Peru, Colca Canyon. From the deep canyon a condor glides on thermic up. With a wingspread of almost 3 meters he passes over us, looking down with his bald head with white collar. Does he recognize us? Or our bikes? It is exactly 20 years ago that we stood here with our suzuki’s. Same image, same emotions and the awareness that our bikes are our wings that takes us all over the world.
We pick up our bikes form the container depot near Valparaiso, Chili. Paper work is done in one hour. We built up the bikes from the crate, put the luggage on and get back to our little hostel Napoli. Some bread for dinner with a nice wine and then go to sleep early. Next morning we are ready to start our 3 month adventure. We leave Valparaiso early, pass Santiago and ride up into the Andes. The winding pass goes up to 2880 meters. It’s a bit late and we don’t want to cross the border to Argentina this late. But at a ski resort with an expensive hotel at Laguna del Inca we can put up our tent next to the hotel. For free. We have a beautiful view over an cold lake which is surrounded with snow-capped mountains.
Border crossing into Argentina is straight forward. It is a beautiful sunny day and we have a great view of the Aconcagua, with 6961 meters the highest mountain in South America. Leaving the Andes we enter the flat pampas. Huge plains of grassland where the temperature goes up to 32 ˚ C. We stop regularly to have a cold drink. A large bridge takes us over the Parana river from Rosario to Victoria. We have a nice view on the skyline of Rosario. We see many birds of prey along the bridge. Just for Victoria there is a police check and we have to stop. They check our papers and they point out to our bikes headlights. It seems that we have to turn on our headlights. But they were turned on sir…. Well, with google translate the policeman tries to explain that we
have to pay a fine. We play that we have no money, only a credit card. After a time the policeman gets tired of us and we can go. In Gualeguaychu, just before the border with Uruguay, we find a nice camping Punta Sur. The owner Antonio is interested in our bikes and our trip and with hands and our little Spanish we have a great
conversation. He says that it will rain tonight and we can put our DRZ’s in a shed. How very nice.
Every time when we stop at a petrol station people come to us and ask if we are going to the Dakar rally. Well, yes, but as a visitor, not as a competitor…. And everybody wants to make a selfie with us. We feel we are famous, hehehehe. Standing on our footpegs and riding over dusty gravel roads through the arid pampa feels indeed if we are doing a rally.
At a petrol station we see a nice statue of a motorbiker, with an ode to all motorbike riders. Cool!
We bypass Montevideo (we don’t like big cities) and go towards the coast at Maldonado. This region is more green and has some hills. We make s short coffee break and eat some empenadas. Very nice. Punta del Este is quite touristic. At the beach there sticks a huge hand out of the sand. Where did we saw the other hand?… Ahh, yeah, long time ago in Chili along the Pan-American highway.
In Santa Teresa we visit the Fort (Forteleza de Santa Teresa). Parts are being restored and it all looks very nice. There are buildings for kitchen, sleeping, meetings. Old canons with huge steel balls as bullets and a soldier in uniform. Going north-west in Uruguay over dusty gravel roads we are heading to the border with Brasil. At Rivera/Santana do Livramento we enter Brasil. Formalities are straightforward (we don’t need to fill out papers for our bikes). There is a huge mall at the border where we can get some Reais from an ATM.
This south-west part of Brasil (state Grande do Sul) is gaucho country. Gaucho’s are South American cowboys. Along the road we see an event where gaucho’s doing rodeo’s, trying to catch a calf with a lasso and have BQ’s. They wear typical clothes, large hats, boots with spurs and a dagger on their back. A gaucho a drinking a yerba mate. He has a paste of the “tea” in a bowl , pours hot water on it and drink it with a straw. We can try it. Tastes ok. He asks where we from and find it interesting that we are travelling on our bikes. He calls us “modern gaucho’s”. We really appreciate this! We feel like we are… This reminds me 20 years ago. In Argentina we were riding in pouring rain and a gaucho with cattle was crossing the road. We stopped and when the gaucho was passing by, wearing a long raincoat, he reached one hand to his hat and greets us. We greet him back. It felt like a conformation of our existence.
