At 3300m above sea level, Cusco was still way high up in the Andes. All that was about to change however, as we left the city headed west and towards the ocean once more. We had been promised an amazing ride between Cusco and coast, first descending from dizzy heights into low lying jungle before weaving our way to the Nasca desert. It was our route back to the warmth and we were looking forward to it.

Temperatures soon rose as we left the heights of Cusco behind, the jungle grew thicker and its insect inhabitants grew louder. In just a few hours we were in a totally different climate, shedding our alpaca sweaters and cruising along in t-shirts. Once again we were following a river that raged to our side, carving through the earth and blazing our trail, leading us to the ocean.

The route was littered with rock fall, mostly just small rocks requiring some quick reactions but more than once we were forced to a halt as clean up crews set about clearing boulders the size of Volkswagens off the road. Trying to catch up with Frank I rounded a corner to see him laid out on the ground, he had slipped on some loose stones, whipping his Honda’s wheels out from under him, luckily on an inside turn otherwise he would have been off a cliff edge. Characteristically unshaken, Frank dusted himself off and we were soon on our way again.

A rather large landslide holds us up for a while

We twisted through more Peruvian towns dodging rock fall, arbitrary floods and suicidal cows. One cow in particular we accidentally performed a sort of scissor move on, causing it to panic and dart right for me, missing me by inches. The blame fell on Frank for that one but was redeemed with one of my favourite Frank quotes coined later that night “Hey guess what I did today, I crashed my motorcycle and almost killed my friend with a cow!”

Holy Cow!

After a night in a swanky hotel way out of our budget we once again hit the road, excited to see the desert again. Noticing that the river beside us was actually flowing towards us made it apparent that in fact it was Amazon bound and ultimately a climb was on the cards. Sure enough we were soon weaving skywards. It eventually levelled out to another 5000m plateaux with long straight roads, high winds and Alpaca farms dotted around. We luckily found a petrol station in the form of a guy and his barrel after burning so much fuel on the climb, the plateaux had come as a surprise and we were now also burning daylight.

Market day in the small town

The confused stares of Alpacas accompanied us as we cruised the plateaux. Every water break we would try and sneak up on the animals for an obligatory photo but could never get close enough, that was until Frank spotted an Alpaca that wasn’t going anywhere. In the grounds of a small farmhouse one family had, moments before, killed one of the animals and were in the process of skinning it in preparation for market. In our broken Spanish we forged a conversation with the family, quite interested in life up here in this place. It was a surreal pit stop but we left with a richer understanding and a rather fetching wool hat.

It wasn't just the Alpacas that were confused

Frank negotiates a good price for some new headwear

Vegetation grew sparser as we travelled further west and it was not long until we were cruising along the rim of a canyon surrounded by cacti. Nasca was not far but we knew we had a serious descent before we could get there and sure enough, amidst the fading light, there it appeared way below us. Never wanting to miss a golden opportunity however, we stayed for a fantastic desert sunset.

Unfortunately, like any self-respecting sunset, it was followed by darkness and we were left to join what seemed like a convoy of late arriving trucks all towering over us as we slid in between them like mice under elephant’s feet. Tired and in desperate need of showers we pulled into a dusty Nasca, using the SAG nav system to find a hostel. We cracked some beers and celebrated our return to the coast and the un-escapable Pan-American highway.

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