ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU, FINAL DAY: Arequipa to Arica
Hi Worldtourers out there!
Today was the last riding day of our Adventure Machu Picchu tour. About 400km (250 miles) from vibrant Arequipa to Arica, passing by Moquegua and Tacna. It was a good mix of curvy roads and long desert straights.
The group - I would almost like to call it a "team" at this stage of the tour - stayed closely together in the cities' busy and sometimes crazy traffic. Not least thanks to Andre on his 1200GS, who would just block intersections and bully off any interfering traffic in cities during the entire trip (one time, he even blocked off a police car from cutting into our "motorcade").
Passing through large desert stretches, we were able to once again admire the persistence of the Peruvian people in turning desert into farmland. Every little plant is carefully grown, protected from sun and wind, until it is strong enough to hold soil with its roots. We passed through green valleys with cows and trees in the middle of the desert - a very positive, inspiring sight.
At one stop along the way we decided to make the best possible use of this enormous amount of sand and just play around a little bit with our photo cameras - inspired by our pictures taken at the Salar de Uyuni on the Adventure Altiplano Tour. Take a look, I think they are hilarious!
In the afternoon we reached a part of the desert (shortly before Tacna) where the sand was of an incredible red color.
We stopped to take in this unique scenery, to contemplate and quietly observe... as Martin once again changed tarmac for loose ground and spiced things up a bit. Can you tell he's having fun?
Most of us just watched, only Andre got "sanded" a bit by Martin.
After some more paperwork and many, many, many stamps at the border between Peru and Chile we finally made it to Arica, where we decided to wash off the sand with a few beers on the hotel's terrace. Over dinner we recapped the entire tour - it feels like it lasted for a lot more than only 2 weeks - and there were more than one voice suggesting that we should just go, get the bikes and ride back into Peru right away. Nobody wants to leave, really...
But who can blame us? We had two very special weeks on this adventure tour, and although the tour is over, it will hardly ever be forgotten.We met great people within our group, but also among locals: impressed with their hospitality, friendliness, and interest in our trip. We felt welcome wherever we stopped, people happily approached us and not only asked about our "where-to, where-from", but also told us about themselves.
There were the kids of the Plaza Central in Puquio: Pedro, Tomás and Maria Rosario...
... there was James from London who is driving his 250ccm from Buenos Aires to Quito...
...the lady who prepared Sankayo juice in Maca...
...Gregorio from the fabrics store/museum in Cusco...
...Elvis and Emerson from the Eco Lodge in Tambopata...
...the lady with the baby (her sixth!) on her back selling paintings on the Plaza de Armas, Oscar and Manuel from Colombia who are driving their BMWs around the world in over 2 years, Catherine from Washington D.C. who is a successful Enduro racer but just spent a month in the Amazonía studying exotic frogs, or the friendly customs officer in Challacuta who is dreaming of putting a stamp in Travis Pastrana's passport next year, when the Dakar Rally passes through Peru.
We saw amazing places, and these experiences are "for keeps":
We "survived" the long ride along the scenic coastal road on our way to Puerto Inka...
...took a dizzying flight over the mysterious Nasca Lines...
...drove through tens of thousands of curves on the way to Machu Picchu...
...learned about the Inka culture in Cusco...
...experienced the fragile balance of nature in the Amazonía...
...greeted the sun with the Condors in Colca...
...and sipped Pisco overlooking the vibrant Plaza Mayor in Arequipa.
We take home not only pictures, souvenirs and memories, but a lot of stories to tell and a longing to return.
And maybe, or rather: hopefully, we will all meet again somewhere. Off or on a motorbike, maybe even on an Edelweiss Tour somewhere on this planet.
Wherever that will be the case: We'll certainly keep you posted...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 12: El Condor Pasa - from Colca Canyon to Arequipa
Hi Worldtourers out there!
Today, we really had an incredible day. It started with... an early breakfast and a busride. Departure 6:30 a.m. But guess what: it was TOTALLY WORTH IT!
We hired a minibus to take us from Chivay in the Colca Valley into Colca Canyon. On the way into the canyon, we made a few quick stops for some photos.
