Catching the Dakar

Lima, Peru to Cusco, Peru
Sep 3, 2014 – Sep 13, 2014


City means shopping, a change for the W&Z crew to  get all the bling their bikes need for the next leg of the adventure

City means shopping, a change for the W&Z crew to get all the bling their bikes need for the next leg of the adventure

We were not particularly stoked about going to Lima. I had already been there in 2011 and had not been moved by the charms of this coastal city. Furthermore the road from Huaraz to Cusco via Huanuco looked a lot more fun, but Lima was our last opportunity to buy the parts our bikes needed before affronting the Bolivian Altiplano and the deserts of northern Chile. Something else, or rather somebody else, was also awaiting us in Lima, my old friend Santiago. Santiago and I had met some 5 years earlier while I was looking for a instructor to kite Lago Atitlan in Guatemala. An internet miracle put us in touch, winds never allowed us to kite together but we have been friends ever since.
After hours spent hunting down a 30mm nut and other random seals, we declared the Wolf and Zebra mobile fit for service and found ourselves rewarded for our hard work with an invitation from Santiago to Mistura, the largest food festival in South America. Grilled meats, fresh ceviche, yummy pastries, microbrews were taunting us everywhere, we had a feast!
A few days later, Marcos left us for Cusco and soon it was our turn to head South. We bid farewell to Santiago and launched our DRs towards Paracas.

A taste of the Dakar

The Wolf is now tormented by dreams of Dakar. Troubles ahead

The Wolf is now tormented by dreams of Dakar. Troubles ahead

If it had not been for another kiting buddy, Christopher, we would have missed both the magnificent Paracas Park and a chance to mingle with the Desafio Inca competitors. Paracas is located about 20kms south of Pisco, the harbor who gave its name to the famous Chilean alcohol, at the end of a off-shoot from the Pan-american. Despite hotels suggesting a large amount of tourists in the summer months, the town is charming. In the mornings one can hop on one of the many boats offering a tour of the Ballestas islands, home to more birds, penguins and sea lions than you can count. On your way there your guide will entertain you with conjectures regarding the history of the Candelabra heavily punctuated with words like mystery and unknown, all known to raise tourists tipping propensity.
But what really piqued our interest were foreign looking folks wearing official race team shirts. I naturally could not help investigating the reason for their presence and soon learned that the Desafio Inca, the Peruvian mini-dakar series, was in in town. The Zebra had mercy for the mechanics of the Suzuki team and yanked me away from them after seeing that my flow of questions on the bikes’s suspension settings and engine mods was not dwindling after several hours. A team mate flew to the rescue of David Casteu just before I had a chance to ask him for a ride for 2015…it was fantastic!

Dunes galore

Torn between playing in the dunes and enjoying the mesmerising views.

Torn between playing in the dunes and enjoying the mesmerising views.

Needless to say I was beside myself when we finally entered the Paracas National Reserve where part of the race takes place. Not only does the park offer breathtaking views but also endless excuses to frolick in the sand. Narrow trails hedge their bets meters away from vertiginous cliffs, mountains of sand seem to descend from the sky to gently slide into the ocean, fishermen loiter on lonely beaches waiting for their time to collect sustenance from the Ocean. At Playa Cruz we left the coast for the Huacachina oasis near Ica. On the city outskirts eager locals braid canes with corrugated sheets into tiny huts to claim a piece of land. Those precarious habitations slowly encroach on the indifferent desert, there are still miles before reaching the sea.
We found Huacachina disappointing. Historical buildings adjoin hostels assembled hastily to accommodate young tourists more interested in getting drunk or high than marvelling at the heroic resistance of a few cubic meters of water facing giants of sands. Emma, Peter and I climbed one of them at dusk and just sat there watching the dunes stretching their infinite shadows into the night.

The long climb to Machu Picchu

800kms awaited us to reach Cusco, a city few would probably visit if it wasn’t from its proximity to a site that has been voted one of the world’s New Seven Wonders: Machu Picchu. Leaving Ica behind we discovered another facet of the Andes, jagged white rocks barren of any vegetation and seemingly of any life. Soon we found ourselves on the Altiplano, a high altitude plain extending into Bolivia at 3700m. The temperature quickly dropped below 0’C making our warm morning in Ica an implausible souvenir. We reached Cusco the following day and had the pleasant surprise of finding Mela and her friend at Villa Magic, a welcoming hostel hidden behind a signless blue door. In a short week we would leave Peru, the piece de resistance was however still to come: Machu Picchu!

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