November 18, 2015

Several years ago, I read a Wall Street Journal article about Cuenca, Ecuador. It was all about how people from the U.S. were moving to Cuenca because the weather was “eternal spring” and the cost of living was cheap. I made a mental note all those years ago to check into Cuenca as a possible place to live. I even talked about flying to Cuenca for vacation just to check it out.

Then a few weeks before leaving on my trip, my brother showed me a Smithsonian magazine article about Cuenca, Loja, and Vilcabamba. These three southern Ecuador towns were becoming very popular as retirement spots for ex-pats from all over. it reminded me to do a little research on Cuenca. That’s when I discovered that Cuenca is not a small town; it’s roughly the size of Portland, Oregon, with around 400,000 people in the urban area and about 700,000 in the larger metro area. That was enough to convince me that Cuenca was too big for me. I’m a small town guy.

So when I got to Cuenca, I was surprised that it didn’t feel that large. The downtown area is only a couple of miles long by maybe a half mile wide, and easily walkable. It’s listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site for the architecture and colonial buildings in the downtown area.

Central Park, downtown Cuenca.


The park made me wonder who copied who…it reminds me a lot of the park in Main Street Disneyland. Except without all the screaming kids wearing mouse ears.




Part of the Flower Market downtown.


Street vendor, with the Latin America version of a delivery vehicle.


Street Art


My residence for the past couple of nights. Nothing fancy, but the bike fits through the front doors, and the owner is another incredibly nice gentleman.

As I was headed out yesterday, I asked the hostel owner if he knew where I might find Super Glue for my grips. He immediately went upstairs and came down with a small tube. Unfortunately it was dried up, but I was able to find some at a tiny hardware store a few blocks away. So the throttle grip is back in its’ correct position and hopefully will stay there for a while. I was a bit surprised at the lack of residue left when I pulled the grip off. Usually you have to use acetone to remove that stuff. All that was left inside my grip was a little white powder.

I walked the downtown area fairly extensively, and there is no doubt that if you go to the places where the American ex-pats frequent (I went to an Italian restaurant and the Sunrise Cafe), you will see a lot of people from the U.S. speaking English. But it’s not over-run with them, since it’s such a large city. For the most part, everyone still speaks Spanish. I didn’t have that Antigua, Guatemala feeling that all the locals were going to speak English to me, and although some of the menus are in both languages, not much else is. I like that. I’m a firm believer that you should learn the language of the country you are in (that applies to those choosing to live in the U.S. also). But enough of my soapbox.

As I packed up to leave this morning, Daniel and Josephine came to send me off. It sounds like they are leaving tomorrow, possibly (I love that non-commital in-no-hurry attitude).

Great people. We’re all on the “gotta get to Ushaia before it snows” schedule, so I have a feeling I’ll see them again somewhere down the road.

As I sit here typing this, the garbage truck is going by, and I am reminded to mention that….

The garbage trucks here (Ecuador, at least), play the same music as the ice cream trucks at home. I suppose it reminds people to bring their trash out to the curb. But it is funny. An American woman at dinner in Baños one night mentioned it and told a story about running out to get some ice cream there, only to meet the garbage man.

I’m in Loja tonight. Tomorrow morning I will meet up with Ian (see Quilotoa Loop post) and we will spend a couple of days riding some fairly remote off-road in the mountains of southern Ecuador. So I will be without wifi (or electricity, or restaurants, or hostels) for a couple of days. Next update from Vilcabamba in a few days.

Flirting with Peru: Doin’ the Zumba Loop

November 20, 2015

The road from Loja south to Zumba is 96 miles, comprised mostly of fresh two-lane concrete road, occasionally interrupted by sections of gravel, because the highway builders haven’t been able to widen the road, divert the water, or prevent the landslides in those areas yet. In fact, in some areas where there is new concrete, the road is covered in dirt from landslides, or the concrete has collapsed due to a landslide under the road. Regardless, this is an incredibly scenic stretch of road. If you could turn the volume down a couple of notches on the scenery between just south of Vilcabamba and Zumba, you might think you were somewhere in Wyoming, near Yellowstone or Grand Tetons, or perhaps somewhere in Montana, but with higher, more jagged mountain peaks. It’s that good.

