Saturday, 31 March 2012

In Pisco drinking Pisco Sours and planning my 'Solo' route for the next couple of months

Had an easy exit from Chalo today and headed north towards Nazca. We passed straight through Nazca since I have already been there and Des was not particularly interested. That said we did stop at the viewing tour to see the 'hands' and then continued north towards Pisco. I had a close to death experience when a car bonnet blew off the top of a scrap metal lorry that I was following. It landed about 10m from me in a
spot where I would have been if something told me that I should not overtake at that precise moment.
A bit Further on Des and I got separated but we managed to find each other again after 40 minutes or so and we arrived in Pisco not long before it got dark.
So not a particularly interesting day as far as the ride is concerned but today is the day that Des and I have decided to go our own ways. I plan but I am now considering amending the route by taking some things out and adding in more things. One other result is that it I will no longer be possible to track me with the Spot tracker.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The coast and an extra 15 degrees. Temperature that is.

Des got back
from his trip to Machu Picchu 2 days ago and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed it. Since I did not go here are a few pictures of my time there a couple of years ago just so that I do not feel left out.

Yesterday we rode to the coast and stayed at Chalco in a beach front hotel. Very nice and fun!! As we left Arequipa I came across some Police bureaucracy. Like all toll roads in
Peru motorbikes go for free. At this particular toll it was unclear where they wanted bikes to go since some places there is a separate lane and at others you go through the toll lane. I started to head down the toll lane and then frantic waving and shouting tried to indicate that I should go down a really narrow motorbike lane. It was too late so I continued down the toll lane. All seemed fine until a policeman stopped me about 50m past. I tried the 'terribly sorry Mr Policeman' story but he would have none of it. The long of the short is that I had to walk back to the toll booth with much muttering, and pay the toll for a car. Por que? No se!! Just an example of Jobs Worth. Des dare not take off his helmet since he was laughing so much.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Good to have some peace and quiet

Des headed off to Macchu Picchu on Sunday. However when he got to Cusco it turns out that the tour did not go until Tuesday, a day later than expected. There was absolutely no food included whereas some had been expected and the train back to Cusco from Agua Calientes was due to arrive in Cusco after the bus had departed for Arequipa. As you can imagine Des was not a happy chappy and 'Mr Fix It' is likely to have a strip torn off when Des returns. That said I have had a nice lazy time. Drinking Starbucks, yes they have even found there way here, and just generally chilling. Our hotel has a walled garden and is relaxed, friendly and a bit of an oasis.

If there is an earthquake here there are signs in all of the public buildings showing you the safest place to stand. Maybe they should bring back the Morrison Shelter for earthquake areas. If it can withstand Nazi bombs then surely it can survive an earthquake.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Daisy gets a second chance thanks to Cesar the 'wonder mechanic'

Having arrived in Arequipa and whilst searching out some accommodation, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a short plump guy with a big friendly smile. It turns out that he was to be our 'Mr Fixit'.
He pointed us in the direction of some accommodation which we did not actually stumble across until 2 days later, he sorted out Des a tour from Arequipa to Macchu Pichu, he found me a great mechanic for Daisy and actually took us their in a taxi and sorted out Des a peloqueria (or something like) to get his barnet cut.

The centre around Plasa de Armas is stunning.
Quaint, wonderful architecture, great food and the list goes on. We are staying in a small, old hotel that feels a bit like an oasis and is 'just what the doctor ordered'.
I took Daisy to the mechanic that we had found. Cesar collected me from the hotel and led the way to his workshop. The fact that he was not riding some Chinese putt putt but a Kawasaki ZZR600 gave me confidence that he was an experienced mechanic and did not sell bottled gas for a living.
He spent the first 10 minutes just shaking his head but had to stop for fear of it coming loose. Within 2 hours he had removed the dodgy, fire risk bodge wiring, reinstalled my original starter switch and tracked the problem to a connector that was not fully home and all for only 35 soles. On the way home I took Daisy for a wash to celebrate. So Cesar Mayorga tel 958118289 turned out to be a great find.
This is the view I get most evenings whilst skyping Silvana. I can think of worse views :-)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Stunning views and a great biking road

