Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ride Report for Mills/Bates/Applequist 4 day Hard Enduro Tour

4 happy fellas outside of Patakancha
    I must say that I have mixed emotions about writing this ride report. With the course of events that took place, I am sure I will pour many a tear on my keyboard, but as I reflect on the ride and the people that made it what it was, I have a duty to share the experience. I also have a duty to myself to put those emotions and experience out into a story. That is exactly what it was…A story, one that will never be forgotten…A life changer as some may call it. This is the account.
    It started years ago when I met Ben.  We had raced on the same Baja 1000 team in 07. Before that, I met his older brother Scott at college and started a friendship that has blessed my life many times over. Over the course of our Baja training, I had come to love Ben like a brother. As we have talked about riding in Peru one day, he finally took up the challenge and said YES. Not only him, but two solid young men came along for the ride. Garret and James are outstanding riders. I first met them in Yerington, Nevada in the USA for a dirt bike retreat with a large church from Sacramento, California. I was able to ride a full day with these guys. It was there that the decision was made to join up in Peru for a ride of a lifetime.
   Fast forward a bit to July 2014. My wife, daughter, and I picked up the group. Ben brought his wife and son. Maria also joined us. She and James have a thing going. The six of them were to join about 55 others a few weeks later for a Campus Life experience on the Salkantay Trail to Machu Pichu.
It was fun getting to spend time with the first part of the group before we left. The time passed quickly as the anticipation for the ride grew fierce.  It really hit home about the time the guys joined us at the headquarters of MotoMission to prep the bikes. We had to make sure everything was perfect. Brakes, clutches, tire pressure, everything tightened and ready to roll… On top of that, a world cup game was to be enjoyed. During halftime, many a moto vid was watched in order to get our hype on. It was a great day of preparation.
   Day one quickly came. It was wrought with gearing up. We had to pack for 4 days of off the grid riding. Our plan was to come to some form of civilization each night. However, I have had numbers of experiences of this type and know the possibilities…Or at least some of them.
DAY ONE…Wednesday July 2, 2014
The Sacred Valley above the Salinaras Salt Mines
   We had a long ride ahead of us. Our goal was to eat lunch in Ollantaytambo. That didn’t happen. But that didn’t matter. Our ride took us up the face of Picol Mountain to reach some ridgelines that put huge smiles on the faces of each of these guys. They did really well on the test hill. This particular hill is what I use to determine the grit of our customers. If you can’t make that hill, you have just cut out the best riding in the world. These guys ripped it up without hesitation. That made the guide, me, a happy camper. I took the guys on a ridge that overlooks the Cusco Valley. It is always a treat to look to the left, if you can manage to take your eyes off the trail for a split second. You will find a view overlooking the city that will blow your mind. The trail itself…Well let’s just say the guys wouldn’t shut up about it. It was that good.
Still clean...and already smiling!
   We rode that trail to the end. It finished in the bottom of a canyon. We managed to drop down via alpaca switchbacks and some boondocking. When you go anywhere in the Andes, you will either be going up or down. After hitting the bottom of the valley, we rode up some more incredible track to reach the top of another valley. This time, we had a pristine lake on the right and the place with which we had just come on the left.  I apologized for the views(sarcasm added).
   This section was fun. We freerode around the edge of the lake. There was mud, perfect natural grass, implanted boulders to race through and launch off, and then the views. We rounded the lake, crested over another high point to reach the top of another valley looking down into Lake Piuray. Sorry again for the views. The ride down to the lake was riddled with rain washouts and downhill track. Not much of a walking trail, but the riding was incredible. Just don’t fall into the crevices that the rushing rainwater had created…We may never find you.
Getting ready to conquer a large hill above Huacahuasi
   Within a few minutes, we reached Chinchero. A quaint little Inca town known for its perfectly landscaped ruins and backdrops of glacier covered Andean ridgelines. Lunch was consumed. 2 full chickens and a ton of fries. More than we could handle. The cook staff certainly ate well that day. I think we left a half of a chicken untouched.
   The ride continued to a place called Maras; another Inca town overlooking the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is a beautiful landscape. Something you could literally stop each minute to take a picture. We paced our pictures as we had a lot of trail to cover to reach our planned destination.
From Maras, we took down some of the most fun, rhythmic, and exhilarating mountain biking trail that one could imagine. Needless to say, it fabricated many a smile. We reached the salt mines, passed through on our bikes, then out the bottom on a 5 star trail to the bottom of the Sacred Valley. The boys were happy.
   We moved through the valley to reach a gas station in Yanahuara. We filled up and made the plan to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. It was high speed to the tiny little community of Patacancha. Once there, the trail turned into gold. I think we all could agree that it really couldn’t get any better than that.
   Little kids returning back home after school were running along with us as we grunted up the rocky inclines. Our hearts were pumping so much blood because of the work of hanging on to the bike, but also because of the needed supply of oxygen to our cheeks and faces as we grinned from ear to ear. We were behind schedule and I, the responsible guide, wanted to reach our destination by nightfall. We would eventually see how that turned out.
   The ride through the area was riddled with views of grazing alpacas, glaciered peaks, and streams of crystal clear water. The route had everything you could imagine. Rock, perfectly smooth rhythm sections, moss fields with spongy green goo to ride through, springs, and then of course the hill climbs.
No apology needed for the views...
   The last hill climb of the day brought us to the abra. That is the word for a mountain pass. It was a view that required the cameras. Pics were taken as we tried to catch our breath, but at 14000ft there isn’t much breath to catch.
   We bombed down the sketchy single track toward the Huacahuasi valley. Our daylight was escaping us. I had changed my goal from reaching the end point just before dark, to reaching the valley floor at just before dark; neither happened. It became a theme for the rest of the tour. It became sort of a requirement to never reach the end point until it was well after dark; Kind of like we planned for it. Not sure who made these plans, but it wasn’t Uncle Scotty (That’s me in the third person).