That would be the normal route from Loja south to the border at Peru. But that’s not the way I’m going. Oh, I’ll do that stretch of road, but I’ll do it at the end of my two-day ride, from south to north. Instead, I’ve been invited by Ian Willcox to ride along on a more remote route that loops through the Yacuri National Park.

I arrange to meet Ian at a petrol station just south of Loja at 11am. Unfortunately, at 10:45, I am still at my hotel. The parking arrangement at this downtown hotel is such that there is basically a one-lane garage about 6 cars deep in the lobby of the hotel, and my motorcycle is in the very front of all of the cars. As I’m waiting for the cars to move so I can get my bike out, I’m watching a video crew shoot a promotional video about the newly remodeled Villonaco hotel. The video crew takes an interest in the “American in the astronaut suit” standing in the lobby and asks to interview me. What the heck, I’m not going anywhere…

After the interview, and a few photos with the hotel staff and video crew, I finally get the bike out and head south to meet Ian, a half hour late.

Video crew (Martha — also the wife of the video producer). Note the “front desk” of the hotel directly behind the bike. Yep…riding through the lobby, again.

Ian is there waiting for me and we head south to Malacatos, then start west toward Gonzanamá, where we stop for lunch. The locals here also look at us like astronauts, or something else they’ve never seen. This is clearly not the typical tourist route.


The road out of Gonzanamá is freshly paved, with nice new concrete curbing. It’s obviously new, and we keep thinking it will end and turn to dirt soon. But it continues nearly all the way to Amaluza before finally turning to construction. We find a hotel (the hotel) in Amaluza and check in.

Looking out my window at the Hotel Escorial in Amaluza the evening of our arrival.

In the morning we awake to low clouds, but at least it isn’t raining.

Next morning….hmmm….clouds are low.

This is the garage where we stored our bikes down the street from the hotel. Note that the garage door slides across where the “living room” window is. Also note the “front door” on the far right.


Same place from the inside. Note the “front door” on the far left. When I mentioned it, the owner explained that after he bought this land, he bought another place on the other side of town and built the house there. “Hey, it’s secure” was his main point. I agree.

From Amaluza on, the road is dirt. The clouds are low and we climb into them. Visibility drops to less than 100 feet, it starts to drizzle, and it gets colder.

Ian leading the way. It was like this for quite a while.

We ride like this through the Yacuri National Park. I can “feel” that the views would be spectacular if we could see anything. We stop at the Lagunas de Jimbura and climb the hiking trail, but after about 500 feet of vertical climbing, we realize that we will not see further than 100 feet regardless of direction, so we return to the bikes and keep riding. Incredibly, within a quarter of a mile of cresting the summit and heading down the other side, the sun breaks out and the views are fantastic.

Hiking up to the great views. Oh yeah, can’t see a thing. Never mind…


Suddenly out of the clouds.


Looking back up the valley. See the house right in the middle of the photo? No road in, other side of the river. This is true isolation.


Closer shot of the tiny house in the middle of nowhere.

From here on, the weather warms up, the roads dry up, and it gets dusty. Yet there are still waterfalls everywhere. We ride through San Andres, just about touching the Peru border, and continue to follow the Rio Jorupe for another 20 miles or so. Eventually we round a mountain curve and Zumba comes into view below us. It takes another 30 minutes or so to descend the mountain into Zumba. On this last section, my GPS dies a quiet death. It won’t do anything.

We stop at the PetroEcuador petrol station and fill up, then say goodbye. Ian heads for the border and I head north for 120 kilometers up that incredibly scenic road to Vilcabamba. Without my GPS, I’m left to find my way back to Vilcabamba by “feel”, finding the road out of the other side of small towns. It’s actually a pretty easy route.


(Post-Ride Note: I got a text from Ian after I arrived in Vilcabamba. He had made it through the Ecuador border process and was officially out of Ecuador — a big concern, since he had lost his paperwork for the bike — but when he got to the Peru side, there was nobody there. So Ian is in No Man’s Land….not officially in either country. Sounds like he may be camping there tonight to wait for the Peru officials in the morning.)

