Sunday, September 8, 2013

McDonald Ride Report

McDonald Ride Report
It was early Sunday Morning as I left the house to pick up Scott at his hotel in the center of Cusco. As I arrived to the hotel, there stood a bright eyed bearded young man waiting on an adventure that he will not soon forget. Into the car we went to return to the international headquarters of MotoMission.
It was there that the real tour started. My youngest daughter, Kayle, was waiting with hot waffles and fresh sweet cream setting on the table. As we sat down to enjoy the culinary delights of a sweet 12 year old, Scott and I discussed some of the details of the trip. What a great way to get ready for an adventure!
After stuffing our faces, we geared up, orientated the bikes, and made a few final adjustments. We were ready for the trail. It was a two day trip with the first day destination of Lares, a small community high up in the Andes Mountains. The day started with a very technical section of hill climb single track. It was really a test for me to know if Scott could handle the trail that was to come. Well, Scott passed the test. He started off a bit shaky, but I could tell that he would warm up soon and be able to handle the tougher sections up the trail. As we climbed up the base of Picol Mountain, we rapidly reached the trail to the town of Ccorau. A few minutes ride down to the valley floor we reached Ccorau and then off to the other side of the mountains. Climbing up the dozens of switchbacks, we reached the final ridge to come into view of a beautiful mountain lake surrounded with huge Andes ridges and peaks. Breathtaking to say the least! It was there that the route became a tight single track trail and our smiles permeated from one side of our helmets to the other.
A distinct walking trail that is daily used to get locals from one side of the ridge to the next was just waiting for our arrival. Down the trail we went as we encountered incredible views of which we could enjoy only for moments between the tight turns, rocks, and other obstacles. It was shortly thereafter that the toughest section of trail was encountered. It was a rocky terraced foot trail filled with more rocks than a quarry. In fact, the trail was lined with stacked rocks that came from somewhere, but apparently not the trail itself. This section put Scott at the limits of his abilities and gave me something to film as I watched him navigate the hundreds of rocky terraced steps. Scott worked his way down through the obstacles with grace. No wrecks, although I thought there were going to be a few.
Into the town of E’nko we arrived to a bunch of wonderful townsfolk excited to see some crazy adventurers in their town. We chatted for a bit and shook hands. Then it was off to the town of Coylla via a long and gnarly batch of switchbacks that took us to the bottom of the Sacred Valley of the Inka’s. It was there we crossed the bridge over the Urubamba River and headed towards Lamay for a nice plate of fresh trout and Chicheron (fried pork) and a little bit of a break.
After lunch it was a fun and fast ride to the town of Lares where we were greated by a plaza full of hustle and bustle. We made arrangements at one of the finest places in town that was not even up the standards of the cheapest hotel in any bad town in the US. However, there were not a whole lot of options and so we were satisfied. We then asked for the directions to the Lares Hot Springs, which is just what a couple of dirt bikers needed after a long day of riding. Off to the springs we rode.
It was there that the one star hotel was quickly forgotten and the steamy heated mineral water began to sink deep into the pores of our skin. We soaked for a good hour or two before pruning up and the desire for a good meal overcame our need for warmth. Back to the little town of Lares to find a place to eat. The group of young boys that greeted us was a perfect group to ask about a good polleria(chicken place). They agreed to guide us to the Polleria, but we had to take them on the bikes; A small price to pay for a good chicken joint.
Complete with Smackdown on the tele, an empty dining room, and a lady quickly arranging the furniture as she may not have been open before we arrived, we sat down to eat. As is almost always the case, when one orders a whole chicken for just two mouths, the order taker becomes confused. Even the boys did not understand the situation. We had been riding all day and were hungry. That is why we wanted a half a chicken each. And don’t forget the French fries…Yep we are going to eat it all.
The chicken arrived and we devoured. Life is grand when after a good days ride, one can soak in some great hot springs, sit in a dirty chicken joint in a tiny town in the Andes mountains of Peru, eat a half chicken while telling the stories of the adventures of the day, all knowing that after a good night sleep in the rickety bed at the cheap hostel, we will have another day of riding to get back home. The chicken was grand!
We finished the meal, headed to the plaza to fuel up get ready for the next day. Funny thing about getting gas in these types of towns is that the gas station consists of a guy with a barrel in his living room. The dirt floor makes it possible for him to spill fuel all over the ground. His wife doesn’t mind because the dirt surely cannot be tracked through the rest of the house (complete with sarcasm). The fuel gets soaked up in the dirt and somehow it makes it tolerable. Pretty safe deal if you ask me…hmmmmm. Not only does the guy spill it all over his living room floor, but all over the motorcycle as well. We managed to clean up the mess and call it a night.
Back to our hostel where we quickly found out that there were two people booking rooms at the same time. They ended up with the room before we got back. Suddenly, I felt a bit like Joseph where there was no room in the inn. We found a better hostel with a garage and quickly realized that blessings abound. The room was a bit nicer and only for a few bucks more. No problem…It was time for bed. However it was only 7:30. It was then that we decided that playing some card games would be a good way to pass some time. Problem was…no cards. We needed supplies for the next day so I went down to the store in my cool Fly Racing motorcycle socks (no shoes or boots). Got some funny looks, but I did not bother. I found some playing cards and the supplies at the local tienda, returned to the hostel, and proceeded to play cards with Scott for a few minutes. Not long afterward, the fatigue set in and it was time to slumber. With a combination of the strange noises coming from everywhere around us, we laughed at the next thing that startled us awake. It was the Volkswagon bug outside our window, then the 8000 fighting dogs, then the whistling that sounded like a warning alarm at a nuclear plant. Not long beyond that, our eyelids closed and took us into the next morning.
Day 2
After gearing up, eating a few snacks, and giving our bikes a quick going over, we left the quaint little town of Lares. It was this part that was unknown to me. This part was exploratory in nature. Scott and I knew this going in, so we were not sure what we were going to get ourselves into. Heading to one of the starting points of the Lares hiking trek, we encountered some beautiful views. These mountains are incredible! While arriving at a tiny little community of which is named in a language that makes it hard to pronounce let along write, we found ourselves in need of asking a local where the trail starts. It was there that we encountered a little bit of hostility with the townspeople.
As is common when asking for directions for an adventuresome trail, the answer from the locals is, “no hay paso!” This means a lot of things. One, it means that there is no way through. To another, it means that there is a sweet trail ahead complete with many challenges. Still to another, it means that it is prohibited unless one pays a bribe. Still another, it means that the townspeople have had some bad experience with other people, possibly motorcyclists, and just don’t want you to go through. Maybe we will never know. However, as Scott and I looked at the trail going up the side of the mountain, we both realized that if the rest of the trail is anything like that first part, it was not something that we wanted to tackle.
I decided that I would not spend more than a few minutes trying to convince the locals to let us pass. There was a good chance that we couldn’t make it very far and may have to return back through the towns with our heads covered in shame. Neither of us wanted that, so we opted for keeping the relationship cool and leave with a handshake and the possibility to return some other day. No bribes paid, no harsh words, and no busted up bikes trying to get past the first 500 yards of the trail. As we departed, we left with a good feeling about the rest of the day. It was sure to be a fun day of riding. And it proved to be true.
From there we decided to try to find another access to the main part of the trail. Down and around a few enormous mountains, Scott and I came up to a beautiful small town that seemed to be deserted. We could not find the trail with certainty, so we decided not to ride through, although the temptation was surely there. It was at this point that the fatigue from the previous days ride was setting in and we both decided to go the fun and easy route back. We took rough dirt roads and some tame trails back to the Sacred Valley via a couple of amazing vistas of some really big mountains. If you have never been in the bottom of a valley in the Andes, it makes one feel pretty insignificant. Regardless, we had a blast riding through these valleys and mountains.
We made it back to Calcca in the Sacred Valley, had a great meal at a great place. Gotta love fresh trout in Peru! We rested a bit, put our gear back on, gassed up, and headed back towards Cusco, our final stop. We arrived in Cusco tired with sore spots between our cheeks…both sets; One from the seat and the other from the constant grin that was glued to our faces over the past two days.

