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April 12th, 2012 | Peru

Leaving Lima and the ride to Huaraz…

I left Lima early the following morning, heading for Huaraz, the jumping off point for hikes and climbing in the Cordillera Blanco Mountain Range…

Lidia and Freddy of Casa San Martin, bid me farewell as I prepare to exit Lima... They had been extremely helpful during my stay...!!

The Casa San Martin staff were there to bid me goodbye, having first made me the best breakfast that I have had for a long time…

There is no skimping on the first meal of the day here…!! Fruit platters, fried or scrambled eggs, toast and as much coffee as you need…!!

At most other places, you need to go looking for food after having breakfast….!! Freddy and Lidia came out to take photos of us together, and wish me well…

I had thoroughly enjoyed my stay here and would recommend Casa San Martin to anybody wanting the best of Lima…!!

Tell the guys that the guy who spoke fluent Spanglish sent you…!!

On more than one occasion I was told not to make up words that had no meaning to anybody but myself…!!

Getting out of Lima took almost an hour…!! Traffic was horrendous…!!

Once I was out on the Panamericana Norte, things improved… The road went out into the desert, and hooked back towards the coast and followed the clifftops high above the Pacific…

Out of Lima and back into the desert...

The Big Fella had the bit between his teeth and ran north with scant regard for fuel consumption… We passed Huanco and just before Barranca, ran into a spot of bother with the long-fingered arm of the law…

There was a long line of sugar cane trucks trundling along at the speed limit, and as we came up to them, I saw that there was no oncoming traffic, and decided to overtake all of them…

As I roared past the last truck, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the police cruiser… Naturally I did not swivel my head to see if they had seen me… A few minutes later, the cruiser roared up behind me, and a loud and strident voice began barking in Spanish…!!

I pretended not to see them at first, then gave them the “Who me…??” sign, pointing at my chest… For all I knew, they were asking directions to the nearest brothel, such is my command of the Spanish language…!!

The long arm of the law pulls me over to explain my various infractions....!!

Shortly after my run-in with the law, I took the turnoff away from the coast and headed towards Huaraz...

I handed the first cop my expired drivers license (2007) to see if they understood any English… They did not…!! I also spoke only in English and pretended not to understand a word they were saying, which was not too difficult…!! They kept me there for over an hour, pointing to a spot in their manual that said 250 Soles fine (about R750.00)…

I looked over to the mountains in the distance, wondering if I should make a run for it… They could keep the expired license for all I cared…!! Then I remembered that I only had about 20 km worth of fuel in the tank, and it would be pretty embarrassing if they caught up to me again while I was pouring the contents of my spare fuel into the tank…!!

Seeing that I was not rising to the bait of their need for cash, they eventually gave up and let me go…!!

The mountains leading to the Altiplano awaited us....

I ran out of fuel just before the climb up into the mountains began… I wasn’t overly concerned because I had 8 litres of spare fuel with me and the town of Conococha was well within range of the 120 km these 8 litres would give me… Or so I thought…

When I pulled my two rear fuel bottles from their brackets, they felt rather lighter than they should have… I poured what should have been 4 litres into the tank, and discovered that at least half the fuel had been stolen…!! Either that, or it was the worst case of evaporation that I had ever come across…!!

Needless to say, I ran out of fuel barely 30 km later…!! I stopped again, and poured the contents of the remaining two bottles into the tank, and began wondering where I would find fuel…

In the middle of nowhere, I came across this little fuel station manned by these two young woman... The one on the left begged me to take her with me to Huaraz...!!

Halfway up the first big climb, I came across a small garage and found some 84 Octane fuel, which was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick…!! After refueling, the serious climb up to over 4000 m began, with a series of wicked twists and turns that took us up to the clouds…

Up towards the clouds that hung over the Altiplano... With the elevation, came a strong, cold wind, and the odd drizzle of rain...

Over a distance of barely 100 km, the road climbed from sea level to just under 4000 m... Heady stuff...!!

The little village of Conococha lies at the end of the lake with the same name... Whoever thought to establish a settlement here, had to have rocks in their heads...!!

After a long cold ride, I finally got up onto the flat plateau above 4000 m, and cruised through the village of Conococha…

It consisted of a dozen mudbrick homes and a police post…

Sheep and goats grazed on the short grass on the verge of the road, and chicken wandered about in search of food… There was not a single soul in evidence, which was hardly surprising… The fould weather seemed to be keeping everyone indoors…

A small part of Laguna Conococha, high up on the Altiplano... The clouds in the background were blowing towards us, so we did not hang about for too long...!!

The Rio Santa flows out of Laguna Conococha, and begins it's rush to the Pacific, many miles away...

"Would you mind putting the camera away and getting us off this mountain...!! Look what's coming up behind us...!!"

Not too far to Huaraz, after a long day climbing the Andes....

What on earth could one of my trucks be doing in Catac of all places...??

Seeing the weather about to get even worse, I got back on the bike after the short breather I was taking, and tore across the plateau, looking for the pass that would take us down towards Catac, and hopefully warmer climes…

The sun came out to shine through a few tears in the cloud cover,brightening up the afternoon…

Just outside the town of Recuay, a car overtook a tractor and failed to see me coming the other way… It missed my left hand pannier by less than an inch, and had I not seen it begin to overtake, and shift the Big Fella towards the edge of the narrow road, we would have been hit head-on…!!

It was one of the closest shave I have ever had, and got my adrenaline all fired up…!! Normally a fright like the one I had just been given, would serve to make you slow things down a touch, but on this occasion, it had the opposite effect…!!

In South America, it is not the young boys that look after the livestock as they do in Africa, but rather the elderly women...

Local women up here in the mountains, all wear these hats to show that they are married and spoken for... It is a tradition that does not seem to be dying out at all...!!

We took the final 20 odd kilometres to Huaraz at a gallop, taking tight lines down the twisting road that ran alongside the Rio Santa, and then slowing down to wind our way through the afternoon traffic that clogged the entrance to the town…

Huaraz was in the words of a friend of mine, “a small, dusty, dirty little town”… And so it proved to be…!!

The town fathers had decided that asphalt was no longer the way to go, and were in the process of having all the roads in town torn up, and replaced with concrete…

I bumped my way down the main road, passed an unfinished cathedral on my left, and then climbed up the slopes above the town centre, looking for a place that had been recommended to me…

I found the Chulup Guest House, halfway up the slope above the busy town square… The owner very kindly moved his car out of his garage so that the Big Fella would be safely locked up at night…

I wasn’t quite sure what there was to do in Huaraz, apart from hiking in the mountains, and rock climbing… Two activities that I had absolutely no intention of indulging in…!!

“You mmust go and see the glaciers then…!!” the owner said… “We have a tour scheduled for tomorrow morning…!!”

In a moment of weakness, that I am not usually prone to, I agreed to join the group that had already signed up, not quite knowing what was in store for me…!!

I climbed the stairs to my room, and after a hot shower and a light meal, tried to work on updating my website, but all to no avail… I was in bed and asleep while the idea was still forming in my mind…!!

©GBWT 2012

 

2 comments to Leaving Lima and the ride to Huaraz…

  • Kenny

    Sorry to abuse your blog Ronnie.But my wife is bugging me to ask Mark Behr if he is the Author of Smell of Apples.She is a school teacher in the south and her class is busy doing the novel.Let me know.Ride safely.

  • Mark Behr

    Hey Ronnie – great post because of the beauty and severity of the place, but not my choice of staying for good.
    Travel safely!

    Kenny – not I. Same year at Wits, same course but not me. Sorry!

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