Friday, November 25, 2005

Exploring the Huaraz area

One of the 35 tunnels in Cañon del Pato, north of Huaraz

Awoke at 5:00 and had to take aspirin again to subdue a dehydration headache.

This morning's shower was almost warm. Wrote notes, watched some news, then when it sounded like others were awake, joined Anne for breakfast.

Anne's bike is out of commission due to a bad oil pump. This morning's plan was to tow her bike downtown to the bus station. It will go on a cargo bus to Lima tomorrow, while Anne rides the overnight bus tonight.

After rolling her bike out onto the highway, we used my "CycoActive TowDown" tow straps to tie the bikes together, from my rear luggage rack to her engine guard tubing. I was a bit anxious: I've never towed a motorcycle! (Plenty of cars and trucks, but no bikes.) With Aki and Motsu riding escort, two-up on one of their Yamaha 225s, we proceeded very slowly, trying to maintain a steady 10-mph pace into Huaraz. All the while, cars, trucks, taxis, moto-taxis and pedestrians worked around us.

Anne's bike was surprisingly heavy to pull and there were a few anxious moments when we got our bikes a bit out of alignment and the the 1200 wanted to pull her obliquely. Reaching the station, she was clearly relieved. "I was nervous. I didn't have control!" she exclaimed.

We left Anne to arrange her transport. I wanted to visit Cañon del Pato today, and I was hoping there still would be enough time. The canyon is about 50 miles north of Huaraz.

As always, there was the anticipation and nervousness of venturing off into the (for me) unknown. But after yesterday's ride, this was a breeze. The narrows of Cañon del Pato are much shorter than I expected: maybe only ten miles in length, but the thin notch that it cuts and towering sheer walls are truly remarkable.

It's difficult to believe a river can cut such a narrow canyon. At this point, the canyon must be less than 100 feet wide, yet thousands of feet deep. (The water's flow has now been diverted to drive a power generation plant downstream.)

Along this stretch, down to the town of Huallanca (Ancash), there are 35 tunnels. I started to count them, then lost track. But further down the canyon, the tunnels are numbered, therefore I KNOW there are 35.

ALWAYS remember to toque your claxon!

I was out there snapping witty photos when a stone struck me on the left cheekbone. Had it beaned me, it would have really hurt! I realized it wasn't really a safe place. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration wasn't going to protect me out here. I scrambled back out to get my helmet and, after putting it on under this overhang, got the hell out. Riding back up the canyon, I could hear debris pinging off my helmet.

In the canyon, the Rio Santa has been diverted to reservoirs and through tunnels to drive a hydroelectric plant downstream. The Duke Energy power plant dominates the small town of Huallanca, it's fenced compound and modern corporate facilities contrasting starkly with the impoverished village.

You have to be impressed by the humans who built the tunnels and aqueducts through Cañon del Pato. It must have been an immense and very hazardous labor.

Stopped for lunch at a small café in Huallanca. Ordered a rice and beans dish, but couldn't stomach the curled piece of fatty pig skin on the plate. It still bore bristles. The owner assured me it was clean. She had cleaned it herself. She couldn't accept that I was refusing to eat it.

As I ate, I looked at the tiny napkin. Throughout Peru, they are about 1/4 the size of those in the U.S. And I can't recall the last time I saw a paper towel. Was it in Mexico? Paper products, which Americans consume in enormous quantities, are much more limited here.

Driving back to Yungay, I wanted to visit the memorial to the earthquake victims, but the only parking was along the highway, a few hundred yards from the memorial. I had left my panniers at the hospedaje and so had nowhere to lock up my riding gear. I decided to pass on the memorial.

Dinner at "Amma" tonight (Ibett tells us it means "Grandma".) We celebrated Anne's last night in town. (She has been in Huaraz over a week, and has met many new friends!) A friend of Ibett joined us. He is a public relations officer for a gold-mining company which has operations in the area. He was very careful to explain how environmentally-conscious the company is in caring for the site during and following mining activities. He said the cyanide solution used to extract gold from the ore is quite harmless in that form.

Enjoyed some very good steak and a 2002 Cabrini Cabernet Sauvignon from Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. We met Rian Fitzpatrick, seated at the next table with his Peruvian assistant. He's a Canadian chiropractor, now based in Lima, but working clinics throughout Peru. They're also staying at Hospedaje Retamas. Ibett talked everyone into going out to a bar to dance later. Except me. I took a taxi back to my room. Still needed to catch up on some rest.


Genevieve said...

Paper products, which Americans consume in enormous quantities, are much more limited here.

We used to jokingly refer to the USA as the "Land of Kleenex".

Anonymous said...

2 comments (relocated here due to post consolidation):

Evan said...

Tim--I'm waiting on the edge of my computer chair to see how the tire situation was solved. It's late, and I'm weary, but I've read your recent posts twice and have not see the resolution! Contrary to your earlier blog entry--the tire problem DOES make a good story. Drama! Suspense! "Will he ever make it out?" Well, you must have--to look at the new photos! Carry on...and THANKS for sharing your wonderful journey!

timtraveler said...

To be continued...

(It's time for a commercial break!)