Mills Messer 4 Day Enduro Ride Report July 2013

Mills Messer 4 Day Hard Enduro Adventure July  2013

Arrival in Cusco
The guys got off the plane with their families, headed to The Meeting Place Café/guest house, and began the unpacking. It was like Christmas for me as Scott and Weston had brought down with them in their luggage a ton of gear for our ride which was to begin much sooner than was originally planned for; Tomorrow!  Because of schedules and such, we had to hit the trail on the day after their arrival. No problem; these guys are gritty.
During the first evening, we had Weston, Scott, and their families join us at our house for a good hang out time. Weston, Scott, and I spent the time out in the garage prepping the bikes with all of the new goodies; Skid plates, hand guards, brake levers, etc. A few hours of wrenching and we were ready to begin our adventure.

Tour Day One

The next morning, we ate a hearty breakfast at The Meeting Place Café. We followed up with a drive to the MotoMission headquarters to gear up and head out. I was so pumped to ride this route with these guys. They are both solid riders, full of adventure, and just great blokes. I have a lot of history with Scott as we teamed up to finish the 2007 Baja 1000 in Mexico.  Weston, who is no stranger to riding dirt bikes in Peru, has many hours of riding with me during the previous year. I can only imagine that the riding is what brought him back.
With mountains of gear stretching the zipper seams of our packs, we fired up the bikes, took loads of pictures, and said a prayer for protection and that God would provide us with a great adventure. We ripped out of the driveway with great anticipation of the dirt and rocks that lay in our future paths.
We began by heading up a world class single track that is the testing grounds to determine the trails and routes that customers are able to take. If our customers can get up this section of trail without too much difficulty, then they are most likely able to ride a number of the trails in the MotoMission trail book. If not, we have to make some changes to the plans. In this case, not only did the guys get up the trail, but were grinning from ear to ear when they reached the top. We bombed down through the valley on the side of Picol Mountain to reach the small community of Ccorrau. The miles of trails and tracks led us through valleys filled with tiny little villages, and farms that never seemed to end. The countless grazing range pigs that happened to be within the danger zone of our path continued to keep us on our toes.
Our trusty steeds!
Our route showed us a number of great vistas overlooking the town of Chinchero.  As we dropped into the small tourist town ridden with Inca history, Weston quickly found himself with a broken clutch cable. Bummer…We were one hour into our ride and already having to perform a miracle on the trail. A broken clutch cable is almost always a deal breaker. I know that Mills was thinking that we were pretty much done for the day. However, with a little bit of experience here in Peru, I was fairly sure that we still had a chance. As we headed to the only moto store in Chinchero, we pulled up to the door with a number of gawkers gathering interest in the big motorcycles that we were riding.
I walked inside by ducking by head to get into the tiny entrance. It opened up to a room full of parts and pieces that seemed more like a junkyard instead of a parts store. Regardless, I made an attempt in my Spanish to explain what the problem was. The guy showed me a couple of things and we agreed to what might work for a fix to get us back on the trail. As we waited for a few minutes, the young mechanic put a few things together, and transformed Weston’s bike into a functioning machine ready to continue on our adventure. The cost…18 soles…The experience…Priceless! That cable would cost 70 bucks in the US. In Peru, including labor, the total cost was about 7 dollars.
So many photo ops...
Our goal for the day was to reach The Casa De Aguila orphanage farm in Limatambo. We rode for a good section of dirt to reach the town of Iscuchacha. It was there that we fueled up and jumped on the super curvy downhill highway section. Every street biker would have loved to be with us. The turns were tight, the pavement was smooth, and the view was rather distracting. We made it to the town of Limatambo without incidence. We did, however, pass a cop with his red lights flashing. It was something that I, as a guide, was not so sure of. However, I have been in Peru long enough to lessen my respect for the police. I figured I was OK to pass.  Weston and Scott with lots of timidity, hung back for a ways until they succumbed to the pressure to go faster. Around the cops they came to finish off the rest of the route.
We made it through Limatambo. While on our way to the orphanage, which is situated a few miles outside of town, I had a mishap with my bike. We were not sure of the problem at first. We did the typical troubleshooting things, but to no avail. I had already devised a plan to get back home to pick up another bike.  We decided that the orphanage might have a good place to work on the bikes. So with a good tow strap and a reliable tow truck bike, we headed to the orphanage just up the road.
Just another beautiful mountain
We all agreed on a plan that Weston and I would go up to the Abra Salkantay, or at least look for a route for the morning. We were wishfully thinking that Mills would be able to figure out the problem with the bike. Weston and I lightened our loads by dumping our stuff at the farm. We then headed out to explore some terrain that was unknown to either of us. We had an awesome ride and found a ton of great stuff. However, we never found the trailhead that we were looking for.
Upon our arrival back to the orphanage/farm, we quickly became surrounded by a mob of kids. These kids had never seen the likes of our motorcycles. They wanted to touch the bikes, sit on the seats, and subsequently get burned by getting too close to the smoking hot exhaust pipe. With a bit of careful instruction, we helped the kids manage a bit better with the bikes. Dinner was ready and it was time to head to the chow hall. It was at that moment that Mills, came riding up with a big grin on his face. He had somehow gotten the bike running again. It was a miracle. The problem was an electrical wire that had been drooping down too close to the chain and had worn through. Mills somehow managed to stumble across the issue randomly. It was an easy fix…once he found it.
With the three of us back together like a couple of war buddies from Nam, we sat down for a hearty dinner with the dozens of kids at Casa de Aguila. I must say the food tasted fine, but not sure if it would have been my choice. Still not sure what we ate, but it got us through the night.
It was an amazing day. Full of fun riding, trail fixes, and a good hard bed to sleep on for the night…Or the few hours that some might call night. We needed to be up at 4AM to start the next day.