   We made it to Lares after a thrilling night ride down to the valley floor. The sun and moon lighting up the almost blue glacier whiteness, the battery powered Andino music playing from a random rock hut nestled in the valley when we stopped to take a break. It was surreal. Not sure why I get the privilege to do this, but I am happy to be the one who’s doing it.
   The hot springs in Lares came shortly after the nice dinner in town. We ate well, then returned to soak in the springs until our beds were screaming at us to prepare for the following day. It was good. And the evening and the morning was the first day.
DAY 2…July 3, 2014
   We awoke to the sound of the river rushing below. It took me back to camping with Grandpa as a kid on Deer Creek. It was the same kind of sound. Beautiful!
Ben made it with flying colors...a tough climb!
   Breakfast was served, bikes tightened up, oil checked, gear check, then we hit the trail for a known section of trail that has only had three motorcycles ever to cross. One was mine, the other was Bens older brother, and the other was another great rider, Weston. We coined many a term for the sections of the trail. We will let you in on those in a bit.
   Up from the hot springs we climbed to the community of Quisharani. It’s postcard worthy. There were too many places to stop and take pictures. We did our best to keep the pace. The last time I was on that trail, we got to the end of the 15 mile section in the middle of the night. We took a lot of pictures and a lot of breaks on that ride. I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted to get out while the sun was still up.
   The ride out of Quisharani was stunning. There is no better trail to ride. It is 100% perfect. When God created Earth, He laid that trail down knowing that one day, Uncle Scotty would ride his dirt bike through there with a couple of other suckers that wanted a real adventure. That one day had come.
   We worked our way up the trail to reach a couple of alpine lakes, huge boxed canyons with seemingly no way out, and through some of the most breathtaking scenes that one could imagine. It was good!
James assessing the damages...Hole in the clutch cover...ouch!
   Then, Garret decided to smash a huge rock into the side of his motor. We heard a sort of concerned but informative, “hey guys, I think we have a problem…” Ben and I had just wrestled our way to a knoll about 500 feet in elevation above Garrett and James. It was a situation that could have been a deal breaker for that section of trail. It was early enough to fix, and get back on the trail. It was what had to be done.
   Ben and I realized at that moment that Uncle Scotty, had not brought the Soldimix(Peruvian JB weld). It was still in the bag of other goodies that were in the “must pack” Ziplock bag back at the house. Lares was only a few miles back and it would be good to have the Soldimix as there was a good chance we would need it again. We rode an hour back to town, fixed the hole in the clutch cover, then rode an hour back to reach the guys. Bike fixed, and up the trail we went.
   It was incredible. We were two hours behind, so we did the best to keep going. However, the altitude and difficulty of the terrain prevented us from going more than a short section at a time, before we either stalled out, pooped out, or crashed. Within an hour, we reached the prettiest place on the planet; a small alpine lake that sets at the bottom of “Misery Hill.”  That is what the final climb to the abra was called the first time a moto had passed. Ben, Garrett, and James would eventually understand why it was called such a thing.
Ben making his way up the trail
  We took a few pictures and then Uncle Scotty cracked the whip in a bit of desperation knowing how difficult Misery Hill would be. We mounted up, and and headed up the the side of the mountain. Before we actually left, the questions from each of the guys were almost identical, “Where are we going?”
   I pointed up to the top as they began to question even more as it did not appear to have any trail. They were mostly right. There was a trail, but there was not a motorcycle trail. It was our responsibility to turn it into a trail for bikes. The lone Quechua hiker on his way to the next pueblo decided to watch the whole ordeal. I am sure he was a bit entertained. It must have been kind of like getting free tickets to an extreme Red Bull hard enduro event. He smiled as we approached where he was sitting. He kept watching until I reached his location, then he took off up the trail only to be seen a few hours later on a ledge watching the mayhem below on the other side of the abra.
   We hammered our way through Misery Hill. It earned the name. The incline is so steep, the terrain is so loose, the altitude is so high, and our bodies were so spent. Nevertheless, with a tow strap and a lot of pulling, and pushing, we reached the top. It was a prize. The view made it all worth it!
From the abra, we had a lot of tough sections still to cover. It was fun riding the high ridge to reach the valley that we would eventually need to drop into. The moonscape that the altitude created was picture worthy to say the least. There was only a small window of time to make it to the bottom of the valley. My goal, was to reach the bottom by nightfall. It was going to be close…
We come over the top and down in to the upper part of the valley. The ride was so enjoyable, that one forgets that there is no oxygen to be inhaled. Nonetheless, we made our way down the side of the canyon, to a section that daunted us in a number of ways.
Misery Hill...Garrett and James figuring out why it has that name...
   I could tell the guys were a bit concerned at the way the next section looked. I had been there before, ridden the same section, and survived. However, I must admit that it looked a lot more difficult this time than it did last time. The concern was warranted. I positively worked my brain out to the point that I decided to give it a shot. The guys wanted me to check it out on foot first. I did. It was a good thing, because I was scared to death. As I approached and climbed up the nasty section of trail on foot, I realized that it looked a lot worse from the guy’s angle. I had this! I put my encouragement hat on and went to work, telling the boys that it wasn’t that bad.  I returned to grab my bike, rode up with Ben above me providing me with the security of a good spotter. I made it to the top without much incident. Bike after bike, we each made it. There was nothing notable. We all made it with flying colors.
   From that point, there were some sections with a difficulty level of 10 out of 10. We worked our way down the rocky ledge, which had a bit of a drop on the right. No need to worry about that as long as we stayed on the trail.
Uncle Scotty on top of Misery Hill...Prettiest place on the planet!
   A few yards down the trail, our experience took a drastic turn. A rocky downhill…great traction, steep, wide, and certainly not the sketchiest place we had seen during the day. I managed to get down. I realized that it would make a great video clip watching the guys come down. I stopped to turn and get it on film. When I drug my leg off my bike to begin the filming process, I saw the most horrifying event unroll before my eyes.
