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Dirt road riding in Peru to Manu National Park

Dirt road riding in Peru to Manu National Park

Ok.. side trip number 2 with young Petar!  And we are heading to Manu National Park.  When people come to Cusco and if they want to experience a bit of the Amazon, this is the park they head to.  Our goal is not to head into the Amazon, but to experience the famous sunrise there. I’ll explain more below.

Out of Cusco we came to Pisaq.  There was NO WAY around or through Pisaq, because?  They are having a celebration!! This one is for the Virgen del Carmen. The streets are completely closed for 3 full days of dancing.  In the long line there is a car horn carrying on, and then through my helmet I hear “Sherddi!!!!!”  Who knows me here!?

It was Talo, the boss where I stay in Cusco.  He did not tell me he was coming this way today!

But as a local he knows a way around Pisaq. So we followed his truck for him to show us a way through via the less traveled dirt tracks.  These tracks are not on the gps and not partially clear on the map, so Talo dropped us at the turn off.

We pass a couple more tracks and Petar wants to make sure we are on the right road by asking a local.

Later he wants to check the map again. It’s bloody hard to get a reading on a map that’s blowing in the high elevation winds!

Petar really feels unsure, so he stops at this house and asks anybody who is inside.  The child in the photo below was quite scared.  Imagine, a road that isn’t traveled much gets a very tall (6’3″ – 6’6″) I can’t remember.. a VERY tall Croatian man – comes up to your house in a suit and helmet asking for directions. I would be scared too! 😉

He confirms we are on the right track and we continue to the mountain pass.

It’s a bit chilly up here.. And one of the last things I expected to see on this very small road, is a road construction crew! And even LESS expected.. is that they are women!!  This really is most unusual.  And to prove my point that the people here really do wear those beautiful hand made clothes every day, not just for tourists.  I asked them for a photo and they said yes, but had no intention of looking at the camera.

Moving on up..

The road gets smaller and smaller and we ascend in and out of the clouds.

Always my favorite tracks, the dirt roads never fail to be the most special ones.

Petar shared some of his photos of me riding.  It’s not often I get photos of me riding the bike, usually I’m only using my photos I take of others riding. So the following photos are Sherri Jo overkill, but I like the photos and couldn’t pick.. 😉

Now.. we get into a bit of trouble.  We managed to find our goal, Paucartambo, Peru where they are also celebrating the Virgen del Carmen.  The streets are crowed and we simply wanted to get some dinner before heading to a campsite in Manu National Park.  Sunrise is at 6 AM, so it’s best to camp there for this famous sunrise.

The best we could come up with for dinner was a couple tins of tuna, a couple bread rolls and Petar got some onions.

Once we arrived the park is was pouring rain and getting dark.  The lady at the entrance suggested we wait in her warm dry park house until the rangers come back.  Here we ate our tinned tuna, and somehow Petar doesn’t mind eating raw onion like an apple.. ick!  The tuna was a gooey mesh of what I would consider to be the worst they could get away with putting in a tin.  So it was a bread roll for me.

The rangers came back but they were not going to drive the extra 13 km’s to show us the camp site until they had a 1 hour nap.  It’s already 9 pm, so Petar and I decided to make our own way there in the dark cold rain.

This is were I question why I do things.  The 13 km of thick mud, in the pouring rain AND fog was so difficult.  The road twisted so much and my bike was always sliding into the ditch.  Luckily the ditch would catch me, because all I could see was the white wall of fog.  Little did I know until the next morning when leaving that I was riding along a cliff and a big slide off would have spelled the END.. easily.

An hour later we arrived, the rangers rode up behind us.  They asked how I was, I told them I wasn’t too happy.  That was really scary.  If I had known what it was, I wouldn’t have done it.  The rangers were kind enough to allow us to sleep on their building floor for the rest of the night.  It wasn’t comfortable or warm, but it was dry.

About 4 AM, everyone is up and about.  We couldn’t believe the rukkus out here in the middle of nowhere.  The ladies were making coffee and hot chocolate.  Petar and I were looking at each through our sleeping bags and said, what the heck is going on?

The tour buses starting arriving at 5 AM!!  Seriously!?!  Arriving!  There are no hotels close to here.

They are all buying their coffee and chocolates and reserving their position on the cliff to view the nowhere-near-close-to-time sunrise.

Petar and I packed up our things and also made our way to find our best spot for photos.

This location, called Tres Cruces, is famous because we are still high in elevation (3600 meters), however it is regarded as one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world with the snow capped Andes mountains in the distance and the wild green Amazon below.

Petar was going around showing people a photo of a golden sunrise he took in Ecuador that is on file in his camera.  Pretty smart!  They were all oooing and ahhing at his photo, because there was no spectacular sunrise happening here!

This was the best I could get.. a bit of sun on the Andes mountains somehow between cloud layer 1 and cloud layer 2. Which I thought those cloud layers were cool anyway.

While standing here, we kept hearing the strangest sound coming out of those clouds.  It sounded more electronic than of a bird or animal and seemed to be flying past us.  We kept looking and looking and never saw a thing!  Still baffled by that one… mysterious things come from the Amazon.

Aw well, other than the ride in during the night, the morning was a good experience.  I like being up early.  And we got a photo of the lovely girl who worked so hard last night to keep us warm by the fire with hot tea.  She is a volunteer and travels all the way from Arequipa (near the west coast of Peru) to do this as credit for her University.

