gets even closer the rider has a red helmet. Could it be?????  Sure enough it’s our 6th rider Michael riding towards us! Michael left us a few days earlier to get to Cusco a few days before us.

What was he doing here? Why was he going the wrong direction? We found out that he got an early start into the canyon and rode almost to the end where it connects with the main road (3) and a bridge had been washed out so he had to turn around. Bummer! The good news was that his misadventure probably saved us 4 hours of riding the dirt road in and out. The bad news was that we missed the best part of Duck Canyon that was beyond the bridge. Personally, I was really disappointed because Canyon del Pato was high on my list of things not to miss in Peru.

Dejected we rode with Michael to the port town of Chimbote where he had stayed the night before and checked into the same hotel. 

It was an interesting building that was easily 100 years old, I tried to find some history of the structure but came up blank. Pretty basic room. 

Had a nice view of the sunset out the window. 

We took advantage of the open window to dry some laundry. 


Monday we needed to make tracks towards Lima where we had appointments to get new tires on the bikes. After a leisurely start we left the port city and were back in the desert. I was expecting another relatively boring stretch of desert road but was surprised to discover some of the best riding of the trip through sand covered technicolor mountains. Again, I took pictures but my wimpy camera absolutely did not come close to capturing the colors. There was SAND of every color in the rainbow, how can that be?

Ok, I just went back to look at my pictures, none capture the true beauty so I only picked two to post here. I would go back and ride that road anytime.

We ended the night in the small town of Chancay at the Hostal Villa De Arnedo. A nice place right on the town square. We went for an evening walk and I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. They have a street market that was one of the most amazing I’ve seen, blocks and blocks of booths with everything you could imagine for sale.  Seriously, WalMart has nothing on this place.

Today, off to Lima!

Thanks for reading. Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂



The flat of Peru

Monday March 4th, 2013, Chimbote, Peru, Hotel Gran Chimu

Why does this seem to be a familiar picture from all my rides? Our plan for Friday was to make a run south through more desert and stop near the ruins of Chan Chan. We planned on an 8:00 AM launch and met on time at the garage under the hotel where we securely parked the bikes. I looked at mine and the front tire was flat! It was so low that the tire came off the rim. I looked carefully and couldn’t find any nails or punctures so I considered just pumping it up and going. Then I remembered we had a day of more hot, straight, fast riding through the Peruvian desert and decided not to chance having another flat along the road so I put in a new inner tube I had been carrying. The whole process took about 45 minutes and we were on our way.

Back on the road with Deby close behind.

For some reason the desert cities in Peru reminded me of the scene from Star Wars when the were in the rough city looking for transport. I kept hearing the words “these aren’t the drones you are looking for” running through my head.

Long, straight, hot, fast….

Here’s Keith passing two cars and a overloaded truck tucked behind another truck he was about to pass. All Normal.

Here’s Deby going around the truck. 

Every so often we came to a town that was full of these little put put cart/motorcycle things. We eventually found ourselves in the beach resort town of  Huanchaco, at the Hotel Cabalito de Totora.

Deby and I immediately stripped off our hot riding gear and walked across the street to the beach. 

Like beaches anywhere there were plenty of people and kids playing in the water. 

Did something wash ashore? No, it’s our riding partner Jim soaking up some rays. 

Back at the hotel, Jim had arranged a van and driver to take us to the nearby ruins of Chan Chan for the next day so we decided to stay a second night to allow the complete day for exploring. More on that next…..

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