A Day In The Life Of An Adventure Rider

Normally I write blog posts covering several days and they end up being very abbreviated. Here is a longer narrative of one day on the road. Also, if you enjoyed it, make sure to scroll through the gallery at the bottom where I've added a ton of pictures to help capture a day in the life. The route and gpx file are also available below.

The Morning Routine

I toss and turn in an uncomfortable but $5 bed. I don't get a good night sleep because it is too cold. I get up earlier than I want and quickly pack up my gear, use the bathroom and head down to the bike. My new gear setup works great for this situation. I can easily carry everything I need for the night and attach it to the bike in less than a minute. 

Choosing a route is usually something I do last minute. Depending on how I am feeling and how long I want to ride that day. It's really a guessing game. There's no point in trying to ask locals because they don't travel for fun, they travel to get somewhere, they will always tell you the easiest way to go. You can look on google maps but often the roads don't exist. The roads on my GPS (open street maps) are pretty good and usually exist when they are shown but there are also a lot of roads missing. Sometimes I will get good information from other motorcyclists but usually the best information comes from moto tour companies. Today I will choose the route based on what I know about this area. I've done a lot of exploring in northern Peru and am getting good at knowing what to expect from a road. I feel particularly ambitious today so I map out a 200km 100% off-road route.

First stop is a ruins just outside of town that a local told me about the night before. I set off meandering through the narrow, confusing, one way streets of the small town called Huamachuco.


My first destination is a ruins site called Marcahuamachuco or Markahuamachuco or Markawamachuco depending on what sign you believe. Normally I wouldn't head to ruins unless they are really special. For me, unless you have a specific interest in the history of the particular site than most of the time they are just...ruins. This one, however, looked like you could ride right up to it and looked like a nice ride. 

I spent 30 mins or so walking around the ruins and they didn't do much for me. Great view from on top of the hill though. I had planned a stop at a second ruins but I also had the 200km of dirt riding to look forward to so I decided to skip it. 

Heading Out Of Town

I headed south out of town for the dirt road and gas. Surprisingly, this route out of town was void of gas stations. It did however have a bunch of school kids doing the nazi march through the streets. I understand that calling it the "nazi march" isn't fair...they also stole the swastika and Charlie Chaplin's mustache. But it's often the little sights and sounds like this that keep reminding you you are in a different country.
I went 2 miles passed the dirt road and luckily there was a station. Incredibly, I hardly ever have to go out of my way for gas. I gassed up and headed back to the dirt road. About a mile in I stop to let air out of my tires. Predictably, the rear stem is blocked by the swing arm and I have to move the bike. Every time! I check the oil. Everything looks good. 

I can tell by the looks on the faces that they think I'm going the wrong way. There's nothing on the route I chose. Almost no towns or villages. No tourist attractions. I didn't know then why the road even existed when there is a perfectly paved alternate road going to the same place. And to be honest I didn't give it much thought.
Not too long past the town on the dirt road I pass a car. They wave me down. Younger guys curious as to where I am going. I try to tell them but they can't understand. Not because they don't comprehend the words I am saying but that they think I am wrong. My destination, Pelagatos, is too far away and they think I mean a pond much closer. They wish me luck and head the other direction. That will be the last vehicle I see for the next 4 hrs. 