With the sound of thunder, water falls down 60 meter, splashes up and is soaking us. We are at the very impressive Foz do Iguacu waterfalls at the border of Argentina, Uruguay and Brasil. Millions of liters of water are falling down from about 270 waterfalls. It’s so beautiful to see. We walk around to all the viewpoints and spent a day to see all. Funny are the raccoons that try to steel food from tourists. They are so cheeky that they even grab bags out of hands of people.
We stay 2 days in fazenda San Francisco in the Pantanal. We make a guided tour in an open truck and a boattour through these wetlands. We hope to see jaguars, but apparently they are on holiday. We spot a lot
of ara’s, parakeets, capibara’s, nandu’s, cayman and 2 big anteaters.
Rain season is coming and before it gets too much we make our way to Bolivia. The border crossing at Corumba is very crowded. There is a queue of 3 hours before we get our exit stamp. Immigration into
Bolivia is much quicker. For our bikes we need to make some copies of our passport and motorbike papers. At the customs they type the data over into a temporary entrance form. When I check the data (you should do always !), I see that my passport number is typed wrong. So I go back to the custom officer, shows him the document and with some growling he starts to make a new form.
The road meanders up the mountain. There are so much potholes, it looks like a Swiss cheese. The views are spectacular. There is no traffic, once a while we pass a few houses. Steep parts of the road are carved out by heavy rain. We must be careful not to slide into these holes. This area is very desolate and the revolutionist Che
Guevara rode here when he was on the run in the late 60’s from the last century. Now this route is known as “Ruta del Che”. In La Higuera is a monument where he was shot. We take a coffee and a sandwich in the little restaurant. It is quiet here, no revolutionary speeches, no resistance. Mmm, do we accept everything owadays…?
We follow the route and on top of the mountainpass we find a flat place to camp for the night. We have a nice view over other mountains and the sun set colours the sky orange. In the morning it’s cold and misty clouds hang between the mountains. We start up our petrol stove and make a coffee to warm up. Then it’s time to pack our stuff and start our DRZ’s. After 40 kilometres we reach the main road to Sucre. Wow, back on bitumen.
20 years ago we rode also over this huge white salt lake, Salar de Uyuni. That time there were only a handful old Landcruisers with guides, showing some tourists around. Now it is very busy with dozens of modern 4 WD’s, loaded with tourists. The road to the salt lake is also paved. Yes, modern times… The largest salt lake in the world, at 3600 m. Hours we ride over the white plain, it seems that we are not moving. We have no reference at the horizon, the white plain goes over in blue sky. It feels sur-realistic. Same feeling as 20 years ago. Amazing! Then we had no navigation system to guide us to a cactus island on the salt lake. We couldn’t find it, we just followed the tracks and finally crossed the lake. Now we have a navigation system and we arrive at isla Incahuasi. This little island full with cacti up to 8 meters high seems like an oasis in the desert. So beautiful,
except that there are too many tourists. We make a walk over the island. Giant cacti everywhere and from the hilltop we have a beautiful view over Salar de Uyuni. It is an amazing spot. At the end of the day the tourists leave, we pitch out tent along the side of the island. We are alone. Quiet. The sun sets over the salt lake. It gets
quickly colder. We make a coffee and enjoy the bright stars that fill the sky. So peaceful.
In the cozy town Puno at the shore of lake Titicaca, Peru, we celebrate New Years Eve. Outside locals celebrate with firecrackers, we enjoy a pizza and a good wine in a little restaurant. The next day we make a boat tour over lake Titicaca to visit the floating reed island of the Uros. These indigenous people live on reed islands that
are more than 1 meter thick. Also their houses and boats are made of reed. Unbelievable. A man explains how to work the reed and shows how to fish. The women wear very colourful clothes and sell these and hats
and souvenirs to have an extra income. There are floating gardens with tomatoes and vegetables, schools and shops. It was very interesting to visit the Uros and see how they live.
The road from Chivay to the Colca Canyon, famous for spotting condors, is now paved. 20 years ago this was a rugged gravel road. Left the mountain and right the canyon, that gets deeper every 100 meters we
ride further over the meandering road. At the highest point we put up our tent. Some minutes later we see already the first condor. Hover on the thermic he glides over the canyon. Then we see another one with 2
young condors. It seems they get flight lessons. This is fantastic.
