Sunday, 8 April 2012

North Bound

Both Rob and myself pulled out of our hostel in Lima together, however I was travelling just around the block to a less expensive backpacker's and Rob had the big blast down the Pan American highway and on home to NZ. It was an unusual feeling as Rob veered right and I went straight on knowing that would be the last we would see each other for quite a while. We'd been on the road for almost 4 months together and covered close to 20 000km over some pretty amazing countryside. It was going to be a different trip from now on.

After purchasing new tyres and oil in Lima and a few days rest I was ready to hit the road. At the hostel I had bumped into the "fuel this mule" guys, Brad and Ash from Australia and Adam from Vancouver who were riding their motorbikes from Vancouver to Buenos Aires. Was good to get some info on what lay ahead for me as I headed north and also enjoy a few beers with some fellow bikers from down under.

Fuel this Mule boys about to leave Lima

Nice parking at hostel Pariwana in Lima

Heading back up to Huaraz to enjoy the stunning mountain scenery the day didn't get of to a great start. Two wrong turns on the motorway leaving the city took a while to correct in the horrible city traffic and the second put me into a police check point where for the first time on this trip I was asked for insurance. After pretending to not understand what the officer was wanting he eventually gave up and off I went.

I didn't get away with it second time round though. Further up the highway I knew there would be plenty of patrol cars on the road from our previous run in on the way into Lima so I was riding particularly carefully. Still, the gringo (foreigner)on the bike was good enough reason for me to be pulled over and again I was asked for insurance. These guys were more persistent and with the threat of having my bike confiscated after almost an hour parked up on the road side I paid a bribe of 50 dollars and was finally on my way. With insurance expensive for foreigners ( 400 us dollars for one full year the only option) most motorbike travellers don't worry about it in Peru and the police know it so it's a money making scam for the corrupt coppers in Peru. With all the delays I arrived in Huaraz just before dark and once again in the cold afternoon rain.

Pork for lunch in Huaraz

....or chicken

Day trip up onto the Cordillera Nergo range

Up on the ridge at 4500m
After several more days in Huaraz, a couple of day rides and replacing my worn rear wheel bearings it was hard to pull myself away. I was planning on doing a walk in the stunning Cordillera Blanca mountains and hadn't, or maybe it was because of the hostel owner's very sexy daughter! I convinced myself that I'd probably already seen more of the mountains on the motorbike than I would on a walk and I knew that if I was to see any more of the later it would be trouble so headed off down the unbelievable Canyon del Pato for a second time. Didn't get far before having to repair flat tyre.

A big climb coming up?

Riding up high in the clouds

More stunning roads, up and down to Mollopata, slow going though and difficult to navigate- no signs and villages not on the map. Only got half as far as hoped. Not much traffic on these narrow roads which is just as well, vehicles and gas is just too expensive for most of the people in these areas and most traffic was of the 4 hoof variety. Problem is when you do meet a vehicle it's often half a village all at once in a large bus or on the back of a truck so some major diversion is required. They don't seem to concerned about taking rather large vehicles along very small rough roads in these parts!

Riding through one of the many small villages up high in Peruvian mountains

Not a place to ride off the edge!

Dodgy Bridge

Friendly Locals at Mollopata helping out with Directions

A rare vehicle

Enjoyed the mornings ride, bit hard to relax in the afternoon-concerned about fuel range, not knowing exactly where I was and lack of distance covered. Good day though, stopped early in afternoon as was a bit knacked and the town of Huamachuco seemed nice.

Stopped and talked to lady drying out some grain of some sort (Trigo I think?), she gave me some to eat, very friendly. Passed through area where clay was being using to make roofing tiles. Rode around Cajamarca for a bit, quiet large city and then headed for Celedin. Overshot turn off and asked some people for directions, ended up getting offered some lunch too, more friendly people. Major road up grade going on here, will be a different ride in soon. Hostel a bit shabby but bike parked outside door and bed ok so that's all that really matters, 20 soles so cheap enough.

Trying out some local grub

Manufacturing clay roofing tiles

Found a fantastic narrow winding road from Celedin to Cachapoyas. Descended 30 km down into valley and then took 60km continuous climb all up to 3600m ( 2700m up), really nice riding, massive hills with lots of agriculture and people living up high in places, very green. Not much traffic either, passed a few dairy farms, biggest herd looked to be about a dozen cows and they use old fashioned milk cans to collect. This morning in town (Celedin) an old guy and his wife were selling leche (milk) on the corner, they just scooped it out of a big bucket and into plastic bags. Leche, leche, come and get your leche we was chanting out, pretty interesting stuff, bit of a time warp back a few years.

