With Pearl perky and raring to go—now a “shocker-rejuvenated GS” as Johnny Bravo so aptly put it—life became peachy again. Even at 4am when peeling our sleep-sapped bodies out of bed: the prospect of avoiding the unforgiving pandemonium of exiting Lima in its 24/7 rush hour was enough to self-catapult out of bed. But with one thing and another nine, I managed to hit the sack just after midnight the night previous—making my early start about as rude as it can get. Drunk on sleep starvation, I found myself donning my motorcycle boots in just my underwear and all but dropping Pearl in turning her around on a scarred section of road near a bitten kerb, feeling far from sober. I’d not consumed a morsel of anything exciting, I was just beastly tired making it more than disconcerting that my reaction times were less than tickety boo. Another lesson learned.
In order to rebegin our earth-bound way northward, gin-ger-ly is the way in which I rode Pearl all 230 miles southbound to Lima. Pearl was sporting a newly welded, temporarily repaired rear suspension linkage—albeit with no dampening in place but despite having cause for complaint, held up beautifully on the Pan American highway’s asphalt. Getting me to a place in which we could get her adequately mended—without issue, what a trooper. Holding her in a new level of regard, I held no qualms in taking my ‘Captain Slow’ status to another notch; delicately descending into drainage dips and negotiating speed bumps with supreme care.
Continuing north from Huascarán National Park took us to the imposingly rugged Canon del Pato (Duck Canon)—a busy narrow asphalt road featuring a perilously sheer drop, where catastrophic landslides after heavy rain are not exactly uncommon. Treacherous as it sometimes is, it’s the main transport route for big trucks, buses by the coach load and a glut of cars. The sporadically tunnelled highway penetrates the Cordillera Negra, descends westward and continues to the Pacific Ocean port city of Chimbote, providing vehicle access to the coast from the Callejón de Huaylas. It made riding Bolivia’s Road of Death feel like a day at the beach. Still, during the brief sections that weren’t choked with whizzing traffic, my neck craned up to the top of the towering canon as Pearl’s tyres sang on the vista-terrific turns.
One year, 18,000 miles on moto and five countries into the trip, we are still wending our way up South America—somewhat slowly—loving the two wheeled life more than yesterday but less than tomorrow…
Beneath a cloud-strewn sky, Lima’s bustling Miraflores appeared decent enough and initially I deemed the traffic no more demanding than La Paz or Buenos Aires, feeling thankful to the city angels that my prayers had been answered. Riding in those two cities was hellish enough. Entering Peru’s capital seemed to dispel the dark shadows that had sporadically plagued my soul. I’d been dreading Lima’s loony roads for weeks; fear had waited in the dark recesses of my mind, ready to pounce. Or was I simply adapting to the idiotic drivers of South America’s big cities? In part yes but there, nope, wrong again. The notorious road users of downtown Lima were a notch above moronic leaving the situation nails-in-the-coffin-hopeless. I’d not honked my horn as frequently—for so long—at a given time in my two year riding career; not until venturing eight miles from the BMW Motorrad garage to our accommodation. At night.
As our wee Cessna soared a dizzy height over the Peruvian desert, just a couple of hundred miles southeast of Lima, the dull pale sameness of the rocks and sand organised and changed form. Distinct white lines gradually evolved from tan and rust-red. Strips of white crisscrossed a desert so dry that it rains less than an inch every year. Banking equally hard to the right and then left, the landscape transformed as lines took shape in simple geometric designs: trapezoids, linear lines, rectangles, triangles and whirls. Some perfectly straight, many running parallel and others intersecting, creating a grand geometric profile spanning a 37-mile long plain sat between the Inca and Nasca Valleys. These are the renowned Nasca lines—subject of mystery for over 80 years. So how were they formed? What purpose did they serve? Was extra terrestrial life involved?
Getting to Machu Picchu under our own steam was a conscious choice that worked fairly well. As opposed to opting for a four-day Jungle Trail package for example, which offered more bang for our buck. $200 US would’ve added in four high-energy activities on top of Machu Picchu but for us, spending our clock and cash riding to and visiting the iconic Inca ruins was paramount. Rushing our way through mountain biking when we bike practically everyday to then trek six hours with the day-trippers, after having hiked some of the best stomping ground in South America, didn’t overly appeal. The river rapids and zip lining would’ve been fun though. Still, this was about Machu Picchu and little else.
Leaving La Paz wasn’t the cruisey ride I’d pictured. To begin with, we had some heartfelt farewells and heartwarming moto-hugs to dispense. Oscar reluctantly let us go and sent us on our merry way into the bedlam of downtown La Paz. Getting out of the city meant getting well and truly stuck in it first. Busy with barminess, I hovered over and hit my horn like I was signaling Morse code: ‘Get-me-out-of-here!’ A veritable racket and tantamount to ten times the danger of Bolivia’s disreputable Death Road. Sandwiched between Toyota Town-Aces and Hi-Aces, my panniers scraped and scratched like nobody’s business. A fit of fury stuck halfway down my throat, like a sneeze that refused to come. Mind unraveling to become somewhat discombobulated, I gritted my teeth and remained undeterred, at least outwardly.