Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 129 (430km): Searching for some white peaks

So there were two things that we wanted to check out today: Llanganuco and Punta Olympica. Unfortunately it was cloudy when we woke up, but it looked a little brighter in the direction we were going. The other downside of our sightseeing was that we had to backtrack. And now time for my rant.

I was so unhappy to be backtracking because we had to drive the dreaded section of road that I have now named my least favourite road on the entire trip. Why? Oh sure Mexico had equally terrible roads (potholes, dirt, gravel) but this road was in similar disrepair but had the added bonus of Peruvian drivers. At least Mexican drivers were more mellow in their approach to potholes. Peruvian are simply crazy! They swerve erratically and at speed. It's an insane experience that lasts for like 50km. So yeah my least favourite section of road ever, and now we had to do it twice more. Not only that but a group of guys fixing the road were asking for money. This is a common practice and not one I support. Their fixing usually ends up making the situation worse because whatever material they use to fill the potholes doesn't last long and becomes debris on the road. Anyway the guy asking for money had a fake gun he was pointing at us when we drove by not stopping to pay. I almost lost it. If my bike was easier to park I think I would have pulled over and kicked the crap out of him. Pointing a fake gun at someone is probably one of the most disrespectful things you can do. Once again losing faith in Peruvian culture.

Okay rant over. We drove to Yungay and followed the signs (only can be seen in the northbound direction) to Llanganuco. It was only 25km of bumpy, busy dirt roads until we arrived at the park gate. We paid our entrance fee and were granted access. I think we were some of the first tourists to visit for the day.
In the park

The natural scenery is quite spectacular. There are dramatic rock formations on either side of the two lagunas. The lagunas (the highlight of the area) are a beautiful blue colour and worth the small detour to check out. You can even camp there overnight (a good stopover after Canon del Pato?). Also there were a bunch of tiny water falls coming down from the rocks. We even caught a glimpse of some white mountain peaks, again we were thwarted by the cloudiness. We lingered around a bit taking pictures and taking in the scenery. By the time we made it back to the dreaded highway it was 1:30pm. 
Intense rock formations
The amazing colour of the lagoon
A hint of glacier when the clouds parted briefly
We decided to cut our losses and skip our other planned activity of the day. The clouds were covering all the amazing mountains so there wasn't much point heading up to Punta Olympica. So we got a jump on tomorrow's riding. Again we drove the gauntlet back to Huaraz and thankfully shortly after getting through town and cruising on highway 3 again the road quality improved. It was disappointing though, and Alberto felt it was shameful that Peru had let the highway get to that condition, considering what an important tourist area it was.

The real road was nice. It had pretty fresh pavement and the scenery was stunningly barren. It kind of reminded me of photos from Mongolia. Probably because of the alpine grass. Even though it was only 2:30pm it felt really late because the clouds made it very dark. We decided to push on though and start our decent back to the coast. This is a deviation from the original plan. Our bikes are still not running well so we decided to take them to Lima to get them checked out.

As soon as we started the decent it was foggy. Really foggy. And the fog pretty much lasted most of the decent, about an hours worth of fog driving. With fog also comes very cold air. I was happy to have my heated vest and grips at full power. By the time we got out of the fog we realized we were probably pretty close to making it to the Panamerican so we decided to push on and get to the coast.

The scenery changed to desert and we soon leveled out. As we were approaching a toll booth two police officers pulled me over (there are usually cops hanging around toll booths). Weird I thought. They asked for our “documentos” (this is usually the first question). No problem we both handed them our fake licenses. The police officer I was talking to handed mine back immediately. They started telling us that we had been speeding, which is true but I had actually slowed down for the toll booth unlike most local traffic. Blah blah, we are both pretending to not speak any spanish. We just kept saying that we were going to Lima and giving the thumbs up sign (indicating that we were all cool). It was silly the guy was trying to get money or whatever but he didn't even have my driver's license. Rookie mistake; he had no bargaining leverage. Anyways they quickly grew tired of us (10min maybe?) and we got to drive off. 
The change in scenery

We hit the Panamerican highway and started heading towards Lima. There was too much civilization and we were starting to get worried about finding a place to stay for the night. We went through another toll booth and we had a hard time by passing the actual booths (Alberto got his cases stuck). We made it free and another cop was trying to pull us over. Alberto was in front and I was behind, hiding behind a big truck. The cop waved Alberto to pull over and he just shook his head and sped off.

Shortly after we found a place to bush camp in the desert. It was starting to get dark so we didn't really want to keep driving. It would be fun to just tear around out there without all the luggage. 
Stopped to camp for the night

Today we broke a record. We saw 4 separate adventure rider groups (going the opposite direction as us) while riding. I think we've only passed like half a dozen other people this entire trip so 4 groups in one day was pretty cool. BMWs seem to be the bike of choice. 
Good to go for the night

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