We left Puno with me relishing a time when my head would not be pounding and my lungs craving oxygen. The road was fantastic!! Smooth tarmac, stunning views and bends that a motorbike yearns for. Even with knobbly tyres De
s said it was the best road that he had ever ridden. It feels so good when the bends are disappearing effortlessly behind you and the next coming racing towards you. Even better there was at least 100km of them as we sped downhill. I was enjoying it so much that I did not realise that my head had stopped banging.

We had a couple of days rest in Puno for me to try and acclimatise to the altitude. After a day off we loaded the bikes and pressed the starter switches. From mine there was absolutely nothing except a click from the starter solenoid. Bugger! I had a look at the obvious things but all to no avail. Time for a mechanic. The guy on reception knew of one and he arrived after an hour. He got down to work and quickly assessed that the starter solenoid was defective. That he removed and took away for a local shop to repair. It turned out that he had to take it to a nighbouring city for the repair and was consequently gone for over 2 hours. During that time I enquired about the mechanic's credentials. It turned out that he sold bottled gas for a living and his knowledge of bikes came from repairing his own 200cc Chinese thing. Oh oh! I started to have a bad feeling. But on his return I gave him the benefit of doubt and let him continue. The repaired solenoid did not solve the problem so without a multimetre or test lamp he decided that there was a break in the +ve line from starter switch to the solenoid so he used some wire he found in the back of his tricycle to wire the solenoid straight to the battery and put in a new starter switch. To my horror and before I had realised he had cut through both cables to my original starter switch. WHAT!!! Fortunately the bike started since I had decided not to let him continue.
So Daisy was running with dodgy wiring and having had her guts messed around with. At least it would allow me to get to Arequipa and try to find a proper mechanic.
My new starter switch along with dodgy white wiring.
Puno rooftops.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Incoming!! and a sit down protest.

The following morning we got directions for Peru and then headed out of the city. All went well for the first half hour except that it took 3 attempts before we found someone to sell us petrol. We then came across a road block with a couple of hundred vehicles waiting to get through. We met a couple of Brazilians, turned round and headed the wrong way down the duel carriageway, squeezed through a gap in the Arco barrier, I dropped the bike, headed up the other side of the carriageway and then squeezed between hundreds of demonstrators sat down in the road with rocks scattered between them.
We eventually got through and found the right side of the road. Hooray! Our exuberance was short lived as we ran into another 8 demonstrations over the next hour. They threw a rock at us at the last one. Time to get out. No pictures since I had other things on my mind.
In comparison the ride around Lake Titicaca was great. Quick ferry across the narrowest bit and onto Copacabana sat nestled between two hills on the side of the lake. Another road block just before the border where tour buses emptied on one side, the passengers carry their luggage for 1/2 a mile or so to the other side of the block, catch another bus and then be charged extra for the experience. This was gleaned from a very unhappy backpacker we met at the Peruvian border. The Bolivian border officials asked me for money to pay for the great service they provided WHAT!! and the Peruvian officials were from a different world. Friendly, polite and not trying to fleece you. So happy to be out.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

To be organised or not to be organised that is the dilemma.

