Thin air in Huaraz

Coming from sea level, you sure feel the thin air when you arrive in the valley of Callejon de Huaylas in the Ancash region of Peru. Fresh cool mountain air, feels good. The rainy season in the Cordillera Blanca is from December to April so most days are cloudy with heavy afternoon rain. Luckily we had some good open windows of sunshine and got to see some of the giant peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. There are sixteen peaks above 6000 meters! The mountain that dominates the entire valley, however, is HuascarĂ¡n. At 6,768 meters (22,204 feet), HuascarĂ¡n looms over Huaraz much like Mt. Blanc towers over Chamonix, France. The area’s most postcard-perfect peak is Alpamayo, a peak at 5,747 meters with its 70-degree face. You can only see it from the Santa Cruz trek. Climbers paradise!
Being the second highest mountain range in the world after the Himalayas, with an easier access, it is truly a hiker / climber's world.
We spent a week in Huaraz, getting to know the area. Hiked up to 4300 meters. Rode our bikes to 3900 meters. Since we are in the rainy season, we didn't want to venture on multi day treks. We are heading to Lima to catch a flight to Santiago Chile. Angela's brother will be getting married at the end of march. On our return, we will be coming back to Huaraz with the equipment needed to do long treks and maybe bag a few peaks.

From the Pacific Coast to Cordillera Blanca via Canon de Pato - Feb 20th 2009

A stony desert landscape lies beneath each side of the famous Panamericana hwy. Only a few valleys with any vegetation are situated along the 2400 km long way through Peru. Virtually the whole length of Peru´s coast is desert. Several historical sites can be seen along the way, such as *Chan Chan*, the biggest clay brick city in the world as well as the Pyramids of sun and moon. But unfortunately most of them have been destroyed by earthquakes or not very well preserved.
Tired of riding the windy warm desert and in search for the most adventurous and scenic route to the mountains of Huaraz, we chose to ride the Canon de Pato (duck canyon). The spectacular road is paved 50 kms then turns to dirt, loose rocks passing through 35 tunnels following the deep narrow gorge rushing waters of the Rio Santa to Caraz in the north end of Callejon de Huaylas. A bus ride would be hell, but for motorbikes, awesome!
The journey took 2 days from Huanchaco (the coast) to Huaraz. Arriving in Huallanca just before dark. We asked around if we could camp anywhere. The small mining town didn't have camping options and heavy rain was starting to come down. We found a cheap Hostal with the perfect parking lot for the bikes - the kitchen!!
I rolled my bike and Angela's down the stairs without problems. When our friend Wess rolled down the 4 steps, his bike bottomed out and broke part of stairs. I quickly removed the broken pieces hoping the lady didn't see what just happen.
The place wasn't 5 stars but we had seen worse. A nice warm meal was served. Exhausted from a long day, we hit the sack.
The next morning, we were happy to see the sun shinning for the next part of the road. - The Duck canyon -
After breaking more cement from the stairs getting our bikes out. We were excited to ride this scenic stretch of the road.