Some of these terraces in the Colca Valley date way back to the 14th century - and are still cultivated today with wheat, corn, quinoa and potatoes.
Up at the Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint for Condors circling in the morning sun's thermal lift, we waited for the winds to pick up and the giant birds to appear. After all, the Condor is the world's largest bird with a wingspan of up to 3,5 meters (almost 12 ft.), and quite an impressive, yet rare animal. He can reach flying altitudes of up to 7.000 metres (23.000 ft.)- almost as high as a jet plane. The Condors in the Colca Canyon build their nests in the steep rocky cliffs in order to protect their offspring from predators. They seem to have accepted the humans who come to watch them fly, however.
We settle down at the brink of a deep abyss and prepare our cameras. In vain. Nothing. We're a bit disappointed , when all of a sudden, a huge shadow glides over the ground. We look up and see a mighty silhouette of a truly majestic Condor passing above.
Then he disappears behind a cliff. But that appears to have been some sort of a starting signal. For the next hour, we count up to 8 different Condors. The pass very closely above our heads, always sailing in the thermal lifts. Not once did we see a Condor flap his wings, they just move the tips of their mighty wings to control direction and speed.
Breathtaking. That's the whole experience of watching these majestic creatures boiled down to one single word. Breathtaking.
We are able to watch younger, still brownish-coloured Condors fighting over a comfy rock ledge, and adult (black and white) Condors circling over the canyon, with sporadic loops over our heads.
What incredible, majestic, beautiful animals. They are so big, it seems as though they could easily carry a grown man away.
After this wonderful experience at the Cruz del Condor we had a quick lunch and then saddled up to ride 160km (100 miles) from Chivay to Arequipa.
Nice winding roads, great scenery, perfect weather, and a truly special hotel in right downtown Arequipa put a finishing touch on a great day: great morning, great ride, great hotel, great dinner, great atmosphere, great mood among all of us. To top it off, John (who stayed for two more days in Cusco) rejoined us at the hotel - what a great day!
Arequipa (2.200m altitude) is Peru's second-largest city, home to over 1 million inhabitants. In its center lays a truly unique Plaza Mayor, with people enjoying the garden architecture, view of the monastery, and the presence of thousands of ... pigeons!
The sun has set over Arequipa's Plaza Mayor - and it is still full of life: people, lights, sounds... what a great atmosphere!
There can hardly be a nicer place on earth to enjoy an after-ride beer and a pleasant conversation...
Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Arica. Crossing the border plus 400 km, and we "lose" one hour due to a change in the time zone.
As usual, we'll keep you posted...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 11: Power-Ride to the Colca Condors of Chivay
Hi Worldtourers out there!
Today we had a true adventurer's ride. We left Cusco early in the morning at 7:00 a.m. Man, this city is a crazy maze. We barely made it out of this cauldron of absolutely ruthless taxi drivers, pedestrians and motorcyclists. We miss our companions Julio, Eduardo and Rina, who had to fly back a few days earlier. John, Andre's father, will skip a couple of days and rejoin the group in Arequipa. We loaded his bike onto the support vehicle in the meantime.
Our now smaller group of eight bikes faces the longest day's distance of this trip: 600km (over 370 miles). Fresh, or rather: cold air, as we set out from Cusco. Curves and beautiful landscapes accompanied us as we headed southwest towards Juliaca in the Altiplano. Only 40km to the famous lake Titicaca, but we have a different route. There have been a lot of violent riots in Puno lately, so we take highway 112 westbound towards Arequipa. The landscape is wide and open, we are traveling in the Altiplano at an altitude of about 4.300m (over 14.000 feet). The air is chilly, but the sun is strong.
Today's roadbook is an extensive read, but we are a tight group, we ride on a good pace and we keep our stops short.
Road conditions are perfect for most of the day, and the curves make sure that we get our share of the fun!
And when curves aren't enough, Martin looks for a chance to have some fun on loose ground...
Towards the evening, we climb one last pass, and we reach our tour's highest point: 4.900m above sealevel (over 16.000 ft)!
It is quite frosty up there, so we just have a quick last stop on the pass before descending into the valley, as the sun sets on the mountains and hills around us, as we make our way into Colca Canyon.
