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Old 02-12-2010, 03:47 AM   #16
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I initially didn't intend to go into the January excursion at all but upon re-examination I have to admit that the pictures from that first trip were probably better than those of the July trip. Plus I found the old emails recording my feelings in the heat of the moment.

So back home in Austin I talked up the idea of returning to Cuzco to rent motorcycles but after 5 months I only had two buddies show even a modicum of interest. (And in the end…, even they backed out.) But Linda had this friend who wanted to go, a guy named John.

John worked at a major computer company, is a gifted guitarist and song writer but possessed only minimal riding experience. Now I didn't know John all that well, but he had one big thing going for him: he was seriously intent on making the trip with me back to Peru..., to “ride motorcycles in the Andes”.

When it came time to plunk down the cash for air fare, John didn’t flinch. My other two friends dropped out. I would be leading a team of two. In an effort to get John up to speed, two weeks before our departure I loaned him my kick start, street-legalized 1995 650cc Kawasaki KLX-R, and told him to put his car in the garage and ride this beast everyday, rain or shine, wherever he went. No matter what. Kick start and all.

A disclaimer: I lost a couple of rolls of film so words alone will have to convey the first couple of days of the trip with John.

this is the camera I used

An Olympus XA-2 35mm point-and-shoot. I used to love this camera to death, but its capabilities are limited. It uses 35mm film, the CompactFlash card is there as a reference only. Sorry for the confusion.

So without further ado, heeeeeeeeeeeerrrrre we go.

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Old 02-12-2010, 04:30 AM   #17
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July 12, 2003
Oh my,
where to begin.

Here we are in Cuzco, Peru. John and myself. We are barely 24 hrs into the 2 week trip and John’s already whining “When are we going to get to rest?”
“OK, fine,” I snap, “we can rest if we skip Machu Picchu.”

We almost missed our flight, of course, arriving at Houston’s IAH (after driving 3½ hrs from Austin) with only 5 minutes to spare before the mandatory cut-off time of 1 hr prior to international flights. I was strip-searched at security (OK, not really, but it felt like it). Already shoeless and beltless it’s “over here sir, stand with your legs apart, now I’m going to pat you down.” Whatever. Then stuck on a plane load of missionaries headed for Iquitos on the Amazon. The cute little girl next to me asked if there was something I wanted her to pray for while she prayed over dinner, as if she had an inside line.
“No,” I blushed, shrugging my shoulders.
“No?”, she seemed offended, “nothing?”
Well, OK, my daughter. You can pray for my daughter.
“OK. What’s her name?”
Totally embarrassing, I didn’t know this person from Adam and she’s praying for my daughter, Juanita.

6 hour flight, non-stop, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The movie sucked, by the way.

Near midnight, Juanita’s uncle Miguel picked us up at the Lima airport. Radio blasting. Lima radio stations, for some reason always play the best music on the planet. Talking on cellulars while driving is prohibited in Lima.
“Does John know that you are taking him up 3 km of altitude,” Miguel keeps asking me.
“Does he know?”

Mi primo, Miguel and his son, Michelin

We do the obligatory tour of Miraflores (Lima’s Southern California). Larco Mar super mall. Lima winter, la gaura, 100% humidity, mist, no rain but slick streets. Everyone is wearing grey overcoats with the collar turned up. Grey seems to be Lima’s official color. Discotecs carved out of the side of the cliff overlooking the Pacific. A walking tour of the ancient streets of Barranco, Lima’s Greenwich Village. Lots of kissing in Peru. You have to love it. To bed at 3:00am. John wakes me at 5:30. Its time to go to the airport.

Miguel’s house is built around a courtyard. John and I are camped out on one side of the house, apart from the family. At 5:45 Miguel is still not up, neither is anyone else for that matter. It’s Saturday morning. 5:45AM Saturday morning and totally dark. Well we have to get to the airport. But we are locked in. We can’t even open the door to the street, its locked. I don’t even know where Miguel’s bedroom is. Oopps, we accidently set off the car alarm in the courtyard. Well, that problem is resolved. Miguel cuts the incredible squealing by remote from the unseen bedroom. And we get to the airport on time.

