If I could blame someone for making my trip too easy it would be an American ex-pat named Toby. I found out about him through a motorcycle travel forum online. He lives in Huanuco and organizes motorcycle tours of Peru. He also preps and sells bikes for people like me, those crazy enough to ride around South America on their own. He made the process of buying the bike from him 2 months ago easier than it was to buy a motorcycle helmet (apparently I have an unusually shaped head). So when I was heading back through Central Peru I knew I wanted to stop back in Huanuco to have him go through and service the bike and put on some new tires. Within 7 hours the bike was prepped and ready for another 6,000 miles of what ever I can throw at it.
In the morning I joined him and his wife for breakfast. We discussed routes and good stopover places. Roads to avoid and must see cities. 20 years he has lived in Peru. He knows the roads, towns and history of this country better than most Peruvians. So once I had mapped out my route for the remainder of Peru and Bolivia. I said goodbye and started off again. With the bike running like a top and a full days rest for me I feel rejuvenated and excited to make my way for Cusco. But my destination for today is a town nestled in the mountains called Tarma. And all the knowledge,planning and prep in the world can’t guarantee your ride is going to be without some friction. Mother Nature is always that wild card ready to test your fortitude.
Over the course of this 155 mile ride I encountered a variety of bad weather. Fortunately it was all on good paved highways. I started the ride at 6,000 ft elevation, overcast with a light drizzle. I began climbing in elevation and with it heavier rain and colder temperatures. This is the Andes in the rainy season after all. As I reached my peak at 15,000 ft the wind was blowing hard. The rain would clear for half an hour then return. As I began descending a bit I took a coffee break to warm up and rest. About and hour later the weather went from being a nuance to being miserable. I was back in heavy rain and wind. My body began shivering uncontrollably. There were storm clouds as far out as I could see. I was too far out where there is no good place to stop for the night, I just have to suck it up and make it. Then the hail came. You don’t fully appreciate the security of a car until you experience bb’s of ice falling and hitting you in the hands, arms and chest while your doing 45 mph. I am now probably 15 miles from any shelter to wait out this storm. I just keep focused on the road and remind myself that this will pass. After about 20 mins, which felt like 20 hours, the hail stopped. I had a few miles of clear weather to gather myself and rest. But I was still wet and freezing cold. I got off the bike and did jumping jacks to try and get the blood flowing. My soaked leather gloves made it difficult to keep feelings in my hands. The rain returned and I still have about 35 miles left before I get to town. I ride on and start thinking, hoping I find a decent hostel that is warm and has hot water. Then Bang! Lightning strikes straight ahead of me no farther an a mile away. So to tally up my feelings and emotions; I am freezing, tired, in pain and now terrified. I have never been this close to lighting before. And riding a motorcycle through a lightning storm has never been on my to do list. The rain has slowed to a drizzle now so I have fairly good visibility. I start riding as fast as I can to get out of this valley. I know once I get to the last few miles I drop significantly in elevation and should have clearer skies. Finally I make it clear of the storm. Get into town which happens to be quite pretty with farms growing all kinds of bright yellow, orange, and purple flowers. I find a hotel and shed my riding gear off as soon as possible. Spread my gear out to dry. This being so routine now it’s practically habitual. Then I start to head for the shower when I look out the window and spot something pleasantly surprising, across the street is a sign saying “sauna/ bath house.” My mind immediately went to my time in a Turkish bath house in Istanbul and how refreshing that was after a rough day. So I decided to check it out. It turned out to be a simple sauna room with only two other people there. But it was amazing, just what I needed after such a dreadful ride. Know I sit bundled up in a bed. Dry, warm, and content. It’s funny how fast things can turn disastrous, and how they can just as quickly turn favorable.