The Second Day

Early to rise was the mantra, but not the early to bed part. It was not easy to get up at that hour, but I knew what was in our plans for the day. That made it easier to handle. Weston also knew. As for Mills, he had to count on Weston and I.
We geared up, ate a few energy bars, downed a lot of water, prayed a much needed prayer for safety, and headed out at 0 dark 30. We rode from the farm/orphanage to the town of Mollepata and continued on through to the trailhead at a place called Soraypampa. It was there that the real deal began.
Scott and Weston in a little cafe for breakfast
While being able to enjoy the stars, we arrived at Soray. Our goal was to get out in front of any hikers so we would not pass them on the trail. It worked. We ripped by them while they were still in tents sipping coca tea. The trail was ours to behold; the most epic single track section that one could dream of. We had it lying right down in front of each of our tires.  With our cameras rolling, our bodies warmed up, muscles stretched out, we ventured mostly up through the rock, mud, and grassy marshes.  The trail was no walk in the park. In fact, most would never be able to make it to the top. There have been three motorcycles ever on the trail on which we were riding. We managed to make it through to the base of one of the toughest sections: A long loose hill climb that was designed for alpacas. Nevertheless, we had great “alpacas” with 450cc’s of power. No problem.
With a few little struggles, we made it to the top of that section only to find another four or five just like it. The altitude was somewhere about 13000 feet above sea level.  We struggled, but it was not about to keep us from reaching the top. I have been around Scott and Weston enough to know that they look at trials as mountains to conquer. It is a common theme among guys like that. That is one of the reason I enjoyed the time with them so much. I hope some more of that rubs off on me…
As for the ride, we reached the Abra(Pass) Salkantay at about 7:30 in the morning. The sun was cresting over the steep glacier riddled ridgeline of the Salkantay. It only goes up to about 24k feet. From the pass we could look up the face of Salkantay. Weird thing is that one can look up from where we were and feel like being at the valley floor. The mountain just goes up from there. We were so high it was hard to breath.  We were at 15,400 and only at the base of the Salkantay…Think about that for a bit.
Great form fellas!
With a bunch of celebration, a ton of pictures, and a trail fix on Weston’s bike, we gathered up our stuff and headed down the other side towards the jungle below.
As we crested and headed down the backside we found the terrain quite different. The top portion was some of the sketchiest downhill rock drops, tight switchbacks riddled with loose bowling ball sized boulders, as well as perfect dirt track flowing with metaphorical milk and honey…the promised land of motos!
First ones to this spot on a dirtbike...Ever
We rode for a few hours on our descent to the jungle. The weather changed about a thousand times during the downhill off the back of the Salkantay. Our layers began to come off bit by bit. It was not too long before reached the end of the single track and hit the camp spot for the trekkers/tea sippers that we passed in Soray. We stopped to take some picks, and took in a funny sight. It was a group of porters with a small truck picking up gear for a large group. They happened to fit the entire mountain of gear in the truck. It was full to the top of the rack. Then, they proceeded to all pile themselves on top of the gear to overload the springs so much I was not sure the truck would be able to move.  It was picture worthy…
From the camp, we rode the river route to the town of Santa Teresa. It was there that we ate a chicken and a half along with about 2 pounds of French fries, did another trail fix, and reminisced about the full day of riding that we already had completed in a morning.
With a lot of trail still ahead of us, we headed out toward the town of Santa Maria. This section is a high speed dirt road riddled with cars that seemed to be on some sort of drugs. They drove extremely fast, passed in places that make motorcyclist like me pucker up, and created dust clouds the size of Texas. We managed to get almost to the town of Santa Maria and Mills flatted out his rear tire. Another trail fix, but this time we cheated and I took the tube to town to have a professional patch it. It was a good fix and we hit the road. This time we were headed for the Malaga pass. This may not mean much to you, but to Weston and I, it meant the coldest hell on earth. The altitude is extreme, the clouds are frozen, and wind somehow finds every entry point in our jackets.
nuff said!
We rode for a good haul to get to the base of the pass. As we climbed up, I remember Scott mentioning about how cool it was that the clouds are resting on the top of the pass. I chuckled and said something like, “Scotter, that ain’t even close to the top! We are going way higher than those clouds.”
We meandered through the switchbacks that never seemed to end. Higher and higher we went. We arrived at the clouds. The temperature got cold, but it was nothing like Weston and I remember from the last time. We were quite happy about that. Our goal was to get to the gnarly mountain bike downhill path that bombs down from the top of the pass. Our daylight ran out quickly with our tire fix and a couple of other stops. We had put on so many hard miles that we skipped out on the downhill and went straight for the food and a bed in the quaint little ton of Ollantaytambo. We found some great pizza, wifi, a place to park the bikes, and a bed without bedbugs. This was heaven to us. Day was done. We fell asleep with smiles.
Mills ripping it up!

