February 2, 2015

South America: Peru

June 4, 2014:

We sadly left the warmth of the jungle and headed towards Peru, crossing the Andes mountains by barge on Lake Titicaca - the largest lake in South America at 12.5k elevation. After two long days of riding we made it to Cusco. It was sunny and warm and we were excited to explore the beautiful historic city. After a couple of days of hanging out in Cusco, we rode a couple days through the Sacred Valley towards Machu Picchu. We rode to the village of Santa Teresa, the town closest to Machu Picchu, but had some difficulty finding a secure place to leave our bike and gear while we hiked to Machu Picchu. Luckily the man at the tourist office was kind enough to let us store our belongings in his office and lock up the bike in the Municipal yard. We were a little nervous since it was still out in the open, but we crossed our fingers and went on our way. We took a cab to Hyrdoelectrica where the trailhead along the railroad tracks started and hiked along the river to Aguas Calientes, the village at the base of the ruins only accessible by train or foot. We started our trek to Machu Picchu at 5am and before exploring the ruins we hiked up to 10k feet up Machu Picchu Mountain. It felt like a million stairs climbing above the clouds, but was well worth the views when we reached the top. It was so surreal to explore this place. We left the ruins, hiked back to Santa Teresa and picked up the bike, then rode into the night to the ancient village of Ollantaytambo. We explored the ancient Salt Terraces of Morray where they have been harvesting salt for over a thousand years. We left the Sacred Valley and headed northbound each day through the Andean countryside. Sometimes it would take an entire day just to go down and up a switchback mountain to valley road, looking at the same scene the entire day and feeling as if you aren't even moving, but no doubt stunning views and amazing people along the way. 

When we made it to the town of Ayococho we were stopped in the plaza trying to figure out where the moto district might be as we were in need of a new tire. A man on a scooter stopped and asked if we needed help, so he called his friend who spoke English and led us to a Honda shop where we found a new tire. The  man had a garage nearby, so after James replaced the tire him and his wife showed us around the beautiful colonial town before we stayed the night at their apartment with their four dogs and five cats. He was an interesting man whose grandpa had escaped China by sneaking onto a ship and hiding in a shipping container and when it docked in Lima, Peru he had no idea where he was but got off the boat and started a life in Peru. His apartment was filled with all kinds of stuff, including a human skull, and we ate dinner at his friend's pizza place called Magia Negra. 

After spending a few sick days in Huancayo and recovering with Chinese food and icecream in Huanuco, we headed up into the mountains to the Antimina mine - one of the largest copper/zinc mines in the world. It was insane and truly looked like something out of science fiction movie. I had never seen a mine so massive and covered in so many machines just stripping away the mountains. We barely found a place to pitch our tent before dark and woke up to wild horses nibbling our frost covered tent and beautiful mountain views overlooking the Cordillera Blancas. We headed into the mountains the next day and found a great place to camp in a field of lupine overlooking glacier covered peaks. 

We headed northwest towards the coast and rode through Canyon del Pato along the Rio Santa cruising through 35 tunnels hand-cut through solid stone. The construction of this one lane road was nuts. We blasted through the sandy northern coastline en route to Ecuador and dreaming of the beach. 

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