Back to the 60’s: Why is it still called “New” Age after all these years?

November 25, 2015

After five days in Vilcabamba, I decided to re-write my original post, which was rather scathing. This morning at breakfast I realized that it went against what I have believed all of my life, which is that all people should have the right to believe what they want to believe and worship as they see fit, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, and they don’t force it on me.

I definitely didn’t feel like anyone was forcing anything on me in Vilcabamba, but at times (especially on the weekend) I had moments where I felt like I was drowning in New Age eccentricity. Either that or I had somehow been transported to an alternate universe along with many people from Haight Ashbury in 1967.

I have to admit that my feelings for the place have rolled like a sine wave. When I first arrived and saw the village, I had a very positive feeling about it. The next day (Saturday) when I saw the large volume of ex-U.S. hippies converging on the square, my feelings weren’t so positive. By Monday, the square had returned to a very Latin American “normal” and a ride through the surrounding countryside helped to bolster my positive feelings about the place.

My house-host Anya took me for a ride outside of Vilca, through some nice countryside. It helped restore my faith in the area.



The tiny village of Tumianuma, near Vilcabamba. Down a nice road, past million dollar homes, this place is unspoiled and original.

I really, really wanted to like Vilcabamba. I read articles over the past decade about the “eternal spring” temperatures here, and the “Valley of Longevity”. Supposedly people lived long lives here, well in excess of 100 years, claiming up to 130 years or more. Of course, that study was later proven wrong, but people here still embrace the concept, so much so that even the signs with the town’s name on them show an old guy with a cane in the logo.

Town information sign in the city’s central park. Notice the old guy in the town logo. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to be wearing a flowered peasant shirt from the 1960s, or Aladdin flowing trousers, or sandals, and doesn’t have dreadlocks or braids. Obviously needs updating to reflect the current Vilcabamba.

When I arrived, I walked around town, looking at the village from different angles, taking it in. It’s a beautiful valley. There are a large number of restaurants and coffee shops in town for such a small place. (and TWO sushi bars, which as I’ve said before is a warning indicator for me). It’s generally a quiet, sleepy little community.

Typical Latin American central park in town. Very nice, very comfortable to just sit a while and people watch. It’s the people that make this one different.

Beautiful church on the square.

I was walking along the edge of town when I saw all of these chickens lined up on the sidewalk, equally spaced apart. I thought that was strange until I realized they were all tied in place. The opposite sidewalk was exactly the same.

Vilcabamba makes Austin (whose slogan is “Keep Austin Weird”) look like a far-right conservative midwestern farm town. None of the people creating this effect in Vilcabamba are natives. And the natives seem split over it: the business owners seem to just grit their teeth and go along with it because at least some of them are benefitting from it. The local residents that were here before all of this “New Age” eccentricity arrived clearly aren’t thrilled with what has become of their little town.

I’m reminded of a cartoon from years ago, showing a Harley Davidson rider wearing a leather vest, leather chaps, boots and a do-rag, and pointing out all of the accessories on his Harley Davidson, all of which he bought to show his “individualism”. Of course, he and his bike were exactly like all the other “sheep” that spent a ton of money to “fit in” with a culture. They were trying so hard to be accepted and to look accepted that they lost their individualism entirely.

That’s what the ex-pats of Vilcabamba look and feel like.

Perhaps, as someone suggested, it is possible to live outside of Vilcabamba and only go into the town when needed. This sounds sort of like my love affair with Austin, having lived a distance from the craziness in a slightly more sane rural environment but still able to take advantage of what the city had to offer. But Vilcabamba isn’t a city. It’s a village. There isn’t much here, especially culturally. Not like Austin. I heard there are other “communities” on the outskirts of Vilcabamba that have a different feel, and that some of these communities have their own “energy”.

Looking around the city center for a few days, it would appear that all of the people who lived to a ripe old age in the Valley of Longevity have moved on. The percentage of New Age spiritualists seems to be increasing. And it’s my opinion that they have a right to believe what they want to believe. As do I. And I believe it’s time to hit the road.

