Friday, May 29, 2015

The End of South America

It's been a while since I did a blog so here is a catch-up. After the canyon ride it was up the coast to Hauchaco. Hauchaco is famous as the place of the original surfers - actually they are fishermen and use reed boats but it is a tourist must see and the town is full of them including modern day surfers. The other thing the town boasts is the Chan Chan ruins which is a pre Colombian city of some considerable size. Because it is on the coast and was made of adobe it is largely just piles of dirt but the government has restored part of the city so we might get a glimpse of it immense size. Stayed in a lovely hostel overlooking the beach and watched the most gorgeous sunset. The next day was a 550km ride to the beach village of Colan and my last night in Peru. I'm surprised that I am still in the desert this far north. Somehow I thought it might end at Lima. The roadside rubbish is getting worse. Trash is the one great disappointment of Peru. Cusco and parts of Lima are great but the rest of the country is just a rubbish tip. Oh, and the traffic is manic and noisy - jeez is it noisy. I really liked Peru for all that and would willingly go back.
Ecuador was a surprise. I thought I would see bananas, sea and mosquito's but instead I got mountains, rain (for the first time in 10,000 km) cold and dairy farms complete with pivot irrigators. What I didn't get was trash and bad driving - Ecuador in short was a thorough delight. I stopped at Cuenca, wet and frozen to death and pulled into the first hotel with a car park. It had been a long day and I wasn't fussy. Shit did it cost a bunch so I made sure I used all the hot water as I soaked in the tub and I even used the flash dressing gown provided. The bed in the room was so large that if I got tangled up in the bed clothes it would have taken me a day to find my way out. Had a most delightful meal of specialty soup and goat meat stew washed down with an excellent beer. That will be $109 US dollars thank you sir. Next day was another marathon day of 450 km, all in the mountains and all in the rain. It's surprisingly hard work on an under-powered bike. I arrived in Quito to find Colin in situ and Robin and Diane in the Galapagos. Their trip cost approx $1700 US`each in the end and at that price I would have gone so I am annoyed that events conspired against me. The other thing we all stuffed up on was not stopping at the equator - oops and I was leading. The few days spend in Quito was in a dump of a hostel but at least it was cheap and there were people about. Mostly it has been a
pretty lonely affair to date. Hostels unfortunately are full of young backpackers and we have little in common with them so it would be really nice to meet some other bikers. The ride to Colombia was nothing special, just more mountains and slow trucks. Our last night in Ecuador was in Tolcan where I tried out the local shoe shine man for the cleanest pair of boots it is possible to have and as a special treat - an ice cream sunday which they put bloody grated cheese on.
Getting into Colombia was easy for the others but I was missing an entry stamp for Ecuador so the guy would not stamp my exit and without it I could not enter Colombia. So I went over to Colombian immigration, offered to fall on my sword, and they let me in - whew. So I have never officially been to Ecuador so you have to ignore everything I have said about the place.
Sadly Colombia was going to be short lived. The ferries that operate for Cartagena in the north are no longer running so our only option is to fly our bikes to Panama from Bogota. So Bogota here we come. The last part of the ride Cali to Bogota was epic. The road went through the mountains and despite it being a Sunday there were trucks everywhere. I take my hat off to the drivers as they crawled their way up some pretty steep roads and sharp corners. Miss a gear and they simply stopped, some broke down completely and blocked the road.and one had tipped over into a ditch. When we got there the trailer had been righted but its load was still in the ditch. There were lots of delays but we made the 450km in good time. We found a reasonably good hostel in the "old town" of Bogota. Monday was a stat holiday so we just hung around the area - found a Juan Valdez cafe. Juan Valdez is the national trademark of Colombian coffee. The old town is a dump - broken pavement, graffiti, dog shit, tramps and other low life every where. We filled in the time by going out to the "salt Cathedral" which is a religious attraction buried deep inside a salt mine. Stupidly I did not take my camera because it was an excellent tour. We also went to the Gold Museum which displayed ancient
gold artifacts recovered from archaeological digs. It too was excellent.
We made contact with a freight forwarder on the Tuesday and booked for the next day and in the afternoon I took my bike to a Suzuki dealer to have the chain and sprockets replaced along with the front tyre. This was my third front tyre (I'm still on my second rear). The chain kit and tyre was approx $500 kiwi - last time it was that price just for the tyre. It was a huge dealership with 18 work stations and all but two had bikes in them. The Police use Suzuki's here so the place was full of police as well. The big shock was the freight bill for the bike - $1,500 US ouch. Next day we duly dropped off our bikes to the airport, waited hours for customs clearance and police checks and went back to our digs. Our bikes and us were about to leave South America. I had ridden 24,300 km in South America and will be glad to leave. It is 12,500 km to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Trash in Peru