Third Day

With no hurry to get out of town, we gathered up our things, had a good breakfast, gassed up the bikes and headed out to complete a section of the Lares Trek. This day was scheduled to be our fun day, but not so much work; just grin rendering trail. We made our way to Patacancha to find the single track waiting just for us. The weather was in our favor. Sun was shining, it was cool, but not cold; Perfect conditions to say the least.
We managed to ride for many miles through some of the most incredible vistas that one could imagine. Our pictures turned out great, but do not do justice to the actual scenery. It was beautiful.
After many great section of trail, we found ourselves at a decision point. We had enough time to explore a bit, but we also had hot springs at the end of our trail. We all agreed to explore some more trail. It was that good.
Another typical backdrop...
We took a turn at Huacahuasi and headed up over the pass to Yanahuara. It was a place that I had only heard about. It turned out to be a good challenge. Better yet, the reward for the challenge was breathtaking. We reached the abra(pass) which drops down to the Sacred Valley and the town of Yanahuara. As I crested the ridge for the first time, my eyes were greeted by a deep blue lagoon nestled in the glacial peaks above the valley.  I was so impressed that I quickly got my bike out of the way, ran down the hill a bit and waved Scott on to the top without any conversation. I wanted him to get what I had just received. I did the same with Weston. All three of us were able to come over the hill to be greeted by a miracle. No other words to describe the deep beauty that lay within the scenery. Just marvelous!
We all agreed that time was short, but we wanted to see the lagoon up close so we bombed down the hill. We had agreed to only go as far as to the point where we could get back up the hill. So we stretched that agreement out a bit. We made it to the lake, but struggled a bit to get back out of the high box valley. We made it back to Lares and a good meal at a local restaurant. The food was local for sure. It was a lot of food, and it cost hardly anything. Gotta love Peru!
Los Guapos...
We made it back to the hot springs and soaked till our fingers looked like white raisins, walked back to our home for the night, and crashed out for a good rest without a hurry in the morning. More smiles…

Day Four-The Final Day

We woke up to the sound of the river outside rushing over the rocks. It reminded me of camping in northern California. Breakfast was being prepared by my new found friend and operator of the local hostel. It was to be a huge pile of eggs, cheese, juice and bread.  It was just what we all needed. Filled to the brim once again with poultry products, we loaded up the bikes to tackle an unknown section of trail. Scott and Weston had not experienced anything beyond our abilities. We had come really close, but nothing like what was ahead of us.
Breakfast at the Lares Hot Springs
We took off from Lares and headed to Quisharani. It is a small community with a view of what I would think heaven would look like. There is a mountain stream running through the town. It provides life for the locals. We managed to take the trail along the river and take it to where the river begins. It was not a long distance, but it was a long ride.  The ride was a difficulty of 9 with 10 being impossible to pass. We rode to the area near the pass, where we ran across a few hikers that were coming from the other side. It was there that the challenge began. It was the casual conversation with a trite, “good luck with that...” comment from the young lady from Southern California. That was what we all needed to hear. Comments like that make guys like us start foaming at the mouth in anticipation of what may be ahead on the trail.
What we found was some of the most difficult terrain in which I have taken a dirt bike. Scott and Weston were of the same mind. We found ourselves negotiating tight switchbacks with rocky ledges that could finish us off if a mistake was made. It seemed like quite a long section of this terrain, although it was only a few hundred yards of treacherous stuff. With the tow strap wrapped around the forks of the bikes, we found our places on the team. We each rode our respective bikes, took turns tugging each other’s bikes up the hill while the extra guy was below for safety and for an extra push from below. It was extremely difficult work to get through those sections, but the “good luck with that…” comment was pushing us through. We made it to the top with only a sliver of juice left in our energy tanks. Exhausted and whipped, we needed to finish off the route by “simply dropping off into the canyon on the other side.” So we thought…
The other side happened to be a nasty section of trails. We found ourselves looking back and forth for a place to drop into the community of Cancha Cancha. It was nestled into the bottom of the valley. It seemed so close, but such a journey to finish.  Light was beginning to escape us, and we desperately needed to get down the hill. I knew what the trail was like from Cancha Cancha to the Sacred Valley and it was not something that should be done in the dark. We managed to do the best we could. With safety being more important than getting home at a reasonable hour, we trudged forward and downward through some of the most difficult rock gardens imaginable. The rock was actually tailings that had fallen off the cliffs that towered above us. We were not able to see it all as the light went away and left us searching for the proper trail by way of memory and instinct from the last time I was there.  We managed to work our way down the numerous stair stepped rock drops and Volkswagon sized boulders. With an occasional wood and mud bridge, we crossed back and forth through the creeks and the canyon to reach the town of Huaran. It was a beautiful site for me. I knew that Pisac and dinner was just a short jaunt down the highway. We were off the sketchy stuff. Smooth sailing from here.
We did it!
We rode down to the awesome little town of Pisac at the end of the Sacred Valley. It was there that we ate a hearty batch of lasagna at The Blue Llama. We called home to let the families know that we were ok. They had been tracking us for a ways via a Spot Tracker device, but batteries only last so long. They were happy to hear from us and to know that we were OK.
We ripped up the highway back toward Cusco. We arrived back to the MotoMission headquarters with little skin left under our gloves, exhausted muscles that did not function properly, all the while grinning from ear to ear. It was an epic ride!
A few nights later, we topped off the adventure with a night ride to the cross at Picol Mountain. It happened to be on the night of one of the local Catholic holidays. The fireworks were in full swing and the view was crisp. We overlooked the city of Cusco from 14300 feet above sea level. This ride with Weston and Scott was the first time to the cross at night. We all made it with a little less pride as we found ourselves struggling at different spots to find the correct lines. No matter…We got it done. We made it to the cross and back down in one piece. A set of bent bars was the only wound. .. It was the perfect finish for an epic adventure.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

No Ambulance Mule for Us...Ride Report for Pete and Brian Gass

Guy shows up at the café ( a few months ago and orders a pile of food. Tops it all off with a grasshopper milkshake and hangs out to ask about the MotoMission poster on the bulletin board. I gave him a good pitch and the glands in his mouth started producing. We talked bikes. We talked routes. We talked types of terrain. Then we talked possibilities.
In the beginning...Clean bikes and no sore muscles.
It was a short while after that I received an email from Brian saying that he and his father were interested in embarking on one of our crazy adventures. We figured out prices and dates, then the prep began.
I prepared them as good as anyone can for a ride of the caliber that we were to do. However, because of the nature of the pure adventure of it all, there is no amount of planning that can prepare you for what these guys were signing up to do.
We agreed to attempt the Salkantay route. It is a popular route for trekkers that want to try their new boots on and get to the top without having to break down and jump on the back of the “ambulance mule.”
Brian had trekked it before and knew it would be a tough challenge, but doable. He was sure his pops would be able to handle the trail as well.  As we communicated the options amongst ourselves, we chose to make the Salkantay as the core of the route. Everything else was a trail to get to or from it. 
The guys arrived in Cusco. I hooked up with them to go over the details of the journey. We talked about what to bring and not to bring. I also focused on making sure these guys were pumped up about the craziness that was rapidly coming our way.

