Author Archives: wimbat

14-01-2013 La Serena

Straight from the start this morning, I wanted to set a high pace. Cruising at 140 – 150 km/h the cool hours of the morning would be well spent. By around 11:00 I already had 220 km’s behind me. Time to fill up on gas. Not that I was in dire need of fuel, but the next fuel station was 188 km’s away. Better be safe than sorry. However this is something that puzzled me somewhat. In a country with such vast distances, one would expect more fuel stations, closer together.

By lunchtime I reached the coastal town of Chañaral. When I filled up and went to buy some lunch, a disturbing metal grinding sound, coming from the front sprocket area of the motor, caught my attention. It got me worried, because I could not come up with a theory as to what it might be, other than maybe the nut holding the sprocket in place could have come lose…..
After I finished my sandwich and drink, I started the bike up again and the noise was gone. I haven’t heard it since.

The road continued along the Pacific coast for some 100+ km’s with some amazing views. Also with some annoying detours, but that’s all in the game I guess.
I kept the high pace and therefore decided to push my destination for the day forward.
Here’s where one of the preparations proved to be a good investment; partly due to having reworked the seat and making it firmer, I could bear the pain in my butt and keep riding.

901 km’s later I finally arrived in a beach resort town, named La Serena. It reminded me a lot of the Costa del Sol in the South of Spain.
Today was not only the longest one day trip of this holiday, but the longest that I ever did on a motorbike!!!!
When I took my bike gloves off, I noticed that I have blisters on my hands from holding the handlebars firmly while hanging in the wind !!!!!
I could also really do with a good neck massage. 😉

Riding through town slowly, looking for a hostel (couldn’t find the camping) I was addressed in Dutch my a gentleman who, according to his own testimony, studied in Belgium when he was a much younger man. Thanks to him I was directed to a cheap hostel with room to put the XTZ inside.

Before I got there, I turned off the engine to talk to someone and couldn’t get it started again: no electric pulse again. Again I had to take of all the luggage and look for the fault. This time it was de + of the battery that came lose. It was fixed easily. 🙂

Tomorrow Santiago will be my destination. From today I did make a few photo’s:

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13-01-2013 Long ride

This morning I woke up quite a bit later than I had planned. Apparently Chilean time is 2 hours ahead of Peru’s  😦

It wasn’t until past 10:00 that I left. Getting out of Arica was not hard, and soon I found myself on the highway. In the distance I noticed 3 other motorbikes. Within 10 minutes I caught up with them. 5 Brazilians on 3 bikes heading for Iquique….. For approximately 2 hours I rode along until their turn off to Iquique. I decided to press on.

At first it was nice riding in the mountains. Eventually we descended and that’s when the wind was taking an interest. Strong winds from the side made us lean in to it the whole way. Even after I left the group and continued on the highway towards Santiago, it wasn’t easy at times. The winds were so strong that it felt as if the front wheel was being blown out from under me……

The scenery for almost the whole way was nothing more than sand and rock. 717 km  I rode today, to try and make up a little for lost time. The town that was my destination is called Antofagasta and everything around it seems to be asphalt. The town itself however is more like a mediterranean holiday place. The sand dunes outside of town show some remarkable patterns.

If I can keep up this pace, I can be in Santiago in 2 more days.
No photos of today, simply because there wasn’t anything worth stopping for.

12-01-2013 Exit Peru – enter Chile

Camping; it has been quite a while since the last time.
I had to get used to the cramped space and thin thin self-inflating mattress. We went to sleep early and this morning I woke early… around 05:15.

Because I had nothing else in mind, I packed the bike and was ready by the time the other 2 got up. When we were about to go, my SuperTéneré would not want to start. No electrical activity could be found. My hunch was the fuse box. When I removed the side cover, I noticed that one of the bolts holding the mass-strip to the frame lay lose in the side cover.

When that bolt was attached and the other tightened, there was electrics again and the bike started. However, Ben noticed another bolt missing and closer inspection revealed another discrepancy. I lost 2 bolts that hold the luggage rack and pillion steps. Re-locating one of the left-over bolts made the luggage rack firm and steady again.