We reach our hotel in daylight, and after an adventurous dinner, we go to bed early. Tomorrow we have to get up even earlier than today: we are going deep into Colca Canyon to see the world's biggest birds fly over our heads: we are going Condor-spotting at sunrise!
We'll keep you posted on that adventure...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 10: Cusco
Hi Worldtourers out there!
After returning from the Amazonía, we took it easy for another day. In the morning, we visited important Inka sights in Cusco: An old Inka fortress (Saksaywaman, or "Sexy Woman", as the locals jokingly call it), a cathedral built on massive Inka stone foundations, just to name a few. We had Ruth, our kind and competent sightseeing guide with us - she had already accompanied us in Machu Picchu. Cusco, once "Capital of the World", and certainly "Navel of the World" in the eyes of the Inka, offers an amazing amount of impressive colonial churches in the direct vicinity of the Plaza de Armas. The square is designed according to Spanish tradition (which again has Arabic roots), only the plants in it are rather exotic. The square itself is full of life. The grass on on the square appears to be off-limits for everybody, but people enjoy taking a walk or just sitting on the benches having a little chat.
The afternoon served as relaxation and shopping time - all of a sudden those suitcases seemed a lot harder to pack!
We had dinner in the main square of Cusco (Plaza de Armas) and then went to bed early: Tomorrow we have to hit the road at 7:00 a.m.!
We'll keep you posted...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAYS 7-9: VISITING THE AMAZONÍA
Hi Worldtourers out there!
We’re back from our trip to the Amazonian region of Peru, in particular the Tambopata River. What an adventure!
Half an hour’s flight from Cusco lays the city of Puerto Maldonado. At an altitude of about 400m above sea level, the city has a tropical, warm and humid climate. Life in the streets is vivid: lots of young people, good vibes, and… a bizillion motorcycles. We hardly saw any cars in that town: everybody seems to ride a motorcycle. The streets are an infinite motorcade of Chinese Jailing bikes and Hondas. If you don’t own your own bike, you take a taxi. A motor-taxi, that is. Men and women in yellow jackets will pick you up on their motorbikes and drive you wherever you want. What a great, lively town!
From Puerto Maldonado we had a bus transfer to Hell. Well, actually, to THE Hell. The Hell (Los Infiernos) are a tribe living by the Tambopata River that has specialized in shipping people and goods up- and downstream. The name of the tribe comes from the times of the early European settlers in the region, who considered living conditions in the wilderness of the forest so tough that they called it “Hell”.
The bumpy road to (the) Hell ends in a small opening by the riverside, where we are shown to a motorboat. Our two local guides, Elvis and Emerson, serve us a delicious meal during our 2,5 hour boat ride upstream, as we approach our destination: The Tambopata Eco-Lodge.
On our trip upstream we can already see many animals of the forest: “Loros” (parrots), turtles (with butterflies on their noses: they drink their salty tears!), Capibaras (the world’s largest rodents, about the size of a pig), and of course: caymans. Elvis and Emerson have incredible animal-spotting abilities, and they see animals by the shore that we have a hard time discovering even when we get closer to them.
The Tambopata Eco-Lodge consists of about a dozen bungalows or cabins and a couple of common buildings such as dining room, bar/reception, etc. The lodges are simple, but generous in size, clean and comfortable. It is clear to see that a lot of thought and passion have been put into the construction of this compound. The entire personnel, from cooks to guides to general manager, are very friendly and clearly devoted to the idea of ecological sustainability and resource management. It is clear to see that they don’t only love their job, but also the forest, the river and the animals in them.
We arrive in the afternoon of Day 7, have a little rest to get acclimatized and then, after sunset and before dinner, we start our first little “warm-up-expedition”. A short lap in the forest - at night! Many of the animals in the forest are night-active, and we get to see plenty of them. Mainly insects such as spiders of all sizes, but also a tiny snake, not more than 1cm in diameter. The sounds of the many animals around us fills the night, and for a minute or two, we even turn off our flashlights and stand still just to listen to the jungle.
