Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: 11 Feb 1997
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 970211.rpt
Sunday February 9 64449
South of Trujillo the terrain was, you guessed it, more desert,
interrupted by occasional areas of irrigation. As I approached Chimbote,
about 100 miles south of Trujillo, the mountains began to encroach on the
coastline and in several spots the road climbed over low ranges of hills.
The mountains added a little variety to the otherwise sand-colored
surroundings. Although they were devoid of vegetation they had
interesting hues of reds, oranges, and browns.
I stopped in Santa, a small village several kilometers north of Chimbote,
to ask about the condition of the road east into the Cordillera Negra
range of the Andes, and was told it was in good condition. It was noon, so
after a quick lunch I headed east. The road went up the Rio Santa river
valley, following the route, more or less, of the old Santa Corporation
Railway. The track was largely destroyed by the 1970 earthquake and only
in one or two spots did I even see any old rails. The road did make use
of the many tunnels which had been carved out for the railroad, and
several bridges appeared to be remnants of the railroad as well.
Near the coast, before the road started its climb, it followed the river
along the flat valley floor and the road alternated between sand washes,
washboard, mud holes, and rocky stretches. Once the road reached the
mountains and climbed up off the valley floor, it became more consistently
rocky. It followed the river, crossing bridges several times to the
At an intersection where the road continued on straight but a bridge
crossed over to the other side, I stopped to check my map, didn't pay
close attention to where I was stopping, and discovered, too late, I had
stopped on a small rise between the wheel tracks. I was able to get my
foot on the ground, but the distance was more than I expected, and I
wasn't ready for it and the bike slowly leaned over to the right. I
couldn't stop it and slowly let the bike down onto it's right side.
Because of the slope of the road it was a bit of an effort to get the bike
upright, probably augmented by the lack of adrenelin since I hadn't even
been moving at the time.
After uprighting the bike, I checked my map and confirmed that I wanted to
keep going straight. Not long afterwards I went over a small bump and
thought, that something didn't feel right about the way the rear
suspension reacted. Another bump and the same feeling. I stop the bike,
get off, and walk around to the right side to look at the rear shock
absorber. I didn't believe what I saw. The first word out of my mouth
was "F**K!". The entire lower shock mounting bracket had broken
completely free of the swingarm! The only thing which had kept the rear
of the motorcycle from collapsing completely was that the bottom of the
shock and the now broken bracket had caught on the flange between the
swingarm and final-drive and were supporting the weight of the bike.
And it was only earlier this morning, while riding, that I had been
thinking how relatively trouble-free this trip had been so far
(mechanically, that is; let's not talk about stolen fanny-packs), and how
when people ask, I say no problems, just two flat tires. That thought
earlier in the day must have jinxed me.
I was 50 miles from Santa and Chimbote on the coast and had another 50
miles to go until I reached the village of Huallanca and another 20 miles
till the larger town of Caraz, which had been my destination for the
evening. My only thought now was how to temporarily fix it well enough so
I could ride it the 50 miles one way or the other to a town with a welding
shop where I could get it permanently repaired. This was going to test my
It was about 3:30 when this happened, and a couple of miles earlier, while
figuring my time and distance travelled on this road, I had realized it
was going to take 5 hours to reach Caraz, which is what both the guidebook
and service station attendant said for a bus. Normally I've found I can
estimate my time at half to 2/3 of the time for a bus. For some reason,
that was not the case for this road.
I removed the Jesse bags and the Givi topcase, and with a bit of effort,
since the rear-end of the bike was sitting quite low to the ground, hefted
the bike onto it's centerstand, unloading the rear wheel. The mounting
bracket is like a deformed U, with two vertical, parallel arms between
which the shock is mounted, and the bottom side between the two arms
conforming to the circumference of the swingarm. A closer look revealed
that the two vertical arms had broken away from the bottom side of the
bracket which was still welded to the swingarm. Two-thirds of one of the
fractured edges was slightly rusted which indicated it had been cracked
for some time and it was this rough road which applied the finishing
I had about five different size hose clamps available to me any a good
supply of stainless-steel safety wire. The two arms of the bracket were
connected at the rear by another flat side, and by flipping the bracket
180 degrees and rebolting it to the bottom of the shock, I could rest that
flat side on the flat top surface of the final drive and swingarm mounting
flange, several inches behind the remains of the broken bracket. Using
two hose clamps connected end-to-end I ran the clamps completely around
the swingarm and over the top of the remains of the bracket and the lower
mounting eye of the shock, and tightened everything down. Another small
hoseclamp encircled the mounting bracket, shock mounting eye, and the
other hose clamp to keep it from slipping off the bracket. As a final
measure I took about 4 feet of safety-wire and wound it through the
bracket and around the swingarm about 15 times. I just hoped my
temporary fix didn't end up causing more problems either to the final
drive/swingarm mounting flange, or to the bottom end of the shock where
the hose clamp wrapped around it.
