Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Doctor and an Engineer Walk Into a Cafe...

Rhett, Ryan, and Uncle Scotty

A doctor and an engineer walk into a cafe…in Cusco, Peru. They quickly avert their attention to the large poster on the wall in the entry way. It is an advertisement for motorcycle tours. They quickly discuss the idea of how amazing it would be to ride dirt bikes in the Andes of South America. Within minutes, the fellows are greeted by a bearded long haired bloke that is ready to take their order.
“You guys hungry…thirsty?” The waiter asked. From that point on, the conversation went down the path of a hearty gear head chat about the possibilities of ripping up some trails on the backs of a couple of Japanese workhorses…Honda Dirt bikes!!!!Oh yeah!
I happened to be the waiter to help these fellas. I discovered that these guys liked dirt bikes as much as I do. With that known, I whipped my handy smartphone from my pocket and fired up a rather enticing video for the guys to enjoy as I processed their food order.
“We’re sold! Say no more!” Rhett said immediately after confirming with Ryan who was sitting across the table. These guys were buds. They knew what each other was thinking. A definite “let’s do this” was floating across the table.
I vainly continued with the sales pitch. These guys got their mouths watering by watching a handful of customer videos that had been filmed on previous tours. They wanted to be part of the elite group of people that have graced the area with a dirt bike.
It was simple. I had the following day free. They only had a small window to make it happen. Tomorrow was the only day we could do it. We scheduled to meet at their hotel in the morning and then return to MotoMission headquarters to gear up and head out.
It was game day. I finally made it through the traffic, and went right up against a little miscommunication of the hotel that happened to match a couple of other locations in town. I found the guys, and quickly headed toward headquarters. The excitement was building as I explained and pointed at the ridge we were destined to ride just a short hour or so in our future. These guys were more than ready to get on the bikes.
Working hard to get up the hill...
We arrived at headquarters, my house. It sounds much cooler to have headquarters. I’ll keep using it. We geared up with everything under the sun. Pants, boots, goggles, Go Pro cameras on everyone, jerseys, gloves, socks, helmets, and anything else we could strap to our bodies. Ready as we could ever be!
The trail starts in my backyard. It starts out as a first class single track climb full of sketchy ledges, rocky switchbacks, and views to miss because you cannot afford to take your eyes off the trail. The fellas did really well on this part. In fact, it is a test hill. It separates clients. If they can make it up with only a few problems, they are in a group of clients that can tackle my advanced trail portfolio.
Advanced was the direction for the day…More fun for the guide…I was selfishly ok with tackling some hard trails on this day. Once we reached the end of the test hill, I let the guys catch their breath. It’s usually a good idea to do this every so often. The top of the hill is about 13000. The air is a bit thin, plus the physical strain of trying to keep your bike between your legs will make the most manly man trip on his skirt.
From the top of the test hill, we rode around the base of Picol Mountain. There is more to come about this incredible mountain, but for now, there was a ridge that was calling our names. I call it the Enaco Ridge. Cool thing is that I can name these places anything I want, as MotoMission riders are the only one on these trails. In every attempt to bring a local dirt biker from Cusco to the ridge, we have failed to get everyone to the top. So, they are exclusive to Motomission at this point. This place is unreal!
As we pounded through each obstacle to get up the beginning part of the ridge, we came to a gnarly hill climb that stood before us taunting us to give it a whirl. We each completed the challenge, which lead us to an exclusive view overlooking the city of Cusco on the left. Sneaking a peak to the right and we could look down into the valley of Corrau, the place we would eventually grab a bite to eat.
The Enaco ridge trail is just pure fun. It is full of great single track, some rolling grassy hill tops, tight trees, rocks, and quite a few hills, both ups and downs. It is certain that this trail will delight any dirt biker that makes tracks on it.
It seems to go on for a good while. The oxygen quickly started to escape our bodies. The intensity and the length of ride time since the last stop made it happen. We finally made it to the end of the Enaco ridge ride. We dropped off the ridge to cross a road, then back up on another ridge. More fun!
The Andean Landscape
These ridges never seem to end. I have discovered that most ridges in the Andes have a single track trail running along the tops. It’s incredible how big these mountains are. Rhett, Ryan, and I continued up the second ridge trail, which I call the Tambomachay ridge route. It climbs up and out of the groves of eucalyptus to reach the high grassy ridgelines filled with rock outcroppings and cliffs that somehow jump out at you when you get close enough. There are a lot of surprises including the holes. As I guide, I stop and point them out so that we keep the same number of customers from the beginning to end. When scouting out these trails, it often gets a bit hairy as I find things like holes that can swallow up a bike in a split second.  It all makes it fun and interesting.