Happy Thanksgiving! In search of Beautiful Peru…

November 26, 2015

Okay, that’s misleading. There is no Thanksgiving Day in Peru. At least not the U.S. version. But that’s where my Thanksgiving Day was spent. I set a number of personal records today for this trip:

  1. Longest mileage in a day (for this trip): 570km (353 miles)
  2. Fastest border crossing
  3. Longest mileage in a day with a border crossing included
  4. Longest ride on the Pan American Highway

I also broke several of my personal rules today:

  1. Don’t ride more than +/- 200 miles in a day
  2. Don’t ride after dark (I might have made it before dark if I hadn’t run out of gas five miles before my destination!)
  3. Don’t ride the Pan American Highway any more than necessary

There were some highlights to the day as well. So “let me start over” (inside joke….only one person that may or may not read this will get that):

After leaving Vilcabamba I rode a short day to Macará, Ecuador, which sits right on the border with Peru, and checked into a hotel there. Macará is a rough looking border town, but the hotel was a high spot — nice and clean, with a large secure garage. This allowed me an early border crossing the next day.

This morning I left Macará and got to the border by 9:30. I wish all border crossings were a carbon copy of this one. The entire process, including checking myself and my bike out of Ecuador, crossing the bridge, checking myself and my bike into Peru, and purchasing the obligatory SOAT third-party insurance for Peru, took just under one hour. The officials on both sides of the border were very helpful. The guy at Aduana (customs) in Peru even had his own copier!!! Amazing!! I didn’t have to walk down the street to a food vendor to pay to have copies made like in Central America. And he didn’t charge for the copies. Aside from the insurance, the entire border crossing was free. Note that this is not the high-volume border crossing; that one is further west at Huaquillas. There was one other person in line at immigration and I was the only person at customs.

Several miles south of the border, I came upon a checkpoint. The officer asked for my paperwork, and then the fun began. This guy had my sense of sarcasm, and I loved it.

Officer: “Let me guess (insert sarcastic tone)…you are going to Patagonia.”

Me: “Isn’t everybody?”

Officer: “Everybody has to go to the tip of South America to take a photo.”

Me: “It’s a long way just for a photo.”

Officer: “Yes… It is.”

A clear indication that although I was not on the main Gringo Trail, I was still on Gringo Alternate 1.

And with that he handed me my paperwork and wished me a good day.

As I continued south towards Piura, the scenery very quickly changed to desert. For the first time in weeks, I was below 5,000 feet elevation and still dropping, and my surroundings were looking a lot like the high desert of southern California. The quality of life seemed much worse than I had experienced in the mountains of Ecuador and other countries previously. I’m not sure if it’s just the difference between the houses being exposed in the desert, as compared to the lush greenery of Ecuador, or if it is truly that much worse. But when you live in the desert, you are forced to make do with much less in terms of resources and building materials.

Entering Piura, I noticed a couple of things. First, even though I had been warned by Judith, Ian, Mike & Shannon, and others, this was my first real exposure to the “suicide” driving method here in Peru. The thinking seems to be, “Your lane? You don’t have a lane, amigo, you are on a motorcycle. I will go around, over, or through you.” People pull directly out in front of you in an intersection (without even slowing down as they approach it), even if you are on the larger road (highway) and moving at 50mph. They will pull into the opposite lane and come straight for you. And they are not playing chicken. Or if they are, they always win, because they never pull back in. They will pass you on the right shoulder. They will pull off in the dirt to pass (in town) and then turn in front of you. Cars, buses, 18 wheelers, moto-taxis, it doesn’t matter. Which is when I noticed the other thing: there are no traffic lights in Peru. At least not many. I rode through several good-sized cities today, and never once saw a traffic light. Which might explain the suicidal driving, or at least part of it. At one point today, having just survived an 18-wheeler pulling across the intersection directly in front of me and several cars, I began to think that there must be a limitation on driver licenses in Peru: if you have an IQ over 60, you don’t get one. At least they drive like that’s the case.