Great surf - Bad locals - sore belly

Surfing is an addiction! I was prime to surf better and bigger waves. Mancora Peru was next on our map.
According to the *Lonely Planet Guide* - and other travelers, it was THE beach of Peru. One of the best surf hot spots and one of the last warm water to surf.
Mancora is located a couple hours south of Ecuador Border along the Panamerican Hwy. We had big expectations from this
surf town from the informations we were given. As we approached town, we were not so impressed with filthy, dusty streets and mototaxis who love their horns. Anxious to see the surf & beach, we turned off the hwy not knowing exactly were the *touristy* area was. We found ourselves in a nasty neighborhood with rundown homes and garbage filled streets, locals giving us the look with our loaded bikes. We felt out of place. Angela and I looked at each other. Not knowing what to think, "mmmm - lets hope it's better down the road!"
So we got back on the main road and continued several KMS where bars, restaurants, tourist markets and several gringos walking around with surfboards was more appealing. It's still not your typical tropical resort.
We pulled in at the Posada HI Hostel where we would make our base camp for the week. The place was welcoming - swimming pool, relax atmosphere, free Wi Fi, cheap camping and close to the surf fit our budget.
After setting up our tent, we went for a quick bite and I was itching to get in the water.
The surf is amazing. A nice left point break, good 2 meter waves, fairly consistent but a bad local scene!
The beach... Not your tropical thailand style!
I was out in the water for no longer then 20 minutes when I tried to catch a wave and it closed out on me. I found myself doing the superman fly overboard and felt something under my foot. Got back on my board and started to paddle back out. Then I realized my foot was sore. I looked at it and noticed 2 nice slices! one being deep. When I superman over the wave, my foot had been cut by my fin.
So this meant game over... I paddled my way back to shore. Angela was sitting on the beach, saw me coming " You didn't surf long???" showed her my foot and painfully walked back to our hostel to clean it up. She insisted to see if I need stitches, I insisted Super Glue would do the job... Last thing I wanted was to be out of commission which means no more surf!
Super Glue did the job!!! I was back out the next day - my foot was sore walking, but good once in the water.
The next morning we went back to our usual breakfast spot. After an hour or so, I started to feel tired... when we got back to the hostel, I crawled in our tent and passed out for 3 hours! I was now with high fever. Angela went to the pharmacy to get a thermometer - it read 39! something was wrong.
I slept all day with a high fever. That night we went our for dinner with our friends Jason and Patrick. Before even ordering our food, Angela started to feel not so good. She went to the *Banos* and *puked!* That night was Angela's turn to be sick, but she had it worse than me, hugging the bowl all night coming out both ends. At 2 in the morning, she decided she needed to go to the clinic, it was getting worse.
The doctor checked her out, told her she needed to stay for couple hours while he plugged her with some I.V. Meanwhile I waited on a wooden chair (still a fever myself) trying to sleep.
It was now 4:30 in the morning, the doctor hadn't come by a while, so I went to see if I could find him - He was passed out on the sofa. I called a couple times, still not moving, " HEY DOC " - he jumped up on his feet in a heartbeat.
He checked on Angela, gave her a couple prescriptions and told her he would come by to see her at our hostel (that was weird).
We couldn't pay him since we didn't have enough money and didn't want to get money at the ATM across the street surrounded by drunk locals. He insisted that she came back the next morning before 7 am to pay. It was now 5 am - she hadn't slept and needed to come pay in 2 hours!
I felt better that day so I went back surfing while Angela slept.
Now on my 3rd day surfing... I just surfed my best wave of the day, I was psyked. I was paddling back to the line up and saw this chick coming straight at me at fast speed. I didn't know if she would run over me or what. I couldn't go anywhere, not enough time to duck dive under the wave or move to my right. She jumped off her board. Next thing she started going off at me... " Gringo ... #1%&! " " U have to paddle faster - get out of my way" I looked at her, what? " I couldn't go anywhere, I just got back on my board from my last wave and was starting to paddle back out! where do you want me to go???"
She continued her bitching in spanglish - she was pissed. She was by far better surfer then me, but still no reasons for her bitching! she never let me off the case... kept going off... I then feel a tug on my leash " I turned around, she was getting on my nerves,.. " F#%k Off..." what's your problem! " oouufff, she didn't like that....
Pulls on my leash again as I'm trying to go my own way, comes up to my face. With a real Bitchy punch me face. I though she was going to lay one in my face, she was steaming. - U tell me F%$k off hen??? - what u say?? " "Hey... I'm here to surf, relax, sorry if I was in our way, I couldn't go anywhere, so leave me alone and go surf! "
She was going off in spanish, finally let go of my leash, a wave was coming so I went to paddle to catch it... when I felt another pull on my leash! I had it, I was ready to smack her with my board. She left. I went back to shore. I had enough for today.