Jagged peaks and snow fields bounce outside the window. We’re flying in a 50 passenger Fokker F28. The seats remind me of lawn chairs. We toast ourselves to an Inca Kola breakfast. How do you avoid altitude sickness? Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. We’re doing great. We’ve had 2 hrs of rest and an Inca Kola. Headed for Cuzco 3 kilometers above the surface of the sea. We're good to go. We should be fine.

Fokker F28 (made in the Netherlands)

Our seat-mate is Mahlina, an East Indian from London, on her 5th month of traveling. She was a patent lawyer in London.
“I don’t know what I’ll do when I get back to London, but I won’t be a patent lawyer.”

The landscape turns to arid plateau. Then more mountains. We bank and drop into the Cuzco valley and land.

My man in Cuzco, Juan Carlos, has not failed us. He is at the airport to pick us up in his 4×4 Toyota Hilux double cab pick-up with buddy Christopher. We find hotel lodging with a friend of his, we take Mahlina up to San Blas to her hotel. We go for a spin in the mountains overlooking Cuzco. OK, down to business. Return to the hotel lobby for a 2 hr conferencia about our planned motorcycle route over the next 2 weeks, detail by detail. We will be renting bikes from Juan Carlos and he makes his pitch for taking a guide with us. A guide that is also a mechanic, in case something should go wrong with one of the bikes. The guide would be Chris and he obviously knows the territory.

Mechanic? We don’t need no stinkin’ mechanic. I bring down my tool kit from our room upstairs, they look it over, impressed. They nod and take notes on what I’m lacking.

“You have everything,” Chris finally declares.
“Now all you need is a pilot.”
“I.., am the pilot,” I assure him with a polite smile.

We passed the test. They agree. We are on our own, if we so choose. In the end we agree to take Chris with us to Paucartambo because the festival there will be so huge that lodging is flat out impossible. Chris tells us we will be camping in a tent in the middle of town (?). And he can help us watch our things. We agree. Chris will go with us to Paucartambo only. Everything is go.

Watch for the next installment from Machu Picchu. It is so cold in this Internet cafe that I’m shaking. Got to go.

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Old 02-12-2010, 07:53 PM   #18
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Wasting no time

Sunday July 13, 2003 Wasting no time

Wake up call at 5am. We have spent last night fine tuning our packing: everything we'll need for the next 12 days into a day pack! I allowed myself one pair of jeans for the duration. Into the mix you must add cold weather clothes, jungle clothes, tools, sleeping bags. We did pretty good.

Juan Carlos picked us up at 5:30. It was still dark. We were suited up in full cold weather gear. Long johns, windbreaker, wind pants, parka. At his shop we started the bikes cold. Last minute instructions shouted to the gringos over the sweet sound of motos running with good, clean engines.
"Milton, don't forget the choke. Don't drive with the choke closed."
"It's ok Juan Carlos, don't worry. I'll be fine."

We pushed off at 6am for a gentle 2 hour cruse on asphalt. The countryside was frozen. Frost covers everything. There was a full teamed soccer game taking place up at the ruins of Sacshawaman, on frost covered field, incredibly at 6am. It was barely daylight. The breaking sun illuminated rolling snow covered mountains as we crossed the pass between Cuzco and Pisac.

Great bundles of dried corn stalks trotted along the roadside totally obscuring the Indian within. Fodder for the domestic animals. Pig town Corao is frozen white with frost. Stoic Indian women draped in panchos stand by the road looking... frozen. We are so bundled and puffed-up we could roll off a cliff unscathed.

Descent to Pisac and the Sacred Valley, the air warms noticeably but our hands are still cold. We are still in the morning shadow of the mountains. The piles of corn stalks get bigger and bigger until they almost obliterate flatbed trucks. Men are carrying huge wooden plows on their shoulders. Agriculture in full swing. Plowing fields with the wooden plows pulled by cows. Harvesting wheat by hand. The traffic is light.