Old style milk collection

Arrived at Kelup ruins a couple hours before dark, just started raining so sorted out some accommodation in a very small village (Maria) up high in the hills and then shot off up the road a bit further to check it out. Got real pissed off as they sold me an entry ticket and then after a grunt up the hill the fortified ruin entry's were locked so have to go back manana.

Went back up to the ruins, very quite, was the only one up there. This is the most extensive ruins after Machu Picchu. I've shifted a few rocks around in my time and it can be very satisfying work but the shear scale of rock work here is just mind blowing stuff. Huge rock walls surround the ruins to provide a inpenertrable wall of protection from enemies.

Rock walls at Kullep ruins

Not much happening in the sleepy town of Maria

Had lunch back in Maria then got the shits, had to do a quick exit off the moto and it was raining too. Altitude and and exercise I think. Absolutely pissed down on way into Chachapoyas, took shelter in small town then carried on. Stayed in hotel on main plaza, rode moto through restaurant and out the back.

Decided it would be worthwhile to do a side trip and walk up to Gocta Falls. This place has just been opened up to tourism as little as about 6 years ago. It's indisputably the 3rd highest falls in the world, disputed I think because of it's two drops the first about 200m and the second about 570m. Pretty impressive all the same. Afternoon ride to Pedro Ruiz, had a game of courtyard soccer with the staff from the hostel, very enjoyable but may be a bit sore tomorrow, lots of exercise today!

Gocta Falls

I'd been considering a trip down into the amazon basin for a while and even though I was falling behind in my rough schedule I decided that I had to check it out. The road down off the Andes and out through Tarapoto ending at Yurimaguas on the edge of the mighty Haullaga River which is one of several major tributaries of the Amazon seemed like a good route. There has been some problems, (ie rode blocks and machine gun glad robbers) on this road in the past and Tarapoto is a little close to a large drug area so I spent a lot of time talking to locals about this one, everyone said no problem at all, just don't do it in the night.

I arrived in Tarapoto in good time and did not feel out of place down here on the moto as the whole town pretty much gets around on them, although I still got the usual stares as I guess my moto is a little larger. The main plaza in town was completely surrounded in motos, hundreds of them, and lots of scantly clad Beautiful jungle girls riding them too, not a bad place I thought! On arrival at the Misti Hostel the very helpful Roxanne was in no time on the phone to her friend Miguel who manages a guiding business. So the next day it was out into the true flat vastness of the jungle where I was greeted by Miguel in Yurimaguas and he tailored up a two day canoe trip in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve.

Tarapoto, moto's as far as the eye can see in that direction....

... and this direction too
Tarapoto Traffic

To get to the reserve I had to travel down river for 4 hours by water taxi that was essentially just a stretched out dinghy with two big out boards on back each with it's own 44 gallon drum style fuel tank supplying enough fuel to keep the motors pinned for 4 straight hours. Although long the trip was interesting, the massive river being a major transport corridor and centre of activity for the locals.

At the end of the boat trip I was met by my guide Welington and we were off in a genuine dug out wooden canoe into the reserve. Massive Blue butterflies, lots of birds, fish and monkeys all made for a enjoyable paddle down to our accommodation for the night which was a hut perched up on poles above the flooded forest floor. In the early hours of the nest day ( 2am ) we set of back up the series of river channels, in the dark we got to see owls, snakes and fresh water cocs and Welington impressed with his navigation skills as he accurately pointed us back through the flooded jungle under torchlight.

umm... one too many bananas on board?

everyone carries one of these around down here

5 hours flat out down the Haullenga River

My excellent river guide Welington

Welington and our trusty canoe, only needed bailing every 10min!

Accomadation for the night

While waiting for the return boat I went for a walk around town... 

....and found these characters, I'm pretty sure they where telling me that I needn't go to the jungle to see monkeys!

The very friendly staff at Hotel Rio Haullaga
I would like to thank Welington, Miguel and the staff from Hotel Rio Haullaga for a great experience, highly recommended Having just seen an area about the size of a pin hole on my map I found it hard to comprehend the size of this jungle flatland, it's huge. The next few days were spent back tracking up to Pedro Ruiz, more courtyard soccer with the staff, checked the valve clearance's on the bike and then gunned it for the Ecuador boarder near Zumba

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