Week 44 - Bike on Strike!
We left Andahuaylas and headed North-west in the direction of Chincheros, where I had found a couple of options for accommodation on good old iOverlander. The route was mainly tarmac, and again we were fortunate to have some amazing scenery on the way.
It had been a lovely ride and we were very close to the location of the first hotel, the other being about 5km away. We pulled up into the small main square and as I did the bike stalled...all on it's own. Hmmm, maybe the tick over was too low for the altitude? I tried to start it again and it did, begrudgingly. I managed to get to the other side of the square and stopped because the bike was making a horrible ticking noise that it had made previously when it broke down. Something was definitely not right and this was not the place to break down! We topped up the oil a little although it didn't need much and then decided to crack on to the next hostal option. The bike sounded awful and I had the dreaded feeling in my stomach that it wasn't going to get much further.
Luckily this hostal was open and the parking was nice and secure, so we got the bikes straight in before getting to our room and having a bit of a meltdown. If it was the first time this had happened it would be a pain, but this was the third or fourth time we'd been in this situation, and it would mean that the bike had broken down in every country we'd been to so far! Not only was it stressful, but it was eating away at our hard-earned savings. In the evening, after some food and a chat we decided that there was no way we could take the bike any further on its own two wheels, however Kelvin would try and sort it out. Maybe it was just a valve problem?
We got in contact with Michele and Angel at MotoHell in Ecuador, where we'd taken the bikes for some work previously (although I must mention it was nothing to do with the engine). They were excellent. We sent them a video of the noise, explained what had happened and went over the history of the bike. The plan was that the next day Kelvin would take a look at the valves and adjust the clearances as needed, because fortunately he had all the tools and the gauges to do so. Kelvin watched some video's on YouTube about valve clearances and also spoke to a Michael Eckert & Paul Stewart, who both knew a lot about DR650's. We went to bed feeling a bit low about the bike.
The next day Kelvin got to it. We topped up our phones with data as the hostal wifi was beyond awful, and then we communicated every step of the way with Michele and Angel, sending videos and texts on What's app. Kelvin also found a good YouTube video, which was a how-to guide for DR650 valve checks, and with all their help, we managed to do the valve clearance calibration. I have to say, we were quite shocked by how far out the valve clearances were. The inlet valves were ok and within tolerance, but the exhaust valves were WAY out. One side was jammed shut and the other side was wide open! Yikes.
After Kelvin adjusted them and put everything back together we very very relieved to hear that the horrible noise had gone and the bike started well and was getting oil to the top end. What was a little unsettling though was wondering why the valves were so out again so quickly? People gave us a plethora of different ideas but who knows. At least the bike ran. We were in contact with a guy called Ivan at Touratech in Lima, who gave us a contact for a good mechanic in Ayacucho, the next big town on route. We also decided that we'd have to forget going further up into the mountains and start heading for Lima. Sad times.
The next day we set off towards Ayacucho. I was a bit tense and once again, I'd lost all confidence in the bike and that dreaded feeling that it was going to break down again sat in the pit of my stomach. I have to say, the first time it broke down and even the second time I felt quite positive about the whole thing, but now that was starting to wane. We got to Ayacucho fine. Phew! The hostal I had found called Hostal Samary, was up a road where the street had been dug up and only the pavements were intact. I had got off my bike to go and suss things out, and luckily the owner had been keeping an eye out for potential customers so he immediately came over to talk to us. We rode about 50m up the path to the entrance to the courtyard and went in. The parking was huge, so were the rooms and the showers were actually hot! Ooh, plus the wifi was awesome! Not only did it work but it was fast. It was currently Thursday afternoon and I had arranged with the mechanic to bring in the bike on Friday. We then decided to stay the weekend as there was a big festival on, plus our Australian travel friends Hayley and Mitch were due to arrive in a day or so.
So, Friday came and I was due to take the bike at 1pm to the garage, however he never gave me the address and never contacted me. In fact, he didn’t contact me until Tuesday, the day after we’d left Ayacucho! It was a shame as he’d rang me, asked if I needed directions and said he’d send them, then...nowt. I was thoroughly unimpressed and a bit upset, but c'est la vie!
Later that evening we met up with Hayley and Mitch, which was great. They were shattered after some crazy mountain driving, which meant they had been on the road all day and arrived late in Ayacucho, plus finding secure parking for their 4x4 had proven quite a challenge. We had a drink and agreed to meet up again the next day. This time we met for some jugs of Pisco sour before moving on to find some food. They had seen a small Chinese place that day, so we decided to go there. You wouldn’t have known it was a restaurant as there was no sign, no menu and no evidence of tables in the courtyard, however these were hidden. We ordered several dishes between us all and it was amazing! It was the best Chinese food I’d had on our travels so far. On our walk back to the hostal there was a load of men and women in the street in a procession singing. All of the women were in front and then the men all behind. I wish I could have understood the words because it would have made more sense, but it was really cool to watch.