   Ben had been right behind me. When I put my eyes on the situation, he had just landed on a very small dirt patch on the side of the mountain.  There were no other places he could have landed and made it out alive. As I realized he was stopped, my attention turned to the cartwheeling moto that had catapulted down the abyss. Side over side it rolled. Then, it turned and went over end. In seconds, it had left my sight after a huge springing off the cliff below. I remember yelling the simple word, “NO!”
   Within seconds, a lifetime of emotion hit me; not only me, but each of us. We each had our own perspective. Garret had his camera rolling. He was behind James. I saw the video. It was hard to go through it again. James, was right above the place where Ben ended up. Ben sat there with his elbows on his knees and his hands gripping the top of his helmet in utter despair. It was a moment that will never leave my brain. It was a life changer.
   What happened next was what made the adventure all worth it. When one experiences a brush with eternity like that, there are many lessons to be had. The schooling had begun.
   I started screaming at Ben in a deep concern to let it go. I was so happy that he was stuck to the side of the mountain. I made sure he was physically OK. I knew that he had just began an emotional journey that wouldn’t end anytime soon.  We all began our own journeys.
Almost to the top Garrett!
Here is mine. I was so thankful that Ben was alive. The bike, yeah, it hurt. It was brand new. This was its first tour. I was excited to have Ben ride it as he was the least likely to scratch it up.  I still feel that way, but that ain’t what happened.
   During the mental hours that were compressed into the seconds of the event. Millions of thoughts raced through my head. Ben had a wife and baby back in Cusco counting on me to bring him home. What would I say to her? What would I say to Elijah, his son, when he got old enough to understand why his daddy was not around? What would I say to his brother, my dear friend, who trusted me enough to send his little bro to Peru for a dirtbike adventure? What about Anita, Bens mom? She would be arriving in a few days with a group to join up with us. What would I say? It haunted me deeply as I scurried over towards Ben. I remember having this enormous sense of gratitude that Ben was still in my sight. Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow! It was a song lyric from a hymn that I grew up hearing. You can call it whatever you want, but it was not Ben’s time. I was praising God that Ben’s time was not on my watch.
The landscape is incredible..
   We were all struck with such emotion. I had no words to say, other than that it would be all right. Ben sat there in an apologetic state worrying about the bike. He knew he was physically OK. He also went through the same cycle of emotional chaos. Ben’s sweet little Elijah just about grew up without his father. His wife was waiting for Ben to come home and be a husband. The emotional distress was overwhelming. I cannot speak for Ben, other than what he has told me, but I can assure you that his life was altered at that very moment. It was the same for all of us.
Too many photo ops!
   We gathered our senses within a short time. There was nothing we could do about the bike. It was gone. We heard the final crash ring through the echoes of the entire valley. The little Quechua man that watched us earlier, was on a ridgeline above us watching down on the whole ordeal. I don’t think he could see the
Los Cuatro Guapos...

actual wreck, but he certainly heard the screams and the bike hitting the rocks down at the bottom of the valley.
   At a moment like that, I had to step in and make sure we were all OK. Time stood still for a few moments. However, we had to get out of there. Riding down that rocky ledge was sketchy enough in the daytime. At night, just plain stupid. “Guys we gotta get out of this place now!” I said as I felt we were as ready as we could be. “Ben, get walking! We can deal with the bike later. Right now, we need to get down to the bottom of the valley.”
   It was a somber trip out of the valley. I could not imagine the emotion that was ripping through Bens head, but it was a long journey. Garrett, James, and I had to get our bikes off the cliff side. We cautiously limped our bikes. We were scared to death to keep riding. Ben used up a close call and we certainly didn’t want to cash in another one.
   At that point in the day, Garrett, James, and I were a bit gun shy. I could not ride very well. Fear had gripped me. My balance was messed up. I was tense. I was focused on all the tragedy that could happen. Its not the ideal way to ride dirt bikes. One must focus on what is desired; not what is feared. That is MOTO 101 basics. We were all shaken up. I really did not want to ride anymore for a while, but it had to be done…so, onward we traveled.
   Light disappeared. The stars came out. When one is so far removed from light pollution and so close to the stars themselves, they seem fake. We worked our way out of that canyon under the most divine blanket of night. The circumstances were tough, but the experience, was a life changer.
   We had a long ride before reaching our final destination. Ben, an experienced rider, and James the smallest of the group, rode double on the sections that were smooth. There were very few, but they took turns navigating the best that they could. Garrett and I also worked our way to the valley floor. Time was nothing at this point. We would make it out, but when, it did not matter at this point. Night was night.
Thanks God for putting that in our path!
   We reached the community of Cancha Cancha, and passed through on the numerous livestock trails that wound their way down the valley. The trails were difficult. The darkness and the fatigue made it much more difficult to navigate.  We eventually worked our way through the valley floor and reached the river canyon that happened to be the final descent to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It was an epic journey of stair steps, boulder fields, and pitch black river crossings.
   “Bridge Out” was the sign that was missing. The four gnarled logs that once supported the earthen bridge, had been stripped and left spanning the two sides of the river. It was no place to cross. Disheartened, we had to overcome. Without much discussion, we each began to build a solution to reach the other side. Garrett found a somewhat low spot in the water under some trees. It was not an easy one, but doable. We all agreed that it was the best place to get to the other side.
Within minutes, a couple of men returning back to Cancha Cancha from the valley below had come up to our location. Entertained, they explained that an hour more of walking and we should be to the bottom. I was able to make a friend. Patricio was one of their names. And he had a horse. I thought it might come in handy upon our return…if that was to be on the agenda in the future. We had not yet talked about that. We had to get out of the canyon.
   Patricio told us to stay on that particular side of the river as the trail was a bit easier. Not sure how it could get any more difficult, but we did as he suggested. The 4000ft elevation drop into the town of Huaran was brutal. Garrett and I managed. In fact, We started the process of enjoying it a bit at certain moments. Ben and James did the best they could. Riding two up is not a good thing on a trail like that.
This was the resting place for the fallen bike...Not a bad view!
