Anyone for Motorcycling in Peru?

17 May

By Stuart Ellliott

Where to begin? Perhaps the best place is the end. I survived! The group survived. And despite dire warnings from various quarters I enjoyed it enormously.

The Adventure Peru Motorcycle (www.perumotorcycling.com) tour of parts of Andean northern Peru was conceived as a mainly dirt road experience covering some 1500 kms over 12 days on terrain ranging from sea level to an altitude of 5000 meters.20140516-213958.jpg
We stayed in comfortable hotels typically for 2-3 nights. This allowed for day excursions, further penetrating the high Andes by motorcycle, or for more cultural activities. We also enjoyed some high altitude, at over 4000 meters, trekking and mountain biking.

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The motorcycles were Suzuki 650 DRs which, although I know nothing about off road type machines, seemed well suited to the rough terrain, and were even comfortable on the Panamericano Highway. Much to my surprise they were also a lot of fun on the sealed mountain roads, allowing high speed adrenalin charged cornering; not that we indulged in such dangerous activities, well, not often, as fortunately our very capable leader, Franco, was required to be out in the front of the group. I say fortunately because there were occasions when we would have preferred to take the bends a little faster, only to find some life threatening situation round the next bend.

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There was everything imaginable to test one’s riding skills on the roads. The most enjoyable roads for me were the twisting mountain roads on good quality tarmac. The most challenging riding was the rocky three hour dirt road, partly in the rain and gathering dusk. The road was largely hewn out of mountain faces with its 42 high altitude unlit tunnels over one 10 km sector. The Cañon Des Patos, or Duck Canyon, where incidentally no one has ever seen a duck, is regarded as one of the most dangerous roads in Peru, and ergo the world. Then there was the Panamericano which runs the length of the Americas west coast and in Peru takes all the freight on single carriageways between the major cities. Whilst the surface was generally in good condition we regularly came across mud and oil. We also had to contend with cross winds in the surprisingly mountainous desert, rain and of course maniac truck and bus drivers. A dangerous but ultimately rewarding cocktail.

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I seriously doubt anyone has passed a driving test in the whole of Peru, and absolutely nobody including the police has any idea who has priority at a roundabout. In all likelihood the Peruvian word for roundabout begins with the letter ‘C’ and continues with ‘haos’. Fortunately they have generally worked out which way to circulate around a roundabout, if there is absolutely no way straight across it. As for horns well they are only used by men every time they pass a woman; the better shaped her bottom the more you have to hoot – you can imagine the noise and confusion. Indicators – well why would you bother? They might tell people where you are going.

One excursion out of the Andean town of Huaraz included the highest road tunnel in the world (some 4300 m above sea leval and about as long). Another section is known as the ‘sector de las mil (1000) curvas’, covering 26 km and comprising 46 hairpin bends; clearly an exaggeration but you get the picture. The die hards will regret that this road was sealed in 2013. This was an optional tour and yours truly did not participate, but I understand it was tough, even with the new tarmac, with snow a falling, animals a roaming and loose rocks a tumbling, not to mention the difficult to detect gravel ever ready to catch the unwary.

Lest you think the adventure was all about wilfully hooning around mountain roads at high speed, we did have time to enjoy some of the less well known but definitely worth seeing cultural sites of Peru. My favourite was the Moon temple near Trujillo, depicting a well-developed civilisation, the Moche, lost until 30 years ago; South America’s equivalent of the Egyptian pyramids. Quite staggering what those people did without modern day tools.

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Whilst what man has achieved, and in many cases largely destroyed, is of course amazing, it is the natural beauty of the almost 7000 metre high snow-capped Andes that was for me the most impressive part of the journey. That and the warmth and friendliness of the native people, as depicted by the beautiful smiles of the hard working multi tasking* mountain women.

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Thanks to David Groves and his crew at Adventure Peru Motorcycling for providing such a memorable adventure.

*As in walking while carrying child on back or front (often breastfeeding) , talking, knitting/spinning wool and smiling all at the same time.

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(Author: Stuart Elliott)

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2 Responses to “Anyone for Motorcycling in Peru?”

  1. Don Tickle May 17, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Well done S & S Don

    • Sharon Tickle May 17, 2014 at 11:51 am #

      Thanks Dad. Mum would love the gardens and the women’s handcrafts. Sxx

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