I took the bike off the centerstand and tested the suspension. It seemed
to function reasonably well considering. Because the shock was attached
farther back, the bike now sat lower to the ground, reducing ground
clearance, but then I wasn't going to be motocrossing either. I loaded my
gear back onto the bike and continued on, having decided to continue east
into the mountains rather than return to the coast. The quality of the
welding shops was going to be about the same in any town I went to and I
never like to go backwards.
The repair had taken just over an hour and it was now 5pm and I didn't
know how much light I had left in the day. Over the past hour it had
occasionally sprinkled a few drops of rain and a steady warm 80F wind had
been blowing up the valley. The entire time I had been working on the
bike only two pickup trucks had passed. They hadn't stopped and I had made
no attempt to get them to, figuring I had things under control and not
wanting to complicate the situation with other proposed solutions and a
language barrier. About half the way through my repairs, two campesinos,
a father and son, had walked by and had stopped to talk and see what my
problem was. They confirmed there were welding facilities in Huallanca,
Caraz, and possibly another village before Huallanca. While talking with
them, I went to get my Peru map out of my mapcase on top of my tankbag,
and it was gone! The mapcase has a velcro closure along the side and it
had opened somewhere over the last 10 miles and the map fallen out. Under
other circumstances I might have gone back to look for it, but decided not
to since I had another poorer map and the maps in my guidebook.
I kept my speed at or below 20mph to try to minimize the beating my repair
would take. Several miles up the road I passed the father and son and
they gave me a thumbs-up sign as I rode by. I stopped after 5 miles to
check how my repair was holding up. It had shifted considerably and the
shock spring was lightly rubbing the tire but it appeared to be in a
stable position, so I continued on. About 5 miles later, at a stretch
where the canyon walls closed in on the road and towered above with the
river raging alongside the road I stopped again for a photo and to check
the shock. It hadn't shifted since the last check, and that was the last
time I checked it the rest of the day.
It was becoming dusk and the road continued to climb, eventually passing
through the mountains which had been visible from the coast to reveal even
higher peaks beyond. I had decided to try to make it to Caraz, even if it
meant riding after dark. Caraz was bigger and I figured there would be
more options there. Also there was a hostal run by a German couple and I
figured they might know where to take the bike. I passed through the
small village before Huallanca which the campesino had mentioned. There
was a police checkpoint with a gate across the road, but he waved me
through and said it was about an hour to Caraz.
I continued on, and by now it was dark, and I had uncovered and turned on
my PIAA lights to illuminate the road better. Actually the road had
improved and was now graded dirt much of the time. The PIAA lights did a
superb job of illuminating the road, and it was easy to anticipate
oncoming traffic, of which there was little, because of their headlights.
In the distance I saw the lights of Huallanca nestled in the valley ahead.
The main street through town was paved and I asked directions to Caraz.
There was one hotel in town but I decided to continue on. At the far end
of town, beside the logistical and administrative facilities for the large
hydroelectric plant farther up the valley, the road switchbacked up the
side of the mountain, to return to the river's side farther up the valley.
On this stretch, I passed through about a dozen tunnels, and then ahead,
up the river to the left of the road loomed the massive concrete structure
of the dam. It was a bit eery seeing it at night with the lights and
hearing the thundering water.
For some reason, my Kryptonite U-lock, which I have mounted to the back of
the right-side Jesse bag, quite regularly kept falling off. It happened 3
times tonight. Fortunately I also have it "tethered" with another cable,
so that when it came out of the Kryptonite bracket, it would drag behind
the bike until I'd notice the wierd sound and stop. But the plastic
coating on the lock took a beating. The original intention of the tether
was to prevent someone from stealing the lock, but it also kept me from
losing the lock on these occasions. It took 3 times before I got smart
enough to hold it secure with a nylon strap to prevent it from falling out
again. The reason it's been falling out is that the spring mechanism in
the bracket is gunked up with mud and dirt and doesn't exert sufficient
pressure any longer.