   We finally arrived at the bottom of the trail section. The trail turned to a 4wd two track, then into a dirt road, then connected us to the highway running through the Sacred Valley. That was where we hammered down in 5th gear to reach our planned destination, hours behind of schedule, beat tired, and missing a brand new motorcycle.  We made it out.
   We found a hostel, grabbed a late dinner, and called it a night by returning back to our rooms to ponder the day’s events. Sleep would normally be easy to be had, but the emotional distress of the day created a storm, in at least my head, where I could not go to sleep. I found myself weeping in the middle of the night. I just wanted to put my arms around my wife and daughters. They were hours away, but I wanted them more than anything. I think Ben would have thought it weird if I had asked him to cuddle with me, especially in the middle of the night.  I managed and saved my hugs for the next morning.
   We were able to devise a rescue plan for the following day. My wife was called before we went to sleep. It was so good to hear her voice. Ben also got a chance to talk with his wife. And the evening and the morning was the second day.
DAY 3…July 5, 2014
Looks OK, but not even close..
   Teri, my amazing wife, brought with her the needed supplies to outfit each of us with shoes, clothing, tools, parts, and everything else we would need to go back in and figure out the bike. We had no idea what we might find, but we needed to determine if it was salvageable.
The plan was for James and I to ride in up the gnarly trail to get our bikes as close to the crash site as we could. We had hiking boots which carried us from the bikes to the base of the precipice in which the bike lay below.
   Armed with our GoPro’s  rolling, knoll over knoll, we got close to where the bike had to be. With much anticipation, James let loose. “Seat…we got it!” he pointed out. We made it to the crash site, or at least a small part of it.
This is what we found at the bottom of the rocks...
   We came into the middle of the wreckage. The first thing I ran across was a spoke nipple. Then a quarter size piece of gold anodized aluminum that only could be from a front shock. There was shrapnel up and down, side to side. Bits of broken plastic of red, white, and black. The seat lay there on a flat spot, just screaming at us for letting it fall off the cliff. It felt like a rescue operation to search for survivors of an airline crash. We were the forensic team.
   Within minutes, James and I set up to handle the recovery. Without much discussion about it, we knew what needed to be done. Find the bulk of the crash and round up anything that was worth taking back.
   James found the motor. It was still intact with the frame; Destroyed, but intact. We set up a time lapse to document our rescue efforts, sent a sat phone message back to my wife in the Sacred Valley, and then rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
I think we can pound that out...
   After a short while, Ben and Garrett showed up. They were on foot and had hiked from where my wife had dropped them off at the trail head. They were tired from the hike, but quickly looked around to see what had happened after seeing the bike disappear off the ledge a night before.
   We all worked on the main portion of the bike. Most everything else was spread up and down the hill in a swath of pieces. We managed to get much of it done before Ben and Garret had to head back for darkness reasons. James and I had our bikes down below, so we continued to work.
Ben and Garrett packing out the first load of parts...
   We hammered out another 2 hours, and then it was finished. There wasn’t anything left to salvage. Ben and Garrett hauled out as much as they could carry. James and I had more than we could carry, but we managed to make it work. We had our moto boots back at the bikes. We had to pack everything we were salvaging, plus everything we had brought up to dismantle the bike. It was a packing feat to make it all happen. No good part left behind was our motto! We managed to get it either into our packs or strapped onto the outside. We must have looked like a mercantile store on wheels coming down through the canyon. It was dark within a minute or two after we reached the bikes. We were experienced with the trail as we had ridden down it the night before and up it earlier in the day.
   We made it down to the trail head with only a few get offs. Our bodies were toast, our packs were full of salvageable parts, and my wife, daughter, Garrett, and Ben were waiting at the trailhead with water, food, and more clothes to help us back to the Sacred Valley. We met up for dinner, ate well, told a million stories, and the three of the remaining motos carried Garrett, James, and I from Urubamba back to Cusco via some incredible trails.
A good meal is priceless!
   It was a pure night ride. A bit of highway to get to Chinchero, then it was uninhibited fun. The pace was ¾ as it was night, the terrain felt like a whole new experience even though we had just ridden it two days before. We crested over the ridge to drop into the Cusco valley and were greeted by an expanse of lights from one end of the valley to the other. It was a breathtaking view to finish off the night. We arrived at the headquarters of Motomission, or otherwise known as my house. What an enjoyable way to finish off a long day of rewarding and successful salvaging adventure! And the evening and the morning was the third day

DAY 4…July 4, 2014
  With much thought and contemplation, it was determined by some of us in the circle around Ben, that he really needed to get back on a bike. He was devastated. I am not sure of all the emotion inside his mind, but I felt like it was a life changing moment. He needed to get back in the saddle. Bikes are one of his passions. When he told me the day before that he was done riding, I cringed.
That is how Ben lives. That is how I live. I can understand that he has had a traumatic experience as all of us had just two nights before. However, one cannot stop living because one almost died. My motto is that it is better to die living than live dying. I also received a phone call from Bens older brother asking me about the situation. He fully agreed. We had to get Ben back on the bike.
   Our plan was to put the pressure on Ben if need be. I think between Ben’s wife, Ben’ brother, Garrett, James, and I, there would be nobody that would take “NO” for an answer. Besides, we still hadn’t reached the pinnacle of the trip: Picol Mountain.
The Cross on Picol Mtn...Overlooking Cusco
   It wasn’t that tough to get Ben to commit. He and Garrett and James arrived at the house in the early afternoon. We spent much of 2 hours sharing video footage, photos, and rehashing the hair raising story of the crazy adventurous three days behind us.
 Once it was time to gear up, I passed out all the clean jersey’s, gloves, and necessary items of protection. It was game time. Garrett was a bit under the weather and so bowed out for the last section. Ben, James, and I were ready to roll.