South of Piura, the desert turned to sand. Pure sand. As in dunes. For close to two hundred miles. If you are familiar with California, think about Highway 395 from Victorville to Mammoth Lakes. The road itself is a lot like that: two lanes, very straight. Now think of driving that same straight, two-lane road through sand dunes the entire way, with a 35mph crosswind blowing sand across the highway. And that’s the Pan American Highway from Piura to Trujillo.


I hate to be negative, but I feel I have to in order to give the full picture here. What happened to self-respect? For more than two hundred miles. with few exceptions, it looked like I was driving through a landfill. Plastic trash bags everywhere. Thousands. Tens of thousands. The amount of trash was unfathomable. You could tell when you were within ten miles of a town: the trash suddenly got much thicker. This was definitely different than previous countries. There’s no way you can hide that much trash, even in the mountains. And I didn’t see trash bags piled and blowing around in the mountains.

I kept heading south, thinking “I’ll stop when this gets better.” But it never really did. I know this isn’t representative of all of Peru. I’ve been telling everyone the best is yet to come. And I was thinking of the mountains of Peru and Patagonia. I know Peru won’t disappoint me. I just need to get off the Pan American Highway.

I ended up riding all the way to Trujillo, on the Pacific Coast, which was supposed to be my destination four days from now. It was looking like I was going to make it to the hostel just before dark. And then I ran out of gas. I had been pushing into a strong headwind and crosswind all afternoon, and I knew my mileage was suffering. But that’s why I carry a spare couple of gallons on the rear rack in a Rotopax container. So it was just a minor inconvenience. A few minutes later and I was on my way.

As I pulled into the hostel, I met Les and Catherine from No Agenda World Tour. They are traveling from Canada on their KLR650s. Way back in El Valle de Anton, Panama, a woman who was staying at the hostel there gave me a Post-It note with Catherine’s email address on it. She said she had met them on the road, and that they were also traveling with motorcycles. Her final comment was “But I know you’ll never contact them.”

Well, I did one better: I met them face-to-face!

I plan to spend a couple of days here at the beach, then head into the mountains and do some exploring.


Mileage/Trip Comparison

November 28, 2015

I was looking at my GPS track on my Delorme Inreach page today, and I realized that if I had ridden the most direct route from Austin, Texas to Chimbote, Peru (where I am now), it would be about 5,000 miles. It has taken me four months to get here.

A year ago I did more miles than that in one month on the Super Tenere from Texas to Canada and back. But I rode more miles per day (over 800 miles one day), stopped less, saw less, and did less (other than sit in the saddle and ride).

Unfortunately many people who decide to ride to the bottom of South America from either the U.S. or Alaska do it similar to my Canada trip: they ride the Pan American Highway for weeks, covering huge distances every day, and never see any of the amazing things along the way. I don’t blame them. Many of them have a limited time to complete the trip, and the only way to make their goal before returning to work or their “real lives” is to spend their days on the highway. It is a shame though. I hope they see enough to decide to return to South America later and spend more time exploring, because there are some amazing places here, and most of them are nowhere near the Pan American Highway.

Cañon del Pato

November 29, 2015

I met up with Ian again on the coast in Huanchaco, and we decided to ride together toward Chimbote and then up the Cañon del Pato to Caraz.

Looking north at Huanchaco beach. It’s not exactly Manhattan or Hermosa Beach, but it has a nice little walking strand and a lot of seafood restaurants.


Looking south.


These hand-woven boats made of reeds are very popular here.



Leaving Huanchaco, we rode south on the Pan American Highway for about 80 miles. The surroundings are pretty much entirely sand, although in a few places people have managed to farm.

At one point these trees provided a wind block (against blowing sand mostly) so that farmers could work the land. The bright red against the green on the trees really stood out.


I don’t know what kind of trees they are, but they had these huge pods and then the extremely bright red blooms, but only some of them.


Further along the dunes became quite impressive.





At Santa, we turned east on Highway 12, which would take us through the canyon.

A small village on 12 heading into the canyon.

We met a couple from Scotland on bicycles headed out of the canyon towards the coast, then south toward Ushuaia. They said they traveled six months a year and worked six months a year. Not sure how long it will take them to get to Ushuaia.