I came back to our tent to find 2 doctors talking with Angela, explaining that she might of gotten food poison and that she should be taking several prescriptions. One of the docs was no older then 18 years old, wearing his stethoscope around his neck made him look professional. It was our friend Jason now who had been hugging the bowl all night with terrible volcanic eruption from both ends. He had it bad! I went with Patrick to see him at the clinic, he had been there since early in the morning. The doctors had told him NOT to mention to anyone that Angela had been at the clinic the previous night. (Something fishy was going on!)
We later found out from the clinic that both doctors that were treating Angela & Jason were not real doctors! but students, wanting to make a few extra $$.
Angela and Jason were feeling a bit better. It was now Patrick, his turn with high fever, same symptoms as I had. He was out for the day.
We never knew what bug we all got, maybe from our breakfast place, the water? The pool? We all survived a shitty week.
I had now surfed 5 days, I was well warmed up, knew the wave. Knew which locals not to piss off or get in their way. All was good, I was catching lots of good waves until....
Some young kid, out of nowhere, tried to catch a BAD wave - a close out wave - on his boggy board and was coming straight at me only several feet away. Not enough time to duck dive, the wave hit me hard, somehow manage to hit my harm on my fin.
I sat on my board looked at my harm, it felt a little sore. Blood was running down my harm. Another nice small but deep slice.
Enough to call it game over... I paddled back to shore. Brought my board back to the store.
My cut was small but deep almost to a point where stitches were needed. I didn't want to go the *student doctor* clinic, so Angela walked to 5 different Pharmacies to find some stitch bandaids, she did a great job fixing me up. This time Super Glue wouldn't do the job and my arm was too sore for sure.
It was time to leave this bad karma beach, with 4 of us getting sick, nearly got beat up by some *B* surf local chick, screamed at by all the young locals kids that were catching waves before you, instructors in the way with their students all the time and enough injuries for a while.

Wess showed up... another biker coming solo from USA. We had a few drinks sharing funny stories of our travels and made plans to ride together up to Huaraz.
It was time to leave the hot desert coast and ride to the fresh mountain air.

Dirtiest border cross ever feb 8th 2009

Since Alain had a bright red back (sunburn) we creamed our faces with tons of sunscreen to make sure we don't burn under the Ecuadorean sunshine. After a ten hour ride we realized it was a very good idea but now we were dirty as a 5 years old kid that just finished playing war game. (our faces were black from the car exhaust and dirty air)
Waiting for the *Aduana* guy we sat waiting and drank a couple of Coca Cola. We were surprised when asking to a police where was a garbage can, he showed us the bridge. Alain, confused, asked again and the policeman told him again throw it over the bridge.
After half an hour waiting for the customs' guy to finish taking his shower -in the office bathroom - he got on with our bike's paperwork.
The music in his office was so loud that I couldn't hear anything he would ask me and made him repeat what he said, but still the music keep blasting classic songs, ... * Belly Jean from Michael Jackson*
An hour later, glad that all the paper work was over, as the sun was setting, we were finally on our way towards Mancora, the famous surfing spot in Northern Peru.

The warm ocean of Montanita

Angela asking a taxi for directions in Guayaquil

Not your typical Tropical beach resort!

From Argentina to Mexico in this car - 4 of them!!!

Riding along Ecuador Pacific Coast

Miles and miles of clean beaches

It was a long detour for us to get to Montanita. But we needed some sunshine after lots of time in the Andes since Colombia.
180 kms north west of Guayaquil, Montanita is the Surf Spot of Equador. Last time I surfed was in Santa Catalina in Panama, so I was ready to get back in the water to catch a few waves. Angela was also looking forward to some quality beach time.
The town itself isn't much but sandy streets, young party crowds, bars, hostels, street jewelry vendors and surf shops.
The beach is very clean & the surf is a beach break. It wasn't at it's best but it still felt good to be back in the water.
On my first day out surfing, I quickly knew why they call this *Ecuador* I never wear a rash guard. In Costa Rica, surfing everyday for 3 months, I never sunburn. But here in Ecuador. It only took one hour in the water to get a good back sunburn.
I went back out on the 2nd day thinking I would just get darker, but no... I just got RED. So I spend the rest of the week surfing with a T-shirt. I had just recovered from my 4 burnt circles from the Chinese lady in Banos, Now my back was completely peeling.
We spent 5 days in Montanita. Angela and I both had enough sunshine. The waves sucked, so it was time to hit the road for Peru... Another country that we were very excited to see.