Peru Motorcycle Diary, Chapter One: Lima to Huanchaco

7 May

We’re on our way!

I’m documenting impressions from the support vehicle but as this is Stuart’s adventure he’ll edit as we go along and have the last word in the concluding chapter. (Videos slow to upload so not able to be done in sequence, sorry.)

This diary is also for our compañeros, especially Richard (who celebrated his 50th birthday on this trip) and his best friend Mark from Yorkshire. And a big shout out to our Adventure Peru Motorcycling team on the road comprising Señor David Groves (company owner-manager and backup driver), James (his son and assistant), Carlos (driver, alternate leader nurse and fixer) and finally, Franco aka ‘Che’ (motorcycle group leader and ace mechanic).

But to return to the beginning.

Our meeting point on day zero of the tour was Hotel Carmel in Miraflores, Lima. The ever amiable David had met us at the airport after an uneventful flight from Santiago, Chile. We did little more than stroll around Miraflores, eat and sleep. Jetlag was still a nuisance.

Parque Kennedy, Miraflores

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Day one we met up with James, Richard and Mark in the lobby just prior to our afternoon flight to Cajamarca. The six of us flew north in a thirty-seater Dash 8 hugging the left side of the Central Andes Cordillera. The one hour twenty minutes passed quickly spotting mountain peaks through cotton wool clouds. Some turbulence as we approached Cajamarca kept the trip interesting.

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On the ground there were hand shakes and kisses all round from Carlos who’d come to collect us. Home base for the tour company is David’s purpose built house/hotel just outside Baños del Incas, ten minutes from Cajamarca. Set on a hillside at 2,800 metres the property has a panoramic view of dairy pastures and the mountain range as far as the eye can see. For five months of the year, when David isn’t running the tours, his housekeeper, Susan (Franco’s wife), looks after the place. Susan prepared pumpkin soup followed by beef with a piquante garlic, tomato, onion and red pepper sauce for dinner. I was given quinoa and a beetroot and broccoli salad – delicious!

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Chef Susan

Day two was a half-day familiarisation ride to San Marcos for the group with both Carlos and Franco on motorcycles. Unfortunately it was unseasonably rainy and one of the bikes had a problem with the steering bearings, but everyone had big smiles on their faces once they’d showered and had a hot cup of tea.

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Breakfast meeting

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Carlos front, Mark left, David right

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Stuart and his steed.

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In the morning I strolled down the road past farmworkers, mobile fish sellers, patient tethered donkeys and tiny shophouses. The women look striking in their trousers, petticoat, skirt and poncho topped with a huge white straw hat, often working with a baby slung on their backs.

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Susan had supermarket shopping to do so David, Susan and I walked then caught a minibus into Baños del Incas. David showed me the original Inca hot spring bathing complex where they now have sections for locals and tourists. Definitely one to experience on our return from the tour. As the sign (by the exit) says, the water temperature is over 78 degrees centigrade. There were several families with toddlers but no guard rails. I couldn’t look.

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The baths.

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Town monument to Atahualpa

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Cajamarca church by night

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Cajamarca

Day Three was a leisurely start to what became quite a hard day for the riders. The first leg for them was Baños del Incas back to Cajamarca to refuel then up the mountain range to join the main road to the coast. David, Carlos, James and I travelled in the double cab Toyota pickup truck carrying the luggage, spare parts, fuel and water. The mountains here experience good rainfall and wherever they can landowners practice vertical farming. How they maintain such steep plots is mind boggling.

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David’s mud map of day three route.

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Carlos, James and Oswald (gardener) load the truck

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Carlos and me at the mirador before the descent

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We regrouped after an hour of winding mountain roads at a bodega at Magdalena. The local sugar cane is turned into a basic rum that’s sold in plastic bottles. Franco keeps a hip flask of the stuff at the ready to wet the coca leaves and lime wad he keeps in his cheek and chews constantly when on the road. Mark and Richard got into the spirit (pun intended) and purchased a bottle for consumption that night. I stuck to buying small cakes to share.

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Left to right Richard, Mark, David, Stuart, Carlos, Franco, James

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Franco

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Appropriately named ‘The Fat One’

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Transporting sugar cane.

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Next stop was lunch near the artificial lake at Tembladera. The restaurant was very basic and not at all clean but the food was okay and no one got sick. As in most places there were lots of dogs roaming around including a sad old mother who’d had more than her fair share of litters and one very cute puppy.

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Carlos dog napping.

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We were now almost at sea level and the land was bone dry except where the river was diverted to irrigate rice fields. The last part of the trip we passed dunes and a lot of nothing before turning south at Ciudad de Dios onto the Panamerican Highway towards Pacasmayo. If there is a hell on earth this is it. Burning rubbish by the side of the road, endless plastic litter, children digging through garbage, women panning the spilt rice from the dirt they’d scooped up, and half finished adobe houses.

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Sacks of rice.

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Stu taking a pi$$ on the Panamericana (no disrespect intended).

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We filled up with diesel at a petrol station owned by Carlos in Paijan and met one of his sisters. We were a good fifteen minutes behind the motorcycle group now and it was getting towards sunset with intermittent rain showers, a strong cross wind and an endless stream of speeding trucks. I knew Stuart would be getting tired after six hours and his night blindness concerned me.

At 6pm we turned just before Trujillo to take the coastal road to Huanchaca and Hotel Bracamonte across the road from the beach and the Pacific Ocean. I was mightily relieved to see our boys standing in hotel reception checking in! They earned their beers that night.

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Hotel Bracamonte.

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Day Four was a lay day for good reason. Two of the most significant archaeological sites are located close to Trujillo. By luck we got chatting to a professional archaeologist, Klaus Honninger, and his friend, amateur archaeologist Rob Brenner, at breakfast. Klaus is the chap who persuaded the Peruvian authorities to stop the Dakar rally from taking place in the Peruvian desert two years ago (it runs in Chile now). According to Klaus the route led directly through significant archaelogical and paleological sites.

Following their advice Stuart and I set off by taxi early to visit the Moche complex dubbed by 1990s archaeologists Temples of the Sun and the Moon (although there is no evidence to tie them to the sun and the moon) and the adobe city Chan Chan.

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Rob left and Klaus right.

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The White Mountain

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Indiana Jane.

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Moche motif representing their highest diety.

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Family insignia on adobe brick.

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With our guide Enith.

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Administrative ‘temple of the Sun’.

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Sacrificial alter for public viewing.

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Section of exterior where tomb robbers entered.

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Illustrated Moche myths.

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The temple of the moon is currently the only one able to be visited and it’s worth the effort. Our guide Enith managed to condense an awful lot of information into our one hour walking tour. The accompanying museum is well curated with impressive ceramics.

The Chimu adobe city of Chan Chan is impressive for the scale of its construction but doesn’t have the detail of the other. Apart from the Chimu motifs on the palace walls it reminded me of the Kasbahs of Morocco.

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The day ended with a group trip back into Trujillo for a stroll around Plaza de Armas and an Italian dinner complete with opera singing octagenarian Venetian owner.

The men are well fortified for the next challenging stage.

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Gorgeous Trujillo Cathedral.

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Plaza de Armas, Trujillo

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Selfie with ‘Che’.

One Response to “Peru Motorcycle Diary, Chapter One: Lima to Huanchaco”

  1. Judith Kaplan May 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    I love following your adventures. You are both amazing. Stay safe!

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