08 October, 2012

Day 94, 502km: Across the Peruvian Andes

There are various options to go from Lima to Cusco. The easiest is via Arequipa with good roads all the way. Another was to cross the Andes via the city of Chalhuanca (halfway between Nazca and Cusco). I choose this one thinking I'd get to see some cool scenery.
I'm glad I made this choice as that was a great day.

Leaving Ica to Nazca, we're still in the desert!
 And very slowly we left the desert. The whole process would take almost 300km before I got to see foresty-looking areas again.

As we gained elevation, great views were had
 You can notice the elevation change in the picture with the color of the sky, turning from a clear blue to darker shades as we went up. For the curious, the color of the sky is due to our atmosphere, with the sunlight being scattered by the various molecules and atoms that compose it as it goes through it. This is called Rayleigh Scattering. The same effect that you can witness when you turn on a laser pointer at night and can see the beam itself. This scattering is heavier for shorter wavelengths of light, which is why the sky appears blue (red being longer wavelengths).

Desert lines near Nazca
Nazca is famous for its drawings in the deserts, made of gigantic lines. Some in the shape of animals, or humans. There was a small observation tower along the way where I shot the above picture. I'm not entirely sure whether this one was a genuine drawing (did they build the tower for the drawing or both for tourists?) In any case, that was a cool sight. There were a lot of French tourists at that particular spot and the people working there told me "Yes that's because your economy is so good in France". A bit of perspective never hurts.

Spectacular views of "frozen dunes"
 After leaving Nazca we started to gain some serious elevation. At one point the GPS indicated an average elevation of 5% over the next 75km. Soon we were at 4000m.

A restaurant! Fantastic!
 There wasn't much up there. A vast, isolated region of the Andes with a few buildings here and there and mostly animals.

They might be Lamas or Alpacas or something. Some kind of long necked, wool growing, grass eating machine.
The views up there strongly reminded me of the trip we took in India's Ladakh with Maxime and Thomas two years back. Spectacular emptiness up there.



Stopped for gas here and thought I had to share their logo with you. It's so cool.
 I guess PetroPeru was the official gas supplier for Transformers.

Seeing that lake I thought I found today's lunch break stop
By that point I had passed the 4000m mark maybe 2 hours ago
Stopping the bike I realized that there was a very cold wind blowing across the lake. The temperature dropped to 7C and I cancelled my lunch plans. Still, I wanted to enjoy the view and started walking towards the water.

Ladakh reloaded!
 And as I was walking, I heard a sound over the wind. A kind of faint animal growl. Thinking there might be a Lama or something I turned around, but there was nothing. It took me a couple seconds to realize that this noise I was hearing was my own heavy, difficult breathing. That's when I realized how high we were. I had probably been breathing heavily like that for a while but couldn't hear it while driving.

Ricardo and his family (Peruvians I would meet later at dinner) told me they actually brought oxygen bottles up there for the road. What's sure is that neither me nor the bike were performing at 100% up there.

Rhaa so beautiful
 The road then went on for another 100km or so on some kind of plateau up there. A few more lakes here and there and mostly nothing or no-one. Had the desert for myself. It was great.

How villages look like up there
 And then we were back in the mountains, for the last stretch to Chalhuanca.

Let's go down there!
Eventually the road made it down a small river valley
The valley gifted me with awesome sights as the sun neared the horizon
Tampumayu hotel
I obviously wasn't the first motorcycle rider to stop here!
At dinner there I met Ricardo and his family and friends. A former motorcross champion, he was very curious about my trip. The road that day was great and he had a funny story about it.
The week before was held in Lima the ASPA summit, where dignitaries of South America and the Middle East talked about world issues and most importantly had a good time together.
Well one of them, the King Abdullah of Jordan took the opportunity to drive a F800GS (same bike as me!) on the same road from Nazca to Cusco. Although he probably did it with a dozen of special forces on bikes as well. Then he came back home and dissolved his Parliament. All the while being married to the Queen Rania. Not bad.

That was a long day of driving and I was off to bed early. Plus there was no internet, no telephone so that was real rest.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.
Guillaume

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