Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Peru - Moto Trip: The Americas

We entered Peru on December 27th to an inauspicious beginning.
As mentioned in the previous post, Johanna had a crash on the Ecuador/Peru border and injured her knee. Since we were caught in between borders, and despite her pain, Johanna decided we should keep going since stopping there wasn't really an option. So we headed on to Piura, our first stop in Peru. Our first impressions were not good. Somehow the landscape had completely changed as we crossed the border from mountainous and green to desolate desert covered in dust, sand and trash. Luckily, we had only a little over a hundred miles to cover that day, and we arrived in Piura around 2pm. While Johanna's knee didn't seem too serious, we were concerned that it might be more than it seemed since later that day she couldn't put any weight on it. Luckily, she felt much better the next morning and we were able to move on to Chiclayo, our next destination, although she was still in some pain. 

Chiclayo and the road there wasn't much of an improvement. We took the PanAmerican Highway which was crowded with angry Peruvian drivers, dust, more trash, and so much wind that our gas mileage went down from 75 m/gal to 55 m/gal. And of course there were no gas stations for 173 km (107 miles) which was cutting it a bit close for our 2.6 gallon tanks.

The next day we continued on the PanAmerican to Huanchaco Beach dodging insane drivers the whole way. Peruvians are by far the worst and most aggressive drivers we've experienced so far. We've had several actively try to force us off the road simply for passing them when they've been traveling at 55 kph in a 100 kph zone. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) Peruvian drivers exhibit the following behaviors:
  • Drivers may be impolite and irresponsible.
  • Many drivers do not obey traffic laws.  
  • Drivers often ignore the DWI law; alcohol is a contributing factor in many road crashes. 
  • Many drivers lack adequate driver training.  Drivers do not have to take or pass a road safety course to get a license.
  • Most people regard road crashes as inevitable.
  • Headlights are often non-functional. Many drivers fail to use turn signals.
  • Drivers usually ignore the few traffic signals that exist.
  • Both bus and truck drivers tend to drive at excessive speeds and are likely to pass other vehicles, even on narrow mountain roads or under foggy conditions.

We have found these to be entirely accurate.

Luckily we were able to find an nice little place on the beach were we could cook our own dinner and watch the sunset over the ocean with a beer.

The next morning we continued to the small town of Chao to spend a nice night in a sex motel that had placards on the walls admonishing us to not get blood on the sheets or ejaculate on the walls. But we never let a sign tell us what to do. We set off the next morning to the legendary Canon Del Pato which would finally get us off the PanAmerican.

The route led us to some amazing off-road terrain that looked like we were on Mars. After a while we finally joined up with a paved road again and entered the Canon del Pato (Canyon of the Duck). The road was a narrow, basically one lane road that ran through a series of tunnels carved out of the mountainside. Signs advised us to honk our horns around every corner, as there was no other way to alert oncoming traffic. This wasn't the most comfortable ride, but it did offer some fantastic views.

After a long day we finally made it to Huaraz, where we spent New Year's. The next day we took a day off to get Josh a much needed haircut and met up with Mary Beth and Bruce again for lunch. The next morning we hit the road early and headed into Huascaran National Park. At first we thought it would just be a simple dirt road with some nice mountain views. But it turned out to be the best off road ride we've had this entire trip so far. The terrain had its challenges, but was never too difficult. And the views were epic. Every switchback would lead us to a new sight and we took several hours to traverse the 55 km due to how often we stopped to take photos. This was also the first day we began experiencing dog attacks, with three separate packs of wild dogs appearing and chasing our bikes. This would become a recurring problem in Peru, for reasons we can't explain.

After finally making our way back to pavement we stopped in a small town for lunch and soon found our bikes parked in the middle of a parade. The parade participants all wore what we can only describe as a black face mask. We're not sure what this parade was for, but it seemed pretty racist, and we saw the same celebration in many small towns that day, frequently blocking the only road that went through. After lunch we spent hours on the 3N, which was frequently just a dirt road filled with potholes and more crazy Peruvian drivers.

Finally we reached the city of Huanuco as the sun was setting, and learned that Johanna's rack had snapped on both ends AGAIN. Luckily we met Samuel at the bike shop next to our hostel and he agreed to weld us some new side racks. Over the next 2 days Samuel worked hard to get our racks done and reinforce the existing racks, as well as find Johanna a new front tire. Finally we were ready to ride again.
On January 5th we took a long, cold, rainy ride to Tarma. Leaving Huanuco was a nightmare, with one van driver getting so upset we passed him, he sped up and literally pushed against Josh's bike, trying to knock him off the road. Despite the complete assholes on the road in Peru, we enjoyed the small city of Tarma, finding a surprisingly good restaurant and a very nice hostel there.

The next morning we rode high into the mountains before the rains started. We rode for a while in intermittent rain before reaching the 3S and the Canon del Rio Mantaro, listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the world, a 147km long one lane road that ran beside the Mantaro river through an impressive canyon. This was a grueling ride, filled with deadly drops. That combined with heavy rain and the usual terrible/stupid Peruvian drivers made it an exhausting day. Around 4:30 we found a small village with a hostel and decided we couldn't go any further. For $6 we had a tiny bed in a cold room, but it was enough.

In the morning we were on the road before 7 am and rode another 60 km until we exited the canyon, finally finding civilization and gasohol again. We continued South East to the city of Ayacucho where we fought through a bit of traffic before ascending into the mountains. On the way out of the city we were stopped at police roadblocks twice. But once they saw we were white they would shout "Gringos" and wave us on.

The rain continued to slam down on us as we continued to climb higher and higher. When we reached the top of the mountains, it went from rain to hail, to slushy snow. We're not sure, but we think the altitude was around 16,000 feet. This caused us to slow down for fear of sliding out, and it was the coldest ride we've had to date. One we are not eager to repeat. Soon we found ourselves in a rapid descent through thick fog that took over an hour to escape.

After 70 km of downhill switchbacks we started ascending again and found ourselves in the small town of Uripa. Johanna had found a hotel on her iOverlander app that sounded pretty nice, so we decided to stay there for the night. The hotel was surprisingly nice and had a beautiful garden in the back.

The next day we went back up a mountain and then descended 100 km into the city of Abancay where we stayed for the night. The next morning we were up bright and early for our ride into Cusco, where we planned to take a much needed couple days off. While in Cusco we met up with Mary Beth and Bruce again, as well as George and Santiago.

We explored Cusco a bit and did an oil change before hitting the road again. Santiago joined us and we rode towards Puno, stopping in the tiny town of Ayaviri due to the freezing cold weather. The next morning we  made it to Puno and stopped in Chucuito to visit the fertility shrine. We then headed to our hotel in Puno and got to check out Lake Titicaca. The next morning we took some backroads South West to the Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca. A beautiful but windy national park with several volcanoes. We rode at over 14,000 feet for most of the day before descending and stopping in the city of Arequipa.

Moments later these two dumped gasoline all over my bike.

Thanks to Santiago Tolman for the photo!
From there we cut through the mountains to the coast, enjoying some amazing sights before we reached the ocean. We followed the coastal road to the small city of Ilo, where we hung around the harbor.

Thanks to Santiago Tolman for the photo!

Mobile enough to scavenge. Brutal enough to pillage.

In the morning we set off again, this time for the Chilean border. We spent 20 days in Peru and saw a large amount of the country over more than 2,000 miles. In several ways it was our toughest country yet, but it also had some of the best riding we've encountered on this trip.