Up and Away

I head into the mountains and the views get more and more beautiful. I keep stopping for pictures because each kilometer is slightly prettier than the last kilometer and I don't want to miss the best shot. That is a silly thought because the next 6 hrs will be vistas to die for. 
Mile after mile I climb through the mountains. Nothing but me and lamas.
There are a number of beautiful alpine lakes.
I crest a hill and in the distance I see some gnarly switch backs. Then to my left I notice a road veer off. About a mile later I see the road that broke off and it looks awesome. A closer look at my gps and I see it is heading into a quarry and simultaneously I learn why this road I'm on exists. I look at my progress and I see I am only averaging about 29 km/h. The roads are wide but soft with lots of rocks and the climbs are steep. There are also some water crossings and other hazards that are making the riding slow. These are the kind of roads that would be hell on a big bike but fun as hell on a little bike. I see I still have 150 km to go but I decide to go check out the quarry anyway. 
There's a feeling you can't capture in words about riding. About being out there, just you and your bike. Where few have traveled. Where the challenges are plentiful and the dangers are real. I love being on a bike as capable as mine. I love pushing my limits and riding fast. Wheeling over obstacles to keep your speed, sliding the rear around corners and bombing through puddles like they aren't there. I think to myself that I haven't crashed in over 10k miles. I feel I have turned a corner in my riding ability. I am now conscious of what I am doing with the controls in a sort of weird out of body way. I can feel the bike working. I feel myself rolling on the throttle and notice I am still not fully off the rear brake...a technique to keep slack out of the chain to maintain the rear wheel slide through a turn. I'm doing it automatically now. I think to myself how ironic it would be to crash now. Then I slip back into the trance of riding and think about other things.
I back track to the quarry road. It's steeper, softer, looser and rockier than the other road. I really should have knobbies for that kind of riding. I get to the top and get a great view. If you are looking for solitude look no further. You really get the feeling you are alone out here. No one will pass by here while the quarry is inactive. I really like the feeling. 
I reach the quarry. I am disappointed, but should have realized, that it's not the type to go into the earth. Part of me was hoping it was abandoned and I could go down into it. Either way, it was locked up good and tight.
I continue on and more fun riding through the mountains. 
More beautiful views.
Eventually I reach some threshold where I am close enough to the other side that I start to see some people. First I pass a lama farm and then a truck.
Then I start to see a bunch of run down farm houses. They are down to just mud brick walls.


It occurs to me that I haven't eaten and I have no food with me. Normally, I don't really plan ahead for food. When I'm hungry I look for food. There are villages everywhere and you are never too far from a meal. However, this road is different. I haven't seen anything for hours. I start to consider break down scenarios. I don't have camping gear but I have a cover for my bike, an emergency bivy, a water purifier and tons of warm gear. I could stay dry and warm enough even though I'm at over 14k feet and it's pretty chilly and there's plenty of fresh water. I could survive for a while without food. However, as a precaution I mark places that look good for shelter on my GPS...worst case scenario I will know how far I am to a decent spot. I'm not worried, I am however, hungry. 

More riding. More derelict farms. 
Then I see a house with people. 
I stop to wave and say hi to the people and to check the map seeing as there's a road split. They seem really nice and happy.
Then I decide to ask the lady if she has any food. She says of course and invites me in. She feeds me within minutes and makes herself a plate. 
She has two cute daughters (3 and 1 years old). We talk a bit. She says there's a family of 6 that live out here and no more people. She says her family has lived in the mountains for essentially ever. But they have moved locations a bit. She says she never sees any motorcycles come through but sometimes bicyclists and always in pairs. She's concerned I am alone and says it's dangerous and I could get robbed at gun point. I thought that was odd seeing as I hadn't seen anyone. I thank her, give her some money that she tries to refuse, and I'm on my way. 


More awesome riding. More lakes. This time green! 
At the green lake I run into a guy on a motorcycle. He's very interested to learn what I am doing out there. We talk a bit and he says he's from the closest town, Pampas, and it's the way I am headed. He tells me there is a hotel and a restaurant and I should stay there for the night. I am happy to hear that because it's about 60km closer than I was planning. He also tells me it's dangerous and that two Spaniards on bicycles got robbed not too long ago. I say that I'm not worried because they'd have trouble catching me. He suggests we ride to Pampas together but he's too slow on his Chinese bike with the swing arm that moves side to side about 1/2". 
Close to the green lake is the prize...Pelagatos. A big lake and copper mine (I learned from my friend on the bike). There's a series of lakes at different altitudes, kind of like a stair case. Almost impossible to make out from the pictures but really cool. At one end is a little settlement for the miners and the other a cute little farm house. 
I catch up to my friend on the bike at the few buildings at the end of the lake. We talk more and i see a sign that says they sell coca leaves but I didn't buy any. 

I blast ahead to Pampas. I'm ready to stop riding. Its been a long time in the saddle, over 6 hours, and a lot of hard riding at altitude (over half of it above 13k feet and up to almost 14.5k in places). This road to pampas gets to be pretty high stakes. Sheer cliffs and the road narrows. It's easier riding but bigger penalty for messing up. 
Along the way is an abandoned mining facility of some sort...I go in for a look.

