3 Week Southern Tour
After meeting you at Lima International Airport we will go over to the
comfortable Hotel Carmel in Miraflores.
Next morning using our same 4X4 vehicle we will travel the 50km. south
of Lima to where our bikes are. The afternoon ride of 160 km. takes us
further down the main coastal highway, the Panamericana, as far as
CHINCHA. Like all the Panamerican Highway in Peru this is a road that
travels through the desert. We pass through a few towns and by
cultivated fields of asparagus or cotton where rivers coming down from
the mountains are providing sufficient irrigation. Late afternoon and
now well down from Lima we turn off the highway and inland the few
kilometres towards our night's resting place - an old sugar plantation
estate dating back 300 years (see more about the 'Hacienda San Jose' in
the 4 WEEK SOUTHERN TOUR text).
Continuing our ride south to NAZCA will take us through grape growing
areas around Ica and also passed olive groves. One could reasonably say
that between Ica and Nazca the desert starts to present its own beauty
on this day's ride. We have chosen another converted hacienda just out
of Nazca to stay. It is now called The Hotel Majoro. From very near El
Majoro you can take the excursion flight to see the famous 'Nazca
Lines'. A flight lasts approximately 45 minutes. Alternatively with the
same aim you may prefer to ride over to the look-out tower and get a
view of a couple of the famous markings. In either case you will have
time to enjoy an afternoon around the swimming pool and garden back at
the hacienda as we stay on for a second night here.
After Nazca we leave the coastal desert and head east on a well surfaced
road that takes us up into The Andes . Aiming for the sizeable town of
Abancay would be somewhat too far for the trip to be enjoyable so we
rest the night at the small town of CHALHUANCA and the following day
arrive at Abancay.
ABANCAY,a busy hub of commerce for all the surrounding mountain
communities, is built on the gently slopping side of a mountain. It
isn't noted for anything much of cultural interest but our hotel - The
Hotel de Turistas - is another decidedly pleasant place to rest up and
enjoy traditional service. At 2,300 mts here it's doubtful you'll suffer
from any effect of altitude but in any case you will be better adapted
by next morning to climb the 30 km of winding road up from Abancay on
the route to Cuzco. At the top of this section we could run into a cold
wet mist. The remaining part of the day's ride runs through a variety of
landscapes - mountain villages, along a semi tropical valley beside the
Apurimac River and finally along the long chilly plain leading into
CUZCO. As you approach built-up areas during the afternoon here be aware
there may be swarms of children walking home from school along beside
the road. They are used to some traffic but nevertheless take care.
Cuzco looks good even when it's raining, which it will most likely not
be doing when you arrive.
Things are somewhat more expensive here. You'll see lots of non
Peruvians - some of them live here and have businesses associated with
tourism. One can't really rush through here there's so much to see.
Cuzco is a gem and the surrounding lands are studded with the evidence
of sophisticated ancient cultures. If you have visited Peru before you
will most likely have spent some days here and if this is your first
visit you probably will have read about The Sacred Valley, Sacsayhuaman
and Machu Picchu - perhaps the best known archaeological site in the
Americas. An attempt to describe these wonders to you here therefore is
probably not really called for.
We spend four nights at our centrally located hotel. This will enable us
to be able to explore around town - as guided or unguided as you would
care it to be, one day riding a circuit which will include PISAC,
CHINCHERO, The URUBAMBA Valley, OLLANTAYTAMBO and SACSAYHUAMAN just out
of town , and one day taking the train to see MACHU PICCHU. This of
course leaves us evenings to participate in the lively night-life scene
in Cuzco as well.
You'll probably meet other foreign bike enthusiasts somewhere in town
too. There's a bar, owned by an American, called ' Norton Rats'. (see
dozens of photos of British bikes up on the wall. Owner currently has a
BMW and a Norton Commando I believe). So enjoy yourselves in Cuzco and
you'll get a day or two's rest from the hardship of riding out there on
the prairie (someone's gotta do it ).
Looking at the map ready for our journey from Cuzco and heading out
towards Lake Titicaca it may seem like an ambitious day's travel. We
seldom climb or meet a winding road however and the first half of the
route takes us through green fertile valley lands. Don't take the
Paucatambo turn off half an hour out of Cuzco or you'll end up in the
jungle! Just on from there you'll see a tile making village. Everything
laid out in various stages of production right beside the road - quite
interesting. As the day goes on the scenery becomes bleaker. Towns such
as Ayaviri appear quite grim in fact. You're now into altiplano lands
proper. Stick to the asphalt road and you won't get lost.
Let us get up early ...(groan ?).. and take a pedal taxi down to the
dock. If the sensation of sitting in a chair pushed through freezing air
does not appeal you can of course rely on a black coffee to wake you up
and take a regular taxi. At the dock there will be several boats for
boarding with such destinations as Isla Taquile, Isla Amantani and the
floating islands of The Uros.
The latter comprises of a group of around forty floating reed islands
half an hour out from Puno.