With Arica disappearing rapidly behind us we headed for the hills and after some stunning scenery we hit the Chilean/Bolivian border post situated at just over 4000m. So from 10m to 4000m in a couple of hours and in the middle of the stage we had to obtain fuel from a man with a selection of flammable spirits in 50 gallon drums nestled in a courtyard behind his house. Whilst starting to feel lightheaded we passed relatively easily through Chilean formalities and then hit Bolivian customs. You can see their cream portakabin in the picture below. So why were we sent to a back office in a shop just across the border for someone to enter our details in a computer? Yes a computer and for him to charge us 10 bolivianos each for the pleasure.
On my last visit to this border post I had stayed in a room above an adjacent shop as I waited for a Chilean customs strike to finish. Back to the portakabin to be told that we needed photocopies of our registration documents. Fortunately I had these at hand but Des's had done a disappearing act and so back to the shop for copies and the opportunity for us to hand over more money. All the while I was starting to feel pretty awlfull. Eventually we got through at about 1600 and rode on towards Patacamaya.
It was like we had stepped into another world. The houses were made out of mud bricks, the women all wore traditional dress which often included a type of bowler hat perched on their heads and the atmosphere was one of poverty and here comes another Westerner how much money can we scam out of them. This was a totally opposite experience from the one I had had 2 years previous.

About 20km short of Patacamaya we were flagged down another motorcyclist on a KLR650. An Australian who with a mate was riding, eventually, to Prudo Bay in Alaska. He had a front tyre blowout some 5 hours earlier. Apparently he had seen a screw in his tyre but thinking that if he pulled it out the tyre might go down he had left it. The thing is tubed tyres are not like tubeless tyres and if it has not gone down it will not so extract the offending object. They had tried to plug the tyre but unsurprisingly it had gone down again. You cannot plug a tubed tyre since the air will escape from around the spokes. No problem I have a spare inner tube. Where is your centre stand? Does not exist so how do you lift the front wheel off the ground? With a block of wood. Where is the Allen key to remove the spindle? You do not have one. How long have you been on the road? Four and a half months. How have you got this far?
At that moment his mate appeared, he had been into Patacamaya to find a tyre repair shop. No he said the town was Oruro so I suggested we ride in find some accommodation drop off kit and he would then return to his stranded mate and the 2 ride very slowly, on a flat tyre, into town. The town was actually Patacamaya and there was zero accommodation so we opted to ride back and camp on the roadside. As we passed through a checkpoint I suggested we camp there. Very noisy, uneven ground but safer than on the side of the road. So that is how it all panned out.
Just goes to show how a little preparation would have nipped this nightmare in the bud.
OK enough of my preaching.
After a poor nights sleep at Newport Pagnell Services we headed for La Paz, the highest capital city in the world. Feeling a tad peckish we stopped at a roadside diner where half a sheep's head was on the menu. So I tried it and I must say it was very tasty except it took two swallows to get the eye down. I am a great believer in that if you are killing an animal then the whole of it should be used. Besides these sheep have lived free, without hormones, animal feeds or anything unnatural. Have I placated my vegetarian friends?
The ride to La Paz was fine but trying to get into the city and finding accommodation was a nightmare. Vehicles travelling every which way, people stepping into the road without looking, combis stopping with a nano seconds notice, roadblocks, demonstrations and all conducted on the side of a mountain so the clutch was working overtime. Buenos Aires is no longer my most disliked city in South America. I just do not remember Bolivia being so unpleasant, in fact it was my most liked country in South America. Not now? We also tried to buy some fuel. In those garages where the attendant could be bothered to acknowledge our presence we were either told that they would not sell petrol to foreigners or if they did it was three times the price. Welcome to the country of let us hate tourists and then let us fleece them!
At this stage the plan was to find a place to stay. When that proved fruitless we decided to ride out to the start of the death road and it took us nearly 2 hours to get out of the city. OK having had enough the plan was changed to let us find a place to stay and then let us get the hell out of Bolivia in the morning.
At this point my head was banging and would stay with me until I eventually go to a lower altitude in Arequipa.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

On the way back from the restaurant last night I was targeted to appear in a street entertainers production. I put it down to them wanting to increase the percentage of stunning people in their show but it was probably down to the novelty factor of blonde hair, blue eyes and clearly a 'gringo'. Des was ill overnight and we have stayed in Arica for another day. I went out to a piece of local coastline to take a single picture of some sea lions and to look at the surf. That said had a good walk and saw the tsunami defences that are currently under construction.