Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nasca to Abancay, Peru

Hoteles y Turismo (Hoturs), Abancay, Apurimac, Peru

10:30 p.m.

Really tired tonight. The past two days, I’ve driven over 700 miles, today’s driving averaging about 35 mph.


In Nasca, typical residential security measures: electric fencing around my hostel and glass shards around the neighbor's yard.

6:30 a.m.

A phone call. I can’t make out what Fernando is asking, but catch one word desayuno (breakfast). “Si.” Why so early?

The morning is dominated by dogs. Again it sounds like a kennel outside. Across the street, two merchants are watering down the dirt street to reduce the dust. A tricycle with a big basket on the front delivers breakfast rolls, the driver honking his squeeze horn. It sounds like a Mallard duck.

Across the street, there's trash and debris on rooftops. I have no idea how it gets there.

A nice breakfast, with Fernando sitting there watching to make sure I have everything I need. He showed me a collection of birds making sweet music in the courtyard. Used his computer to check e-mails.

At 8:00 this morning, I was collected from the hotel by “Pedro” who was driving an old mini-van. We stopped for two other travelers (Hollanders, a bit older than me), then we were delivered to the Nasca airport for our "Nasca Lines Over Flight". Where did all the gringos come from? They were lined up waiting for flights. It looked like about 8 to 10 Cessnas were operating with this tour company.

Paid my $40, then an airport tax was collected by a young lady who approached each of the passengers. 10 Soles (about $3). While we waited for departure, we were all worked over by kids peddling books, post cards, t-shirts, jewelry and painted stones.

Of course, I had to do the "Famous Nasca Lines Over Flight"!

Though my gut was still in turmoil, I wasn’t too concerned about the flight. The Dutch tourists and I were introduced to "Raul", our pilot. Since they were a couple, the Dutch sat in back. I quietly concealed my delight: I got the co-pilot seat! I asked if I could fly. No response. Maybe Raul didn't understand the question...

If these planes are anything like the taxis, they’re overworked and under-serviced, and their continuing performance defies logic.

Our pilot, Raul tries to figure out which switch turns this thing on

What a kick, floating along at 110 mph, maybe a thousand feet "off the deck." It looked like there was plenty of flat desert below to land this thing if we ran into trouble.

I was a little concerned about the fuel gauge reading empty...

"What does that '0' mean?"

The "spaceman"

The monkey

A simple diagram we were given showed the route we would follow in viewing the "Famous Nasca Lines." Raul banked the plane hard to the right to take a turn around each object, and then hard left to provide a view from the other side of the plane.

My favorite, the spider

One of the famous Nasca lines, the hummingbird

Though there are many theories about the meaning of the lines, and who constructed them (and when), I like the theory that they were used to guide extraterrestrial visitors to this spot!

That's the main highway passing by the "tree" and "hands". The plains are crisscrossed with lines, and figures associated with them.

Fingers crossed...

Though it seemed longer, we were only in the air about 30 minutes. Safely back at the airport, we were expected to browse the gift shops and enjoy the restaurant while awaiting transport back to our hotel. But I didn’t want to wait for Pedro, and waved down a taxi.

At the hotel, I found it quite a challenge to get my motorcycle out of the garage. I had to turn it around on a slippery steep driveway, and the only way was to back it up the hill first. I thought for certain I would be unable to stop it from falling over, but with the maid's assistance, I got it turned about, exhausted from the effort.

Refueling at a nearby gas station, a group of men gathered around, marveling at the BMW. One was straddling a 1968 Honda 50cc bike, it's tires bandaged with electrical tape. His throttle was a cable dangling near the handlebar, which he pulls when he wants to accelerate. "Cambio?" Did I want to trade him? Everyone laughed at him, apparently the fool of the group. But when you consider the cost of his transportation versus mine, you have to wonder who's the fool?

I turned east toward Abancay. According to Anne, this highway is one of the best motorcycle rides in Peru. But I very soon found, at least to my mind, this is a "crap road"! Lots of hairpins with gravel, sand or broken asphalt strategically scattered in the turns. Very slow going. And the lightness in the bike's front end kept me on edge. Cranked up the pre-load on the rear suspension, hoping that might shift the center of gravity just slightly, and I used my weight more than I normally would to counter-steer, making for a more tiring ride.


