A motorcycle tour! What a fun way to see Sacred Valley! What a scary way also, I’m a complete beginner on a motorcycle. I did have the added benefit to having a dual-sport bike at home though, and at least a little bit of experience with dirt roads.
When we met with our tour guide, our itinerary was to be as follows:
- Moray and Maras Salt mines if we have time (these required riding on dirt roads)
We didn’t quite get everywhere though.
The day started out well enough. We tried on helmets, and received our jackets and gloves. We checked out our motorcycles and then we were off. These were definitely more dirt bike style than I am used to – taller with a higher center of gravity. Once we got moving, it wasn’t very tough to adjust though.
Our first stop was Pisac. On the way there, a roadblock was set up and the police were stopping everyone going by for some reason or another. They stopped us, and got into a heated discussion with our guide. I don’t know Spanish well enough to understand everything, but I understood that our guide was attempting to explain just that – he’s our guide and taking us on a tour. One policeman came over to check our drivers licenses, and seemed satisfied with them when we showed them. The other policeman and our guide crossed the street and continued their discussion by the police car. After about 10 minutes, our guide, flustered, returned and said all was ok and let’s go.
In Pisac there is a huge market, and some pretty impressive ruins and terraces. We first rode up the winding road to the ruins. When we parked, the guide told us to try to be quick, the stop set us back for time. Since we both really wanted to see the Moray and Maras the most, we did a very fast tour of the entrance, and only climbed up a few terraces before deciding we’d rather move on than climb all the way to the top. When we returned, about 30 minutes later, our guide was very surprised. He expected us to be no less than an hour and a half. I guess that’s what they mean by hurry in Peru.
We hopped back on our motorcycles and headed back out. The roadblock was still there when we rode back through and we were stopped again. This time the guide was visibly angry (he told us once we got to Pisac he had to bribe the cops to let us keep going because he had no license plate on his bike.). After another long discussion with the police, we were told that we needed to follow them back to Pisac’s police station so they could impound his bike. Once we got there, he phoned the motorcycle rental place for another bike, which didn’t show up for nearly 2 hours. Talk about a setback.
So, while we waited around, we went to the Pisac market. This market was HUGE and full of every possible tourist trap, along with an extensive local market including food, vegetables, fruits, dyes, etc. 2 hours was WAY more time than we really wanted to spend shopping, but we had no choice. We also learned that cameras are great if you are discreet. If someone catches you taking a photo that they might be in, they’ll ask you to pay them for it!
When the new bike finally showed up we took off for Urubamba. The only thing we did there was stop for lunch at a touristy buffet. Lunch was included in our tour, which was nice. The buffet had a nice sampling of Peruvian foods. Here, I ate ceviche, tomatoes stuffed with potatoes, a potato casserole thingy, rice, maize. Amanda tried a rice putting with a purple sauce that tasted just like bubble gum. We learned later that the sauce is chicha syrup, which is also used in a (non acoholic) drink called chica morada. Who knew that bubble gum is a naturally occuring flavor?!
Once we were done eating, we were back on the road to Ollantaytambo, a small town with an impressive fort built into the mountain. The ride to Ollantaytambo was uneventful until we turned onto the street leading us in. This street was made entirely of cobblestones! Nerve wracking doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of riding a motorcycle on a cobblestone road. When we finally stopped to park the bikes we were relieved. Talk about adrenaline rush! We climbed to the top of the ruins and took loads of photos before we headed back down to the bikes.
From there, we went to Moray (yay!!). Another nerve wracking dirt road ride, but nowhere near as scary as cobblestones. The guide took my camera and would ride ahead of us, stop and take our picture as we drove by. Very cool! Moray was fascinating. It’s a ruin of terraces, but instead of going up the side of the mountain, they go in a circular funnel shape down into a valley. Historians guess that this might be an Inca experimental agricultural site. The temperature of each level of the terrace varies, and each terrace has it’s own unique microclimate. Way cool. We climbed down into the site, and up the other side.
After that it was dusk. We were more than an hours ride away from Cusco so we called it a day. We missed out on seeing the salt mines, which was a huge bummer, but had a wonderful time!! The ride back to Cusco was scary in the dark, and cold. Peruvian roads are pretty treacherous, The people there drive where they want, pass when they want, and they have their own horn-honking language. I never figured out what all the honking meant, but it was clear most of it was to communicate what you were doing, and not to express anger that someone did something wrong. The highways are full of speedbumps too. Usually close to residential areas or city limits.
The second scariest part of the motorcycle trip was at the end, after we returned our gear and bikes. Instead of giving us a taxi ride back to our hotel, we had to ride on the back of their motorcycles, without gear, on cobblestone roads. I think given the choice, I’d rather be in control of the motorcycle and not a passenger when riding on cobblestones. Luckily it was a short ride and we made it to the hotel in one piece.
By the time we made it back to the hotel we were cold, tired, and exhausted from the adrenaline we spent so we ordered pizza for delivery. It was a delicious way to end our most exciting day in Peru!