We left the beach in a moderate fog. After 40 minutes it cleared and we stopped for breakfast in a nice little beach town. More and more people showed up to make it a day at the beach. After breakfast the sun came out and the temperature quickly rose.

100 km later we reached the border. The Peruvian side formed no problem what so ever and we were on the way to Chilean customs in no time. This took somewhat longer and about 5 different forms to fill out. Eventually we left this side of the border too and headed for Arica.

When we crossed the outskirts of Arica, I mentioned that I needed fuel and maybe a hardware store to find bolts and new duct tape and tie raps. Ben suggested I looked for that while they rode on and maybe we’d catch up on the road again. So here our ways parted.

In Arica I found a mechanic workshop. They couldn’t really help me, but I could leave the motorbike with them while I went into a wholesale store across the street. Here I found a couple of bolts that did not exactly what I needed, but they fit, so it would do for the time being.

Lesson learned: check every day for lose bolts. Also, aluminium cases serve sooooo much better than soft luggage that you can’t lock up.

In the store I also found a switch button for home appliances (lamps primarily).
After I used the bolts to tighten the pillion rider pegs, I went in to town to find a hostel or hotel. I really wanted a shower and I was really in need of internet to do financial stuff and such.
Somewhere close to the centre I found a hotel with room for the bike.

After a fantastic shower, I fixed the XTZ up with a new starter button, using the switch button from the store. Later I also acquired new duct tape and tie raps.

Tonight I will enjoy a bed and tomorrow a hotel breakfast, after which I will try to ride a few long days towards Santiago, while camping underway to save time and some money…..

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11-01-2013 Puno to Tacna

I did not sleep more than a few minutes last night. Somehow I just couldn’t sleep and lay awake and kept thinking about how I should repack what I have left, now that I can’t use saddle bags anymore.

At around 06:00, I got up and repacked the way I had thought about while being awake.

When everything was packed on the bike, and after we had our breakfast, I noticed that the button of the electrical starter was missing from my bike!!!!
Puno did not like me being there it seems. 😦
Luckily Ben spotted the button on the ground and I found the spring still inside the handle bar unit.

Every time I stop now and turn off the engine, I need to dig up the button and spring to get it started again and then put the 2 away safely. I will think of a better solution once I’m in Chile.

We left in the rain, but it cleared up frequently. We managed to find a route that would take us straight to Tacna, and thus avoid having to cross through Juliacca again. We also bypassed Arequipa and saved a lot of time.

The route took us over some of the highest passes of the area. At 4622 meter or 15.164 feet my faithful XTZ was struggling and lost a lot of power due to the thin air. It got cold and on the side of the road there was snow. At a certain point Ken and Ben wanted to have a break.

I was fine and they told me to ride ahead; they would catch up. So I did, and after another couple of high mountain passes, the road got dry and I speeded up. What a joy to ride the winding roads.

After a while, the rain got back and lots of it. The temperature rose, which made me realise I was getting lower and closer to the coast. When I rounded a few last corners the rain was behind me and suddenly I noticed that the bike had regained it’s power. I was down to 2000 meter.

I warmed up quickly and my gear seemed to dry out like in a dry cleaner. I stopped for a break and to dry out in the sun some more. Just after I started to ride again, Ken and Ben caught up. We reached the coastal highway and we were practically back in the desert. Strong winds, dust and heat. Ben and Ken didn’t feel much for staying in Tacna.

So today ends with camping on the beach. Early tomorrow morning we will head for Arica in Chile. Hopefully the border crossing will not take us too much time.

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10-01-2013 Puno and Lake Titicaca

At 07:30 this morning, I was all ready to go and so were Ken and Ben Kriederman, the 2 American BMW riders. We decided to ride together to Puno and maybe further. After breakfast the hotel manager showed us a route to bypass Cusco. We had no need to visit Cusco again; it would only cost a lot of time to find our way through the city.

