Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

July 20th, 2002.-- After 38 months, leaving our 42nd country.

Credit to Canyon and leaving Peru

-- Story by Chris --

Sunday, July 14th: We planned to visit the Monastery in the morning, but the entrance fee doubled in the last year, so we walked around the plaza and watched (yet another) parade/festival.  In the afternoon we rode 160kms to the town of Chivay, on the edge of the Colca Canyon.  The Colca Canyon is a few hours north of Arequipa, and a popular tourist destination for trekking and visiting the many small villages.  On the way into the mountains, on this side of the pass, the road is (mostly) paved.  Just before reaching Chivay, we came across a pass, at 4,900 meters. There was snow and mud everywhere (no more asphalt), making it a bit of fun to cross. When the GPS said Chivay was only 5kms away, we could see it in the valley below. It took us 45 minutes to get down the winding road. When we reached the town center, we were approached my many hotel owners.  The prices were all reasonable (cheap) and we opted for the Hostal Ricardito; a new hotel with white-white walls, firm mattresses, hot water, and parking.  After unpacking and getting settled, we headed out to the thermal pools and watched the sun go down.

Monday, July 15th: Pulled the panniers off the bikes and headed out at 7am. Our goal was the Mirador del Condors – a look out point some 45kms away, at the highest point of the Colca Canyon, and down what was reported to be a very bumpy road. Well, the road shook us up something awful, and we finally reached the look out around 8:30am. Well, aside from the many tour buses, there were also about 7 or 8 huge condors flying so close overhead, you could see their faces without binoculars! We watched the giant birds float above us for well over an hour, then headed 10kms further to the town of Cabanaconde. There was (what a surprise) a festival/parade in town, and people had obviously been partying since the day before. A large band, surrounded by locals in elegant dress blocked the entrance to the town. They cleared a slot for the bikes to pass through, but as we passed I gained a Saxophone player, while Erin’s rider belted out on a trumpet.  We participated for a while in the parade, then headed to the town center for a late breakfast. We would have stayed all day, but Erin was feeling something terrible, so we rode back to Chivay where Erin climbed into bed and stayed for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, July 16th: There was no electricity in the morning, as the power plant was under snow, so the planned hot shower was out. Erin’s temperature was a little better, so we decided to push on, out of town. The local police/mountain rescue squad had recommended a longer route around the mountains, but we opted for the shorter route, back up over the pass. The 2 days of sun had helped to dry up the mud, so although extremely bumpy, we eventually got up to the top of the pass. It was absolutely stunning, being almost 3 miles above sea-level, surrounded by pristine snow covered mountains.   Eventually, we got down out of the mountains and picked up the main road north.

About an hour later, we came to a row of trucks, buses, and cars spread out across the road. Being in the middle of nowhere, I was nervous that there had been a catastrophic accident. Fortunately, it was only the remains of a previous demonstration blocking the road. We snaked our way through the people and parked vehicles, and eventually found the source of the delay –- a mound of boulders (each at least 1 meter x 1 meter), covered in dirt, was blocking the road. The land below the road was flat, but completely flooded, so sneaking around that way was out. (I still have no idea where these massive rocks came from). I went around the lead bus, and found a crowd of people standing around while 2-3 guys were trying to clear the debris. They had cleared a big enough gap for the bikes to pass through, but I wasn’t sure how we would be received. Still wearing my helmet, I approached the crowd and asked if it was possible for the bikes to pass through. One guy said (in Spanish), "sure, after you help dig for awhile". I said, OK, let me get the bikes through, then we’ll help. The crowd laughed and said it might be better if I worked first. So, I grabbed a pickaxe, swung it a few times, then was handed a shovel. After about 60 seconds, I was exhausted, and they said we could pass. When I went back to my bike, I noticed we were back at 4,500 meters, and it was no wonder I was exhausted from the minor exertion.

The rest of the way to Puno was relatively uneventful: passing some major construction where we had to pass through narrow gaps of soft dirt, while trying to keep from sliding down the embankment. We eventually hit beautiful new asphalt, which snaked its way through the valley, wearing the knobbies off the sides of the tires! Erin was starting to feel human again, as the medication and warm sun started to take effect. We reached Puno after lunch, and checked into the Hotel Arequipa, the first hotel we stayed in when we first arrived in Peru. The plan was to meet Liam and Catriona (his girlfriend) tomorrow, as they would be passing through around the same time.

Wednesday, July 17th: Erin woke feeling worse then the day before. This cold has been going around between all our friends this last month, so it will be good to get out of the altitude, away from our sick circle of friends, and on to warmer climates. We received word from Liam that he would be delayed an extra day, as he ate something funny and was unable to venture too far from the toilet. Being that we were also subpoenaed to our room, we spent the day catching up on emails.

Thursday, July 18th: Liam and Catriona arrived from Copacabana, and we spent the afternoon/evening jabbering away. Erin still was feeling only slightly better, and so we moved on to antibiotics for her.

Friday, July 19th: We bid farewell to the terrific couple from Belfast. We’ve met up with Liam on 14 occasions on this trip, in 9 different countries and 3 continents. There’s a chance we may meet again up near Mexico, but it looks pretty slim. He’s a good guy to run into, even if he is on a Red Wing! We spent the day in bed, as Erin was still feeling terrible, and I now was sick. When we got married and we swore to share everything, I forgot that "sickness and health" part :-)

Saturday, July 20th: I was feeling a bit better, but Erin was not. We decided to push on to Copacabana, just across the Bolivian border, a resort town on Lago Titicaca. It was only 140kms from Puno to the border, and we made it in record time. We passed through the border with relative ease -- only one official asked us for a contribution, to buy new flowers (I told him no and walked out).

Although we were only in Peru for a month, it certainly felt like longer – probably because we spent a lot of time in only a few places. Yes, southern Peru is filled with Gringos. For budget travellers, it can be a bit more of a challenge, but even "do-able" on a budget. The truth is there are a lot of great/interesting/historical things to see in Peru; the people are very friendly; you don’t have to speak Spanish to get by; it is cheap (by Western standards); and that’s why there are so many Gringos. So, take advantage and come visit.


Just north of Arequipa, before the pass, the road is still paved

One of the many Condors in Colca Canyon

This one came a bit closer

As we approached Cabanaconde, the streets were blocked with dancing and festivities.

Returning over the pass, at almost 4900meters (16,100 feet)

To get through the roadblock, everyone had to "pitch in"!

This is at 4,500 meters, and Chris could only do this for about 1 minute

Liam and Catriona, heading north

When will we see you, again?

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