Dinner is - as all meals at the lodge - excellent. A carefully prepared mix of local dishes and international cuisine gives insight into what the local soils have to offer (rice, potatoes, mangos, maracuyas, water melons, grapefruits), so we go to bed early and in eager expectation of what the early morning might bring: We are leaving for an excursion deeper into the forest: at 6:30 a.m.!
But we should wake up way before that…
The next morning we are awakened by a loud, deep, grinding sound. As if two round, large rocks were grinding against each other like an old stone-mill. The sound appears to come from farther away, but it covers all the other sounds of exotic birds around us. At first I think it must be some kind of engine noise, only to find out it is a type of large monkeys screaming from the treetops. Since the bungalows only have insect-screens but no windows, you have the impression of sleeping outdoors - what an exciting and beautiful way of falling asleep (and waking up)!
We are too excited to be tired, so we start the early expedition full of energy. A few minutes boat-ride upstream, and we reach a small dock, from where a path leads into the forest. But we are not the only ones to use that path. In the sandy river-bank beside the dock we find fresh Jaguar footprints. As usual, our guides Elvis and Emerson are the prime spotters of any animal tracks or other interesting things.
We walk through the forest and see many exotic plants and animals, such as the garlic tree (its bark smells like garlic), the elephant tree (the bark looks like elephant skin), the bull ant (reaches about 4 cm in size) and the tarantula. But we are not the only ones walking through the forest. There are also walking trees. Yes, I know, it sounds crazy. There are in fact trees with elevated roots that can “walk” up to 15cm a year, always looking for a better, sunnier spot underneath the huge green blanket of leafs and branches.
Shortly before returning, we have a quick stop at a small lake and board a canoe. Out on the lake, we are able to observe a large variety of different animals, such as parrots, tucans, and other unspeakably beautiful and exotic creatures. We find sleeping bats, turtles and even piranhas. Since we have some leftover crackers on us, we feed the crackers to the piranhas, and immediately the water surface appears to be boiling with fish, ripping apart whatever we throw in the water. These piranhas are yellow-belly piranhas and usually not dangerous for humans - it is the red-belly ones we should be aware of (and of course, one should not have a bleeding wound when entering these waters…).
After a delicious lunch we have a variety of choices for our afternoon activities. Some of us decide to rest, others visit a local fruit plantation (based on sustainable management principles), while some others decide to climb up into the crown of a giant tree and observe the forest from a slightly “higher” perspective.
At dinner, we all have our own exciting stories to tell about the forest. But the day is not over yet. At night, we are going on a special expedition: cayman-spotting!
In the dark, we board our little vessel and drive upstream for about 45 minutes. All the lights on our boat are off, except for a search light at the front. Emerson and Elvis are excellent spotters, and we are able to find some beautiful white caymans waiting for prey by the river shores. We decide to cancel the swimming part of the excursion...
On the way back to the lodge, we stop the engine for a few minutes and turn off all the lights. Drifting along in the dark under an incredible star-spangled sky, with the dark river shores and the noises of thousands of animals coming from the forest, we get a sense of understanding why the people in the region love the forest and the river and everything that lives in them so much. What a beautiful, enriching experience.
It is hard to pack our bags and leave early the next morning. We enjoy every minute of our very early ride back to Puerto Maldonado, as the sun rises over the forest and birds greet the day in their manifold musical ways. And somehow we know that we want to return to this place, be it sooner or later, to share this experience with more people.
We fly back to Cusco - that's NOT the plane we took - and we will now have one and a half days in Cusco ahead of us: Time to rest and reflect, but also to catch some very impressive sights from colonial and pre-colonial times.
We’ll keep you posted on the events to come, so check back for updates!
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 6: VISITING MACHU PICCHU
Hi Worldtourers out there!
Today we visited Machu Picchu, one of the Seven World Wonders (and UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity). It is an ancient Inka town, located on a mountaintop at around 2.600m of altitude.
The only reason why this Inka settlement was never destroyed by the Spanish conquerors is that they actually never discovered it.
No visitor of Machu Picchu can deny the incredible aura this place has. Ingenuity, mistery, beauty.
We spent a few hours taking a tour with a local guide or walking about in the ruins on our own.