The road turns to gravel for a good portion of the ride.


Ian up at the next bend.


There are about 33 of these one-lane tunnels (it’s a one-lane road) along the way. Most of them are near the east end where the road is paved again. None of them are very long, but some curve quite a bit in the middle, so they have signs at both ends warning drivers to honk before entering the tunnels. We met large trucks and buses on the road.

I took some video with my GoPro but as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t edit it on my laptop due to a lack of space. However, one of the videos seemed good enough without editing, so I was able to upload it to YouTube. Here’s a couple of minutes of the paved part of the Cañon del Pato (sorry, I didn’t know the GoPro would pick up my random whistling while riding):

Best if you watch it full screen, and glance off the left side of the road every now and then. I have no idea how far down it was, but it’s a long way.


A short intermission for a little KTM troubleshooting and maintenance.





Impressive multi-tiered waterfall.


At the east end of the canyon we pulled into the town of Caraz for the evening. We had gradually climbed from sea level to a little over 7500 feet elevation in the last half of the canyon route. From town you can look up to the snow covered peaks of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.

Tomorrow I hope to do a loop up over 12,000 feet again, eventually arriving back here for one more night.


Searching For Beautiful Peru? Found it! WOW

November 30, 2015

I found the Andes mountain scenery I was looking for today. And then some. Wow. Unbelievable. I can’t really describe it, so I think I’ll just post some photos and let them speak for themselves. I’ll add a few (very few) words where necessary.

In the center of this photo you can see snow pouring down the mountain. I had my back to this taking a photo in the other direction when I heard what sounded like a truck behind me. For a long time. When I turned around I realized it was an avalanche. I was so stunned watching it that I forgot to get the camera out for a while.


16,053 feet, on a fully loaded 18 horsepower XT250. There is a tunnel through the mountain about 600 feet lower, but this path leads over the tunnel and down the other side. The little 250 had no problems at 16,000 feet. To paraphrase Ed March of C90 Adventures, if you tell me you need a $20,000 adventure bike to do this ride, I will kick you where it hurts.

No photoshop. No playing with color scales. This is the real deal.


Yes, that’s a “” sticker on the top of that sign at the top of this pass. 15,289 feet.


Dirt/rock/shale road down the mountain in the rain.


Llanganuco Lake. Natural color.

I will try to post a few short videos tomorrow as well.

Videos from Monday’s ride and a little background

December 1, 2015

Yesterday’s ride:


We crossed though the Huascaran National Park twice. The lower (south) road is AN-107, and paved. We took that from PE-3N east. At the summit, instead of passing through the tunnel, we turned off onto the dirt pullout and took a dirt road up over the tunnel. I’m sure at one time you could do this road in a 4×4. Not any more. There are large boulders in the road that restrict the width, and areas where the edge has slid away, also making the road too narrow for more than a motorcycle or mountain bike.

On the east side, before Acochaca on AN-105, the road turns to dirt. We followed this to AN-106 (also dirt) and headed back west across another summit (and more incredible views of mountains, snow and glaciers), past Laguna Llanganuco to PE-3N and back to Caraz. Well, I did anyway. Ian stayed at a mountain lodge that offers some incredible treks not far from the lake.

The first 60 miles of the loop is more or less paved, most of it nicely. The last 100 miles is dirt, rock and shale road.

Here are three short videos of the ride up to the tunnel, over the tunnel, and down from the tunnel on AN-107. Due to the wifi here, it took me about 14 hours to upload this six minutes of video.

Four Seasons in a Day

December 3, 2015

Another brilliant day that is hard to describe. The sheer scale of everything here in Peru is indescribable. Photos just don’t do it justice.

Ian and I headed south from Huaraz (a bit late…his bike was securely locked in a garage — so securely that nobody could find the gentleman with the key to the garage). We turned into the Huascaran National Park again just south of Catac, and began the climb over the pass near the Pastoruri Glacier. When we turned off the highway, the temperatures were feeling a bit like summer at high elevation; probably in the low 80s. But we could see the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

A surprisingly large number of service station attendants are female. Pumping your own gas is nearly non-existant in South America.