The next morning after breakfast we spot the first condors. One of them flies over us and we can see clearly his black-white wings. He turns and comes back and looks down. Would he recognize us? Two brothers with suzuki’s? After exactly 20 years? Could be, because condors can reach 50 years of age. We have goose bumps. This is special. We follow his flight until he is out of sight. We pack up our stuff and start our DRZ’s. I tap my Suzi on the tank and say let's fly…
In the small town Cotahuasi we stock up food and petrol and ride into the Cotahuasi Canyon. After about 20 km the good track comes to an end and gets worse. Right of the small track is the high mountain and to
the left the deep canyon. The track is made of bigger rocks. We come to a point where lately an avalanche was and the fallen rocks are blocking half the track. We just can pass on our DRZ’s, but our right softbag is hanging over the edge… Riding here is demanding and we have to keep our focus. When we pass a piece of flat grass along the river we decide to camp here for the night. After eating some macaroni, we make a cup of coffee and look into up to the high canyon walls. The setting sun just lights up a part. There we spot a few condors.
The next morning we feel a little excited and we continue on the small track, going up. We keep gaining altitude and the views are amazing. At a crossing we take the best looking track. The other goes very
steep up. Although we have a gps system, it is a bit confused. And the papermap does not show roads here. After some kilometres we ride in a river, according to our gps… We decide to follow the track and see where it ends. We have more than a half-full tank of petrol and food for a few days. We pass a small hut, made of rocks, but no people around. We see a hurt of guanaco’s. They look surprized to us… Then, after about 25 kilometres, we face a huge river. There is no bridge. We check the depth and also the current. This is too dangerous to
cross. We walk along the river to see if there is a point to cross, but there is not. What to do? Try it, but if one falls in the river, you got immediately hypothermia. Our gps is still unclear and we decide to ride back. Back to the crossing. But before we arrive there, the sky turns black. Then lightning and thunder. And it starts to rain. This is not a good time to be here in the open with no shelter. At the crossing we go up the steep track. After a while our gps finds back a track. Hopefully we are on the right way. The track still climbs and our gps shows 5200 metres. This is the highest point so far. But worse is that it starts to snow. We feel already cold. And still lightnings…. We discuss if we have to put up our tent here. But there are only rocks and no flat piece of land. The gps shows no villages to come. We decide to ride on. After a time the road declines and unexpected we arrive in a small village. And guess the name… Condorama. How appropriate… We look for a place to stay and find a
little hospedaje. We can park our bikes in the courtyard. The lady shows us a very small room with one bed, no water or shower. But is has 7 blankets, so we can stay warm. This is fine, we take it. We are still at 4700 m. and we feel happy that we found this place. First we turn on our petrol stove and make a hot soup to get warm again. The kids from the hospedaje follow with big interested eyes our movements and our cooking skills. Later we walk into the village. At the plaza is a huge statue of a condor and 2 guanaco’s. We feel a kind of special that we landed here… In a little shop we can buy some bread for breakfast. The whole place is white of snow and the thought of riding here tomorrow makes us a bit worried.
The next morning we say goodbye to the friendly family. It snowed at night and the landscape is white. It is foggy, cold and the road is slippery. Slowly we follow our route. Our gps recognize where we are. That gives us a good feeling. Suddenly we counter a crossroad where trucks are passing. This is the “main” road to Izahuaca. Still a few hours riding in the cold, but finally, complete exhausted and with the last drops of petrol we arrive in Izahuaca. We take a room in hostal Catalina. Checking the map, we have no exact idea which route we took,
but we are happy that we made it till here.
Over the PanAm south from Peru to Chili travelling is much easier. Huge sand dunes to the left and the Pacific ocean to the right. We try to ride up a dune, but after 30 metres we are stuck. We camp on the beach and enjoy the nice temperatures. Back in Argentina we take “Ruta 40”. In the north many parts are still good gravel roads. The landscape is beautiful. Right the Andes and left pampa. We cover about 2000 kilometers of Ruta 40, before we go once more over the Andes back to Chili. Volcanoes are pointing into the sky in the lake district. The scenery is superb. But it’s time for us to ride to Valparaiso, to crate our suzuki’s for shipping them back home.
Three months went by. We met many friendly people. We had beautiful views of the mountains, travelled great roads. 20 years later. Some things changed, some are the same. South America is still an amazing
continent. Back in the airplane we fly once more over the snowcapped Andes. Like a condor…
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