Finding a Place to Stay

I get to Pampas and it looks like the typical mountain town. This one is very nice and welcoming from just outside of town.
However, as I get into town at a little after 3pm I notice that everything is closed. All the hotels and hospadajes are locked up. It's not that it's abandoned or not open for business just that they are closed at the time. No one is to be found outside of a couple people in the center.
I linger outside one of the hotels for a while trying to decide what to do and eventually an old lady comes walking up from down the road. She tells me it's 25 soles for the night and that there is no place for my bike. I think that 25 is too much and that maybe I am getting "gringo taxed" but I am too tired to negotiate. There's no where for the bike and she insists that there is no garage to put the bike in. Seems odd to me that any traveler wouldn't need to put there bike or tuk tuk or truck somewhere. I decide to keep going. The next town is only 18km further.

The road continues to be a chewed up dirt road and there are tons of switchbacks getting out of Pampas and into the next town. It takes a good 40 mins more of riding.

As I get into town I see some people working on the road. But they look like normal people. They're just stacking dirt in the middle of the road. I don't understand why.
A guy starts to shovel it out of the way but I tell him it's fine and that I can just go over it. Further down the road I see more regular people working on the roads. Men, women and children, none of whom look like they are road workers.
I stop to ask and they say it's part of a program called "Trabajo Peru" or "Peru Works". I see the president of Peru has been watching House of Cards.

This town, however, is too small. There is nothing.
There's another 30+km to the next town. I should stop and take a break but I'm anxious to stop riding for the day so I push on. Mercifully, the dirt road gives way to a paved road.
Although often a dirt road is better than a poorly maintained paved road. The pot holes and dips are sometimes too sharp to take at speed and too numerous to avoid.
This road turns out to be pretty good, if not narrow, for the most part. It's a quite enjoyable ride around a mountain as the sun starts to set.
I finally make it to the next town but again I have trouble finding a hotel with a place for the moto. This is very atypical, it's usually very easy and rarely I have to go to more than one place to get a decent room for a decent price with a place for the bike. Sometimes I have to park in a garage nearby but it's never really been a problem. There's only three places in the town but the one with a spot to push the bike doesn't have any free beds. I'm about to leave and the guy changes his mind. He says he'll have a free bed by 6pm...it's 5:42pm. Seems strange. He says it's 20 soles...again seems like a lot for this place...it wasn't very nice at all. I agree but then decide to ask to see the room. He takes me through his house and I see it's a bed in his house among all his family. I ask if I can pay to store the bike and tell him I will stay at one of the other hotels...I'm not paying 20 soles to sleep with this old mans family. In the end I get a room at the hospedaje next door for 12 soles and the old man says I can keep the bike there for free.

This town is built on top of a hill so this was the view from my first floor room.
I got settled then went and got a typical meal. It was ok but the soup was made from fish stock and was absolutely horrendous. Tasted and smelled like 2 week old fish and with each bite I was pulling scales out of my mouth.


There are many different types of days: riding, site seeing, maintenance, repairs, rest, shopping. This was a riding day. The day was spent riding with little else. You may ask yourself, how do I ride for 8hrs a day and not get tired of it? It's a good question and I ask myself the same. A lot of the time the riding is fun. Your mind wanders but it takes a lot of attention. When the riding is fun or challenging your blood is pumping and the adrenaline is going. I never get tired of that. I listen to music in my helmet a good amount of time. I enjoy it and because I don't use headphones it doesn't completely drown out the noises around me. 

I also spend a lot of time thinking. I think about the current day. I reflect on the trip or days past. I think about the future, about what I'm going to do when I get home, about where the next trip will take me. I think about writing this blog post. I worry about forgetting my thoughts, about forgetting what I am seeing, about the little details. I worry about forgetting all the millions of inputs that go into making riding special...the animals, the views, the air, the smells, the temperatures, the feelings...it's impossible to capture. Then I take comfort in knowing that that is what it's all about. That's why I keep riding. Because it's impossible to capture that feeling. Because it's impossible to share that with someone who wasn't there. That is what makes you want to keep doing it and get others to do it with you.

Question to Other Riders

After talking with the locals on the route I learned that the motos don't really go through here. Has anyone else found this route? If so, please let me know. Do you have other routes like this that you can share with me? 

I find it interesting that the bicyclists go through there. It must be a known track in their circles...I wonder if I can poach some of their routes. Come to think of it, I've never passed another moto traveler on the more out there off-road tracks but I have passed bicyclists....hmmmm? Also, motorcyclists talk about Canyon del Pato but after riding through there today, while cool, wasn't all that special compared with the other canyons you get all to yourself on the alternate dirt road mountain passes.


A Day In The Life
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