Challenges were ahead of us as the fox suffered some likely altitude sickness and I had to endure some bruises after a crash.
After spending a few days in Mendoza catching up with friends from the Grimaldi Cargo ship and sampling the regions wine, the fox and I were back on Ruta 40 heading north into the Jujuy province.
The 40 was instantly recognizable with it’s never ending stretches, but soon the landscape started to change dramatically. The ride from Cafayate along Ruta 68 to Salta was overwhelming.
The climate was changing rapidly with changes in altitude towards Susques and we experienced one of the strangest temperature inversions climbing from a wet and cold Jujuy at 1300m to a hot and sunny Susques at 4000m.
The following day we crossed back into Chile via Paso de Jama – climbing to 4800m. Approaching the peak I noticed a marked lack of performance in the fox. Following a couple of hairpin turns and further ascent, she started coughing and spluttering badly. There was a clear lack of compression and keeping her poor, little engine running was a challenge.
It was with equal parts worry and complete awe of our surroundings that we made our way into the Atacama Desert. No wonder this desert is used by NASA as a testing ground for future equipment going to Mars. The landscape is out of this world.
I couldn’t rest easy though, knowing that the fox had suffered the way she did – especially knowing that I was about to head into Bolivia which predominantly is high and there is very little help to be had if foxy was about to break down.
In Calama, a rather industrious, bleak-looking town in northern Chile, I had a look in foxy’s air box, and it was swimming in engine oil. Not a good sign. She was clearly struggling to breathe. The rest of the night was spent trying to trouble shoot and figure out what exactly had caused the oil blow back. After receiving a phone call from my dad at 0330 in the morning with stern, fatherly advice, I decided not to go to Bolivia, as the risk of breaking down there at altitude could mean the end of the trip for me. Not an easy decision, as Bolivia was, and still is, very high on my bucket list and it meant parting ways with my riding companions Siri and Thorsten.
So off we went to Peru and in search of a BMW dealership in the hope they would be able to diagnose any faults in the fox’s software.
Crossing the border into Peru the road conditions and the driving style instantly changed – for the worse! Stress levels went up by 100% when faced with oncoming traffic, and an apparent disregard for our presence – not to mention the massive potholes and hundreds of “un-announced” speed bumps.
Peru certainly threw surprises our way. True to form to the general experience so far, South America would challenge, exhaust and infuriate with mindless road sense and some very strange driving to then – moments later – completely knock the air out of you with raw beauty and wonder. Peru is definitely a country of extremes one way or the other.
In the very charming, colonial city of Arequipa we found an outfit which was able to plug a diagnostics tool into the fox. Of course, absolutely no fault was found and I hadn’t found oil in her air box since Calama. None the wiser, we continued to Nazca, Ayacucho and onwards into the magical valleys of Peru.
After having successfully negotiated an off road short cut – which was the first one in a while – quite pleased with my self, I continued along the paved main road and went through a wet patch in curve. And before I knew it, I lost traction and went sliding along the road. It all happened in slow motion as we slid the 20 meters or so. My riding companion Axel, had me and the bike upright so quickly, we completely forgot to take a photo. Beginners mistake! Always have the cameras rolling kids.
I earned the middle name “Crash” that afternoon and thankfully the fox and I got away with a few bruises and scrapes.
Peru, however, continued to bruise us in other ways. Camping is pretty much non existing there, but hotel accommodation is very cheap. Especially, if you opt for the so-called “Love Hotel” variety. Google it!
South Americans love loud music and noise in general, so after several nights of very little sleep, Axel earned his middle name “Snap”. Of course, out of courtesy to my dear travel companion, I will refrain from revealing how he came to earn his esteemed nickname.
The stretch from Huaraz to Chimbote via the Ruta 3N was absolutely spectacular. It meanders through the Andes, literally, as you have to ride through countless tunnels, canyons and gorges.
The final stretch from Trujillo towards the Ecuadorian border along the Pan American Highway was pretty dull. No longer surprised by the Peruvian driving standards, I shrugged off a driver who entered the motorway on the wrong side to take a short cut. The climate is rapidly changing as we are getting closer to equator. It’s also getting wetter with more frequent showers – lets hope I can keep the fox upright on the wet tarmac.
See you out there!