Sometimes pictures say more than a thousand words - so please just enjoy the photos below!
Early morning train to Machu Picchu - departure 7:05 a.m.! Tough to get up, but THAT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Mountains are incredibly steep here!
We are all climbing about in these incredibly sophisticated and well-preserved Inka ruins...
A first glimpse of the ruins...
After climbing a bit more, we catch this breathtaking view of the city of Machu Picchu. What a beauty, isn't it?
The Sun Temple (located atop the Moon Temple) is proof of the astronomical genius of the Inka. On midsummer noon and sunset, the rays of the sun will hit particular spots inside the temple when falling through the windows.
But just look at how this whole place is built: high precision rock carving (all by hand) leads not only to fantastic and unique wall designs, they also provide for seismic stability: earthquakes are an issue in the region, after all...
Life as an Edelweiss Tourguide can be really hard sometimes...
After a few hours of "ruins-climbing" and taking a bizillion photos, we took the train back to Ollantaytambo, where we saddled up and rode about 85 kilometers to the town of Cusco.
Cusco once was the center of the Inka empire. Cusco, or "Quosquo" in Quechua, means "center, navel of the world".
Today, it is a beautiful colonial city of 450.000 inhabitants. With crazy traffic, fascinating buildings and superb alpaca steaks.
But more on this next time... when we return from the Amazon. Our plane is leaving tomorrow morning, we expect to see some serious wildlife!
We'll keep you posted...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 5: Chalhuanca - Ollantaytambo
So you thought 350km of perfect, alpine-style curves (220 miles) in one piece would be a lot. Well, you were not counting the second 350km of curves awaiting us today. We started out in Tampumayu near Chalhuanca, riding along a river.
Everybody in a good mood, ready to take on the day!
Amazing scenery, and the sun quickly heated up the air. Morning frost, quickly forgotten.
Martin even enjoyed taking a little detour in a riverbed. If he can't swim in it, he'll ride in it...
Soon, the vegetation changed. At times you could picture yourself in a place like northern Italy: these valleys look like an image straight out of Tuscany - except for the high, snowy mountains surrounding them. Oh, and did I mention the perfect curves we enjoyed all day long?
We had picnic near a farm, the locals were friendly. We even learned some Quechua (=ancient Inka language) words...
The afternoon gave us some more breathtaking sceneries and enough curves in order to never forget this fantastic ride - ever!
In the evening, just as the sun sets over a breathtakingly beautiful valley and fields of corn and wheat, we arrive at our Hotel.
After a quick briefing on tomorrow's trip to Machu Picchu, we make sure we have our stuff ready for the early morning departure. We're taking the 7:05 train to Aguas Calientes, a village at the foot of the Huayna Picchu.
We'll keep you posted on our trip...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 4: Nasca - Chalhuanca
Hi World Travellers out there!
Today we left the busy town of Nasca in search of some curves.
And curves we found! Over 350km into the mountains of Peru - and not a single straight piece of road! Perfect turns for hours and hours, until we all felt dizzy.
We climbed high, very high, to over 4.500m above sea level (over 13.000ft)! The air was thin, but we were having fun.
Shortly before Puquio, we met another World Traveller on a motorbike: James from London, he has been on the road for over three months now and is on the way to Quito.
It is amazing: The curves and passes are really like in the Alps, but there's something different about the whole setting, too: cactus trees, alpacas, driving habits of locals... (no head lights, honking, cutting corners...)
We enjoyed the company of friendly Peruvians in Puquio, where we stopped for lunch. The town is excited about the elections this coming Sunday, and every passer-by we ask offers us a different prognosis on the outcome of the elections.
In the afternoon, we enjoy even more curves and an amazing landscape.
Now going down a beautiful mountain pass, we reach the cosy hotel resort of Tampumayu. 2.600m above sea level, to us it feels almost tropical: warm, lots of vegetation, and incredibly quiet and relaxing.
Somebody must have put a lot of passion into building this place - it immediately makes us feel at home. They even built a tiny chapel in honor of the founder of the compound, a monk.
To conclude the day, we enjoyed a good dinner by the fireside in the dining room.