Day One - Strap Your Boots on Man!

Dropping into a pristine lake near Chinchero
The following morning, I picked up Pete and Brian. They were full of smiles. If they only knew what the rest of the day would look like…
We headed back to the MotoMission headquarters to gear up. It was quite a process as we were going to be on the trail for 5 days. There would be no support vehicles as the trail we were taking was off the grid with regards to access by car. We had to make sure we were totally ready for anything.
My family cooked up an amazing breakfast for us. We distributed weight. We reviewed the tool and extra parts list. We grinned from ear to ear knowing that this was going to be a blast.
Within about an hour, we were ready to depart.  We mounted up on the bikes, and hit the trail. However, before we left, we had a bit of a conversation to set the ride rules. Keep the wheels down and head up. If you are spent, stop and rest. If you are not sure you can make it, stop and rest. If you need to pass somebody, there are no rules…just do it!

Don’t Die on the First Day

We began with a difficult test; A climb out of the Cusco valley via a rocky single track uphill that goes from 11000ft to about 13000 in about a mile of riding. Technical enough to whip you and high enough to cause cardiac arrest. Combine the two and it was a great way to start our adventure.
We made it to the top. From there, it was a fun ride to Chinchero and then to Iscuchaca where we devoured a piece of chicken or two while the local kids passed by in amazement at the crazy gringos that happened to be out of place and in their town.
From Iscuchaca, we made our way down into the valley of Limatambo. The road down to the bottom of the valley was loaded with cuts that were essentially single track walking paths for the locals that do not like to do switchbacks. It was there that the first sketchy get off took place. Brian had a bout with low siding down a steep embankment that left his helmet visorless and his body a bit shaken. He was a trooper and quickly shook it off. We quickly arrived in Limatambo looking for some superglue to fix the visor. Along with the visor, a front fork leak was scaring us a bit as we had a lot of riding left to go. So we searched Limatambo for a roll of 35 mm film with which Pete was going to dazzle us young pups with an old trick of the trade.  He was going to use it to remove the debris that was causing the leak in the fork seal. To no avail, all we got was a good Peruvian run around. Our final stop for the day was Mollepata. It was a short ride up the side of a mountain. The views were amazing as the sun seemed to spotlight the highest hillsides and terrain as we traversed back and forth on the switchbacks.
Plenty of great single track on this route
We arrived at Mollepata to be welcomed by another large batch of folks fascinated by the fact that we were at the begining of “the trail.” I think they were all thinking that we accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up there. Nobody just goes to Mollepata unless they were going to trek the Salkantay. If that was what they thought, they were wrong… We were there to pass through…but on our motos of course.
Our digs in Mollepata...All to ourselves
Julio, the guy that was getting us our hotel and food for the night actually pulled through(in Peru, we keep our expectations low so we are not always getting disappointed). He was there on time. The amenities weren't 5 star, but steps above the second best place in town( I stayed there last time). The views from our hotel were impressive. Out our door we could overlook the valley we had just come from. Beautiful to say the least…
After a hot shower, a good dinner, and a bit of fixing bikes in the dark, we called it a night. We all slept like babies knowing that the following day would be our big test. The Salkantay was in our dreams that night. At that point we were not sure if it would be a nightmare or not, but the next day would be arriving soon. Into a deep sleep with a smile on our faces from a great first day.

Day Two -  No Other Dirtbikes on This Trail…

Getting through the valley before the Salkantay Pass
We woke early in order to get a jump on the tourists that would be hiking the same trail. Our goal was to get out in front so as not to bother anyone. With nothing but snacks for breakfast, we hit the trail. We flew through the double track to reach the single track trail head. We crossed a rocky creek with a couple of flabbergasted guides wondering what in the world we were planning on doing. As we passed by, a few nods and greetings were exchanged, and then to the trail to conquer the daunting pass that lay in our path.
The trail consisted of an epic single track ripping along side of a waterfall ridden canyonside. The trail, at places, dropped into the low point of the valley to cross the stream of glacier runoff. The stream looked like a limp spaghetti noodle twisting to and fro through the marshy valley below. The difficulty level of this part of the trail was high. However, nothing that we had already encountered compared to the obstacles that lay ahead. We continued on through the valley with our breath being taken away by the views as well as the altitude. We reached the first climb of the ascent to the Salkantay pass. It was filled with rock and gravel. In essence, it was a creek bed that we fought to climb to the top. At the end of the section lay a flat grassy area full of mud and other types of obstacles that would certainly test our fortitude. It was a fight to reach the top of each of these sections. However, with 3 more days following, we pushed through like a herd of mules. Our goal was to get to the top, take some pictures, then get the heck off that crazy mountain so we could get to a lower altitude to get some oxygen into our systems.

Almost to the top...Salkantay Mountain in the background
With our final push to the top of the pass, we ran into the most difficult obstacle; 15000+ foot altitude. It puts a heavy psychological burden on your mind. It is tough to deal with. The lack of oxygen, the fatigue from the difficult terrain, and the mental obstacles make it a viable option to give up. With these guys, it was not an option. We struggled to the top knowing that downhill was just over the hilltop.
While at the top, pictures are a must. Most people never take the opportunity to be at that high of a place in their lifetimes, except for a flight. Better take a picture!
Cold and tired, but on top of the world-15,300 feet
With our pictures taken, we mounted up, and started our descent down the rocky trail towards the jungle that it enters in just a few miles down the way. Our skills were tested throughout the section as the ledges were steep, the trail was nearly impassable at points, and our bodies were spent from the previous battle between man and machine.
Brian posing with an incredible back drop
We took many breaks during this section just in order to keep our sanity. The concentration it takes to stay on the trail is exhausting. As we continued our descent, the weather started changing and we quickly found ourselves sweating under our enduro jackets. It was time to re-evaluate the clothing situation. In the course of a couple of miles or so, the climate had gone from frozen tundra to a tropical island.
Couple of handsome fellas taking a selfie shot
We finally arrived at the end of the trail section which was a big relief. It was a long day and seeing some dirt road to ride was a treat. We bombed down the dirt road towards a popular spot for the trekkers called, La Playa. We passed through to find ourselves getting slapped in the helmets by the jungle shrubbery as we cut corners on our race through the plethora of coffee plantations to arrive in Santa Teresa.