Destination: Ollantaytambo. We arrive at 8am. (Try pronouncing that one. Let's just call it Ollanta from here on, that's oh-YAHN-tah.) It seems that the road from Ollanta proper to the train station has suffered since I last saw it. A huge chunk of it has sloughed off into the river. Pedestrian traffic only these days, except for a couple of motos weaving among the rocks and berms of dirt pushing against gobs of people coming, I suppose, from the train from Machu Picchu.

Wendy Weeks' El Albergue inn at the train station is full but at a hotel next door we find alternate lodging for tomorrow night and a place to stash the bikes until then. $24 for a room with private bath. A quick breakfast and we board the train bound for Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

At the entrance of the Machu Picchu ruins we were met by this gentleman. I loved his face and dignity and struck a conversation with him. He was from Cusco. You can see the Urubamba River behind him far below as it snakes thru its tight canyon.

Antonio Garay of Cuzco

It was weird seeing Machu Picchu in full sunlight. It was full of clouds and rain the last time I was here.

The mystics were out in full force. This one guide was really full of shit. He was having his group throw coca leaves to the 4 cardinal directions, and doing little spiritual ceremonies. There is this big flat rock up in the ceremonial section, that's just lying there in the middle of an open space. My understanding is that this rock was being transported, or moved, when the job was interrupted by the Spanish conquest and the rock was just abandoned in the middle of the job. This one full-of-shit guide was getting the tourists to lie down stretched out on top of the rock, to feel the vibrations, the energy, or whatever. And they were buying it, piling on 2 and 3 at a time! I think there was some attempted healing going on. This guide had a white beard and a gnome's pointy hat and he took himself way too seriously.

We're staying at Gringo Bill's in Aguas Calientes. There is an advertisement on the wall in the lobby recommending the San Pedro Center of Meditation and Enlightenment. San Pedro is the local mescaline cactus. "Take a trip with us and never be the same" the ad reads. We were thinking they would be great tour guides. You know, we'll show you things you've never seen before, that kind of thing. Anyway, tried to find the web site, but alas, it may have all been a joke.

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Old 02-12-2010, 07:55 PM   #19
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The lay of the land
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Old 02-12-2010, 08:42 PM   #20
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Hiking the Inca Trail
Monday, July 14, 2003

Jeeze, its taken me 40 min to find a machine that works and get online. Don’t know how much of this kind of fun I can stand.

Today was a good day. We went hiking. But first things first.

Yesterday, Sunday we stashed our bikes in Ollantaytambo and took the train to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of Machu Picchu . Aguas is on the Urubamba river at the bottom of a tight canyon with sheer cliffs for walls. It’s winter time here in Peru and winter in the Andes means the dry season. The days are noticeably shorter. It gets dark at 6pm.

We changed plans today. Instead of leaving back to Ollanyta on the afternoon train as planned, and spending the night in Ollanta, we decided to stay another night in Aguas and catch the 6am “backpacker” train in the morning.

Train fare pricing is weird.
From Aguas Calientes to Cuzco is $35.
If you disembark at Ollantatambo, the half-way point, it still costs you $34. They do this because Ollanta is connected to Cuzco by road, as well as railroad line, and people have the tendency to get off the train in Ollanta and take a fast bus ride the rest of the way back to Cuzco, cutting into RR profits.
But……. except…. the early morning “backpacker” train to Ollanta is only $11!
Making this change in plans gave us all day today to hike.

Quote of the day: “He’s a tour guide, John, what the fu©k does he know?”

We hiked the Inca trail backwards to Wiñay Wayna (WEE-nyaii WHY-nah). The Inca Trail is a 4-5 day trek over 3 passes 9000′, 13000′, and 12000′, bringing you to Machu Picchu the hard way. I have yet to do it. (It may already be too late for me.) But it is a very popular thing to do here, and they have porters and guides that do everything for you save move your feet. (You still have to top a 1300′ pass 2 days into the thing.) However, today, we did see a Indian porter carrying a large woman up a long flight of Inca stairs up the side of a steep hill. Almost as an afterthought, at the suggestion of her husband actually, she fished into her purse and gave the Indian a few coins. We remembered the incident when we ourselves were huffing and puffing up the same stairs a little later. But I’m getting’ way ahead of myself.