The weather was sunny and the road was dry. We made excellent progress. After a couple of hours, Ben pointed to the side of my bike. The rain cover of the right saddle bag had come lose by the wind and melted partly by the exhaust muffler. When I tried to tear it off, I ripped a tear in the bag itself.

Fortunately I was not without Duct tape, so the bag was repaired swiftly.

After a bite to eat, Ben suggested I’d ride in front. When riding last, one always goes faster, in order to keep up. Now that I rode up front, I kept the same speed, but for the other 2 that was faster than before. I was “hauling ass”, as Ben put it. I couldn’t really help it: the road was in excellent shape and the curves were long. It was a joy to ride there.

The altitude got higher and higher. The clouds got darker and darker.
We tried to out-run the rain, but it caught up with us just before Juliacca, the last big town before Puno.
Of all the Peruvian places I’ve seen so far, this is the filthiest and crappiest shit hole by a long shot.

We finally made it out of there and when we reached Puno at the Titicaca Lake, it stopped raining.

Looking for a hostel where we could park the bikes, we saw 3 other BMW motorcycles parked. Ken and Ben recognised the Colombians, Eduardo, Fernando and Daniel who owned the bikes, from the dealership in Bogota where they had their bikes serviced. The 6 of us had lunch. One of the Colombians was being hailed to look at the bikes. He came back with one of my saddle bags. The other was cut off and stolen……

That, of course did not amuse me at all… The stolen saddle bag (that I fixed earlier today with Duct tape) contained a few tools, a pair of shoes, an air compressor, tie raps, Duct tape and oil to lube my chain. The bag they left, contained the more valuable stuff.

All together we decided to search for a safe hostel. Thanks to Eduardo, we found one, where we all could park our bikes. We changed quickly and hurried over to the lake to catch a boat to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. They consist of layers and layers of reed (thatch) and on each island live a maximum of 5 families.

After this interesting excursion we had a simple meal for diner and had lots of fun. Tomorrow we plan to go to Arequipa, or maybe even Tacna, which is the last town before the border with Chile.

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09-01-2013 Machu Picchu…… yes really

06:40 the train left for Aguas Cailentes. It took 1,5 hours to get there and from there another half hour by bus over a dirt road with numerous hairpins to finally arrive on top  at the entrance to Machu Picchu.

What a magnificent sight!!!! The weather at first was cloudy, but literally within minutes it cleared up and the sun came out. The next few hours were simply amazing. Despite the presence of a huge crowd, there was enough opportunity to see everything, except for the higher parts. To see those one needs a separate ticket that you can only buy at least 2 weeks in advance.

I met up with the 2 Americans and afterwards we had lunch in Aguas Cailentes. This is also a nice little place, and also fully designated to tourism. Ken decided he wanted to try guinea pig for lunch. He did eat it, but apparently there wasn’t much meat on it.

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My train back left at 14:00 and by then it was raining hard again. We were so lucky with the sun at Machu Picchu. I was back at Ollontaytambo around 15:30. Time to check oil on the bike and get my gear sorted out for tomorrow.
We discussed the route today, and Ken and Ben don’t mind if I ride along. We’ll see if I can keep up. If weather allows it we’ll camp out tomorrow night.
Actually, they don’t let the weather decide, but I didn’t bring all my camping gear, so I will decide when it comes to that.

Since we may be camping there won’t be an opportunity for updates for at least a couple of days.
My apologies ……

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08-01-2013 Ollantaytambo at last

Waking up this morning, I more or less expected my gear to be dry. No such luck. Apparently the room was too cold and maybe damp to even slightly dry my clothes. So in my wet gear I left Pisac for Ollontaytambo.
I was relieved that it did not rain. Not more than 1 hour ride, I arrived in Ollontaytambo. A cobble stone narrow road leads to the town square, from which the different hostels were easily spotted. Finding one with room for a motorbike was another matter.
Close to the train station I found a lodge with plenty of room.
This close to Peru’s no. 1 attraction one could expect prices to be a lot higher than elsewhere. Yet I managed to haggle 20 Soles of the price per night, promising to stay for 2 nights. When I got to the room it was a pleasant surprise: luxury hotel style.

