A day to day blog by Ben Habecker (MotoQuest guide) on his Peru - Machu Picchu adventure in May 2013
Bienvenido a Chile! A few people are already here, the others will be checking in today at the Hotel El Paso Park. Welcome dinner tonight at the hotel "Araksaya" restaurant.
Welcome to the Atacama desert! We got our bikes today and tested them out on a road into the mountains behind Arica. Great ride! Between the ascent and descent we logged over 25,000 feet of elevation change. However, with the 50 degree temps and drizzling rain we experienced most of the day we're all wondering if this really is the driest place on earth. The fire place at lunch sure felt good!
We crossed into Peru today on our way to Moquegua! And we loved our border crossing experience. We saw some amazing desert country today! Bienvenidos a Peru!!
We head for the Mejes River Valley! On the way we learned what "Neblina" means, as the temps and visibility dropped for part of our day. The skies opened back up to welcome us to the entrance of a 'magestic' valley rich in Camarones (shrimp), many people sampled these delicacies for lunch. Pisco, cerveza, dinner and a bonfire finish our day.
A view of Coropuna (21,079 ft) nearly 100 miles away welcomes us as we climb to the top of the Mejes River valley again! We make our way back to the coast and ride the Pan-American Highway for the rest of the day. Puerta Inka is our home for the night. A hammock, then fresh seafood, and then waves crashing on the rocky shores nearby finish our day.
We started our day with a hike through some Incan ruins nearby and then set out for Nazca. We find some sand dunes trying to take over the road, a sleepy dog, more sand dunes, and a cheese hamburger done right! Yeah, that's an egg! Most of the group is out flying for a view of the famous Nazca Lines as I write, blue skies should've made for spectacular viewing today.
We change ecosystems today. We leave the arid desert of Nazca and head for the high alpine fauna of Chalhuanca to the East. We watch the largest sand dune on earth (7,000ft) shrink below our feet as we climb high into the Andian Coastal Range. We log over 25,000ft of elevation change before lunch! Afterwards we add another 15,000ft to that. In route to our high point for the day of 14,802ft (Hushuacasa Pass) we find a pristine lake just over 14k. We know we're at the pass when we encounter hale accumulating on the roads.
We ride on into lush green pastures of grazing Alpaca. We come to the end of this high Andean plateau and see the road plummet nearly 3,000ft to the Chalhuanca river below! We're greeted at this abyss by an Andean Condor doing a close fly-by to check us out. Though awe-struck, we are all moving so he soars on across the sky. We drop into the Chalhuanca canyon and follow the river to our home for the night at Tampumayo. Wow! Quite a day!
We ride to the Sacred Valley today! We have to say good-bye to a few furry friends we made at Tampumayo. We follow the Chalhuanca canyon down river until the road turnes into valley walls and begins climbing again. We climb up and down from one valley to another with fields and pastures everywhere. In the afternoon we rise to a high point between valleys and get our first view of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range (20,551ft Nevado Salcantay and 18,635ft Mt. Veronica prominent peaks of interest). We ride on to another high point looking down on the lush Sacred Valley, through which the mighty Urubamba River flows. We drop into heart of it and follow the river down valley to our home for the night in Ollantaytambo.
No motorcycles today. We wake up early to catch a train further down the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu! Sunny blue skies and hot weather will make this day that much more memorable. I'm not even going to try to describe Machu Picchu, ask your friends who just spent the day there.
Day ride from 9,160ft Ollantaytambo. We cross over to the other side of the Cordillera Urubamba, via Malaga Pass (14,156ft). We descend into the Amazon River basin for a sample of its rain forest climate at 7,700ft. Perfect blue skies to the West of the pass and we're fortunate to find only scattered clouds in the rain forest to the East. Epic twisty road, perfect pavement, and virtually no traffic! We're back in Ollantaytambo for a free afternoon.
We depart our 3 day home in Ollantaytambo and head to Cusco. We follow the Urubamba River valley up to Pisac, where the road changes direction and begins climbing up the valley wall. However, we find the bridge we need to cross the Urubamba to access this climb is CLOSED for repairs. We begin a new adventure moving back down the valley looking for another way across the river. We find a small bridge that leads us to a wonderful dirt road (with some challenges of its own) that allows us access back to our original route. We continue on and venture to the edge of Cusco for a view from above, at Cristo Blanco. We make our way down into the maze of streets that makes up the Plaza de Armas area of the city. We check in to our hotel, park the bikes and stop in to the famous Norton's Pub for lunch. Enjoying the sights in Cusco fills the afternoon.
Free Day. Enjoying the sights in Cusco today, individually and as a group in the afternoon on a tour of local ruins and cathedrals.
We leave Cusco and head for Puno. We drop down to Urcos where we meet the Vilcanota River and follow it up river to it's headwaters near La Raya Pass at 14,228ft. Corn fields in the Vilcanota River valley change to Hay fields and pastures of grazing Alpaca and Sheep on the South side of the pass, which lye mostly around 13,000ft. We pull into Puno and look over the city on the shore of the southern hemisphere's largest freshwater lake (with over 3,232 sq miles of surface area), Lake Titicaca at 12,507ft. A comfy hotel and a warm fire await.
We set out early for a different kind of ride today... We take a boat out into Lake Titicaca to visit a village on floating islands known as "Uros". Made entirely of reeds, there are 78 floating islands that make up this village. Families build and inhabit their own little island among the village. We visit one family and get a glimpse of their way of life. Pretty amazing people, so nice of them to sing "Happy Birthday" to our own Eric Probst! Not sure how they knew....
We hop on our bikes after that and head to higher ground. Most of the rest of our day is spent above 14,000 ft. We stop to explore a hot spring/geyser along the road and have a picnic lunch while we are there. Then we make our way over the 15,000 ft mark! The high plains change to desert as we ride. The high plain comes to an end and we stop for a view down the dry western slope of the coastal range we sit on top of. Our 10,000 ft descent to Moquegua was epic (spread out over 40 miles)! Back in the desert and into thicker air again. Hope you had a great Birthday Eric!
We set out from Moquegua and head for the border to say "Good-bye" to Peru.:
The desert sands remind us that we're back in the Atacama desert and the thick air at lower elevation feels refreshing to everybody. We pull into Arica and ride to a high point for one last beautiful view from above. We return the bikes. Then it's off to lunch at a local favorite called "Shoppedog" for the best hot dogs in the southern hemisphere and a large beer to share, known as the "Rocket"! Farewell dinner at 8:00pm tonight.
Breakfast and taxis to the airport throughout the day (and lunch for some). Farewell to a great group of riders. Wonderful memories of a time spent in Peru..