First step was to get to Cajamarca. I started by making a quick stop just north of town at a hummingbird cafe for a coffee and to watch the birds for a while.
|They're there, if you look closely. Couldn't get close enough for a good pic without them flying away.|
|This is pretty indicative of how the road was, though it was one of the few times I was outside a cloud and could see.|
|When the clouds finally cleared, I got a view down into the valley that I'd then descend into - with all the clouds still above it.|
|On the way out of Balsas I got stuck for half an hour waiting for these guys to put in a few poles. I got off the bike and had a snack while I was waiting.|
|One of the few views I got out of the clouds in the second half of the day.|
My balcony window was right on the main plaza, so I opened up the windows and enjoyed the music that was coming from that stage that had been blocking me from getting to the hotel. After a bit of relaxing in the room, I finally went out for some dinner late in the evening, but nothing sounded good despite hardly eating all day. I wandered across the plaza in a light drizzle where I found some sort of funeral march going on, with horns and a shrine and everything.
|Imagine a slow march with an entire horn section.|
The hotel at Cajamarca had really good internet, which I hadn't had since... I don't know, Cuenca probably? It had been a while, so I spent the morning lounging, almost ready to get on the bike, and just catching up on some of the things I'd missed without internet. It didn't help that in Peru I had no mobile data for some reason, despite it being on the list of places where I should. Google Maps said it was about four and a half hours to get to Huanchaco, so I had no qualms about time when I finally left around 11am.
I left Cajamarca on a four-lane road which let me easily cruise at 65mph, with big sweeping curves. It moved down to just two lanes not long after, and I found myself in a situation I rarely end up in - a car behind me was actually keeping up with me on the curves. So I pushed a bit harder, mostly just for fun but also to see if he would too. He did keep up with me, but only by constantly crossing into the oncoming lane to cut corners.
This would become a recurring theme in Peru - it didn't seem to matter if you could see around the curve or not, what the pavement quality was like, what the speed limit was, or anything else - drivers in Peru have absolutely no qualms about driving on the wrong side of the road if it means they can take a turn a little faster. Peru is the only country so far where I've seen signs that say "Stay on your side of the road" - and people still don't follow them.
I managed to stay in front of him all the way up until my turnoff - which seemed a little strange. The road I was on seemed to be heading the direction I wanted to go, but Google was convinced it was faster to turn off onto a little side road that was one-lane wide (the kind where if you meet someone going the other direction, you have to squeeze over to the edges to get by). Well, if it's only 4.5 hours total for the route Google was taking me, it can't be that much different than the big road, and it looked like more fun, so I decided to take the turnoff.
(Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.)
I headed down the little road for a while before coming to a small town, maybe four cross streets each direction. Google showed the path through the town as a straight shot on one road, but the road that came into town dead-ended. I checked the map, and saw that somehow I was located to the west about three streets from where I knew I actually was. The map was clearly wrong in this cas. I had no mobile data to try looking at satellite, so I asked for directions and found my way out of town.
My next turn was supposed to be 30km later. After 40km, I hadn't seen any turns at all, so I checked my map. It was... surprising, to say the least. I was now about 20km to the west of where Google said the road was.
|Google's map vs where I actually went according to the GPS tracker.|
I was a little bolstered by two facts: one, it was still early in the day. I'd only been on the road for maybe an hour and a half, so it was just around noon. And two, the road that Google said I should be on was 106, and there were little markers on the side of the road I was on that said 106. So I had hope that it would meet back up, and then when the road turned "yellow" on the map not long after I met back up, it would be faster. It would have to be, if it were possible to make this route in 4.5 hours without the little detour I was doing. (I still trusted Google's time estimation, for some reason, despite the fact that they didn't even know where the road I was on was.)
I finally got into the town shown on the map - Cospán - after 70km. What was supposed to be less than 30km ended up being switchbacks on switchbacks, up and down hills, goats and sheep in the roads, and just all around issues slowing me down. I probably averaged around 20mph for that whole stretch, it can't have been much more.
|There were a lot of these little things on this road.|
It met back up. The road got worse. I found the spot where, if I took a left I should be going up the road that Google Maps thought I had taken, and it was literally two tire tracks in the grass.
The road was now pretty poorly maintained dirt, but now it started climbing, which meant I went up into the clouds, and that meant that everything got damp. Including the road. So now instead of dirt, I was riding on mud. Inside a cloud with almost no visibility. On the edge of a cliff.
|This was my view for the next few hours.|
|These are the kinds of roads I was on. There was a little trail to the side that a car might fit through, but was muddy enough that I was scared even on a motorcycle.|
|The cow in the right of this picture started huffing and pawing the ground as I took this picture.|
|Super safe bridge, I'm sure. Times like these I'm glad I'm on a motorcycle and not in a car.|
|Finally, signs of something like a real road. Just kidding, it was still poorly maintained dirt on the other side of this engineering marvel.|
|Not a hotel, but might be cool to camp inside.|
|Night coming, which worries me, but it did bring a beautiful desert hills sunset.|
I pulled into the first hotel I found where I paid $7 for one of the worst hotels I've ever stayed in - but at least there was a bed and a shower (no hot water though). I walked down the street to chow down some chicken and potatoes, and then crashed into bed.
In the morning I made the final two hours of driving to Huanchaco, which were all on nicely paved highways now that I'd linked back up with the road I should have taken in the first place.
In retrospect, this ride was an amazing story, with great views. To be honest, if I'd known exactly what it was going to be, I might have taken it anyway. But thinking it was just going to be a nice cruise to the next city and then getting this was... challenging, to say the least. But I endured, and I don't regret it in the slightest.