The upper ridge was a favorite for the fellas. They liked the rocky ridges that ran along the cliffs that dropped off to the abyss below. There were long lengths of incredible trail that created many smiles along the way. We eventually looped back around and dropped into the canyon that led us to the town of Corrau.
We were getting a bit hungry and tired, so it was a perfect place to stop and grab a bite to eat. We rolled into a local hole in the wall place that I had tried before. It pleased me before, so I thought it would be great for the guys to get an authentic Peruvian menu (A special of the day, Peruvian style). The soup came first, then a full plate of rice smothered in a Tarwi sauce (I think it’s a type of bean). It was full of carbs, which was certain to be burned in the next section of riding.
The ridge lines keep going and going...
We enjoyed our meal, talked about the best parts of the day, and began to visualize the grueling climb to the top of Picol Mountain which would finish off our adventure.
The trail from Corrau to Picol is a high speed dirt two track road; Fun to say the least. You never know what may pop out at you. Typically it is a sheep. Sometimes it is something as strange as a huge pig that happens to be meandering from one side of the road to the next. It’s never a good day to hit a pig. We all made it through to the base of Picol without smearing any swine. Thank goodness!
With Picol staring down on us as if we were tiny little insects, I explained the route. I decided to do it at the bottom, because there is not enough oxygen to waste on talking once you start climbing. Plus, it’s a technical batch of terraces and side hill that will turn many a rider into a frustrated mess of fatigue.
We began blazing up the hillside and terraces. It is a fun trail. Not easy, but fun. There were a couple of potato farmers digging up the area where the trail runs through. At first, I wasn’t so sure, but I rode up to check it out and the two farmers encouraged us to pass through the very center of their work. They were impressed that we were able to ride our motos to where they were. They were thinking that they would get a show. They were right. Ryan had a sweet get off as his rear tire hooked up and looped him out on a terrace. It tossed him like a salad and rolled him backwards off the bike…right in the view of the camera that I had rolling. Thanks for the shot Ryan…You made the highlight video on that one!
He was OK. Nothing damaged, just a bit of pride. We laughed until the lack of oxygen put an end to it. We continued to climb. It was a struggle. Ryan got to a point, where he was content at just taking a break while Rhett and I finished off the beast of a hill.
With Ryan taking a break, Rhett and I climbed up and out of the draw via some stupid side hill. It never ceases to amaze me how many places these bikes can go. We reached the ridgeline trail that would eventually take us to the top. We replaced our GoPro batteries to make sure we could keep the cameras rolling and off we charged up the hill in a fashion only a scared lunatic could understand. There was no stopping. It’s too hard to get going again. The problem is that the hill just never stops. It is truly one of the longest hill climbs I have ever done. About 1500 feet in elevation gain. It takes about 5 minutes, but you have to do it fast.
Every once in a while, when the cameras are rolling, one can catch a good crash. It happened to Rhett. In fact, I was hurrying up the hill as I thought he was right on my tail. When I got to the gigantic wooden cross on the top, I turned around to find that nobody was following me. I set up my camera on the ground to catch a good view when the two of us reached the cross on the next round. I then headed back down to check on Rhett. I found that he had taken a spill via a great move called the “superman.” He was fine, but close to empty on his energy tank. One last push to the top and we would be celebrating a huge feat.
He took off, ahead of me. I did my best to catch Rhett, but he was on the throttle like sticky on honey. I recall looking up for my line and seeing him cresting the horizon at the base of the cross. It was a great picture, but I was doing my best to hang on and get to the top. We both arrived with much celebration. The cross at the top of Picol is a special place. It overlooks the city of Cusco.  At a mere 14,300 feet, you can watch the airplanes come into the airport. You can see the top of the jets as they fly by…It’s up there a ways!
Rhett and I gave each other a good high five, we took a moment to bask in the victory of conquering a sweet hill climb, then mounted up and headed back down. This hill is long and steep enough that I need to warn people to be careful not to boil their brakes. It’s easy to do, but not the safest option. We managed to bomb down the grassy single track trail to the place where we left Ryan.
Overlooking Cusco on the Enaco Ridge
It was a short moment before the three of us were descending down the test hill that we rode hours earlier. That is the trail to finish off the day. Funny thing was, Ryan didn’t believe me that it was the same trail we climbed in the beginning. It looks pretty daunting from the top down. We made it down without incidence, which is the preferred method. At the bottom of the test hill, is headquarters. I got to use the word again.
We finished within a short time after leaving the test hill. We took a last picture upon arriving at my house. Our faces were smiling, our bodies were weary, and our memories would ever hold onto a ride of a lifetime in the Andes of Peru.
Thanks Rhett and Ryan for joining the elite club of MotoMission Peru.
That was a good day of work!
Scott, The Guide