So we took the $4.50 bus ride up to the Machu Picchu ruins, paid $20 entrance fee, plus $5 extra (exit fee?) for the privilege of walking to Wiñay Wayna. Our itinerary was cleared by radio. And so, instead of arriving at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, we left Machu Picchu via the trail. (Seems I’m forever doing things backwards.)

Machu Picchu was magnificent today. Somehow better than yesterday. The sun was bright, the colors vivid, the sky partly cloudy and blue. We looked down on it for the last time this trip and marched up the old Inca highway, which is a paved trail of sorts, paved by the Inca, usually about 5-6′ wide and paved with stones, a lot of the time with an Inca retaining wall running alongside.

One hour along gently climbing trail, took us to Intipunka (Inca Gate) ruins at a pass, where we had one more magnificent last, look back at Machu Picchu below and behind, except now we were level with the peak of Wayna Picchu and we could see all to the high mountains in the distance. I felt like I was seeing Machu Picchu for the very first time.

Machu Picchu ruins and Wayna Picchu peak from Intipunka, the Sun Gate

Outstanding. A quick lunch. Met some French travelers with a Peruvian adventure guide. Then Eric Jones, a young missionary, a ‘Bama Boy, been on the gridiron a few times, loved to talk football, a real people person. Over the other side of the ridge we plunged into cloud forest stuff. The trail overgrown with trees filled with epiphytes, bromeliads, lianas and moss hugged vertical cliffs. Vivid green moss lined the cool trail. Occasional glimpses of snow capped Bonanta and Veronica across the valley. I’ll have to say, I’m sure it was inconceivable to the Inca that they could ever be conquered. This was a work of art.

Another 1½ hours brought us to a European-style mountain hostal. The building was slightly run down, but they were serving beer inside. The place was moderately full of trekkers. There was a community of tents set up, a full restaurant, signs advertising beds for rent. We were asked if we needed porters. At one of the tent cities I noticed all of the campers looked Peruvian.
“Are they all guides,” I asked one of them nearby?
He looked at me with sudden scorn.
Guides? No, amigo, they are porters (as in, you dumb ass).

So we’d picked this destination, because it had a straight down exit trail that connected to the Urubamba river and RR track below, both of which lead back to Aguas Calientes. But there were also ruins of Wiñay Wayna, and oh my, when they finally came into sight we were shocked by their size. Hidden in a fold between two ridges, with a waterfall, the terraces stretched around like a huge amphitheater. The buildings in remarkably good condition.

The Urubamba 1600′ below, snow capped Bonanta and Veronica peaks beyond.

About 10 other people poked around the hillside, in reverent silence. Or maybe we just never knew what language to speak to each other. Anyway, no one spoke. We were all filled with wonder and mystery. Why? How? No foo-foo mystics needed here. We had our own mysticism, thank you.

1½ hours is far too little time to spend here. It was after 4:00, the sun was behind the mountains, time to go, we never got over to the waterfall. A tour guide told us that it was quite impossible to descend at this hour, and that is what prompted the quote of the day, "He's a tour guide, John, what the fuck does he know?" followed by ”If you want to know the real truth about something, you gotta ask a porter.”

Headed down a trail, John asks “is this the trail down?” I dunno John, does it look like the trail down? Anyway, 1 hour of zigzaging 1600′ down unexciting power-line trail to the hydroelectric plant below. Unexciting except for the weird vegetation (we ain’t in Kansas anymore). John was leading when near the river at the bottom we suddenly came upon 8 men with machetes. Startled, he nearly stumbled backwards.
“It’s OK John, just act like you know what you’re doing. Keep going.”

They were Peruvian hard-hats, hydroelectric line-men I reckoned, and just as surprised to see us, I must say. The hydroelectric plant is built right beneath another ruins site. In fact we could see 3-4 ruins sites scattered up the ridge above us. There was a pedestrian suspension bridge across the Urubamba but with a locked gate. We waited with the hardhats for the key to appear.

“Now what would we’ve done if we hadn’t met up with these guys?” John wanted to know.
I dunno John.
Things have a way of working themselves out.

2½ mile walk home in growing darkness along the RR track and the Urubamba. Great meal in town.