There was an invitation by some hot springs that we did not want to pass up. We quickly arrived in Santa Teresa and went straight to the hot springs. Dinner was devoured, and the hot springs welcomed us with open arms.
We soaked until our skin was wrinkled up like a 100 year grandpa.  The hotel situation was great too. We stayed at the best place we could find. They had parking for the bikes and enough beds for the three of us. Nothing else mattered at that point. Day two was a huge success. Tired and smiling; both of which are an indication of a good day!

Day Three - That Ain’t no Motorcycle Trail!

The scenery is surreal...
We had no reason to get up early. Day three was scheduled as our "easy" day. There are not a lot of ways out of the valley except by way of the main highway. We had a fun section of high speed dirt road that led us to the highway. From there, we worked our way up the Malaga Pass. This is a high mountain pass that makes you wish you had more clothes on. We froze ourselves getting to the top, but what awaited us was another incredible trail.
On top of Malaga, there begins a downhill mountain bike trail that was just recently used for a big downhill competition. The trail is well marked, contained no traffic, and goes downhill like a bad investment. Needless to say it was an adrenaline filled drop to the bottom. It was a perfect amount of trail after the previous day. It also led us to a little town at the end of The Sacred Valley of the Incas named Ollantaytambo. There, we were able to fill up on a couple of great pizzas, clean up at our hostel, and then head out for some exploring(on dirtbikes of course!).
We ran across a couple of trails that really got us excited. It was a great day to finish up with some free riding. We discovered a few trailheads that would lead us into the area that we would be riding the next day, even though we had a different start point. It was exciting to see the options. Back to town for a brownie smothered in chocolate to get us through the night and then it was bed time. We had another good day to look forward to.

Day Four – We Had No Idea

We encountered some juicy mud
We had a lazy morning. There were not a lot of miles on the docket for the day, so we ate a hearty breakfast and sipped our coffee in peace. After we geared up and checked out of our hotel, it was a short dirt road to the trailhead that led us to the Lares Valley. This route is one of many options for the popular Lares Trek. However, because of the popularity of the main Inca Trail, the Lares Trek is not very utilized. Perfect for us!
The trail started with a batch of singletrack rising up behind a small community of Patacancha. As we passed through, the local young boys observed the team of motorcycles powering up the path. They often would stick out their hands for a high five or give us the windmill motion for us to turn the throttle and rip on by. Gotta love the thrill of boys and motorcycles…
The trail for the day held many an obstacle for us. The first part was full of rocky outcroppings that we had to maneuver over and through. At altitude, these were difficult. The terrain went from super perfect smooth dirt to slick mud, to grass trail in matters of seconds. This kept Pete, Brian, and I on our guards. In fact, when we failed to be ready, we often found ourselves picking up our bikes and brushing off our knees.
So many great spots...
The Lares trail is incredible. I have been to many places in my lifetime and this is one of the highlights. It just keeps going. It is like a bottomless bag of peanut M&M’s; so good, and it never stops! The scenery is full of high peaks, pristine lakes, tiny grass thatched casas dotting the landscape. The colorful Andean dress of the locals are seen in contrast to the marshy green grass that fills the valleys. This is a blessed place. The lifestyle that one must lead to live in a place like that has got to be one of simple awe each day of how it was all put together. Fascinating to say the least.
We managed to get through a lot of difficult sections while maintaining our awe of the scenery. It seemed like every time we would stop, the conversation would start with a, “can you believe this? “ or, “this is incredible. Can it get any better?”
Arriving at the final climb before the pass to the Lares Valley, we encountered an obstacle that was quite difficult; A long muddy hill, full of ruts, slick grass, and lots of feet above sea level. With many attempts by Brian, he finally made it. Trying all the different options, he worked his way up and down a number of times before he finally found the route. Then it was time for Pete to give it a shot. Pete was whipped from the past 20 miles. However, he managed to take the route that Brian pointed out with hand motions from the top. Pete, gave it a couple of go’s and arrived at the top, winded and grinning from ear to ear. High five with his boy on top of the world!
Next was my turn. I was able to get up the slimy hillside to congratulate the boys on a good climb. It was not easy, but the reward was three fold. First, the view was dualiscious( made that word up). On one side, we looked back at the valley we had just come from. There are not enough memory cards in the world that could capture the beauty of it. Then as we looked at the trail that slithered down in front of us and into the next valley, we realized that it just kept going. Second, the feeling of accomplishment of reaching the top of the pass was invigorating. We were spent…our energy level was waning, but as we reached the top, there was some sort of energy that filled us up. It was needed as we had another tough stretch in our route. Third, as a team of three, we were doing this together. We all had our share of difficulties along the trail. Helping each other to get through is part of the thrill. We felt like we had accomplished the task of getting to the pass.  What a refreshing moment it was. We took a lot of pictures, celebrated a bit, and talked about if only so and so could be here.
The downhill in front of us was daunting. The trail went down, and down fast. As we fired up the bikes and bombed down the tight rocky single track, it was obvious that we were not in an easy place to ride. The angle of the hill, the looseness of the rock, and the slickness of the mud all created a double black diamond type of run; Fun, but a bit sketchy.
We meandered down through the valley to find ourselves at the most difficult part of the trail. It was a rock outcropping with no other way around. Over the top, to the edge, and down the rocky switchbacks to reach the moist meadow at the bottom. It was a scene out of a Chronicles of Narnia movie. Curious but scared alpacas scurried on the rock ledges above. The others critters took breaks from grazing on the greens,  lifted their long necks, and caught a view of the action as we dropped down the rocks.
Pristine mountain lake nestled in a high valley above Lares
This valley is home to a couple of little friends of mine that I met on a previous scouting trip. Ronald and Dena. They helped me find a bag of camera batteries and cards that I somehow dropped when I was replacing a battery on one of my Go Pro helmet cameras. They helped search the trail and Dena happened to find it. I was so excited that she found it that I told them I would bring back a “thank you” gift for them on the next pass through their valley. Certainly enough, Dena was out there on the day we came through. I got a chance to meet her mother. Nice family! I gave Dena and Ronald a survival bracelet to use in an emergency. It put a smile on her face. Ronald was not there, but I was able to leave his bracelet with Dena. It was good to see my little friends on our way through.
With the last leg of our route in our sights, we continued through the end of the valley where the town of Huacahuasi lays nestled in the valley floor with the culmination of all the water from the upper part forming a river that feeds the town with life. The trail however, ran along the upper valley wall and descended down to the town in a perfect riding trail. Just pure fun. Pete and Brian had the biggest cheese eatin’ grins on their faces when we got to the bottom. I could tell it was a good day for those fellas.
Once we got across the little bridge, we had a a short jaunt to the Lares Hot Springs where we found a place to stay, and a great place to soak off some soreness from the day’s adventure. Dinner was ordered for 6. Brian still had a bit of energy left, so we went on an exploratory ride and found some super technical trail that thrilled us to no end. It was not only a great trail, but ended up at a couple of high lakes that were fed with cascading waterfalls and glaciers. There was no shortage of beauty.
another crossing point over water...
The locals were fishing for trout. As they saw us coming by, they motioned with their arms so as to direct us where the trail went. So we took them up on the offer and gave it a shot. Around the lake that reflected the mountains behind, Brian and I ripped up the rock, the tight ledges, and the climbs that seemed to eternally keep going up.  We got to the point where we needed to head back as dinner would be ready. After a good talk with the local fisherman who invited us to come back and fish with them, we took off to get back down the hill to reach our resting point; Lares Hot springs. There we had a plate of fresh fried trout, potatoes, and rice waiting for us. In addition, the soaking pools were music to our ears. The water was hot, no crowds, and just a perfect finish for the day. It just doesn’t get any better…