The next day was the festival and it was packed! After a little bit of time we managed to find a spot that we could see quite a lot from. It also became clear what all those people had been doing in the street the night before...it was a kind of rehearsal as it was the same song and same set-up with the women in front and the men behind. However, there were loads and loads of these groups from different organisations like legal firms, police, military, road-workers, health centres...you name it, they were there! The home all had bottles of talc that they shook as they sang, and a lot of the people in the procession and close bystanders ended up covered in talc, including the police and military. The dresses were amazing and so colourful. We must have watched for about 3-4 hours before we decided to head back. Sorry for so many photos but there were just so many!
We met Hayley and Mitch and her brother again for Chinese as it had been so good the night before. It did not disappoint. On the way back to the hostal the crowds were still going strong, most people filled to the brim with alcohol and the streets covered in Talc and drunk people. The only downside was the stench of urine where people just peed on the side of the street. Nice!
The next day we left Ayacucho early and headed on the main road to the coast in the direction of Pisco. We wanted the most direct route given my bike issues so that was that. We arrived in Pisco after a reasonably uneventful ride and found somewhere to stay. I have to say, Pisco fell way below my expectations as it felt quite rough and the beach was covered in rubbish. We discovered the main plaza by Moto-taxi and found a nice chicken place, so we immediately felt a bit better. Then, on returning to the hotel we booked on a tour of the Ballestas islands and Paracas national park. The reason for not staying in Paracas was that it was just that little more distance, and I didn't want to ride the bike any further than it had to be ridden, plus although I really wanted to ride in the national park, it would have been a very bad idea!
So the next morning we were picked up and whisked off to nearby Paracas and promptly put in a queue. It was teeming with tourists. We were placed in a queue by our 'guide', but then told we needed to get our tickets from where we came in so I quickly ran back. I bought our tickets to enter the national park and islands, then we queued again for the boat. We were then told we needed another ticket for the docking area, so we had to quickly queue for that, then go back to queue for the boat again. Just as well we're British!!
Finally we were escorted to a boat and shown to our seats. It was quite a swift ride out, and luckily quite calm considering I had forgotten to buy some more sea-sickness tablets! On route to the Islands we stopped at a huge drawing etched in the sand called La Candelabra. We then continued to the islands which was a paradise for birds, seals and sea lions. There were thousands!! Sadly we didn't get to see any penguins, which for me was going to be the highlight, but it was still really good. The seals made a lot of noise and one of the birds Kindly took a dump whilst flying overhead and managed to splatter me...at least they say it's good luck, although I think that's something made up to make people who've just been shat on feel better! Lol!
We then zoomed back to the shore. We had a little time for a snack before being picked up by a mini bus to go into the Paracas National Park, and off we went again. On the bus we met Marco from Germany. Actually we met him on the first stop. We all got off and were told we could go in the museum or walk down to see the flamingos. We chose flamingos and strolled off ahead of all the other people, and Marco had the same idea...beat the rush! Sadly, unless you bought binoculars with you there wasn't a lot to see. You could work out that they were flamingos but the viewing area was so far away you couldn't see any detail. Never mind. We walked back, had a quick look around the museum and then back on the bus.
The other few stops were at viewing points over the coastline and they were really beautiful. We managed to get away from the hordes of people, and Marco came with us. We gave hime some tips on places to visit in Ecuador whilst he shared his tips from further South. Good exchange! We were meant to have lunch but we weren't hungry and the food at the restaurant was over-priced so we did some bird and boat watching instead. Much more fun. The last stop was the beach with red sand, which again was quite cool to see. Then back to Paracas and Pisco. All in all, for about £20 each it was a good day with lots of wildlife and beautiful coastline.
The next day it was off to San Bartolo for one night, which we read was an expensive tourist spot for Lima folk. We would have gone straight to Lima but I feared that the traffic would kill my bike completely. We looked for somewhere cheap and the first place we found was 60 sol per night, run by a mother and daughter who were super friendly. I soon discovered why the place was so cheap for the area, there was no door on the room, no toilet lid, no door on the bathroom and it was very grubby. Um, no thanks! The next cheapest we could find was 100 sol and was basic but it had secure parking and a locked door on the bedroom. It wasn't great but it served its purpose. I was actually feeling quite rough as well and my stomach was bad, so I was glad to stop.
In the morning we had a 4.45am get up! Not very easy for Suzie Sloth. We left by 5.30am and my bike had started to seriously struggle again and the exit to the road was closed by a barrier so we had to squeeze through the gap on the pavement. We just about fit through with our overloaded bikes so all was good. We got to the Hitchhikers hostal in Lima by 6.30am and missed all the traffic. Happy bike! The stupid-o'clock get up was so worth it, but I didn't want to do it again in a hurry! The hostal even let us check in at 6.30am at no extra cost. Happy days! Welcome to Lima!!