Dirtbiking in the Andes near Cusco (6 of 9)

On Assignment: Posts from a Motorcycle

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

I’m hitting a super busy season here in Peru. As my time in Cusco comes to an end (We are heading for Chile on August 31) I’m wrapping up assignments for four different non-profits/travel companies. Getting everything done is a little stressful but mostly a lot of fun and I’m glad my time in Peru is ending on a high note.

Speaking of high notes, last weekend I worked on a shoot for MotoMission that involved about sixty miles of motorcycle riding in the hills around Cusco. I got connected with this organization through the Meeting Place Cafe here in Cusco. Scott Englund, the owner of the cafe and the operator of MotoMission uses the income from these businesses to fund social projects in the area. Specifically, MotoMission funds the Altivas Canas Children’s Project; a Peruvian run grassroots organization that provides holistic support to underprivileged kids. 

The shoot was supposed to last two full days but Ben, our videographer, got sick so we scaled it back to one action-packed day of shooting. We started off on a pair of Honda CFR 450X dirt bikes around noon and rode out of Cusco toward the mountains. I hadn’t been on a bike in over three years and I had never ridden on city roads. Driving through Cusco traffic was more nerve-wracking than any hill-climb or rocky wash I’ve ever ridden.

I was happy when we finally got out of the city, on the highway, and eventually into the dirt. Scott typically takes his clients on insane single-track trails through the Andes but he was kind enough to allow this gear-laden amateur a more leisurely route. We followed a rocky road through a small village and up the side of a mountain. We were just a few towns away from the busy squares of Cusco but the only traffic we ran into was a herd of sheep and some wide-eyed cows who bolted at the sound of our engines.

After a couple of switchbacks we reached the top of a saddle where views of an Andean lake spread out before us. This is where we set up camp and started shooting.  Scott put his bike and skills to the test while Ben and I put our lenses on the line to capture unique angles.

Because I’m the more experienced rider, Ben recruited me to shoot some action video from a bike. Just when I was starting to feel like it was all coming back to me, I hit a patch of silt and went down. I wasn’t going fast and I didn’t fall hard. But it served as a reminder that three years is a long time to go without riding.

As dusk approached we moved down to the lakeshore to shoot some staged photos and enjoy the sunset. By the time we packed up, it was getting bitterly cold. Dark came quickly and upped the challenge of dropping off the mountain.

We reached the bottom mostly intact and got back on the road. By this time I was completely saddle sore and my legs were starting to give out. I’d spent eight hours riding, running, and shooting. Now the only thing between me and home was a long stretch of paved highway — and Cusco rush hour traffic in the dark.

Here’s the whole cast and crew from the shoot.


Leave a Reply