Day Five – The Grand Finale

We had little on the morning agenda but to get up when we wanted, eat breakfast when we wanted, and leave when we wanted. The days ride was going to be loaded toward the end of the day. We had some dirt road riding to get back to the Sacred Valley. There we ate a great big lunch at the Blue Llama on the main plaza in the quaint little town of Pisac. Pot roast and mashed potatoes…Just like Grandma’s!
From there, it was a short ride up the canyon to reach the trail. We had talked about a tough challenge for the finale, and both Pete and Brian were up to the task; Make it to the cross on Picol Mountain. To get there, we put our tires on a ridge trail that has a tendency to make dirt bikers smile. It is an amazing tight trail that has the Cusco valley on the right and the small community of CCorrau on the left. We were literally riding on the ridge! Once we got to the end of that trail, we found ourselves at the starting point for the climb up Picol.
We took a good break and discussed the possibilities. I really wanted the guys to give it a go. I also realized that we had just spent 4 and a half days pushing ourselves to the limits of our strengths and abilities. It was their call. I am here to get them to the top if they chose.
I knew Brian was in. As for Pete, I was not sure. With a big sigh, and a confident shoulder drop, Pete let out a good word. “Let’s give it a shot!”
With a bit of instruction to just keep going until you cannot go any further, I fired up my bike to help give them an idea of the line. I quickly petered out, pulled my bike off the trail to let them pass and gave them a good windmill motion for them to keep on going. We leapfrogged up the hill like a couple of mountaineers conquering a summit.
Shortly after our commencement, we found ourselves bushed. Our lungs were craving more oxygen while our minds were screaming obscenities at us for doing this. That is how it typically goes with a challenging hillclimb. There were a couple spots where it would have been really easy to call it quits and head back down. However, Pete and Brian kept the goal in mind and pushed through the difficulty. Between the three of us, we managed to get past the most difficult part. From there, it was a long but not technical climb to the cross at the top. With Brain making it first, standing on top with his hands in the air out of celebration, Dad was right behind. I got to see these two gents arrive at the top with another celebration. What a finish! It was a finish, because just at the bottom of Picol is the headquarters for MotoMission.
We captured a lot of moments on video, took a good share of pics, once again talked about so and so and how they would love this, and then found out that our water supply had been depleted with the previous hours of struggle. We were all super thirsty and decided to bail down the hill. A few minutes later, we found ourselves dropping into the valley of Cusco. We arrived at the MotoMission office with worn out bodies, busted up motorcycles, and the sense of complete satisfaction and accomplishment.
Pete and Brian were the first group of guys that I have taken on this route. It was a physical struggle. It was full of victories and defeats. However, as goes with motos, the glory is in the journey; And glorious it was.
I must say that this was as exciting for me as for anyone. This was an ideal tour. The planning and prep paid off. We were flexible enough to stay on somewhat of a schedule.  Pete and Brian were not only great riders, but awesome fellas as well. I had a great time getting to know them and hearing about their lives. I have never met their family, but feel like I know them all. 5 days of that type of adventure and you get to know one another. I have to say it was a highlight!
The tour was technically over on Saturday, but we ended up with over a hundred gigs of video and pics that we needed to share. So the next day, we connected to transfer the memories to their hard drive. That way they could go home and not just talk about it, but show some of their soon to be jealous friends about the adventure in Peru.
Father and Son on top of Picol...Great ride fellas!
In addition, I was able to take them to the Altivas Canas Children’s project on the outskirts of Cusco. The model of the business is that all of the profits from these tours go to fund that project. These guys got to see the project first hand. It may not have been a driving factor in doing the tour, but it sure is a huge benefit for the mission. The Altivas Canas Children’s project is a project that supports single mothers and their children by giving the kids a place to go after school. When the kids go home each night, their homework is done, bellies are filled with a nutritious meal, and the kids have gotten some energy out of their systems. The kids can just go home and spend time with Mom. It's a beautiful project!
Having the time of your life while supporting an awesome project is a great combination.  Thank you Pete and Brian for taking this adventure with us. Enjoy the memories. Share the videos. Come back and do it again!
MotoMission Peru

Monday, June 3, 2013

You into bikes, Man?

Ride report - Mike Rowley
The young man walked into the cafe.   “I’m looking for Scott!” he exclaimed.