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Old 02-13-2010, 02:41 AM   #21
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Adventures in Paucartambo

Adventures in Paucartambo
Saturday, July 19, 2003

We left Agua Calientes (Machu Picchu town) on the 5:45am Backpacker train. Facing us were guys from Australia and France, across the aisle, Italian and Germans. The Aussie guy was pretty interesting. Bought a round-the-world ticket, went to Singapore, Thailand, London, Canada, northeastern seaboard USA, then Lima. His goal, get back to Canada without boarding an airplane. Plans to go down Ucayali River to Iquitos on the Amazon, then up rivers to Ecuador, then boat to Panama, then bus. A young man after my own heart.

Arrived in Ollanta at 8am, beautiful day, full of sunshine and blue sky.

Arrival of backpacker train in Ollantatambo, Wendy Weeks' El Albergue in the background

Secured our motorcycles, met Chris, our guide/mechanic for the next few days while visiting the festival in Paucartambo, an Indian town of maybe 10-20,000. He carried tents and foam pads for us.

Chris rearranging the cargo in front of the train station. Ollantatambo, 8am.

Easy ride back down the Valle Sagrado (sacred valley), to Pisaq (pop. 9,400), then onto dirt road for 3-4 hr trip over the 13,030′ mountain pass Abra Wachoq Kunka . We stopped to readjust our luggage in a small town and drew a crowd.

Culture clash on the road to Paucartambo

on the way to Paucartambo

Anyway, the trip took a little longer than the predicted 3-4 hrs, mainly because our mechanic broke down. Great, huh? Get it? Our mechanic broke down. First the middle one third of his exhaust fell off, then his rear brake drum disintegrated.

Paucartambo, alt. 9530′

In Paucartambo Chris led us to the Centro de Salud, the Health Center, where we set up our two tents next to the main building behind an iron fence. We were just outside of town, an easy walk to the central plaza. Next door was a adobe walled school compound, a school yard, essentially, which was open to the public for tent camping (all lodging gone, gone, gone). Chris thought that the public camping was too crowded, and we were more secure on the heath center’s grounds. Seemed secure enough, surrounded by wrought iron fences, plus a guardian lived on-site, a Quechua Indian chap named Quispe Cos (?), with 12-year old son Renato. There was a working water faucet outside the health center building and a bathroom inside, but no running water inside. Right, no water inside the Health Center.

Chris warns us of pick pockets. John and I wander into town right into the middle of masked dances in front of the church. Watching our wallets and stuff with every jostle.

OK. A little background. In Paucartambo’s Festival of the Virgin Carmen, there are 16 dance groups, called danzas, they are similar to Rio’s sambas and Mardi Gras’s krewes. Each group has its own full costume, which includes masks, each representing something, like the ancient Inca warriors, bakers, farmers, bullfighters, lawyers, drunks, gringos, or traditional stories. Each group, 20-50 people, had a 5-piece flute & drum band, each has it’s own dance steps, and ultimately their own personality. These dancers interact with the crowd, all the time. You are part of it. They growl at you, they dance in front of you, they grab you.

The day we arrived was called the Entrada. The festival goes on for days.

This dance represents a cholera plague, death stalks, doctors are helpless and the stricken wear yellow masks. Tradition holds that you can be cured by being beaten with a flour filled pillow, which the dancers demonstrate on the onlookers.

So John and I wander into town and each group is coming up one after another and performing their dance in front of the church. One group was on horseback.

Wild beyond words. Masked dancers cracking bull whips to keep the crowd back.

After the dance they kneel in a moment of silence on the church steps,

then proceed inside the church and dance again in front of the effigy of the Virgin Carmen, whoever she was. Then back outside, and more groups were coming one after another up the street in a great traffic jam.

One of the bullfighters

After leaving the church they danced all around town. There were dances and dancers everywhere. No cars.

We went back to the tent, napped, cleaned up at the water faucet in the dark and then back to town, this time with Renato (the guardian’s son) in tow. Just in time for the fireworks. Homemade fireworks at the central plaza.