At 35,600 miles, my speedometer went "wacko", showing I was doing between 0 and 20, when I was actually moving in the 40s and 50s.

In Puquio, (a town with perhaps the worst streets I’ve yet seen) a local pointed to a loaded Kawaski KLR650 parked outside a small restaurant. I took note, but kept on riding out of town. “I don’t want to talk to other travelers.”

Then I had a change of heart and turned around. Stepping into the dark, very rustic (primitive) restaurant, I saw two Japanese seated at a table, their gear spread out, the woman writing in what appeared to be a journal, bowls of rice in front of them.

One glance at my suit and helmet and they were quite excited. Mako and Fumy Kimura are half way through a planned five-year tour around the world. Not sure if it's their desire to go all the way around, but after the Americas, they plan to go to Africa and Europe.

From Japan, Mako and Fumy Kimura are riding "two-up" on a Kawasaki KLR 650

They have been 2-1/2 years just going from Vancouver to Alaska, then working their way down here, including one year in Guatemala to study Spanish! We talked for a while, took some photos, then I moved on.

I was at high altitude for a long time, crossing a high desert plain. Very chilly. Late in the afternoon, I came to a steep canyon, and started down into a deep river valley, then I turned back. "If I’m going to camp, it won’t be down there." I could see too many farms and villages, too many people.

Started back into the high country, hoping to find a secluded campsite, but there were shepherds and huts scattered all across this land, and I didn’t think I’d be too welcome camping uninvited. The wind was blowing hard. I imagined "this must be like Ruta 40 in Argentina." I had no idea how cold it might get overnight up here.

But there were storm clouds up ahead to the East. I was not eager to go into them. I couldn't keep wandering around hoping to find a campsite. The day was slipping away quickly. This forced me to opt for the valley, and to set my sights on Abancay tonight.

Descending from the mountains, it warmed amazingly, and the highway improved! "What's the problem?" I did catch up with a thunderstorm, but only got a little wet. It didn't feel so unwelcome. It has been a while since I've ridden in the rain. Colombia?

But I was caught riding in dark again! Several close encounters: with an on-coming bus taking up most of a bridge, with sandy washes that were difficult to discern in the dark, rock debris, farm animals everywhere, and humans!

Today, I felt disconnected. Like I’m just riding through these peoples’ land. An intruder. Part of me is tired of foreign lands, and wants to go home. Adding to this sentiment, the sometimes chilly reception I receive passing through towns: kids throw things (or like the one in Puquio earlier, who stood out in the street, pulled down his pants and peed as I passed him!) Dogs chase me, their owners look on, smiling. The comments heard as I roll through crowds. "I’m not welcome here."

The last stretch of highway, following the Rio Pachachaca canyon toward Abancay was indeed a blast. I only wish I had been riding it in daylight.

In Abancay, I easily found this hotel recommended by "Lonely Planet". $15 for the cheapest first floor rooms ($35 for upper floors)

Once settled in to my spartan, and not-so-clean room, I went into the restaurant and ordered some dinner: “Gordon Blue Pollo” (á la "Chicken Cordon Bleu"): a perfectly good chicken breast ruined by stuffing baloney and cheap cheese inside.

Out of guilt, I also tried the 2005 Talama "Gran Tinto" from Vina Talama, a winery in Ica. You can’t judge a winery by one wine, but this one tasted like many of the cheap California wines (i.e. "Two Buck Chuck"!)

A steady rain falling tonight. I enjoy the sound, so I have my windows open.

"This may alter plans a bit!"


Genevieve said...

A tricycle with a big basket on the front delivers breakfast rolls, the driver honking his squeeze horn. It sounds like a Mallard duck.

Those bread bikes have regular routes that they run. It was nice after work each day to catch the bread bike on our street and get warm, just-baked rolls for supper.

Anonymous said...

2 comments regarding Mako and Fumy (relocated here due to post consolidation):

Miroslav Kolinsky said...

I meet this traveller in Kutna Hora in Czech Republic. Now they're heading to africa.

timtraveler said...


Thank you for this update!

Are you a motorcyclist as well, and traveler?

Is your home in Czech Republic?
(I visited there in 1993, but only Prague.)