Day 153 – Bagua Grande to Celendin, PE

Day 153 – Bagua Grande to Celendin, PE      01/21/11      Mileage: 219

I skipped breakfast this morning and just packed the bike and rolled out. The road flowed over rolling hills down the wide but scenic Rio Uteubamba valley.

Progress was slow as the road was under repair in many spots and the traffic piled up at each construction zone.

…and another…

…and another…

….you get the idea.

In the U.S., when the flag (wo)man gives the OK to go, the traffic proceeds in a nice orderly line through the construction zone. Not so here…it’s udder chaos like the flag dropping at the Le Mans Gran Prix. Cars and motorcycles all fighting to get ahead cramming into the work zone..and passing IN the work zone. My method was to scoot right to the front of all the stopped vehicles, then just get the hole shot as soon as the flag drops and just be well ahead of all the carnage. Anyway, the road then turned up into the mountains following alongside the river into a narrow picturesque canyon.

In spots they carved out room for the road right into the canyon rock wall…making what amounts to half a tunnel.

Oh, did I mention tolls are free for motorcycles in Peru as well…sweet!

 I took a small detour up to the town of Chachapoyas which is a pleasant town overlooking the river valley.


I stopped into the Ciomara Cafe & Art…which doesn’t look like much on the outside but is a really nice place.

After a quick look I continued south towards Celendin, my target stopping point for the day. The road turned to well graded dirt and continued to follow the upper reaches of the Rio Utcubamba…which was now gin clear and perfect for canoeing.

 After Leimebamba, the road turned sharply up hill through countless switchbacks, topping out at just under 12,000 feet.

 The view on the other side of the pass was breathtaking…along with the road…which was literally cut into the side of the mountains. The panorama and scale of the scenery before you is as impossible to put into words as it is to capture with a camera.

You had better ignore it when driving though, as there are absolutely no guard rails to help the complacent driver. Run one corner wide here, and you better have a parachute.

 It took hours to get up and over the pass, and once down in the town of Balsas I had a decision to make. Celendin, although only 7 linear miles away, was 34 road miles up and over another steep mountain pass that would take an 1:45 according to the policia. It was already 5:15, so that means I would be coming down off the pass in the dark. To boot, I was also low on gas, but including my reserve I should have just enough. Worst case is if I just made it to the top of the pass, I could always coast down into Celendin. With that I decided to go for it, and maybe I can trim that time to only 1:30 or even 1:15 on the bike.

The policia going to open the control gate for me…

I crossed the bridge and started up the pass, higher up on the pass I could see rain, but I pressed ahead.

Soon I was in the rain and the road turned slick as greased linoleum. My hopes of making it to Celendin in even 1:45 evaporated and I knew I would be riding in the dark if I continued. I also lost the backend and almost went down on a hairpin turn but managed to somehow keep the bike upright through sheer luck. I stopped to let more air out of the tires and to reevaluate continuing or to backtrack to Balsas. Very low on gas now, high on a narrow mountain pass with no guard rails, in the rain, at dusk, all points to backtracking down to Balsas. Did I mention I loath backtracking? So against my better judgment, I fired up the KLR and pointed the front wheel back up the pass. The lower tire pressure improved the grip and the bike felt more stable. Soon the rain gave way and the clouds began to let what was left of the light through. High up on the pass my perseverance (or stupidity) was rewarded with a brilliant twilight.

The passing rain made for nice twilight glow…

 After stopping for several pictures, it was back to the business of getting over the pass which I arrived at the top of just after sunset. Far below me I could see the lights of Celendin and the promised land, I was almost there.

Coming down off the pass in the dark was sketchy, but thankfully not as treacherous as the way up it. Pulling into Celendin, I breathed a big sigh of relief…life is good.

16 Responses to Day 153 – Bagua Grande to Celendin, PE

  1. Paul Bell says:

    Wow that post was a trip within itself. Great job!!!

  2. Arlene says:

    Paul, I just read the new blog entry and I ditto all you said in the comment section. Regard to Kim and the kids.
    Lenny, I was sitting on the edge of the seat to see if you were going to backtrack or not. The photos were amazing and you are too much. Thank God you made it savely.

    Stay safe and well and I do trust your decisions making abilities.
    Love ya, Mom

  3. Lynn Hilliard says:

    Unfreakingingly beautiful! Love that word. That sunset should be on the cover of National Geographic. Lucky, lucky you!

  4. Jill says:

    YAY, PERU! Awesome scenery and I’m sure it will only get better..dare I say Arlene is starting to chill a bit with these kinds of posts!?!?! I think I’ve driven some hairy passes but nothing at all like those, yiiiipes!!
    Ride well and Be well! oxox

  5. Arlene says:

    Great pictures of the twilight that I just keep looking at. The best!!!!!
    Lenny, glad to see you put some of the decals on and more people will probably ask you questions when you stop. Also good advertisement for Ricor because it shows you picked the best products for a very, very long ride..
    Stay well and safe. Love ya, Mom

  6. Rudy Prael says:

    Hey Lenny, I was one of those people who blessed your bike last November in Guatemala. Kurt Repshur has forwarded your photos to me. They’re spectacular. Makes me want to get on a fast train with my bike and join you. You mentioned a couple of times about being “lucky”. Remember, we asked the Lord to bless you in Guatemala. Maybe it’s not luck. What is?
    Lord bless,
    Rudy Prael

    • Lenny says:

      Hi Rudy! It´s not hard to take good pictures down here with scenery this good….glad you like them! Well, be it luck or a little divine help, either way I’m glad to have it with me! I just heard of a rider from the US down here following the Dakar and was killed by an out of control car….crazy stuff. Ýou have too take some chances sometimes, but getting home in one piece is always a high priority to me!

      Thanks for coming along for the ride!


  7. Pete Shebey says:


    Amazing parting shots of the sunset! Sick ride that day! Stay safe!


  8. Arlene says:

    The white stuff is coming down again. We were not able to go watch Maya and Raquel today…Thank God that Norm was able to do it.

    I see you are back inland again. It is great having the tracker. I see that everyone loved the twilight pictures.
    That was so nice of Kurt’s friend, Rudy, to write. You gots lots of good people watching out for you.
    Stay safe and week and glad that coming home safe is number one priority.
    Love ya, Mom

  9. Frank Leccese says:

    When you write the story of your adventure, it should be entitled “Empty Roads & Tough Border Crossings”. Stay thirsty my friend.

    • Lenny says:

      That’s a fitting name for sure Frank! You’re right about the empty roads…I search them out! Plenty of time to ride in traffic back in NJ! lol

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