Several more tunnels and several more gated checkpoints followed before I
arrived in Caraz at about 7:30pm. I'm not sure what function the
checkpoints served. They were manned, generally by a National Policeman,
but I would simply say I'm going to Caraz and they would wave me through.
Hostal Chamanna, run by a German couple, Ute Baitinger and Reiner Urban,
and their 4 year-old daughter, was located just outside of town and after
stopping several times to ask directions I finally homed in on it. The
low speeds in getting here, coupled with my use of the PIAAs had drained
my battery to the point where it almost didn't start the last time when I
had stopped the motor at the town plaza. So I left the bike running,
while I rang the buzzer on the door. To add insult to injury at the end
of a long, rough day, before anyone answered the door, the bike rolled off
the sidestand. I got it upright and reparked in a more stable position
before Reiner answered the door, followed shortly by his wife Ute and
their daughter Ailyn (sp?). Ailyn just loved motorcycles and she wanted
to sit on the bike, so I sat her on the seat and that made her day. It
took some convincing talk by her parents to get her off the seat so I
could pull the bike inside. Once parked inside Ailyn was all around the
bike, looking at it, asking about it, and at one point made a comment
about it being "caliente" and hurting her finger, but no more fuss than
that. She asked if she could sit on it again so I put her up on the seat.
It soon became clear that the price range of Hotel Chamanna was slightly
higher than the guidebook had implied and higher than I normally select,
though still very cheap by US standards. They're not set up for solo
travellers, as they readily admitted, and the room they showed me, one of
five, was very spacious with a large double bed, and very nicely decorated
with locally made throw rugs and sheep-skin rugs on the floor, two small
tables with colorful Peruvian woven tablecloths, fresh flowers
strategically placed, and two of the walls painted with colorful abstract
designs. Normally they charged S25 (US$10) for the room, but they said
since they liked motorcycle travellers I could have it for S15. They just
asked that I not tell other guests, of which there were none at the
moment, what I was paying. I had paid more than that in Chiclaya, and at
that price it was a bargain.
The hostal had a restaurant, of which they were the chefs, and they gave
me several options in several price ranges to choose from. I had beef
filet medallins topped with wonderful sauces, and spagetti in garlic sauce
on the side. It was wonderfully prepared and presented and I dined by
candlelight, with flowers as a centerpiece, while listening to a selection
of blues and jazz, and talking with Ute and Reiner and their daughter. It
was a very enjoyable dinner.
They had been in the restaurant business in Germany, and had first visited
Caraz on a backpacking trip through South America 14 years ago. They
opened this place about 3 years ago. I learned they had "5-star training"
in Europe and it clearly showed in the way they ran their hostal. A very
nice change from the normal dreary hotels and residencias I usually stay
in and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone travelling in the area.
Monday February 10 64654
The morning was bright, sunny and warm, and before breakfast I walked
around the grounds a bit. There were beautiful gardens full of
wildflowers and other plants, small ponds and a small stream running
through them. Way out back was a corral with several horses which were
available for hire, and I also met their one pig. To round out their
menagerie they had one cat and three dogs (black labradors I believe), one
of them a small puppy.
Breakfast was served on the rear patio, under an arbor of flowers. Again
the table was nicely covered in a colorful Peruvian-woven tablecloth, with
fresh flowers as a centerpiece. Freshly brewed coffee and freshly made
banana juice/milkshake. There was freshly made croissants and other rolls
served with homemade plum jam and locally bought Eucalyptus honey.
Delicious. Scrambled eggs with onion and tomatoe and sliced avocados on
the side. Another relaxing dining experience in a beautiful setting.
During breakfast Ailyn would wander by occasionally, and at one point she
holds up her finger for me to see. The tip has a 1/4" blister on it from
where she had touched my motorcycle, evidently the exhaust, the night
before. I was actually impressed with her. Many kids would have been
crying when that had happened. Her reaction had simply been to pronounce
that the motorcycle was caliente, then to resume looking at the bike and
asking to sit on it. That's my kind of kid!