   We fired up the bikes, left the driveway, and headed up toward the cross that lay in the backdrop of my world. It stares down at me each morning as I look out my window when I walk down the stairs at my house. It’s not a haunt, but more of a challenge. The cross is at 14,300ft above sea level. It is as steep as a double diamond ski route. It is a special place for me. I can rise up above the city in the morning, via moto of course, and take in a breathtaking view. The wind is always blowing. The temperature is always cold. There is no noise but the airplanes that pass below. That’s right, it’s above the airplanes.
   As we worked our way up towards the cross, we took a super section of single track that winds its way up the base of the mountain. Once about a third of the way up in elevation, we reached the last section of trail that takes you all the way to the cross. It’s a grueling spot, full of terraced ledges and side hill to reach the ridge. Once on the ridge, it is nothing but throttle and a good grip all the way to the top. That is exactly what we did!
   Within minutes of the longest hill climb imaginable, we arrived at the cross. It is an experience that many will never have a chance to experience. It’s kind of like being part of an exclusive club…only a handful of riders have ever seen that view via dirt bike.
   We snapped a ton of pics, talked about the thrill of the ride, then headed back down the hill. The single track down the mountain created many smiles, gave many a thrill, and took us to the base of Picol Mountain where MotoMission headquarters is located. Into the driveway, we parked the bikes. The official tour was completed, however, the experience of the ride will forever be engraved into our minds.
   From the incredible ride on the first two days, to the horrific accident at the end of day two, to the recovery of the bike on day three, and to finish it off with reaching the cross on day four, it really was an adventure of a lifetime.
   Combine that with spending time with three amazing men, overcoming enormous obstacles, and being surrounded by the most scenic views this side of heaven, it was a ten out of ten experience.
I must say thank you to Ben, Garrett, and James for joining MotoMission. Also, on behalf of the Altivas Canas Children’s project, we say thank you.  Until next time, keep the wheels down.

After the tour was over...
Epic moto trail... or walk...
   Ben, Garrett, and James were part of a group of leaders from Nevada County Campus Life. While here in Peru, they, along with my family and I, went on another life changing adventure. The entire group consisted of 64 men, women, children, and mostly youth. We hiked the Salkantay trek to Machu Pichu. Over the course of the adventure, we trekked about 50 miles through the Andes, played about 600 soccer games, 4 days at an orphanage working in various areas, and just had an incredible time. While the group was on one of their free days in Cusco, a handful of us went back into the area where the bike accident had taken place. Our goal: Recover the rest of the parts and pieces that were strewn over the hillside. The litter was an issue. The accident took place in a pristine area. There has never been another moto on the trail nor in the area. Therefore, it was our responsibility to clean up the mess. Besides, there were still a bit of salvageable parts inside the engine...or at least we hope.

   It was a long day. Three of the six were fighting stomach issues. I was one. Fever, vomit, diarreah, and cramping were sjust the beginning. We had just overcome some of the most difficult hiking any of us had ever done. We should be able to do a little six and a half mile hike up, then carry a 150 pound pile of metal back on a couple of we thought it would have been easy.
it was only 150 pounds...
The hike was not easy. I have only ever done it on a dirtbike. It is close to impassable on a bike. It is a fun challenge, but many would think I was an idiot for thinking it is a good bike trail. I will admit, it is tough. Bike or foot!
   As we hauled our two eucalyptus poles and straps up the trail, we quickly found that the weak would be best left behind. I was in that group. I could hardly move. In fact, I ended up laying down behind a pile of rocks to get out of the frigid wind that was swooping off the glaciers above and down through the valley. With a fever and fighting back the vomit and diarrhea, I was worthless. The rest of the guys went ahead and began bringing the rest of the bike back down the 6 and a half miles to the trailhead.
Not an easy task...
I slept. I covered up with a trash bag I had brought to pick up the remains of the bike. The sun would come out only to tease me with a bit of heat now and then. Within a short while the guys had crested the hill below where the bike had fallen. I connected with them and helped for a bit. It was not long before we reached the town of Cancha Cancha. I knew I was pretty worthless. I had one thing to offer...Spanish and cash. With hardly any arm twisting at all, the guys agreed that we should try to find someone to haul the bike out for us. The cost was not important...
   Within minutes, I tottered over to a group of 3 Peruvian men who were building a rock wall. They were up to their ears in concrete and mud. It mattered little to us. We just needed willing help. I made them an offer that they could not resist. It was equal to maybe a couple of weeks of wages...just to carry a moto down the hill.
   Within minutes, they had taken the weight of the bike off of our shoulders. They left us in the dust as they began to scurry, or better known as running, down the path toward the trail head where we began our journey earlier that morning. It was a good hour and a half later that we arrived. It was dark.
This is the ledge that claimed the motorcycle...Rough landing!
   Those guys made us look like babies. There were six of us. They used two to carry the bike and the third guy switched back and fourth with the other two as they went down the hill. It was incredible. We were quite pleased that they wanted the work. Once we reached the trail head, the guys were waiting for their pay. We happily presented them with their pay as well as many snacks that we had left over from our adventure. Our van was waiting to take us back home. Exhausted, sick, hungry, and ready to get back to Cusco, we spent a couple of hours in the van. Cusco never felt so good! A warm shower and comfy bed had our names written all over them. Pretty sure its the end of that chapter...Until the next one...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Van Gates Ride Report-Hey you missed a rock back there!

    Easter Sunday, 2014, I was waiting at the Cusco Airport to pick up a passenger that I had never seen before. I play it like a game. Stereotype the person based on what I know; Avid dirt biker traveling alone, male from Canada. I had the flight information, but they often get mixed up at the airport because nothing is ever really on time. I did the best I could do.
    I was spot on. Troy Lee Designs hat, Ogio gear bag, mid twenties, mirrored iridium lensed glasses. That was him. Nobody else fit the mold. Eye contact was made. He recognized me from the numerous videos that he watched to get pumped up for the trip.  Van gave me the typical guy head nod that confirmed that I was the guy he was looking for. Connection made.
