Friday, September 23, 2011

More Peruvian desert, but the mysterious, Nasca lines kind

Entering the town made famous by the Nasca lines, we first found evidence of the Nasca Lions. Hi Granddad!
Between Lima and Nasca was another six hours of desert, so I'll spare you the pictures of the roadside memorials. I think I first heard of the "Nasca Lines" when I was a kid watching Unsolved Mysteries, an old TV show about missing persons, yetis and aliens.

"Perhaps YOU can help solve a mystery."
The Nasca Lines are a group of lines and geoglyphs believed to have been created by the Nasca culture between 400-650AD. They were created by removing the top layer of sun-reddened rocks on the surface of the desert and revealing the lighter rocks beneath. The area receives so little rainfall that the lines have remained intact and visible for around 1500 years. There are many theories regarding their purpose, but all of the best ones involve ALIENS! Straight lines? Obviously landing strips for ancient alien ships. Humanoid forms with large eyes? ALIENS! Triangles? Obviously, ALIENS. It is strange that ancient people would create huge images visible only from the air...and look at this guy:

"The Astronaut"
As I mentioned, the only way to see the lines is from the air, where I took this photo. A five year old guide book will tell you that you can take to the skies for $30 per person. Ask around at the airport, and you'll find out that a few years back a few shoddy planes went down and things got regulated. Today you can't get on board for less than $100 US. This was the first Jill had heard of the lines, and out of respect for our budget and her clogged sinuses she opted to sit the flight out.

Aviating in Aviators, the only way to fly
The flight was not for the faint of heart, and these guys pushed their Cessna 210 to the limit. Here was our route:
There were two pilots and four passengers, so over the course of our half hour tour we passed each image twice, once pitched to the left, and once pitched to the right, so everyone could get pictures. I took as many as I could, here are a few of the better ones:

(Alien?) Hummingbird
(Alien?) "Hands" on the left, (Alien?) "Tree" on the right, and (Alien?) viewing tower, semi truck, and Panamerica Highway 1 in the center.
More (Alien?) lines all over the place!
A huge triangle. For aliens.
 All joking aside, the lines were huge, mysterious and very intriguing, and viewing them at 140mph in a tiny, wildly veering plane only added to the unnerving aspect of it all. Though a few are famous, there are over 1,800 total, and they literally cover the desert north of Nasca. I have no real idea what the creators were up to, it seems no one does, but seeing them in person fulfilled a dream I've had since I was a child. Thanks to Jill for letting me blow money buzzing around, and thanks to my pilots for getting me up and back down in one piece.

After the 30 minute ride I was as dizzy as I can remember being, and more than ready to get back on solid ground. We landed without incident, and Jill had a cold Coke and a big bag of chips waiting for me. It was another 30 minutes before I felt good enough to get on the bike, and once I did we hit the road once again; starting a two day, 15,000+ foot altitude ride to Cusco and Machu Picchu, one of the seven modern wonders of the world. It just keeps getting better.
We finally spotted some aliens in the flesh outside of Nasca. Mystery solved, you're welcome, Robert Stack.

Oye, Maestro! or Tuning up in Lima

Motorcycles inside? Not weird anymore.
Disclaimer: This post is long, and mostly about looking for motorcycle parts!

After three long days in the desert we arrived in Lima, and found our way to the Flying Dog Hostel at Parque Kennedy. McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut line the streets around the park, and provided us with the (guilty) pleasures of home during our week of parts chasing. Internet rumors alleged that the tires I had been looking for were available at the Lima KTM dealership, so we headed for the first one on the list. After a $6 cab ride to a shuttered building, I took a $6 cab ride back to the hostel. The next address was an importer who worked out of his home, and no longer sold tires. Three more hours, another $20 on cab fare. Jill did some more looking and came up with six more KTM dealerships in Lima. With limited Spanish the phone is a non-starter, so it was back to the cabs. I had already taken the wheels off of the bike, with the idea that they could mount the tires at the dealership, so I hailed a station wagon and threw my disembodied wheels in the hatch.

While I was jumping cabs, Jill was busy at the hostel:
For every light kitten, there is an equal, but opposite dark kitten.
 So, with Jill occupied for the next week, I headed to the next KTM dealership on the list...sort of. When you get into a cab here, you always ask how much it will cost BEFORE the car even moves. Why? There are no meters, so once you've taken the ride you have to pay whatever the driver comes up with - and it can be crazy. So we settled on 25 soles, about $10. It turned out to be a good deal for me, as the ride took an hour and a half. The driver had a general idea where the dealership was, but he was only sure after we stopped and asked for directions no fewer than NINE TIMES.

 "Oye, Maestro!" was my driver's flattering call to passers by, and after we had asked every street corner "maestro" in the barrio, and been directed every way possible, we arrived at the dealership -which was six miles from where we started. At 5:00 sharp. KTMs are expensive motorcycles, and the security at this place was unbelievable. I stood outside the 12 foot tall fence, and noticed a small, bulletproof window next to a steel door. I approached the window, told them I was looking for tires, and they buzzed the door open. Inside the door was a fence, and after I closed the door they buzzed the fence open. I went in and saw stacks and stacks of TKC 80's (the tires I needed), and breathed a sigh of relief. Upon closer inspection, all of the tires were almost what I needed - they were for 18 inch rims, and ours are 17s. An inch off, and as useful to me as...a tire that won't fit our bike. But they did have a front tire, and they had the tires that Tom and Charlie asked me to buy for their bikes. I picked up the front, four tires for the guys, and some high quality coolant and brake fluid. $1500 soles later I "checked out" of the dealership. I took my cart of tires to the fence, a security guard checked my paperwork against the tires and parts on the cart, and signaled the guy in the box to buzz the gate open. I walked out to the street, accompanied by an armed security guard, who waited there with me for ten minutes it took for a cabbie to stop for a guy with a huge stack of motorcycle tires. Parque Kennedy was an easier request, and only cost me 15 soles because the Peruvian guard set it up for me, gringo tax free!

The next day was a Saturday, so Tom, Charlie and I set out for an enduro race 40 kilometers south of Lima, to do some research on tire availability. I didn't have my camera, but Charlie did. Here's what we ended up with:
These...representatives...were very friendly, and gave us beers. But they didn't have any information on tires. Oh well.
We did run into a few BMW riders at the track, and they led us to a KTM rep, who assured us that HIS branch did have the rear tire I needed. For sure. Come in first thing Monday. No hay problemas.

First thing on Monday, Andy and I showed up at his branch, only to find stacks and stacks of 18 inch tires. We spoke to the buyer for the company, and he told me that our tire was out of stock, had been for a month, and would be for at least another two. Every BMW rider in Peru was waiting for them to come in. They did have one that would work, but was much narrower than the original. It was not what I wanted, but was better than what I had, so I bought it and we continued our search for other parts. After a few more shops I had collected the parts I needed, and did this to our unsuspecting bike:
20,000 mile maintenance is serious business!
Two new tires, new rear brakes, new coolant, new brake fluid, new clutch fluid, new spark plugs, valve clearance check, and a much needed air filter cleaning. After a week in Lima I had seen nothing but cabs, motorcycle shops and fast food, but the bike was ready for another 20,000 miles, and Jill had gotten a good kitten fix. Tom and Charlie were headed north for some off-roading, and Andy and Cass had already headed for Cusco, in a time crunch. We packed up and hit the road, headed for Nazca on a bike that felt better than new.