After breakfast I put my dirty clothes back on and unloaded all the
luggage from the bike. The battery was discharged enough that it wouldn't
start and I had forgot to put it on the charger last night, but found out
this morning that even if I had remembered it wouldn't have mattered since
they use 220V here and my charger is for 110V. I tried kick-starting it,
but was only able to get a couple of burbles out of it. The temperature
was warm enough that I think eventually I would have got it going, but
instead we pushed it outside to the street which had a slight slope and on
the first try got it bump-started.
Before riding into town I gave Ailyn a short ride up and down the street.
She was in heaven and put up a fuss when her mother came over to take her
off the seat in front of me. We had to convince her that I would be
coming back later; she thought I was leaving for good.
I rode back into town to the gas station to try to find a welding shop.
Ute and Reiner don't have a car and didn't have any specific knowledge of
where I could get the bike worked on. But I soon got directions to a
"taller" (workshop) that did welding, and without too much effort got the
bracket welded back into position. My experience with weld quality south
of the border has not been particularly good and clearly the quality of
this weld was not up to the standards of Brian at Advanced Welding in Mtn.
View where I have all my welding done, but hopefully it will hold up.
I'll just have to keep an eye on it so I catch any future problems early
before another total failure. The charge was S10 (US$4) and I spent more
time at the shop talking with the men and boys there about the bike, my
trip, and my engineering job, than we actually spent on the repair itself.
After a mid-afternoon lunch at a restaurant the men recommended, I
returned to Hostal Chamanna, where I made repairs to the bash plate on my
centerstand. Because the bike had been riding lower with my temporary fix,
the bash plate had taken several good hits, and one of the straps holding
it on had been completely ripped off, and the other partially. I
fabricated new straps out of hose-clamp strap and I think it's better than
Dinner that night was a large Caesar salad, followed by brown rice and
trout topped by another wonderful sauce. I splurged and had a half bottle
of white wine. After dinner, as it had the night before, the pisco, a
well-known brandy from the city of the same name in southern Peru, flowed
liberally, and as the night before there was a chocolate Bon-Bon on my
pillow when I returned to my room.
Tuesday February 11 64659
This is the rainy season in the Andes, but typically, if it's going to
rain, it will be only between 5 or 6 in the evening and 6 or 7 in the
morning, and not continuously at that. The days are usually sunny and
warm. The last two evenings and during the night we had some rain.
After another wonderful, mid-morning breakfast, I slowly got my gear
together and back on the bike, and it was after noon till I was ready to
leave. My bill for the two nights, dinners, and breakfasts, and a load of
laundry was S109 (US$22/day) which was by far the most I've paid per day
in Peru, but still well under my pre-trip target of US$30/day. And it was
worth every cent. I'd highly recommend Hostal Chamanna to anyone. A
first-class operation. Ute and Reiner have plans, over the next year, to
add private baths and terraces to several of the rooms, and possibly a
pool and sauna. Combined with the spectacular surrounding mountain
scenery, it would make a wonderful honeymoon spot. Did you hear that
sweetie? Now if we could only figure out the kid-thing.
The bike fired right up and I took Ailyn for another ride up and down the
street. She was smart enough to figure out I was leaving and didn't want
me to go and really cried as I pulled away. It was almost 1pm.
The road south from Caraz, continuing along the Rio Santa up the valley,
was paved. Clouds had started to move in around noon, and I had a few
sprinkles but nothing significant. The clouds however prevented me from
seeing the surrounding peaks, including Peru's tallest, Volcan Huascaran
at 6768m. At several places I could see the snow-covered slopes and, at a
couple spots, glaciers, peaking out from below the covering clouds.
Throwing water was back in vogue and coming through Carhuaz I got doused.
Fortunately I was wearing my complete Aerostich.
I only rode less than 2 hours south to Huaraz, the largest city (80000) in
the Callejon de Huayles, the name given to this valley between the
Cordillera Negra to the west and the Cordillera Blanca to the east. As I
arrived in the main plaza, there was some kind of celebration going on and
the streets around the Plaza Aramas were lined with people. It was also
beginning to rain heavily which was all it took to convince me to end my
day early, and after getting money from an ATM machine I got a room at
Hostal Quintana for S10 with shared bath.
Later I walked downtown to the Restaurant Tabariz, where the Menu
Ejecutivo was soup, salad, rainbow trout and rice, almost what I had last
night. While the presentation wasn't up to the standards of Hostal
Chamanna, it was almost as delicious and the price at S6 couldn't be beat.