Having all settled in even before noon, I went out to explore this nice historic place. I really like the vibe of this little town. Although focussed on tourism, it doesn’t seem to lose it’s charm. Beautiful ancient streets and ruins in the background against the mountain sides makes you want to wander around the whole time, or watch the vibrant life go by while you enjoy your coffee at one of the many little restaurants.

The tourist information office sold me the train, bus, and entrance tickets to Machu Picchu for tomorrow and I had some laundry done. When I went back to the lodge 2 motorbikes arrived. An American father and son Ken and Ben, both ride BMW GS1200. Naturally, within no time we exchanged experiences and went into town for a few beers and some diner 🙂
Apparently they rode all the way from Colorado and had quite a few good stories.

Tomorrow will be one of the highlights of the trip, both for me as Ken and Ben.

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07-01-2013: Close to Machu Picchu……. then again: not so much

This monday morning I was confident that I would reach Ollantaytambo somewhere mid afternoon, so I would have enough time to figure out where to arrange the tickets for Macchu Pichu.

When I left Abancay there was a hint of rain, but the sun was clearly dominant. The hotel man gave me a few vague directions and the Garmin did the rest, for once completely accurate. So I found myself enjoying the winding roads of the area. All roads are pretty much winding, no matter what direction you go. The only drawback are the trucks and sometimes buses. Soooo slow uphill.

Unfortunately the rain wouldn’t let of, and that really took the fun away…. Then, finally I rounded the last few corners before entering Urubamba from where the last few km’s to Ollantaytambo should begin. I found myself riding in to a crowd of people who were all waiting to cross the bridge… on foot. Not a single vehicle was allowed to pass; the bridge got damaged somehow or was about to collapse……

From the little Spanish I understand, I could make out that the other option was to ride via Cusco: a detour of over 60 km !!!!!!

It felt like the rain really had it in for me today. From 30 minutes after leaving the closed-off bridge, it began seriously pouring down. When I reached Cusco, it seemed like I was watching the remnants of a small disaster. The drains were overflowing with muddy water and there was trash everywhere. And it was cold.

Summertime in Cusco, Peru: 11° Celsius!

The first thing I wanted to do, was find a fuel station that sells 95 RON gasoline. After 3 disappointing stations in the outskirts I found my way to the city centre and there finally I found one. The nice gentleman from the gas station also gave me directions towards Pisac (or Pisaq) a little town on the way to Urubamba. Another 3 times I had to ask for directions and it was far from easy maneuvering through steep and narrow, slippery, cobblestone streets in the hard rain. Finally I made it out of Cusco and on the way to Pisac, only 26 km to go. Daylight was fading when I got to Pisac.

This was the point for me to stop riding for the day. I was not going to get to Ollantaytambo unless in the dark. Riding on, over unlit winding roads in the rain and dark is not my cup of tea. Also the water really found it’s way through my gear in the end…. I was soaking.

The third hostel I tried had room for my motorbike under their ‘garaje’ which was no more than a carport really.

It’s a crappy place that, by the looks of it, doesn’t get many clients. No WiFi  and not cheap either. But at least it’s dry.

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Tomorrow I plan to start early towards Ollantaytambo. Wondering if I’ll be able to visit Machu Picchu tomorrow or the day after that.

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06-01-2013 Into the mountains

Sunday 06 January 2013.

This day had everything. Heat, cold, dry, rain, hail,  feeling depressed, feeling very well…….
Last night one of the travellers in the hostel, pointed my attention to a hummingbird, just outside the hostel. This was the first time in my life I saw one that wasn’t caged.
I took a picture on which you can’t distinguish it’s wings, because they go so fast.

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When I started today’s trip at 08:00, it was already hot. Nazca is desert area, so I estimate it was some 28° C when I left. Within the hour I was in the mountains where it got so cold already, I had to change to my winter gloves and put the insolation lining in my jacket. Later on, it started to rain and it even hailed from time to time. There was a cold strong wind all the time.

