Sunday, September 8, 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.
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!|
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!
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…
|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.