Each danza group were running around and around the square, grabbing girls from the crowds, and having them run with them until they were too exhausted to take another lap. Then they brought out the fireworks. These were mainly twirling spinners that showered sparks in all directions, attached to the end of long poles and the dancers ran around the square swinging these poles over the crowd, showering sparks in people’s hair and everything. Mortars boomed. Two giant castillos, home-made towers of fireworks, stood ominously in the center of the plaza. They had no qualms about shooting fireworks directly into the crowd. This one type was shaped like an airplane, with miniature Roman candle like things shooting out from under the wings, like guns. And the dancer would wear this thing over his head, holding it with both hands, and run around the plaza shooting it into the crowds. Yikes, you could put somebody’s eye out! I guess there aren’t many lawyers in Peru. One spinner malfunctioned and instead of spinning off into the sky and exploding in a puff ball, it came down into the street and caused all sorts of havoc. Finally they lit one of the castillos, or towers.

The plaza was soon full of smoke.

Renato’s shoes
We wander around town with Chris, our guide, and Renato, who keeps pestering us to buy him shoes. We buy Renata dinner and instead of a thank you, he wants shoes.

No qualms about pissing in the streets here. Some alleyways reek of urine. One little girl of some 2 years old is urinating on the church steps.

We secure a 2am ride up to Tres Cruces, a mountain top 1-2 hrs away, for the morning sunrise. The idea is to go to Tres Cruces and wait for the sunrise, which rises over the Amazon plains, supposed to be pretty cool. Most people take a bus but we secure a mini-van. We considered the motos but decided against because of the COLD and besides, our headlights were kinda mas o menos (more or less).

Suddenly Renato has disappeared. Back at the tents, we have been robbed. At least I have. Gone were only a few things, all mine: my belly bag, and my ONLY change of clothes. The daypacks, sleeping bags, helmets, things of obvious value were left intact. In the lost belly bag were my reading glasses, camera, exposed film, miniature binoculars, calculator and .... PASSPORT!!

Damn Renato, I thought. It had to be him.
He had been watching us as we prepared to leave. And I had lost my flashlight earlier at the water faucet, with him present. I blew off the missing flashlight, thinking it’d show up later, I had a spare; but I suspected Renato at the time and it never showed up. I went out with another flashlight and searched the hillside behind the health center in the dark. At a prominent high point I found an empty stuff bag, one of my extra, empty stuff bags. Someone had dropped it.

Back at the health center Quispe and Renato were being interrogated by Chris and a health center worker. They both denied all knowledge of anything, looking pitiful. A restless night of worry. We declined the ride to Tres Cruces when they came honking out front.

The next morning, after searching the area for hours, I took Renato for a walk and offered to buy him his shoes if he could only “find” my things. Suddenly, whoa, there they are, there is my bag under a bush on the trail, right where we had searched so thoroughly. Inside are my camera, binoculars, glasses. But no passport. I tell Renato, “No passport? No shoes.” Back down to the tents, and again another charade of “let’s go look again” and wow, there’s my passport lying right there in the mud. How could we have missed it? Still no clothes, calculator or flashlight. I give in and buy shoes. Quispe, the dad, tags along and wants a transistor radio. “Find the rest of my things and I’ll buy you a radio.” Pants, calculator and flashlight were worth more than the radio, I guess, because the rest of my things never reappeared.

Senselessly the exposed film rolls never reappeared either. Renato never did understand the concept of exposed film or its value to me alone.

The irony of our situation did not escape us. So much for the idea of our hired guide protecting us from thieves in Paucartambo. The guardian was the thief, or his son, as it seemed to be a family affair. Very unusual for an Indian to steal, but it happened to me. Chris suggested we pack up and move, mumbling something about sleeping with the enemy. We moved next door to the adobe walled school-yard camp-ground, the obvious place to stay, where I would’ve stayed if I'd been on my own. Oh well. So at our guide’s direction we had been led to an unsafe place. Like lambs to the slaughter. And basically I’d been robbed and had to buy my stuff back. Whatever.

That ordeal cost me a restless night, half the next day and 35 soles for shoes. Plus repeated forays up the hillside to find more stuff which suddenly materialized. You get the picture.