Just turning off the highway onto the gravel road through Huascaran National Park. It’s about 27 miles across the park at this southern point.



As we began to climb towards 16,000 feet, the temps dropped of course. The only real complaint I have about my Klim Badlands jacket is that it’s necessary to take it off in order to zip up all the vents. Not terribly difficult, and I suppose it still beats the time it takes to put on a separate rainsuit if it starts raining. The scenery was no less stunning than Monday’s ride through the park further north.


I wasn’t expecting quite the temperature change we experienced though: when it began sleeting, I thought it would stop quickly.

At this point, it was starting to sleet.

When it started snowing, and accumulating on the ground, I knew it was going to be an interesting day. We crossed the pass at just under 16,000 feet, and stayed above 14,000 feet for quite a while. Heated grips are nice, but heated gloves would be much nicer. Heated grips don’t heat the tips of your thumbs, or your forefinger if you have it on the front brake or clutch lever. They also don’t do much to keep the backs of your hands warm. But I’ll certainly take them over not having them on days like this.


Eventually we dropped down below the snow and sleet, and hit the pavement for a brief distance. At the end of the pavement at La Union, we didn’t see any hotels that looked like they might have secure bike parking, so we continued on toward Rondos, climbing back up the mountain past some beautiful green fields and farm land.

Which is when it began to hail. Not big; just larger than pea-size. But at 30mph it still hurts. Slowing down helped, but the road quickly became muddy, and the pelting continued for more than 30 minutes. No photos here…it was getting late and I had no desire to stop in this weather.

We pulled into Rondos before dark. Rondos doesn’t even show up on many maps. It’s about five or six blocks long by about six blocks wide, with the typical central plaza. There isn’t really a hotel here. There is a small bodega (store) on one corner of the plaza, and the gentleman there rents out rooms, and has a small room to store the bikes inside (it only holds about three bikes, and there were three inside it when we arrived. He removed two of them so we could park inside. No idea where they went).

Lacking any other choices (we had planned to camp, but it was too wet, and looking like it might continue to get wetter), we took a room.

It looks better in the photo. Dirt floor, no electricity, but not raining in here. Oddly, the bikes were parked on a tile floor.

This was the first town I’ve been in where I felt uncomfortable. Everywhere I’ve been up to now, the locals have been incredibly friendly and curious about me, my bike, my travels, etc. No one in Rondos spoke to us. We definitely felt like outsiders and unwelcome. It was very odd. That said, we didn’t have any problems. It just felt different from the usual welcome I’ve experienced the past few months. To be fair, this is not a town on the typical tourist trail.

The next morning we continued on from Rondos to Huanuco. The first 20km or so was a dirt road used so little that it was mostly covered in grass. This might sound odd or made up, but it’s not: at one tiny village, I literally wasn’t sure if I was still on the road, or on the soccer field. One seamlessly blended into the other.

Just as I was about to snap a photo of Ian riding under this fallen tree, a branch sticking off the tree grabbed his helmet and threw him off. No damage. Up and rolling again.

The unused road eventually joined into a much more traveled dirt road, and we continued on towards Huanuco. Even the road workers patching the potholes on this dirt road were friendly, waving and giving us thumbs-up as we passed.

This is extremely common: a woman walking pigs or sheep down the road, usually accompanied by two or more dogs. At one point today I rounded a corner and a woman was leading two donkeys. I apparently spooked the donkeys before I could slow down and she just tossed the rope lead up into the air and let them go. They didn’t go far, but she wasn’t happy with me.

We arrived early in Huanuco, where we met up with Toby of Around The Block Moto Adventures. Toby leads guided rides throughout Peru, and rents and sells bikes (with a repurchase agreement) to tourists. He is a great source of trail and road information in Peru, and was nice enough to not only sell me a set of Pirelli MT21 tires this afternoon (it’s great to be back on knobbies), but he also led me to a tire shop that installed them for free (an agreement he has with them as he buys his tires there).

I’m planning to spend a couple of days with Toby before heading towards Lima.


