A few years back, I heard about a trail that went from an obscure little draw in the Sacred Valley of the Incas to a place called Lares. If you have ever been to either one of these places, you would know that the description is quite vague. That is how things work here in Peru. In fact, asking for directions is like using a wagging tail on an excited dog to determine your future.
This is a little taste of Cusco on a dirt bike!
My first attempt at this trail was solo. I am really the only guy around that is riding enduro. It may sound crazy to you, but to put it in perspective, let me give you an example. I live in a city with 600,000 people. There are about 50 to 60 that have dirtbikes, and most of those never leave the MX track. The motorcycle dealerships don't carry off-road bikes because there is no market. The Yamaha dealer once told me that it had been 12 years since they sold a YZ250. Basically, there is nobody riding or exploring the hundreds of trail options within minutes from my garage.
A typical Andean rock garden...Oh so fun!
Solo I was. Looking for the trail head to Lares. I was in an area where I thought the trail might begin. I asked the locals about the starting point. I received the common answers over and over. "Mas arriba" while they all pointed in different directions. One thing I have learned is to continue asking until you receive three of the same responses. Only then, do you have a fighting chance.
Glaciers start at about 19000ft(5790 meters)
There are two standard responses here in Peru when inquiring about places and/or directions. The first is always , "mas arriba" which translates to a little further up. It means that the person giving the directions has no clue about what you are asking. However, they always say it with such confidence, it is extremely hard to disregard the information.
This place is a smile factory
The second standard response begins when they look you over as you stand there in your riding gear next to your bike. To the locals, they see that as an 18 wheeler cargo carrying truck. They have no clue what a race ready 450 can do. In the typical Peruvian style finger swag that begins by pointing to the sky and finishes with a side to side waive of the pointer finger, they give you the words , "no hay paso." This translates to, "you ain't makin' it buddy!"
This is a common view...Only in the Andes!
Time and time again, I have experienced this situation. Now, when I get the finger wave and the "no hay paso," I get excited because that means there is a legendary trail in my future.
I finally rounded up enough intel to point me in the right direction. The best information came from a 9 year old boy who was pushing about 20 sheep up the road with a twig and his dog. He told me that the trail started at the end of the road. "Just keep going." He explained. He also told me that he lived in one of the communities up the trail.
Then, the finger wave came to light. After he told me where the trail was, he then proceeded to tell me that the route was not passable. I inquired about why he thought I couldn't make it. The boy pointed out that there were rocks, big climbs, river crossings, and lots of mud. Everything a dirtbiker dreams of, this boy was describing. I verified if it was prohibited to ride on the trail, my regulated American side, I guess. He didn't understand why I was asking as there is hardly anything prohibited in Peru when it comes to life in the mountains.
Riding up this valley is no walk in the park!
I asked for permission to ride the trail. Not sure why I thought the 9 year old was the authority, but I did it anyway. He smiled as if to tell me with his sarcastic grin that I didn't stand a chance. He's challenging me!
I began ripping up the trail. It was five out of five stars. Just like the kid said. Rocks, climbs, mud, water. But the views, he never mentioned. I was in a euphoria of motociclismo! Enduro could not get better than this.
I made it to the top of one of the many waterfalls
I continued for miles. I arrived at a small community of five or six houses where I was sure the little boy lived. There was a man working near the trail as I entered the area. I stopped and chatted with him. He was surprised to see a motorcycle. He told me that he had never seen a moto near his house. Most likely, I was the first. That is how things work in Peru. There is no dirtbike competition for the thousands of miles of trails. The man also confirmed that the trail would lead me to Lares.
After my short chat, I shook his hand and headed up the canyon ledge toward my destination. The trail was not easy. In fact, it was as much as I could handle. Riding solo is not a good idea. Without another rider to help through the rough spots, one is limited. I managed to work my way up past a couple of waterfalls, enormous rocky stair step sections, and through pristine valleys.
I reached the point where I was exhausted. I had a tiny bit of energy left, but only enough to get home. I came up to another grueling climb next to a waterfall. The traction looked good, but the switchbacks on the rock ledge were so tight I didn't want to risk it alone. I parked the bike and hiked to the top of the waterfall to take in the view of a lush high valley filled with grazing alpacas and glacier capped Andes.
Not today...I promised my wife I wouldn't take unnecessary risks when I am exploring alone. I will get it another day!
I made my way back down the trail to the Sacred Valley. I passed the little boy just below the community where he lived. I talked a bit and explained how far I went. He knew exactly where I turned back. He told me that the trail from the top of the waterfall to Lares is all flat or downhill. If I could make it to the top of the waterfall, I could make it to Lares.
I never get tired of the views...
I enjoyed every bit of the trail. Up and back...it was perfect. The views, the terrain, the single track were more than I expected. I failed to reach Lares, but I reached something. I left a little bit of meat on the bone, so to speak. I have to come back here to finish this route! Somebody come down here and join me. I have too many trails to explore!
For information about riding with Scott and MotoMission Peru, email to Scott@motomissionperu.com or message me through TT. Tours are private, high class, and extremely exotic. Contact MotoMission for your next international riding excursion. You won't be disappointed!