We broke down the camp and temporarily stashed our belongings safely inside the health center, in the pharmacy. Then took the bikes up to the mountain top of Tres Cruces at 13,120’, a 3500’ climb up the mountain from Paucartambo. It was totally fogged in and cold.

Trying to get out of town, on our way to Tres Cruces, but first we must wait for a parade.

These dancers, with a wooden hand, represent black slaves

Cold and fogged in, John and Chris at the Tres Cruces lookout

On the way back to town Chris’s bike broke down yet again, a broken accelerator cable this time, but after changing cables now the bike wouldn’t start. No matter how far we pushed it down the mountain it never started again. Electrical problem. (Turned out to be the magneto.) Anyway, I ended up towing Chris all the way down the frigging mountain with tie downs!! And it got dark. Jeeze. My headlight pointed skyward instead of towards the road. (Chris later suggested I was looking for UFO’s.) My rear wheel kicked up a rock which smacked Chris right in the eye, giving him a black eye.

Back in town it was Party Night. The danzas danced thru town weaving their way to a designated houses, where food and drink was served to all who followed. Anybody could follow and would be welcome. Or just drop in. John and I dropped into one party, we were offered beer and food. A band was playing quechua music and the dancers danced without masks. Each one had a stuffed vicuna slung over his shoulder.

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Old 02-13-2010, 03:38 AM   #22
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Nice pictures

Peru' must be a beutiful place to visit!

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Old 02-13-2010, 06:12 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dr LC8
Nice pictures

Peru' must be a beutiful place to visit!

Well thank you Nicola, and I hope you get to see it South America soon.
Wow. Looks like I need to see Madagascar.
And then the PHOTOS! Holy crap, woman. Those are some fantastic pictures!!

I love this site. Always discovering new possiblities and like minded people.
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Old 02-13-2010, 11:57 AM   #24
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Location: Riverside County, California.
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Peru 2003


Nice RR. Peru is next on my SA rides (having done Chilian and Argentinan Patagonia).

One could spend a lifetime exploring the Great South America.

I'll be watching for more of your journey.

Thanks for sharing


PS: What else you have stuffed away in your vaults?
04 HONDA CRF 230 F
08 KTM 450 EXC (R)

"We are all going to die of something if we live long enough!." My Father
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Old 02-13-2010, 05:36 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Jedediah
One could spend a lifetime exploring the Great South America.
I'll be watching for more of your journey.
Thanks for sharing
Thanks Jed.
Now how come I don't see a ride report on Chile, Argentina, Patagonia and TDF??
I've been threatening to go to Chile for years. I'd appreciate any input. Ride report??
Originally Posted by Jedediah
PS: What else you have stuffed away in your vaults?
Lol. Oh maybe I can come up with something. Lots of stories, just not all centered on motorcycles.
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Old 02-13-2010, 05:59 PM   #26
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Good stuff

Needs to be added to the Latin America reference thread down in Regionals.
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Old 02-13-2010, 07:35 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Throttlemeister
Good stuff
Thanks Señor.

Originally Posted by Throttlemeister
Needs to be added to the Latin America reference thread down in Regionals.
I'm kool with that.
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Old 02-13-2010, 09:53 PM   #28
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The Cloud Forest

Tres Cruces
We slept at our new campsite in the school yard. But only for a few hours because John & I were up at 1:15am in preparation for the 2 am bus ride to Tres Cruces. We walk across town at 2 am and parties are still in full swing. There is a general public drinking session at the main square, not associated with any particular danza.

The sunrise at Tres Cruces was interesting and appreciably cold, even though the eastern horizon was clouded over. At least we were above the clouds this time, the surrounding mountains poking thru the cloud deck like islands on a grey sea.

The Cloud Forest Trail
“Come on John, it’ll be fun!”
A sign indicated a walking trail led 11 km downhill to "La Union" on the eastern side of the mountain, the side away from Paucartambo. The trail supposedly intersected the road connecting Paucartambo and the Manu Reserve, further out in the Amazonian basin, at La Union; La Union being nothing but a place name along the road. John put up a weak resistance asking silly questions like “Now how long will it take? Is the trail well marked? Are you sure?” Off we go, trekking down the treeless tundra hills.