Chan Chan

Chan Chan

Chan Chan

Chan Chan



Paradise me thinks

Street art Huachaco

From my room in Huachaco

These are moto taxis and they are everywhere in Peru

Still in the desert

Rubbish - that's right it must be Peru

More desert - now encroaching onto the road


Colon - last night in Peru.

Back into the Andes in Ecuador

Dairy cattle - in Ecuador?


Yep, this guy has strapped his kid to himself for the ride home

Another traffic jam


Only in Colombia? Well no this is pretty typical everywhere even for buses

Lots of these quaint old trucks.

The Colombians are bridging the Andes it seems

Friday, May 15, 2015

Canon del Pato

Canon del Pato or Canyon of the Duck is I suppose a 60 km ride through a canyon between the White and Black mountains (Blanco and Negra). It is a must do on every adventure riders list as they head up or down the Pan American Highway. I went in at its southern end and out to Chimbote on the coast. It's a long ride just getting to the start of the canyon but once I reached last village it came on with a rush. I suppose two things make it such a fearsome ride; the narrow winding roads with the most fearsome drop offs to the canyon floor and the large number of tunnels. The southern end of the canon road  is sealed, not that it is much help because it is covered with loose gravel anyway but it is enough to give some confidence you won't skid off into the river below. The pucker factor is that there are no guard rails to stop you simply driving over the edge. I've never driven off a road in my life but for some reason my mind conjured up images of me doing just that so I drove as close to the opposite side of the road as I could. On coming traffic, though light, was no fun especially if they were trucks, the drivers of which showed no concern for my position at all. I was strangely relieved to be through the worst of it. Later the road turned to gravel which was as rough as hell. It killed my chain guard which then wrapped itself around the front sprocket. Half an hour in the dust and sun had it cleared but unknown at the time was that it bent the clutch pushrod which allowed a litre of fresh synthetic oil to escape on my way to Chimbote. I only found out the next day when it was daylight. It took a bit of fixing but I eventually got underway. I'm heading north again.
Chile's drying in the sun

Typical town en route

Moto taxi's are everywhere

The canyon

Duck (Pato) River

One of the many tunnels

No guard rails gave me the willies

It's an impressive piece of engineering

Sunset over the Andes and I'm still miles away from Chimbote.

Two Weeks in Lima

First order of the day was to find the Honda dealer recommended in a HUBB report. I gave the dealer a list of items to attend to, the top item was the stator. To all our surprise two days later it was done and we could collect the bike. When pushed as to what he had done about the stator he got a little vague but assured us we were fine. We hardly got 10 minutes down the road and all the old symptoms were back so back to the dealer we went. This time he got an electrician in to check and he confirmed the stator was dead and needed rewinding. Two days later, rewind done, we are on our way for the second time. We got just a little further than last time. So back we go for the second time but this time to Endurance Motors, a dealer recommended by the Yamaha importer. Jackpot, within 5 minutes they diagnosed a poor rewind job, guaranteed to do the job properly and I would be gone on Thursday at the earliest. Unfortunately this was already Thursday so he was talking about a week away. Come Thursday as promised, rewind done and a Yamaha rectifier installed in place of the dead Suzi one plus a new battery and I am finally on my way after a 14 day stopover. Our schedule had us staying just one night. So, with 14 nights in a none to cheap hotel in Miraflores and a hefty repair bill it was sure an expensive stopover. The other expense was time. We can ill afford these kinds of delays so the others decided they needed to move on. I don't blame them. Robin and Dianne have decided to go the the Galapagos so their 5 day trip affords me the opportunity to catch them up in Quito. Colin has already been to the Galapagos some years ago when he sailed a yacht there so he will sit out the duration in Quito, Ecuador for the party to reform.
Downtown Lima

These balcony's are a feature of the old city.

The city centre

There's always a stature of some chap on a horse.

Lima is a desert city on the Pacific coast

These mini buses compete with taxis and regular buses 

A Miraflores "policeman". The residence pay this force and they are in addition to the national police. It works, Miraflores has no graffiti.