So, I just got back from my second long-distance road trip in Peru on my motorcycle and it was quite an adventure. Unlike my first journey, this time I had a partner to take the trip with. My wife’s cousin Gean had heard some of the stories from my first solo trip back in July 2020 and he had been wanting to go with me and we finally scheduled a week free to go do just that. This trip would end up much different than my first trip for many reasons and the biggest of all was that it is now the rainy season across much of Peru.
We quite correctly anticipated that we would probably be riding in the rain at least 70 percent of the time, and the level of difficulty definitely went up quite a bit, if in no other way than requiring a level of determination to ride in the rain through all manner of obstacles for hours and hours on end. After the first day, there was never a time that my boots ever really got dry and most of the time our clothes were soaked through as well thanks to the brutal drenching rain that we experience here in Peru compared to most of the places I’ve ever lived or visited.
The trip had been planned for a couple of weeks and I heard the day before that the road was being shut down by protesters and that it would be likely dangerous and may be impossible to get very far from our town of Pucallpa. Despite being supportive of the cause promoted by the farmers organizing the protest, I wasn't happy with the prospect of rescheduling our trip. We decided to take our chances and figured that it may be possible to beat the planned shutdown if we left very early in the morning.
We ended up using a route very similar to that I took during my solo trip (read the first blog for more insight) as Gean wanted to see some of the cities on that route. It was also a plus that I had taken those roads before and knew a little of what to expect even if the expectation was hardship across much of the trip. The first day was pretty uneventful up until lunchtime. Most of the riding was on highways for the first three or four hours, afterwards we turned onto the smaller gravel road that would take us to Codo del Puzuzo.
After we finished our lunch in Codo, I warned Gean that the rest of the day would be spent on a much tougher section of road. There isn’t a whole lot of traffic and very little resources to reach out for in case something went wrong. It started to pour rain just as we left town and within minutes we were soaked to the bone. We pushed on for quite a few hours in the rain to reach our destination for the day.
Toward the end of the day, I hit an area where the creek crossed over the road and began to lose control. Between a mix of skill and luck, I was able to engage the clutch, correct and not wipe out. Fortunately, during this trip nobody ended up with any accidents! This in itself made this trip much more enjoyable despite the rain! We arrived to the German/Austrian settlement of Puzuzo in the late afternoon.
The second morning, we got up and took off for the next city down that road which is another city founded by those original German/Austrian settlers when they decided that the Puzuzo area was too hot and humid for their intended lifestyle. They went further South in search of a more mild climate and found the Oxapampa valley area which was higher in altitude and much more temperate despite being only about 80km (50 miles) to the south. In recent decades, the town of Oxapampa has grown dramatically and attracts many settlers and tourists alike. Despite the road that we used to access it being fairly bad, the roads to the west and towards Lima are much better and used much more frequently. There were quite a few scenic overlooks and even a few caves in the area that we spent an extra night so we would have more time to visit. Special thanks for Geans’ friend Christina for giving us lots of advice and insight into places to see in the Oxapampa area as well as information on the direct access road that we used the next day to go to Villa Rica.
The fourth day, we got up in Oxapampa and started our short journey to Villa Rica. It’s a pretty short distance but as with many parts of this trip we couldn’t go all that fast. Along the way we got to stop and see a cool marshy area on the top of a mountain called Bosque Shollet. It’s an interesting nature preserve and there was a cool looking black lake, some interesting vegetation and a lot of lichen everywhere. The name and history of the place is based on the local indigenous tribes and I didn’t truly understand it all. I would suggest at least three or four hours to check it out, but we didn’t plan so much time there so we didn’t explore the whole area.
We left Bosque Shollet and went on to Villa Rica and we arrived there about lunch time. The city is well known as a source of amazing coffee, but with the rainy season in full effect and us being on a limited schedule, we decided to save visiting a coffee farm for a future trip! We were able to see the lake just to the north of the city as well as visit a few waterfalls before the day was over, however!
On the fifth day we woke up to get ready for our voyage and we were able to catch a member of the family Benito who drives a cross-country truck route from Pucallpa to the capital city of Lima. Normally he would not use this route as it’s particularly remote and dangerous, but with the farmer protests that I mentioned at the start of this article, he was finishing the same road we were about to start. We caught up long enough to say hello before we started toward San Juan de Cacazu. The road to San Juan is somewhat decent but it poured much of the morning.
We finally reached San Juan and set out onto what I thought would be the most desolate part of the trip. This time there was quite a bit of traffic because of the protests and our roads suffered a bit for it. There had been some particularly bad storms in the hours since Benito had completed this section of road and we encountered downed trees, landslides, mud, and many many water crossings. Lucky for us a road crew was out to clear landslides as we encountered one that required about a three hour wait while they drove to and then cleared a pathway.
Along the route, Geans’ chain managed to work itself loose and we were very lucky to come across pretty much the only house along a particularly desolate section of road that had an adjustable wrench we could borrow. Apparently the tool kit that came with my bike didn’t have the size that we needed and its very lucky that she was able to help us out. If you had read my last blog this was not more than a minute or two from the place that I tried to sleep in my hammock on the first trip and was bitten by the ant. We were able to tension the chain properly enough to finish our journey out of the mountains and into the city of Constitucion.
The last day was not so interesting as we were pretty much highway all the way home. There was a bit of rain that slowed us down for much of the morning but we made it back into Pucallpa in time for a late lunch. As much fun as I had it was nice to get home! As I write this, I’m still sore from my trip but had a great time. As I mentioned in my last blog, I have traveled Peru by airplane, bus, train, car, and taxi and I still believe that motorcycle is the best way to see the country. Despite the obstacles, the roads are often so bad that motorcycle is the only practical way to get through. Often two cars couldn’t pass on these roads very easily and this makes things particularly dangerous. On motorcycle, you can stop anywhere and as often as you want to, or when you have a partner, as often as you want to bother your partner to stop.
I didn’t pursue proper photography as much as I would want to on a solo trip and you can see this in the images I took during this trip. Its hard to expect others to go along with such ridiculous demands and so I concentrated more on the experience this time. I don’t have photos of everything but that's okay. I had a great time and maybe next time I can take some better photos!
The next trip I take will be to somewhere completely new and my true goal is eventually a trip to Patagonia. To take this trip would require a sizeable investment of time and money. Not only would I have to be away from my family and my young daughter for quite a while, but I would need to feel like it was worth it to my supporters. If you would like to see me make such a trip, feel free to contact me, leave a word of encouragement or buy a print from my website to help support my continued endeavors in photography!
Dec. 13, 2020