Day 216, Friday 23rd November, it felt great to be back on the road. After the miraculous repair job performed by Meastro and his boys in Pasto, Tough Miles set sail towards Ecuador. Petes bike had undergone some serious surgery, so we proceeded with caution and checked oil and water at regular intervals. It was only a short ride to the border, but the crossing itself took hours. As we rode between offices a new noise developed from Petes engine, a loud intermittent clattering sound. Neither of us could imagine what was causing this, but we didn’t have time to investigate. We both knew the odds of us making it down to Ushuaia by the end of the year were extremely slim at this stage. After completing the necessary paperwork we finally made it out of Colombia, and began our ride along the E35 towards Quito.
The last week or so had been extremely tough. I genuinely believed Pete would be stuck in Pasto waiting for his bike to be repaired for many more days, and I began mentally to prepare for riding on solo. Having now made it into Ecuador together, and seemingly got the trip back on track, well, kind of, we decided to quit while we were ahead and stop in Otavalo. Despite only being a small indigenous town, it was Friday, so in true Tough Miles style Pete and I managed to find somewhere to have a quiet drink……
This one goes out to the Maestro!
For some reason our nights out seem to be all or nothing, and the following morning I felt as rough as a badger’s arse. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, and despite a very late start, around mid-day, we both still felt drunk getting on the bikes. We stopped at an empty cafe for some breakfast and to try and sober up. Not being funny but the coffee tasted like soil and the bread was like filling my mouth with sawdust. We sat for 30mins or so in silence before battling on with the ride to Banos. Tough Miles.
Banos, also known as the adventure capital of Ecuador seemed like a cracking place to spend a few days, offering all sorts of activities such as hiking, biking, rafting etc. But we were behind schedule, and I guess everyday riding is our adventure activity! So after a quiet night in hostel Plantas Y Blanco we pushed on to Cuenca, a city located in the highlands of Ecuador at about 2500m above sea level. It was Sunday when we arrived, so literally everywhere was closed. Once we had checked into a hostel we tried to go for a couple of afternoon beers, but it seemed the local laws prevented anywhere from selling alcohol after 4pm, providing a perfect oppportunity for writing the next blog! The hostel, recommended by Team BMW was far from ideal. The only space left was two top bunks, which were so close to the ceiling that I could barely roll over without brushing my shoulder.
On Monday the 26th November we left Cuenca and re-joined Team BMW further down the road in Loja. We knew Marj wouldn’t let us down, and as we arrived our luchtime tasty sandwiches were waiting. That day we managed to cross the border into Peru and ride together to a town called Piura. It was a huge ride, and as we dropped out of the mountains the air temperature rocketed. Entering Peru was like riding through an animal farm, with countless goats, stray dogs, chickens, pigs and cows lining the side of the road. It’s difficult to predict when the next animal will decide to bundle across your path, so you really have to be on the edge of your seat! The scenery was fantastic though, and the wildlife and changing conditions are a constant reminder of the epic adventure you are part of.
For the following day we planned another long ride to reach Santa. That morning Pete was up and ready to go at 3.00am! I woke up and said “What the hell are you doing?!” He claimed I had said “It’s time” in my sleep. That must be the only time he’s ever got up before me! The road to Santa was long and straight, cutting through the middle of a desert. It was a nice temperature for riding, but the novelty of the scenery soon wore off and the day became a hard slog. Santa was hardly the seaside resort we had hoped for, and it became apparent that it would be another chicken dinner sat in a small cafe on the side of a dead town square, but that’s biking. At this stage we also noticed that Petes chain was knackered and that the tyres were degrading fast.
On Wednesday the 28th November we had a long hot ride through the desert to reach Lima, the capital and largest city of Peru.
En-route we stopped for lunch, at which point we decided it was best if we changed Petes chain before carrying on. Our only spare was already worn, rusty and stiff. Despite being in bad condition, it seemed better than the one currently fitted, which had stretched so much that even on maximum adjustment it was still very loose. After struggling to remove the split link, the job was fairly straight forward, although Petes chain guide was now so worn-out that the chain had begun rubbing against the metal carrier. Team BMW gave us some WD40 and had lunch waiting for us when we were done! A delicious fish pie/risotto, with fresh lemon juice, they do look after us!
It was a tough windy stint on our way to Lima, and as we entered the city people were beeping and waving their arms at us. We soon realised it was illegal for any motorcycles to use the 3-lane highway. One lady was so angry that whilst waiting in a traffic queue she was taking pictures of us on her phone and making hand signals to suggest she would report us to the police. We turned and laughed at her, finding it amusing how anyone could be so furious at the thought of sharing a road with a motorcyclist, especially given the fact we had foreign plates! As we headed into the city we stumbled across a decent bike shop, where much to our amazement we were able to purchase 2 new o-ring chains, 2 spark plugs, brake pads and some decent chain wax. After sorting our new spares it didn’t take us long to find a nice hostel for the night, called the House Project.
Our evening in Lima was made more interesting by a couple of keen paragliders staying in our hostel. After a few beers we followed them to the nearest cliff edge to watch them jump. It was a tense walk as they carried their parachutes and crash helmets to the spot they had in mind. In the end only one of them jumped, and apparently he was later arrested by the police. The other lad decided to stay and try and find his friend, leaving us and two girls to carry his equipment back to the hostel! Don’t worry boys, we’ve got this one.