It is so unusual to walk on these floating 'mats', several feet thick,
and see virtually everything built from tortora reeds that a visit is a
must do. It is possible to continue by boat to Taquile Island. There
lives a quiet community of Quechua Indians that have adapted to a
lifestyle more similar to that of The Aymara Indian. Unmarried women
speak only in whispers. There is no electricity or running water here
and although you can stay on the island we would take the boat back to
Puno arriving somewhere around 6 pm.
A couple of Pisco Sours, a quick demonstration that your digital photos
are actually better than those of your buddy/mate's and you'll probably
be ready for a stroll along Pizza Promenade (actually called Jiron Lima)
between Puno's main Plaza and Parque Pino. At first sight it looks as if
all you can get here is pizza and beer. In fact there is other fare and
several places here have a warm and distinctive atmosphere. Most of the
nightlife is in this area. There are penas and pub-like bars. It can be
freezing in town before nightfall so you'll be glad we've checked into a
Leaving Puno we double back the few kilometres to Juliaca town and make
a turn off west in the general direction of Arequipa - Peru's second
largest city. 50 km or so before the city however we leave the paved
road for a dusty track heading for Chivay and The Colca River Canyon.
This is a route that alternates between good and poor surfaces -
asphalt, sandy, gravel etc. We climb up at one point to 4,900 mts and
from this highest point you can see Chivay town some 1,500 mts below.
Chivay is where most people stay in order to visit The Colca Canyon but
we continue on for an hour to CABANACONDE , the last town before the
road wanders away from the Colca River. The welcoming Kuntur Wassi Hotel
makes an excellent base from which to explore the area. Land is farmed
right up to the edge of the canyon at Cabanaconde. It is a mile drop
down to the Colca River. Short-sighted clients should not get drunk on a
moonless night here !
With a bit of luck we should sight condors soaring over the canyon in an
area known as El Cruz de los Condores some 6 km out from Cabanaconde.
It is here that you culture hungry guests can again gather sustenance.
The places of interest are well promoted and virtually all in the centre
of the city. Our hotel garden might well be a good place to plan a
cultural blitz - although come to think of it considering that the
beautiful flowering gardens here are scattered with slung hammocks ,
easy chairs and that there's a neat little swimming pool across the way
everything could be put on hold for quite a while. OK let's say you
don't want everything presented on a plate - you like to wander about as
will takes you. Fine - this is a good wander place. When you are
eventually out in the street out from the hotel grounds you will find
that the city is - white. Arequipa The White City. Just about all the
buildings have been built from white volcanic sillar - a durable but
easily carvable stone mined from nearby quarries. Heading generally down
hill you'll probably come into one corner of the Plaza de Armas in a
quarter of an hour or so. Enter the Cathedral there, it occupies one
whole side of the Plaza. The 'Lonely Planet' guide for Peru is probably
carried by one of us so beforehand try and read their intriguing story
about 'El Monasterio Misterioso', referring to the Santa Catalina
Monastery, up from the Cathedral on Santa Catalina's third block. Once
an independent community within a city where 500 nuns lived now only 20
occupy a small section of the monastery. A tour is best as you'll miss
nothing and get the history told in English or most other languages. The
art museum shows many styles of Peruvian art. It's all very photogenic,
the streets, the tiny plazas, fountains and gardens. If you enjoy the
experience you might like to accompany me to La Casa Del Moral - built
for Spanish nobility around 1730, this old house contains colonial
furniture, Cuzcena school paintings and a library which has many many
old maps. Very interesting!
Leaving Arequipa city, for a while we run alongside the railway track
that leads to Mollendo on the coast. Even linking up with the
Panamericana Highway again traffic will remain pretty thin.
After passing Camana, where a tidal wave wiped out the beachside
community structure after an earthquake in 2001, the road begins to
follow the contours of the dunes coming down to the sea. It's quite
precarious in places and the highway may be partially blocked by sand
slips here and there. This whole section of the coast is sparsely
We spend the night right beside the ocean at the one horse town of CHALA.
Home to fishermen it may surprise that a reasonable hotel is situated
here but the probable answer is that distances between towns are great
along the southern desert highway.
Next day we continue north along the coastal highway to PARACAS. Famous
for the great variety of wildlife that live along this part of the coast
a large area here has been given National Park status. Vehicles are
permitted entry into the Wildlife Reserve however and during just one
afternoon you should sight at least flamingo's, inca terns , boobies,
humbolt penguins and colonies of sea lions.
For another chance to see pelicans, a host of other local sea birds,
many sea lions and probably dolphins take an excursion boat out from
Paracas to the Ballestas Islands. It is
not permitted to land on the islands but boats ride the swell and idling
the outboard motor, boatmen skilfully bring us right up close to
colonies of wailing sea lions and cliffside birds.
We spend a second night at a holiday chalet style Posada. There is maid
and waitress service or one can self cater (good place to have a near
end of hols party !) The small grounds include a swimming pool.
Your last night on this visit to Peru will be spent at another hotel
beside the Pacific just south of Lima. You'll leave your motorcycles
here and we'll take you over the next day to catch your international
flight back home.
So long and come back again - there's more waiting for you over just