I was sitting down at a table getting some paperwork done. This gentleman with a stout accent of the northern British Isles continued after I made myself known,” You into bikes, man?”
With a quick confirmation that I was indeed "into" bikes, we started a conversation that went on for quite a while. The conversation consisted of everything from Dakar to Baja and from Honda to Husky; Exciting to say the least.
Then it was onto business. Mike wanted to go on a ride. I wanted to guide him. It was a great piece of chemistry.  We agreed that Monday was the day and the details were hammered out about the meetup time. Meet at The Meeting Place Café at 8:30 and we started with a motohead breakfast, well it was the Scott’s Special…A great concoction to get anyone ready for an unforgettable moto ride.
Off to MotoMission headquarters to gear up and hit the trail. A little prep which consisted of a few finger points to the tops of ridges and peaks while explaining that we are heading to those places. With excitement in Mike’s eyes, we continued. Fitted and ready to go, we looked like a couple of pro racers. Maybe even better…
A couple of minutes later we found ourselves at the bottom of Picol mountain. This is a little hill that tops out at 14385 feet. It is all uphill. No place to catch your breath as if it would even be possible at that altitude. The trail consists of a killer single track laden with views of the valley with Cusco lying on the floor below. Incredible!
As we hammered through the tight switchbacks, the rocky step ups, and the tight blind corners that if missed would toss you a few hundred feet below. It was all good. Once out of breath and unable to go one more revolution of our motors, we stopped to take a break. We were only a third of the way to the top. We decided to take our time going up as we had a lot of riding in our future and did not want to use our energy so early in the morning.
So there we were chipping away at this monster of a mountain. Little by little, each terrace was an obstacle to overcome. Piece by piece we made it to the ridge which then provided at least a trail that was trackable; Should be no problem.
On the ascent, there were numerous obstacles such as the tight switchbacks of the trail, the rain slickened grass, and then of course the decreasing oxygen levels in our blood streams. As we approached the top, we were greeted by an enormous cross at the peak. What a treat to have such a view at the final spot in the trail.
On top of Picol Mountain with Cusco in the valley behind
That may have been the final spot of that trail, but our day was only beginning. I was able to show Mike the basic ridges and route that we would soon take. With our breath caught, we mounted up and bombed down the sketchy mountain that was steep and riddled with obstacles. Once back to the road at the bottom, Mike and I rode a minute or two to the base of another amazing part of the day. I call it the Enaco ridge. I am not sure if there is a real name, but that is what I call it. With an incredible hill climb full of rock, terraces, and rutted out washes, we made it to the top which is where we found an inviting single track that ran us along a ridge with Cusco city on the left, way down and on the left, and Corrau on the right, even further down and to the right. Mike was all smiles as he rode the ridge on top of the world.
Once at the end of the Enaco trail, we dropped into Corrau, then up another mountain full of switchbacks, mudpits, single track hill climbs, and just plain fun two track with no shortage of views. At the top of the route, we crested the hill to find a pristine lake nestled in a high grassy valley. It was a great place to take a breather as we were at a pretty high pass and a bit winded.
From the lake, we headed down a single track route to the town of K’enko. To get to this tiny little pueblo, one has to travel down a section of rock that challenges the best of riders. With stair step after stair step of off kilter rocks, we arrived at the tiny town. We passed through and found ourselves cresting the top of the Sacred Valley of the Inkas.  With a little bit more trail behind us, we came to another small community where we were greeted by a handful of kids that wanted to check out our cool bikes. As we stopped for a spell, the kids made it perfectly clear that there was no passage on the route that we would soon be taking to reach the Sacred Valley floor.
It sounded like more of a challenge to Mike and I. Who says there is no passage? They must not be talking about us. Off we went with a bunch of kids and townspeople expecting to see us again in pretty short order.
As we headed down the trail, we came to a few simple obstacles wondering if they were the ones the townsfolk were talking about. After a short little bit of riding, there was no question.
We came to a number of landslides that were certainly challenging obstacles. Much of our time was spent navigating five of these nerve wracking challenges. With the first four of them behind us, we were sure there could not be any more in our schedule. While we were grossly incorrect, we came upon the biggest and most challenging of them all. We arrived, hopped off the bikes to take a look, and quickly found that we had a tough job ahead of us. We scoped out the options of going high, low, and even hopped back on the bikes and rode to the top of the slide to see if there was another route around the obstacle. We decided that hitting it head on would be the best bet.
We both agreed on the strategy. We would build a steep hill climb on the edge of the slide to get the bikes as high as possible. With the height advantage, we would have a bit more contingency space if we ended up sliding down the sandy crevice.  Mike agreed to have me drive the bikes, while he found good footing to help catch the bike in the event of problem.
With our little path as good as it could get, I jumped on the first bike and made a circle as I bounced motivational messages around the inside of my helmet.  I was ready for Mike to catch me. Blipping the throttle with a good chunk of power, I reared down on the back of the seat as the suspension smashed down with a heavy batch of traction. Up the route I went to the bailout point. A good high side and I came to rest with the bike between my legs, Mike with a relieved type of smile, and a really difficult finish to this predicament we had just entered.
Mike attached the tow strap to the front of the bike while I agreed to help push the bike. With just a thought of beginning, the bike began to slide down the loose dirt and rock only to get hung up on the handlebar and Mike’s pressure on the strap. We got it under control, but found ourselves quite low on the slide with very little room for another one of those events. Somehow, we were able to shimmy across the remaining 15 feet of the slide with bike in hand and good health. Then we were onto the next bike.
With a bit of experience under our belts, we thought that it would be better to go even higher. That took a bit more power, but it seemed to work out fine. While we began to traverse the second bike across the slide, it also began to slide. Just like the first. This one was just a bit higher on the hill. No problem!
We were able to get things under control and get the bike to safety. With a short break to catch up on our breath, a quick drink of water, and a short going over our bikes for damage,  we mounted up.
We were only about 4 hours late for lunch and the joke became that we could not wait for lunch and that we needed to get dinner instead.
Down to the valley below, only to pass by a group of people that happened to be watching us try to kill ourselves on the slide above their farm. It was an interesting conversation, but they seemed to be smiling…My guess is that they thought we might be idiots. No worries…we were hungry. To the bottom of the valley we came. A mile or two on the highway to arrive in Pisac and to The Blue Llama for a great pot roast dinner with mashed potatoes and a cold Powerade; just what we needed.
It was getting dark and we were absolutely exhausted. We still had a few more miles to go to get to the ridge trail that dropped us into our neighborhood. We chose to ride the pavement up the road for about 10 miles back to the town of Corrau. From there, we jumped back on the trail for a night ride single track down the first trail we had traveled just 8 hours previously. With the beauty of the lights of Cusco glaring below, we arrived back to MotoMission headquarters with everything intact, a little gas in the tank, and a cheese eating grin that only could mean one thing…That was a great ride!