December 8, 2015

Before I began this trip, while still in the planning stages, I attended a couple of events where people who had ridden around the world or were in the process of doing so gave presentations. One of these events was Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona; the other was a Horizons Unlimited meet in British Columbia. At both events, I heard a recurring theme from multiple speakers: that of travel burnout. I had noticed this in several blogs I had been reading as well. It seemed like most people hit a lull in their travels somewhere between six months and eighteen months into their trip.

Determined to prevent this, I built some “time off” into my schedule. I told myself in the beginning that I would try not to ride more than 250 kilometers a day, and try not to ride more than four days a week. I haven’t been totally successful in either one of those, but I’ve done a pretty good job overall.

The next leg of my journey ramps up the mileage and reduces the days off: no more taking a week to stay in one place. Beginning in January, I will need to cover just over 9,200 miles in 62 days. That still keeps me just under my 250 km/day limit, but I won’t get many days off unless I can cover more miles in a day. And I want days off between January and March because I will be in Patagonia, with some absolutely gorgeous scenery.

So in preparation for the next leg, I am taking a few weeks off. This will allow me to do some “housekeeping” chores, including obtaining my carnet (“car-nay”) for the bike, which is necessary for Africa. If you’re not familiar with a carnet, it is essentially a posted bond or guarantee that you will take the motorcycle back out of the country and not sell it while there. I also have to obtain a visa for Tanzania, the only country in Africa I will visit that requires a visa application in advance rather than obtaining it at the border.

In addition, I need to add some pages to my passport, as I’m running out of blank pages, and some countries will not allow you into their country unless you have a certain number of blank pages. As with many other aspects of this trip, these rules change as I go. For example, the United States just announced a couple of weeks ago that they will no longer offer extended pages for passports beginning January 1, 2016. The carnet process, which is difficult at best (and expensive), continues to get even more difficult: you can’t obtain a carnet in the United States. Until recently, U.S. citizens had to obtain a carnet through the Canadian Automobile Association. In March the CAA announced that it was no longer issuing carnets. So I applied through the Royal Automobile Club in London. Two weeks ago, the RAC announced it would no longer be issuing carnets.

I also have some medical follow-ups that need to be done before the end of the year, and this will require a return to the States.

The bike will be stored in Peru while I do some alternative traveling. I have a 90 day permit, so I have until February 16, 2016 to get out of Peru. Plenty of time.

Last night I rode a Hatun Pillko “Bus Cama” (literally Bed Bus, or Sleeper Bus) overnight from Huánuco to Lima. It’s a ten hour bus ride. I’m typically not into public transportation, or buses in general, so I was amazed at the comfort of the bus. You see these giant double-decker buses everywhere in Latin America. This is the first time I’ve been on one. It reminded me of riding the Shinkansen bullet trains in Japan. The bus was extremely quiet, and extremely smooth. They served a snack and drinks, had free wi-fi, and showed a movie (oddly, a Korean film with Spanish subtitles). The seats are somewhat like Business First class on international flights: they recline to nearly flat, and have a foot platform that joins to create a full bed, with partitions between seats. I have to say it was the most comfortable I’ve ever been on a form of ground transportation. At least once I got over the fear of riding in a bus in Peru. You have to remember, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on the other end of these behemoths, staring them down as they flew toward or past me.

Very common sight throughout Latin America. The sight of one of these struck fear as a motorcyclist, but as a bus passenger, there’s no better way to go.


Sleeper bed on the bus. Very comfy.

I arrived in Lima this morning and went to a concert tonight: one of my favorite California bands happened to be playing in Lima tonight. It was worth the experience, to see an audience of around a thousand people, most of whom don’t speak English, singing every word of their songs in English.

NOFX in concert at the Barranco Convention Center, which looks a lot like a House of Blues inside.

Lima is a large city. Miraflores, where I’m staying, is very clean and metropolitan, with a Starbucks about every three blocks. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a city person, but this one feels comfortable, at least for the short term.

So as I head off on intermission, don’t forget to check back here. I may not post much over the next few weeks, but I will hit the road again in Peru on January 8th and the following six or seven months will be a much faster pace, through Patagonia, Africa, Europe and Central Asia.

Stay tuned….and thanks for following along.