(written 10/31 @ 11:20PM) 250km in 15+ hours on insane dirt roads through the Andes? Yes, this is what I signed up for.
I woke up at 3:30AM in order to be packed and in the lobby at 4:30AM to get my paperwork then head immediately to the field. Very long story short – I got my mototaxi loaded and in a train with Rob & Will from Valsalva Victory took off for the wilds. The plan was to hit Ayacucho in a single day, which was ambitious but doable.
The road out of Huancayo started out very nice and paved for an hour or two, and was a great opportunity to learn the mototaxi at speed on the road as well as during traffic. We made it and did great. Eventually, however, we hit the good stuff – the crazy dirt road to Huanta.
You have to see the pictures or video to understand this road, and realize that I actually took pictures and video during the *safest* parts of it, since there were many situations I wouldn't even think to hold a camera and drive with one hand. This road was basically this great big twisty dirt road all through the mountains for hours and hours, broken randomly by giant potholes, huge ditches, minor waterways, etc. I'm not surprised some of the rookies (with regard to motorcycle control) have had problems – I believe the count is now at two ditched in the river.
We were having an amazing time, well in the lead of our group when the badness hit. First, I popped a chain spinning my wheel uphill. Thankfully this is fairly easy to fix and I did it all by myself quite rapidly – tip the mototaxi over, line up the chain, spin the wheel (just like a bike) and you're set. A little tricky on a hill though… I had to stand in the middle of the road holding the brake to keep it from rolling, then let go and run over to the side to grab a rock then run back to stop it before it rolled all the way down the hill – a bit chaotic.
A few hours after my chain popped off, Rob & Will's actually BROKE. We whipped out the spare chain from the factory only to find that it was the wrong size. We spent around 30min attempting to manufacture a new chain from the broken + "replacement" chain when another team rolled up (Lloyd and Mark) and it turned out they had a spare chain that was closer in size. They let us have this and we ended up adding a couple links and getting on the road again.
Not long after, Rob & Will popped their front tire… so we got to change that. This was exciting, though very simple. Luckily they had a spare innertube and decided to change it rather than patch. While we were changing it a few more teams caught up and passed us and we really started to lose time. On the plus side, some of the most amazing scenery was right where we stopped.
Eventually we got that back on and started heading towards Huanta again, only for darkness to fall (around 6). We continued to ride this crazy dirt road in the dark with only our lights to keep us company, knowing we were within miles of Huanta… when Will again popped a tire, this time their right rear. We fixed that using my tube, a not-very-fun situation in the dark. We then got back on and found we were right near Huanta! Rather than crashing there at seven we decided to push on to Ayacucho which was supposedly "an hour" away.
It was not. It was well over two hours, but it was awesome riding through Huanta at full speed with Rob leaning out yelling "Ayacucho?!" and passerby pointing at various roads. We made it through Huanta and onto another crazy dark dirt mountain road, weaving through canyons and slowly arriving in Ayacucho, where we realized we made a slight miscalculation…
We were riding into a major city that we didn't know on a Saturday night. On Halloween. The streets were absolutely packed and the traffic was insane. Another hour or so and we finally found the main plaza and a hotel, though the hotel had no parking. One of the guys assured us he knew a secure parking place, and we proceeded to drive him around while he banged on doors until someone finally let us park overnight in what was basically their driveway.
We had some intensely good pizza at a restaurant next to the hotel to end the day, then crashed out late expecting to get up early. What a day.