Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 177 (531km): Why not go all the way to Cusco?

There was a thick layer of snow over everything but at least the sun was out. For all those Canadian fans back home that have been posting about the snowy winter, I guess we didn't fully escape it. It was a gross process packing up the wet tent; I think we were carrying several extra kgs of water weight. Also standing around in our Sidi boots in the snow made for very cold toes.
Tent covered in snow
Bike covered in snow

Bike covered in snow

Landscape covered in snow
Temperature check
But look, it's sunny outside!
Ready to go
The sun on the snow was almost blinding, but much safer than yesterday evening. I think we made the right decision camping in the house. The temperature was flirting with zero degrees until we came below the snow line; about 20km down the road. It took almost 2 hours though to break the 10 degree barrier. Thank goodness for heated gear.
Just follow the yellow brick road
Toasty with my heated gear
These guys didn't mind
The whitest mountains on the trip so far
Thank you blue sky!
Riding in the remote Peruvian Sierra is an amazing experience. The landscapes are impressive and peaceful. Usually there is very little traffic. When you do encounter people they are so genuine and curious. It is a perfect moment and has by far been my favourite riding on this trip.
Enjoying having the road all to ourselves
A close-up of that cool rock
While riding up high today we saw two Chinchillas cross the road, trying to play chicken with us it seemed. They are cute little guys. We also saw some Llamas roaming their pastures, which included the road.
And then we came down into Puno. The issue I have with Peru is that the great peaceful moments of the Sierra are in such sharp contrast to anywhere populated by more than 100 people that's it is almost mentally scarring. Coming into Puno almost erased all the good feelings I had built up from the first few hours of riding this morning.
Coming into Puno
The sad truth of Peru
As we entered the city we were pulled over by the police. They looked at our licenses and then let us go. The road just dumps you off somewhere in the city and you have to find your way back out. The aspects of populated Peru that I don't like are primarily the traffic, noise and dirtiness and unfortunately, I seem to have less and less patience for it. So we ask several times, and go this way and that but we eventually escape the horror that is Puno.

On the way out of Puno there was a full-on police assault. There were cars pulled over everywhere and there were at least 10 officers. The first few didn't pay any attention to us but the last pair pulled us over. First it took us a while to find a place level enough to put the bikes on the kickstand (an ordeal in itself). Then the games began.

They looked at our license copies. Then they were asking for insurance. One of the officers knew more english than any other cop we've encountered so there was some actual communication going on. So I hand over a fistfull of documents and eventually convince him to let me go. Alberto wasn't as successful. He was having a hard time producing a document for insurance they were happy with. I went over to help and together we went through this huge song and dance. The police weren't budging and started writing up a ticket. I gave up because it seemed like we had reached a stalemate. Alberto kept asking for his ticket, they kept stalling. Near the end Alberto heard them discussing, This guy isn't going to give us any money. Try again. No he's difficult. Come on one more try. Blah blah, and so the story goes. I'm not sure how (since I was back at my bike waiting) but Alberto was allowed to leave. Only problem, during this process he had accidentally left his bike on and his battery was now flat. We were on a hill so we was able to hill start himself but it wasn't the smoothest of getaways.

We gassed up in Juliaca and then again had some issues getting out of town and onto the highway. So frustrating. The road at first was really terrible, surfacewise. Then it became more or less normal. The road was mostly straight. We saw some mountains with snow and had a few close calls with vehicles. One in particular was a tractor with a big long pole just past the crest of a hill. We came over the hill and it was like holy f*ck, that thing almost impaled me! Thanks for nothing Peruvian. The guy didn't even need to put a red flag, a flapping garbage bag would have at least improved the dangerous situation.
Riding between Puno and Cusco
Some scenery
Some riding
Some mountains
Then we saw the Claro sign for Cusco, yay we made it. Or so we thought. The entrance to nice Cusco from the East is embarrassing. It was bringing back all my memories of entering Huaraz. It's dusty, there are pot holes, there are three lanes of traffic free-for-alling it. It was madness and not what I would expect from the jewel of Peru (that's what I call Cusco because of its international draw). The terrible state of the situation had started to get me in a bad mood. And then I saw Loren riding towards us on his orange F650GS.

Loren is one half of the Steel Horse Tour. His partner, who unfortunately had to return to Australia for health reasons (our thoughts are with you), Murray had been emailing back and forth with us since the beginning of their trip. Loren, being the clever biker that he is, was stalking our SPOT and saw that we were coming into the city. He quite literally came to our rescue.

He pulls us over and tells us about the hostel he is staying at, which sounds amazing to us. Sometimes finding a place to stay in a place like this can take hours. Since Loren, having been here for 2 weeks learning spanish, knew what was up, he led us into the city. Following him was amazing. He knew exactly where he was going without hesitation. He took us to the main Plaza for a quick photo and then to the hostel nearby.
In the plaza
In front of the Cathedral
The Hostel
While following I accidentally got myself stuck in the drainage channel in the centre of the cobbled lane, that was a fun experience. Loren told me that everyone has to do it at least once so I guess I got that out of the way early. The hostel was perfect and we were soon heading off to dinner with Loren.
The bikes parked up
Delicious food and some beer were a perfect way to finish the day. Things were going downhill fast but Loren saved the show.
Some good eats and bevies
A pepper chandelier in the restaurant
The city by night
What time is it Mr. Wolf?
Walking back to the Hostel
Getting reacquainted with some Inca heritage
The famous 12 angle stone

1 comment:

  1. Memories of the beetroot ravioli return on a daily basis, after 200km in the saddle with nothing but a dry muesli bar in my stomach. Happy travels and see you back in Canada!