    I got him to the downtown area of Cusco. He got an impromptu tour of the route: a bit of bearings, Scott Englund style. We got him a hostel to rest his weary head. Van spent the night in the Lima Airport. Not the highlight of his trip so far.
Van rested on Sunday, joined up for an Easter dinner that night, and then we confirmed plans on the time and day we would start the tour. It was on!
    On Monday, we had a chance to get up to the Altivas Canas Children’s Project to deliver some supplies. This is the project that MotoMission supports with 100% of its profits. I showed Van around so he could gain a better understanding of the reason we ride dirt bikes…To help the kids while having the time of our lives. It’s a match made in heaven!
Scott hanging with the kids at the Altivas Canas project

Day 1
    It was game day. I met Van for breakfast at The Meeting Place CafĂ© for a hearty meal. We loaded up and headed toward the MotoMission base to gear up and hit the trail. Within minutes, Van found himself in the passenger seat while I was pointing to the ridge that was calling our names for the first day of riding. I was pointing while driving in Cusco traffic. Not always a good idea. I got the impression a few times that Van was a bit concerned about my style of driving. He is from Canada. They do things a bit more orderly on the roads and I think there were a couple of incidents that he may have considered close calls: Just typical driving here in Peru. Better get used to it Van. That’s how I ride!
    We arrived at the house, made sure we had everything we needed for the next 5 days of hard enduro. Packs get heavier as the number of days gets longer. We did the best we could do to keep the load light. We tanked up on water, took some “start” pics, and then off we bolted toward the “Test Hill.”
Van overlooking the ridge line above Cusco
    The Test Hill is this incredible single track trail that helps me determine the route as a guide. If you can make it up that without any problems, you can go on any trail I have in my database. Van was impressive. Out of air, but impressive. The hill finishes up at about 13000 feet. It never gets flat. Starts and finishes with an arm pumping batch of rocks, tight turns, step up rocks, and ledges to keep one honest. It really functions well to determine ones riding ability. Van passed the test with flying colors. The options were wide open for the rest of the trip. It made me happy too!
     The first day, we took a lot of breaks. The altitude adjustment is something that takes place in every rider.  Van certainly felt the lack of oxygen many times that first day. We were able to get ourselves a ways up the first ascent, before we had a little issue with a bike. Van had lost a rear brake pad. We are not sure what exactly happened, but we think we may have figured it out. We were close enough to base, that we managed to fix the issue, and get back on the trail. However, it allowed Van to ride the Test hill once again. Two times in a day can suck the life out of a guy from a low altitude in Canada. He was a trooper and made it up the second time with a bit more ease.
    We rode some incredible single track ridge line trail overlooking Cusco. It was a just perfect for the first day of riding. Plenty of oxygen stops, photo ops, and ear to ear grinning as we both knew that we had 4 days of riding after this epic day was finished.
    The trail continued en route to Chincheros. We spent the night there as the sunlight was playing a part in our decision. We had ridden enough to help us sleep that night. We arrived, found a hotel, grabbed a nice trout dinner, and enjoyed a hot shower. It was a great beginning of a 5 day adventure

Day 2
Gazing into the Andean landscape near Patacancha
    Breakfast was typical. Not very much!  They don’t get it here in Peru about breakfast. We managed with the quantity as we had plenty of snacks in our packs. We wanted to lighten the load anyways. With our bellies full enough to start the day’s adventure, we headed out towards Ollantaytambo. It is a sweet little town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We stopped there after passing the town of Maras, and getting gas in Yanahuara. The route was a lot of high speed stuff. I found out that Van liked to turn the throttle. No problem! We are bit of like minds. We arrived at Ollantaytambo rather quickly. We grabbed a snack, a drink, and enjoyed the town for a short rest before hitting the more technical part of the trail.
    Our goal for the day was to arrive at Lares before dark. Van was a solid rider. Unless we had a bike down or a messed up rider, we should have been able to reach our destination with ease. We took the high speed dirt road through the Andean valley to the town of Patacancha. It was there that the trail turned us into a couple of photographers wanting to shoot every angle. We made our way up the first rocky section to reach a high point overlooking the numerous valleys in our surroundings. It seemed as if there were too many photo spots. It was hard to get anywhere. It was the views! We managed to find a balance between riding and trying to snap a picture of every good view.
One of the many photo stops on day two
    We wound ourselves meandering through the pristine valley to reach a high mountain lake at the base of the final hill before the pass. It was a technical climb that thrilled Van and I as we charged up the loose climb to take us past the 14000 feet mark on the altimeter. We made to the top only to be rewarded with a view down the other side that took the remainder of our breath away. It was another picture spot that shouldn’t be passed up. We snapped a few thousand pics, and then realized just how cold it was. The downhill was calling our names so we put our helmets back on, tightened things up a bit and bombed down the rocky tailings that led us toward the valley floor. The trail was tight. There were just a few inches on either side of the tires. It was sketchy, but produced the thrill that Van and I were seeking.
    We hammered through a couple of tough rocky stair step sections to reach the area called Huacahuasi. It is a stunning valley that is nestled in scenic area riddled with grazing alpacas and rock fences.
    We meandered through the valley while dropping down to the town via alpaca trails. The ride into the community was filled with young kids heading home from school, thoroughly interested in the motorcycles we were riding. It was as if we were aliens coming into their community. The kids and young women would jump out of the way even when there was no danger. We arrived at the main part of the little community where the church and the school were located. It was there that we stopped and passed a bit of time with the young kids. They were so enamored with the bikes. Peruvian kids are great. So easily impressed...all smiles!
    We chatted with large group of kids that had gathered. They had a million questions about the bikes and our journey. Within a few minutes, we headed out to finish our day’s journey in Lares. As we left town, we showed off a bit with a jump off a ledge and Van caught a little air off the bridge over the river. MotoMission motto-Hey, its all for the kids!
    It was a fast ride to the Lares Hot Springs. Two track dirt, filled with puddles, rocks, and shortcuts. We managed to hit just about every one. Within a few minutes we found ourselves checking into our room, taking off the packs, and then headed into town to grab a bite to eat.