The following day Team BMW went to visit a potato museum, I’m not joking. Pete and I decided to crack on to reach Pisco, where we planned to go on a tour to Isla De Plata, also known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’. The tour wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I was expecting some kind of sailboat, but instead we had a small speedboat crammed full with young squealing school girls!
The islands were covered in birds shit and smelt worse than Mad Dogs old motorcycle boots, but it was good fun and nice to see some penguins and seals.
In the afternoon we packed up and rode to Huacachina, a village in south west Peru built around a small natural lake in the desert.
This oasis is a real tourist hot spot, and I can see why. Besides being a spectacular sight, the village has many fun hostels, which offer sand dune buggy rides with a chance to try sandboarding. Team BMW arrived just in time for the sunset tour. The dunes are epic.
Back at the hostel the bikes were parked under some trees, which appeared to be home to some birds with the scoots. Big Dog managed to find a large cover to protect them, but after a few beers we thought it would be funny to uncover Petes bike and see his reaction to the mess in the morning. To be fair it was pretty funny seeing his bike covered in birds shit, but during a tough pack up in the intense heat that kind of joke is never going to go down too well. Sorry Scousa. That morning the sun was shining, the swimming pool was lined with girls in bikinis drinking cocktails, and we were dripping in sweat loading up the bikes.
Sometimes you have to question what you are doing, and it’s times like these that you realise this is no holiday, it’s a biking mission, and it’s time to push on.
Our next stop was Cusco, approximately 500miles heading directly east inland. Shortly after stopping to check out the famous Nazca lines Pete had a rear puncture. Thankfully it didn’t result in an accident, and by now we could swap a tube at the side of a road in a matter of minutes.
A large shard of metal had damaged the tyre, so we cut out a section of the old tube to use as a support patch on the inside wall. The rest of the day was an enjoyable ride as we cruised back into the mountains along a flowing twisty stretch of smooth tarmac. It was a cracking road, but it soon become extremely cold as we reached altitudes above 4300m. We split the journey by spending a night in Puquio. There wasn’t much to do there, but it was nice to walk around the small village, try out some local street food and admire the colourful Peruvian attire. We were slightly concerened about getting altitude sickness, having come from sea level we were now spending the night at 3200m. Far from ideal.
The following day we continued our ride towards Cusco. The road was fantastic, and it was difficult not to get carried away whilst connecting the apex of each sweeping corner. Often we would remind one another about Petes accident in Colombia, knowing that a similar mistake could cost us the rest of the trip, or even worse. In the afternoon Marj also got a rear puncture. Unusual to have 2 punctures in 2 days on a smooth tarmac road. The local kids gathered around to watch Team BMW repair the tyre.
By this stage we had dropped in altitude and temperatures had soared, so we all sat and enjoyed a homemade ice lolly before cracking on. It had been a tiring day, and the last 100km were a struggle for everyone. Spirits were lifted as we entered Cusco and finally arrived at the Loki hostel where we planned to stay. It was only late afternoon, and this hostel is renowned for having a party atmosphere, so it was time to get the beers in!
By now I’m sure you can guess how our first night ended in Cusco. To be honest, that’s all we can do, have a guess! I know it started with a few beers at the hostel bar, but where we went after that remains a mystery. The following day was unsurprisingly a complete right-off. At about 3pm we ventured down the road to buy some Powerade. On the way back up the hill towards the hostel we had to sit down on the step for a rest. I looked at Pete and said “I don’t know if I can go on, I don’t think I can make it”. We laughed at the situation, but in fairness, as Pete would say “this is the worst hang over of the trip so far”. Team BMW had a busy day organising the plans for a Machu Picchu tour, thanks guys. Tomorrow would be another day.
After an early night we all managed to get up at 6.15am and enjoy a daytrip to Machu Picchu, often referred to as the “City of the Incas”. If you are going to visit any ruins, anywhere in the world, then it should be these!
On Thursday the 6th December we left Cusco and headed to Puno. Despite only being 350km, it was a really tough ride for me. The previous day I was very ill, throwing up all night and shivering with fever like symptoms. Much of the afternoon was spent riding at altitudes above 4000m, in freezing cold, windy conditions. I fell asleep at least 3 times on the bike. There’s nothing worse than feeling so tired when trying to ride. We stopped for lunch in a small remote village. I could barely stomach any food, but I was grateful to have a rest and warm my hands. It was a relief to reach Puno, and after finding a suitable hostel I went straight to bed.
The following day we visited the floating islands of Lake Titicaca.
These floating islands are made entirely from the totora reeds and are the home of the Uros tribe, one which pre-dates the Incan civilization. As usual Big Dog was ready for action, dressed head to toe in full Patagonia gear. Looking the absolute business.
It was an excellent half day tour, and quite incredible to see how these people live. Pete actually met a girl on one of the islands and has decided to become part of the tribe. Here he can be seen enjoying his new life with the reeds.
Marj and Big Dog found it hard to take him seriously as he explained over a coffee, but he just smiled and said “I’m happy here, this’ll do me”.
Next stop Bolivia, watch ouuuuuuut.
More images to follow shortly.