And the rangers who passed us in their 4 WD’s last night on the dark muddy track while I was suffering on very slippery two wheels…grrrrr! wanted a photo as well. They were such nice guys and loved hearing our stories..

It’s nearly a whopping 7 AM!  So much accomplished already today.. we best start the bikes up and get a move on!

Petar and I were the last to leave.  The tour buses were long gone while we were taking photos with the staff.  Now I get to see the road I traveled last night in the dark.

Ooooo, pretty!

Ooooo, mud! Yeah, the mud got a bit deep but I was dealing with it.  And then!  Traffic jam!  What’s up?

Petar jumps off his bike and he’s gone to find out.  He comes running back.. “There’s a bus stuck!”  Why he is so excited about this.. well, I came to learn, that man LOVES mud!!  Have you ever seen anybody more excited for the stuff!?!  Especially on two wheels?

This is the sort of mud where the bike refuses to travel a straight line.  I was riding sideways myself, so it’s easy to imagine what went wrong with the bus.

Yep, rear wheel in the ditch.  Exactly what was happening to me last night!

Push, push, push and they did it!!

Now we cross the bridge near Paucartambo.  I noticed in the water a big truck crossing through the river.  Reminded me so much of being in Russia again, except there we would have to ride in the river as well, or cross on a super shonkey half broken bridge.

In Pacaurtambo, we wanted to stop and enjoy the early morning party! The annual Festival of the Virgen del Carmen is a mix of Andean pre-Columbian ceremonies and Catholic religion in which masked costumed dancers relive ancient gods and rites. This Andean religious celebration reflects the struggle between Christianity and pre-Columbian Andean religion that has gone on for centuries now since the Spanish invasion. The Virgin is considered to be the Mother of God, whom they call Pachamama (Mother Earth).  The dances show the struggle between good and evil.

Speaking of.. it’s these good OR evil guys that lured me in..!

They were actually a lot of fun.  I can not tell you how many times one of them would come up behind me and scare me.. then laugh his head off!

We ended up joing their procession.  They had such a beat with the feet and drums.. I could have marched the whole town with them, loved it! AND, I really love their hair… But we still have a lot to accomplish today.. even though the dancers were very welcoming of me. I fit right in! If I am to believe my own brother, I am “Scarey Sherri!” 😉

Beers are normal for a parade, but keep in mind.. it’s only 9 AM…. (again, reminds me of Russia!)

On the square I found a young boy selling money.. Yes, current money. I couldn’t believe it so I took a photo.  Every bill you ever spend in Peru, you get checked whether it is counterfeit.  Quite often it is, I learned to spot them myself and would refuse them (mainly from taxi drivers in Cusco).  I met a french lady on the border of Bolivia and Peru who got stuck with hundreds of them. The money house would not exchange them and it was quite a loss.  So be aware if you travel to Peru…

Genuine thingos for sale for the Virgen del Carmen.

I loved the beat these guys danced to as well.  I’m getting into this party!

As we wander through town, I thought this was a great example of a typical pueblo shop.  I have seen it many times, but never photographed it.  What’s for dinner tonight? Easy!  Chop off a big of pig.. chop off a bit of pumpkin, grab a couple of onions and a drink.. and you’re set! 😉  And this is one of the better stocked shops!

Or order fast food.  These girls have the Cuy and more pig parts cooked and ready.

Just in case you need a lambs skin with your potatoes?

And pick up some water from the back of a truck .. before heading home.

Makes me really appreciate the lifestyle I grew up in even more.  I never knew just how much I take for granted in my western world.

We found a completely different dirt track to take back to Cusco.  While passing these cheery guys, they stopped to allow my photo. Somehow, fitting 3 men on a tiny motorcycle is not that hard, they make it work! (I’m not sure which one I feel the most sorry for… 😉

I loved these boys.  They are so cute!  There is NO house within sight.  They are here on their own, I assume to keep an eye on the sheep behind them?  And a couple of toy trucks to play with later.

I know that sight.. We are getting close to Pisaq, I would recognize those agricultural terraces anywhere!

Petar and I went to a small cafe on the second floor and watched the world go by from the balcony where they are also still celebrating the Virgen del Carmen on this last day of the weekend.

These were my favorite masks.  Either they are meant to be whistling, or smoking.. not sure but I couldn’t help but to make the monkey sound…

Back to the big smoke.. for another night in Cusco.

Another great side-adventure with young Petar.  Petar’s visa for Peru is running out and he needs to be out of the country in 2 days.  My visa is also running out in about 5 more days. James isn’t going to be to Cusco anytime soon, so I do need to update my visa in order to keep waiting for him. The easiest way to do that is ride the bike to the border, exit then re-enter Peru.  Petar still wants to visit Bolivia, and wants me to come along.. “No way, Jose!”  I do NOT want to return to that country!!  Until the very last moment before he left I was not going..he tried and tried to talk me into it, and I wouldn’t even consider it. But then I did take 2 minutes to consider it and in reality, it is the shortest and easiest way for me to update my visa. So I agreed to ride with him one last time.. Dag gone it!  I’m going back to Bolivia!

Originally from America. Proud citizen of Australia. Currently riding my motorcycle around the world. 44 countries so far and counting. ;-)

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