    After dinner, we rode back to the hot springs, and soaked the tired muscles from the previous two days riding. It was as hot as we could stand. They say the water has healing properties. It sure felt good. After closing down the hot springs, we crashed out for the night. The next day had a lot in store for us. Lights out!

Day 3
This is where the trail started to make us suffer..the views made it worth it!
    This was our hardest and most technical day of riding. Our plan was to ride to the pass above the small community of Quisharani. The pass is not an easy ride. In fact, most would say it is impossible to do. Depending on the weather, it would just be plain silly to think we could make it.  We headed forward with the idea that we may or may not be able to complete the task. Van wanted to give it a try, nonetheless. I was right there with him.
    The trail is riddled with views that make it hard to reach the top. There are so many opportunities to grab your cameras. It is like a black Friday at Bestbuy. We did our best to keep to the trail, but it was not easy. We managed to grab enough photos on the way up. We passed the small community of Quisharani, then we had our minds blown at the scenery that lay just up the trial.
One of the hardest parts of the ride...we made it though!
There is a waterfall that cascades over the rock, and then meanders down toward the town. Our trail was just to the left of this water feature. Not a bad view if you could manage to enjoy it while riding on the nasty ledge. It was calling both of us like a funeral director…near death if you catch the meaning. Not a place you want to have a get off. We managed to make it up to the top level of the waterfall with only a couple of issues. Then we came to our toughest obstacle so far. It was an old creek bed that was filled with bowling ball sized boulders, loose gravel, and as steep as we could handle. With a look or two at the work before us, we fired up the bikes, one at a time to get over the pile of danger at the end. With a little pushing and lifting, we managed to get both bikes through.
Only MotoMission motos past this point!
    The reward was worth it. The trail weaved its way up the mossy hillside, to reach a high mountain lake. This was to be the first of two. If we could get to the second one…
    The trail worked its way around the side of the lake to a towering climb that seemed to dwarf the two of us. We could not see the trail. Even as we were riding up, it seemed to disappear just a short distance in front of our bikes. It was a challenge to say the least. At 14,000 plus, our lungs were craving oxygen like a sealed stove. We were determined to reach the top of the climb, so we pushed further.
    We managed to beat the hill. It tried to take us out a number of times, but on top we prevailed. With a well deserved break and a photo op behind us, we fired up the bikes for another section. Slow is fast in this game. Slow was as fast as we could go.
Prettiest place in the world!
The trail in this part was perfect. Single track with everything an enduro lover would want. Obstacles, winding trail, dirt, good traction, random rocks, tons of risk…it was perfect. We smiled all the way up to the next part. Then our smiles turned to the thing that comes after a smile is increased…not sure if there is a word for it, but it was good!
    We crested the hill, and upon a crystal clear alpine lake we arrived. It was nothing short of a heavenly experience. The mirror image of the jagged rock cliffs on the opposite side were duplicated in a celestial photo that lay on top of the water. The cameras came out in no time. In fact, that was all that was needed for the day. Van and I stayed there for about an hour. It was the most incredible place that we found on our ride. We took as much of it in as we could. Our bodies were tired, content, and still in one piece. Everything you want after a good day of riding.
    We both come from places with great scenery; Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the US. This was something beyond what I knew from back home. It was different. We got here on motos. There is no place like this anywhere I grew up. And at 15000 feet! We both looked at the water and thought the same thing…Gotta jump in.
Van enjoyed the Andes...
    Being from those places, we also know that high mountain water is cold. This was no exception. Without much discussion, it was agreed that we would both do it. Same time…no pansy whining when you get out. We forgot to agree to not scream like little girls when we first hit the agua.
    The camera was set up. We shucked off a bunch of clothes and took off for the water…It was colder than any water I have ever entered. We didn’t test it first. Just cold turkey…we were the turkey’s!
    I am not sure what I did, but I do remember Van squealing like a stuck pig. I am sure I had a few bars of opera echoing through the valley as well. It was so far to get back to the shore after we first hit the water. I couldn’t get out fast enough.  I saw Van swimming toward the middle of the lake. Not sure what was going on in his mind, but pretty sure he was delirious from the temperature. I asked the question, “Where you going?”
Trying to figure out the line up the hill...
    It must have shook him loose and got his brain turned back on for a bit to realize he was going to freeze to death if he didn’t get out quickly. Within seconds we were dragging ourselves back up to the shore to get dried off and back into our riding gear. Not an easy task, but the swim had to be done. There is something in a boyish man that cannot let that type of opportunity go by. We did it. We were both glad we did. We just had to think of how the hot springs would feel when we returned back from the mountain.
    From there, we fired up the bikes, and shot our bodies with minutes of thawing exhaust fumes. It was heat with which we needed to warm up the hands for a crazy ride back down the gnarly abyss. Not a long ride, but certainly one of a lifetime.
    It was the same stuff, just a different perspective. It was pretty much a new trail.  It all looked differently. Van even asked if we came back the same way. We did! And it was good!
Back to the hot springs with about 4 miles of high speed winding river two track. It made both of us grin like a kid at Disneyland. Into the springs we went upon arrival. Dinner afterwards, then pillow time. That was an incredible day. Two more to go!

Day 4
Just posing in a beautiful spot...
    We started with a huge task in front of us. We needed to reach Yanahuara via the pass that towers over the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is no small job. In fact, the climb started in the town of Huacahuasi and worked its way up through a beautiful valley filled with tons of loose rock, some water/mud, and full of great hills to conquer. Van and I did our best to keep the lungs full of air, but the altitude wanted us dead. We managed to take it little by little to the last few hill climbs before the pass. The riding was insane! It was some of the most fun single track that you can imagine. It went on forever. The views were similar to the previous days…Stunning!       There were so many picture opportunities that we just could not keep stopping. However, we managed to peter out every so often and it sort of forced us to take a picture or two while we rested for a spell. It was like that for the whole day.