Tomorrow we are travelling to Ollantaytambo (try saying that name three times in a row...), our "base camp" for our expedition to Machu Picchu!
We'll keep you posted...
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 3: Puerto Inka - Nasca
Hi Worldtourers out there!
Today we had a comparatively easy riding day. Starting off from the beautyful bay, where we visited some ancient Inka ruins right next to the hotel, we took some last coastal curves before heading inland towards the town of Nasca.
Nasca is famous for its gigantic pre-inkaic symbols in the desert.
We decided to take a closer look and jumped in an airplane. Voluntarily.
The pilot gave us a good ride, and we got some great pictures out of it!
The "astronaut"? Or just a large image of an ancient motorcycle rider?
The "Condor" - what an impressive sign of civilization! Some of these images extend over many miles, and their origin and meaning is still very disputed among scientists. Water lines? Signs for extraterrestrials?
After having some resting time in the hotel, we took to a lovely restaurant and then decided to get some sleep before tomorrow's ride. We are going to be crossing some high mountain passes, so we should better be in good shape!
ADVENTURE MACHU PICCHU DAY 2: Moquegua - Puerto Inka
Hi Worldtourers out there!
It's the second day of our Peruvian Motorcycle Adventure. After all the border formalities yesterday we are eager to get on our bikes and hit the road. And there's plenty of road ahead of us: Roughly 550km (about 350 miles) await us. We start out of Moquegua and hit the road into the desert. The first 250 km guide us through the desert and show us what people can actually do with it if they really try: Reforestation projects everywhere! We can see the various stages, from tiny plants fighting the sandy environment to blooming pastures with cattle on them and forests.
Descending from the desert towards the Pacific Ocean we stopped in an abandoned beach town and had an exclusive picnic by the sea - in front of the "Cruiseship of Love".
Crabs running around in the sand (sideways, as usual...)
After the picnic, it was off to the fantastic coastal road.
Curves, curves, curves, and a breathtaking scenery. It was hard to decide whether to rather stop for a photo or to enjoy the next curve!
Sunset along the pacific coast of Peru - that's how you want to enjoy it!
We arrived in Puerto Inka after sunset.
Hungry, but happy!
Tomorrow we are going to Nasca, to see the mysterious lines of the Nasca people.
Check back for an update!
Hi Worldtourers out there!
Today we started our adventure tour from Arica in Northern Chile: a 2-week journey through Peru!
We are a group of 11 travellers plus guide and support vehicle:
There's John and André from Canada, Ken and Roger from Australia, Ray, David and Jeffrey from the United States, Eduardo, Rina and Julio from El Salvador, Martin from Switzerland, guide Jürgen from Austria and mechanic Victor from Chile. I guess you can really say that we are WORLD-tourers, right?
Crossing from Chile into Peru, today we had to deal with Chilean and Peruvian customs and other border authorities. You would NOT believe the amount of STAMPS a single piece of paper can hold
But it must be said that border personnel in both countries acts highly professional and friendly. While waiting we also met two more motorcycle travellers from Mexico (Oscar and his Manuel). They have been on the road for 10 months already, and are planning another 1.5 years to go around the world!
In any case, after an extended period of filling out forms and waiting in line, we passed the border into Peru.
What a landscape! We had lunch in the pittoresque town of Tacna near the border. People were friendly and apparently Martin has found some female admirers Everybody wanted to take a picture of the bikes as we stopped at main square in Tacna.
Then we continued through the desert to Moquegua, where we arrived later in the afternoon and had some perfect curvy stretches driving into a beautiful canyon as the sun set and painted the mountains red and orange.
Before dinner, some of us tried the famous "Pisco Sour", a local drink/cocktail. Moquegua is part of the "Ruta del Pisco", a region in Peru famous for its Pisco production. Since we are in the "Hotel Mirador" (Hotel "Lookout Point"), here's the view we are enjoying over the city of Moquegua right now:
Everybody is in good mood and it is a fantastic experience to get to know so many people from different parts of the world!
Tomorrow we have quite a trip ahead of us: we will be driving to Puerto Inka by the seaside.
Check back frequently for updates - don't miss our worldtourer adventures!