Peru Motorcycle Diary, Chapter Four: Huaraz to Casma

14 May

I made the mistake of picking up a copy of Paul Theroux’s 1979 ‘The Old Patagonian Express, by Train Through The Americas’, from the Santa Cruz Hotel’s lounge library.

Once you’ve read Theroux, any other travel prose, especially one’s own, is pedestrian. Here’s Theroux on income disparity in Lima. ‘I knew I was an alien; but these people? They were poor, and the poor are always aliens in their own country.’

I so badly wanted to steal that book. I even thought about posting it back to them. I comfort myself with the thought that Theroux offers words only. The images and videos I capture seem to interest people as much, or more, than words.

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The trio of Lake Llanganuco bikers returned to our Huaraz hotel at 6:40pm last night with more tales of dark precipitous dirt roads, boulders, and mean dogs, but still had energy to go out dining and discoing. Yorkshiremen and Peruvians are built tough!

A piece of advice I’d give to anyone planning a trip to northern Peru would be to skip the month of May unless you can sleep through the constant din of street bands, barking dogs and firecrackers. It was three A.M. before they called it a night. I haven’t heard such an extended racket since we spent a New Year’s Eve in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Day Ten today was the blue sky day we all wanted for the trip from Huaraz to Casma near the Pacific coast.

Just after 10 A.M. we began climbing the sealed road above Huaraz to a point almost level with the Cordillera Blanca. White clouds obscured many of the snowy peaks but we gained an appreciation of the grandeur of the Andes as an unbroken chain of mountains.

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Huaraz

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Above the tree line the flora are quite different from the Australian alpine flowers.

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From the sealed road I hopped onto the back of Franco’s bike for the kilometre of gravel road up to the highest point to shoot this panorama.

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With the best motorcycle mechanic in Peru!
That and a short ride later that day was as much pillion as I felt it necessary to do in Peru.

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Richard in reverie.

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We did however need a few minutes while Franco tinkered some more with Stuart’s bike. It seemed that most stops now involved Franco tweaking or fixing some element on one of the bikes including his own Transalp.

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It was all downhill then, some of it in cloud, with a brief rest stop for this view of the valley and Inca graves in caves on the sheer mountainside.

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Franco’s mechanic’s skills were even brought to bear on a passing Peruvian motorcyclist who stopped when he spotted our group and asked for and received help replacing a missing screw on his exhaust protector. That’s him in the red helmet.

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Our lunch stop in the tiny town of Hariamoto coincided with yet another street band, this time brass. Their supporters walked alongside carrying a crate of beer for the thirsty musicians.

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When we asked for a table for eight in a Polleria restaurant two very old women in well worn straw hats were moved to make room for us. They seemed okay with that but I felt bad for them.

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The next stretch was more desert, dust and strong winds. Mark had a puncture which Franco repaired swiftly.

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Just short of our destination for the night, El Farol Inn at Casma, we pulled into the Cerro Sechin archaeological site. It was fifteen minutes past closing time but they accomodated us.

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Cerro Sechin was the capital of a civilisation dating back to 1600BC http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerro_Sech%C3%ADn. What is preserved today is the outline of some buildings part way up a hill, some ceramics and relief carvings. We wanted to get off the road before sunset so made a brief survey of the site and headed to the hotel.

We’d been warned the hotel pool wasn’t always full and indeed they’d instituted cost saving measures. That aside it was an oasis in a very noisy town and the hotel restaurant chef and service were excellent.

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(Videos to follow, the wifi won’t cope.)

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