The abra above Yanahuara
    The second to the last climb to the pass was a killer. Van seemed to find a good start then it turned to disaster as he decided to loop out his bike on a rocky ledge. I happened to be filming it…You can bet that it will hit the highlight video. Good thing nothing got munched up too bad. He got back on like a good cowboy. It was not long before Van was roosting a large stream of rock and gravel as he ripped up the steep hillside. Most people have a license to move that kind of real estate. Van just had a hand full of throttle. Once He got to the top of that one, he was long gone. I met him at the pass.
Making our way down to the valley
    The pass is a high point. In Spanish, we call it the abra. The view is something that a camera cannot do justice. It is a two sided view with the Huacahuasi valley on the backside and a forward vista overlooking a high lake that seemed like it was miles below.
    The weather was not exactly pleasant when we finally arrived at the pass. The hail stones were filling the space between the back of our helmets and the collars on our jackets. We had a gnarly descent from the top. It was not a place to stick around and take pictures. We needed to get off the mountain quickly. Van and I agreed to get off the hill and down to some better weather. It was sunny down on the other side of the lake. That was our target.
Another pristine lake above Yanahuara
    We bombed down as fast as we could. The trail was difficult and treacherous. We found that the rain was turning part of it into a creek bed. Through the water and loose rock we found ourselves reaching the bottom of the hill. That was where the trail rolled around the side of a beautiful alpine lake. The scenery was impressive; enough to snap a few more pictures once we reached the sunny side of the lake.

    It was a fine place to take a break until the rain swept over and began to saturate us as if we were standing in a shower. We had another long batch of downhill that was calling our names. We fired up the bikes and crested over the next section of downhill. There we found a waterfall cascading from the upper lake to the river below that lead down a rocky and rugged canyon. It had carved the perfect terrain for enduro.
    We worked our way through some hard downhill terrain. It led us into the town of Yanahuara. It was a perfect day of riding. Super fun trails, great views, and no problems. It was ideal!
a simple little weld job...
    From Yanahuara, we made our way to Urubamba, where we found a nice hotel and filled our bellies with a half of a pollo a la brasa (Peruvian chicken delight) each.  After our meal, we headed out for a short little stint of exploring another hard enduro trail leading out of the town of Urubamba and up towards the area that we had come from earlier, just a different trail.
This was a fun trail…It was not too technical, just fun. It worked its way through a small canyon and up towards a rocky section of trail that eventually became extremely difficult. Once we reached the hard part, I discovered that I had broken the weld on my chain guard. We still had a full day of riding in the morning and needed to be fixed before we continued. The decision was made to get back to town to get it welded back into place so we could ride the next day without problems.
   I called another moto buddy that lives in Urubamba and he helped us to get the bike into the welder to get it fixed. Success! We went and ate a good dinner and headed back to bed with big smiles on our faces. It was another great day! Tired and happy…The way each day should end!

Day 5
    It was a peaceful morning. Bikes were ready to roll, the route was spelled out by map(even though we could change it at moment’s notice), and Van and I were excited to turn some more soil for the last day of our tour. Van likes the high speed stuff. I took him along the river road that runs the length of the Sacred Valley. We had a blast while screaming through the valley in 4th  and 5th gear. We covered some ground…in a short period of time.
   That brought us to Coya. It was there that we headed up the hill towards a lake that we passed on our first day. We were completing the loop. The ride was an old road that had a number of landslides. Since the landslides, they stopped maintaining the road…good for us! It was a perfect high speed ride along the edge of the canyon overlooking the river valley below. Fun!
Couple of good looking fellas and a photo op!
As we reached the top edge overlooking the Sacred Valley, we stopped for a picture and a drink. In front of us was a walking trail that would its way around the canyon rim. What better thing to do than ride it and see where it went. We did, and quickly discovered a set of Inca ruins overlooking the valley. It was a great place for more pics and some good enduro.
We finally reached the lake on top and worked our way around the outside of the lake. The grassy shoreline was perfect to wind the bikes out, throw some mud, and take in a beautiful lakeside view.
    We finally made it to the place where we rode just 4 days earlier. We regressed down the same trail to the bottom of the hill and into the town of Corrau. We ate lunch, and confirmed plans to reach the cross on Picol Mountain before the day was over.
Some random unmarked ruins above the Sacred Valley
We took a route that was a bit out of the way, but it was a trail that I had never ascended. It was a technical batch of switchbacks and single track. Great times! We made it to the ridge and rode that for miles. The trail overlooked Cusco valley on one side and the valley overlooking the town of Corrau. This ridge ride is heaven for dirt bikers. We were in heaven!
    We made our way to the base of Picol Mountain via the ridge ride. We were a bit tired, but the cross that stands at 14300 was just up the way taunting us in a devilish fashion.
Van gazing over the city at the end of a great tour
Scott and Van...nothing but grins...
Van and I took a good breather at the bottom, and then psyched ourselves up for the charge. Picol Mountain had our names all over it. We made our way up the first part. It was riddled with Inca farming terraces to begin with, and then it turned to a sketchy side hill to the main ridge. Once we reached the ridge, it was a hard throttle to the top. Picol is the longest hill climb that any dirt biker can imagine. It seems to never stop. The finish is a point overlooking the valley of Cusco.         
    Sometime back, a large group of people hoisted an enormous cross on their backs and hauled the wooden structure up the mountain. There it sits towering over the city of Cusco above the airplanes coming in for landing. It is an impressive place. Best of all, it was the final obstacle of the most memorable 5 days of motorcycle riding that Van or I have ever had.
    We cruised down the mountain in a way as to not boil our brakes, worked our way to the entrance of my house, and finished with a high five as we put the trusty old steeds away for the next adventure.

Thank you Van for joining MotoMission  and me on this notable adventure of a lifetime.
Scott Englund
Founder and Guide
MotoMission Peru
Huge thanks to our sponsors that have helped us with our mission. WPS and Fly Racing...You guys are a blessing!

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