Monday, January 21, 2013

Longggg dayyyy.....

Day 95 (January 18, 2012)
Arequipa, Peru to Cuzco, Peru
Day's Ride: 376 Miles

Man, I hate riding in the rain, especially above 14,000 feet. And I hate missing turn-offs.

The night before leaving Arequipa, I picked up a late Christmas present to myself, transported to Peru courtesy of bubbletron's boyfriend, Scott.

When I had realized that my front sprocket was bad, I got on the internet and overnighted a new one to him; he was able to bring it with him when he flew into Arequipa to ride with bubbletron. I really lucked out on that; the one that Felipe had given me the day before ended up not working.

As I left Arequipa the clouds finally disappeared and I was treated to a magnificent view of the nearby volcanoes: Misti and Chachani.

The route I had decided to take to Cuzco was only 280 miles according to google maps; I figured that a significant portion of that would be gravel, which made me quite happy. The first part of the route crossed through the Salinas-Aguada Blanca National Reserve which was purportedly replete with hordes of wild Vicuña, a camelid cousin of the Llama.

I soon saw signs for Vicuña crossings:

Before long I came across the actual Vicuña themselves. This little booger totally ignored me and refused to cooperate with my efforts at photography. Despite honking my horn, reving my engine, and screaming at him, he blatantly refused to look at me.

I continued on and eventually came upon a massive traffic jam. Skirting along the shoulder, I soon came to the front of the blockage and found the reason:

Having a motorcycle is a huge blessing in situations like these. Instead of waiting with the other cars, I jumped down into the shoulder and rode past, hardly even bothering to slow down.

The views in the Reserve were spectacular. Riding along in high alpine prairies at 14,000 feet, I was treated to views of the nearby peaks which had been dusted with a light covering of snow by the previous night's storms.

Riding through the reserve I saw a number of dirt roads leading up into the alpine. I figured that I had enough time to spare, so I took a little detour in hopes of riding with some Vicuña, or at least just getting a little bit of dirt riding in.

I had to stop for picture time eventually....

After a while I decided to start heading back to the main road. I decided to follow a different route that I hopped would skirt northeast and reconect with the road, therby saving me the need to backtrack.

Eventually it dumped me out into a series of sandy/muddy washes and I had a fun time skidding around with my slightly worn Pirrelli's until I was able to jump back up onto the pavement.

Back on the main road I found yet another example of why it's not a good idea to ride at night down here: coming around a bend at 50 MPH I was brought to a double wheel skidding stop by this:

The road finally passed out of the Reserve and continued to climb to higher altitudes:

I began to pass through small rain showers and saw herds of domesticated Llamas and Alpacas grazing beside the road.

I kept my eyes peeled for the turn off to Cuzco, but saw nothing. Eventually I pulled over and consulted my GPS, iPhone, and paper map. With a mixture of horror and regret, I realized that I had overshot the turnoff by about 30 miles. I kicked myself for not getting a lat/long the night before and plotting it on the GPS. I figured that the route would be marked by a sign or at least be fairly obvious. I now realized that I wouldn't have enough fuel to backtrack to the turnoff and make it all the way to Cuzco.

This left me with the unenviable prospect of taking an extra day to get to Cuzco, or pushing hard along the alternate route and riding an extra 100 miles at high altitude through crappy weather. I did what most reasonable people in my situation would do: I chose to push.

As I still had about 220 miles to go at this point, I decided to break it up into 110 mile segments and only dismount after having completed a segment. The weather continued to be brisk and wet. Before long I noticed ominous dark clouds on the horizon.

As I got closer, I realized that this was a pretty serious storm. Crooked forks of lightning began stabbing downward out of the clouds and the wind picked up into a gale.

Once again I was presented with two options: pull over and wait for the storm to pass, or speed up, tuck in behind the windshield and blow through. I chose option two. Entering the storm I was immediately pelted by waves of hale and fat droplets of rain. Before long I was soaked to the bone and wondering if I had made the right choice; probably not, but it was too late to turn back now.

Eventually I made to the other side, albeit significantly wetter and significantly colder.

I continued to push hard and stopped only after I had made the 110 mile mark. Pressed for time, lunch consisted of an entire roll of Maria Cookies.

The weather cleared up a little bit and I made the final run down out of the mountains into Cuzco.

I pulled into Cuzco around 6:00 PM, just as it was getting dark, and went to the Kokopelli Hostel where I met up with Clean Watt (Dylan) and three of the other riders that had been in Ecuador for the new years eve gathering at Cayumbe. I was exhausted. After downing a large pizza and a few beers, I went back to the Hostel and crashed hard, despite the obnoxious hipsters pounding away in an impromptu drum-circle.

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