Although there were some spectacular views from the long winding road, it simply was to dangerous to stop. The roads are pretty good but there are few guardrails and most trucks and buses have the tendency to cut corners. Most hairpin corners and even the non-hairpin ones, are cut out of the rock. There’s no way to know what’s around the corner, so defensive riding was imperative.

My destination Abancay was 489 km away; riding 30 to 40 km/h through the mountains really made me doubt if I could reach Abancay before nightfall. Last night the hostel organised a saturday night party, so I didn’t sleep all that long. Riding through the mountains, feeling cold and wet (rain pants only kept dry for about 10 to 15 minutes) I really wasn’t in the best of moods. Worrying is never good and the result was that I felt like I forgot everything I learned of riding winding roads. On top of everything I almost ran out of fuel and there were no fuel stations anywhere. With the fuel taps on reserve, I kept the clutch in as much as I could so the motorbike would idle and roll out. Fortunately, the road just started to descend in to a valley and for about 35 km I could easily practise the idling.

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Arriving in the valley of Apurimac was a nice surprise. A river floats next to the road the whole time.   Everything looked lush and green. The temperature was comfortable and the road excellent. After I filled up at a fuel station, I started to feel a lot better and got in to my confidant riding mood. Despite the rain that occasionally did stop, the only thing I really had to consider was the crossing of livestock. Cows, sheep, donkeys, goats and Llamas were abundant.

Because the road was in such a good condition, I made up a little time, really enjoying hanging in corners. 30 minutes before arriving in Abancay, 2 other big bikes joined me. They were from Colombia, but I didn’t get a chance to talk because I lost them in the busy traffic of the town. The last surprise of today, was that I couldn’t fill up on Euro 95, because the maximum they sell here at fuel stations is 90 RON. I needed no more than about 5 litres or so. Hopefully The bike won’t have problems. When I arrived at the hotel, I had been on the road for 10 hours. To state that I was tired, is an understatement.

In the hotel I repacked and threw out even more. The large bag on the back has gone. I re-allocated everything I keep over the other bags and I will wear my backpack while riding. Because of the rain and the dangerous road, I did not make many photo’s.
The destination for tomorrow is Ollantaytambo, just before Machu Picchu.

05-01-2013 Nazca 2: Necropolis

Today, 05 January, I went out to ride without the luggage. The destination was the so called “Necropolis”, a place where a number of open graves contain mummies that date back to the pre-Inca time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauchilla_Cemetery.
It’s quite amazing to see how well they are preserved and still sit outside in their open tombs with merely an overhang as protection.

The road towards the cemetery was gravel and sand for the last 15 to 20 km’s or so. This was my first actual dirt road, other than a couple of times practising. It went pretty well, but I was rather tensed during the whole trip, back and forth. Standing on the pegs, I never got above 40 km’s/hour.

This reality check, made me wonder about my itinerary. This trip was without luggage and all the freedom to move around. Will Bolivia have also more than 1000 km’s of dirt tracks? How much time will I loose on those when riding fully packed?
Are there any sights in Bolivia that I absolutely must see? My main 2 goals on this continent are Machu Picchu and Patagonia. Bolivia was an extra maybe.

I have decided: I am going to skip Bolivia and go for Chili straight after Machu Picchu.
The amount of riding days at best are at least another 25 or more. In that case I will have to ride nearly every day and nothing can go wrong. I have taken into account that seeing Machu Picchu will at least take another day and Patagonia maybe 2 or 3. It seems I have lost too much time at customs in Lima to be able to complete this itinerary in a realistic way.

Tomorrow I will be on the road again to towards Abancay and then Machu Picchu. After that I will see how much time it will take to reach Conception in Chile. In my mind that will be a point where I should decide wether Patagonia is still feasible (taking into account that there are numerous gravel tracks as well) or I might have to cross straight through Argentina for Buenos Aires.

The trip to Abancay tomorrow will show me if the gear on the bike is still too heavy and therefore I may need to make even more sacrifices or that it will be acceptable.

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