Into the cloud forest. More like a forest of moss.

Moss and bromeliads covered everything, and the trail became a cut in the mountain.

The trail became a channel with walls 6′ high, then 12′, then 30′, then tunnels. There were LOTS of tunnels thru the vegetation. Aerial roots like maidenhair hung down, the tunnels got longer and darker, until we were crawling on our hands and knees through damp darkness. Indiana Jones had nothing on us. I’m thinking, I’m gettin’ too old for this shit. This went on for 7 ½ hours!!! God what a trek. Everything was dripping drops of water and we were eventually soaked.

The worse part was not knowing how much further we had to go. 11km. Isn’t that a bit further than a 10k run??

The vegetation changed into weird fern trees and bamboo. The tunnels got ridiculously long and dark. Muddy and wet. Every now and then the trail broke into the open, into a field of ferns which covered the trail completely.

We got pretty tired. We were in the clouds, the atmosphere itself dripping. Totally exhausted, we rested, but I was too worried about having to spend the night out there.
Im thinking, “If we have to spend the night out here, we’re in trouble.”

Trudging on, finally we found an old sign that stated “11 km”. The trail was supposed to be 11 km long, but here we were at the 11km mark and everything looked exactly as it had for the last 6 ½ hrs. Little did we know we had another whole hour to go.

At one point we found a lookout, I could hear a river, the Pillcopata River. Thru the fog, looking straight down I could discern the river. There it was. I could see the rapids, it looked like about another 1600′ straight down! And the road??
“Where the fuck is the road?!”

Tendrils of desperation sought foothold within my chest. Suddenly we burst out of the trees onto the blessed road, the river still far below in the fog. There was nothing there but the road.

Finally, onto the blessed road

The road to Pilcopata at La Union

Drenched but happy to be out of the forest, after 7½ hour hike, we spread out on the side of the road. I put on the only dry clothes I have, my longjohns.

We were drenched, but happy. At least we were on a road. Acutely aware that when the sun goes down temps will drop and we are mostly wet. A van passes headed the wrong way, mas adentro, further into the jungle. Its a tour guide and 3 Dutch birder tourists. Before they leave we see a Motmot bird thru a birder's telescope.

2 hrs later we catch a ride with the first vehicle to pass heading back to Paucartambo, a Expediciones Manu van, returning to town empty after depositing tourists at a nearby cloud forest lodge.

The Bike from Hell
We arrived back in Paucartambo after dark, glad we hadn’t had to ride back over the pass in the back of some flat-bed truck. The festival was winding down somewhat. Most people were either gone or leaving. A crowd of modern buses idled on the main drag. “Cuzco Cuzco Cuzco!” the ayudantes shouted from the open doors of the buses.

We found a hotel room for $3 each. Very basic but hugely welcome. We had a room, beds, a lock for the door and a courtyard for our bikes. Hot water, although promised, looked doubtful. No private bath. We made the move from the campground to the hotel.

At the campgrounds we ran into Chris. He was pretty upset with the whole deal. He was a pretty interesting guy with a good sense of humor. 32 years old he was an independent tour conductor who does tours for Italians all over Peru and South America. Also works with motorcycle tours. He’d been hired by Juan Carlos, at a fraction of what we were paying for his services, and had not been allowed to bring his own motorcycle because if he did, Juan Carlos would have had to pay him double, for the use of his bike as well as his services. So he had been delivered the Bike-From-Hell, the bike that gave up the ghost, at 11pm the night before he was to meet us in Ollanta the next morning. While we were hiking the Cloud Forest trail he had tried in vain to restart the bike, consulting the only mechanic in town, and been told over the phone by Juan Carlos that “oh, yeah..., there is this bad magneto problem,” and finally in disgust he had sent the bike back to Cuzco on a truck, fuming about the screw job from Juan Carlos. Caught in the crossfire. After dinner he bid us good luck in our travels and boarded a bus back to Cuzco. John and I were on our own again.

We put out all our wet things to dry before dying in bed.

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Old 02-14-2010, 08:13 AM   #29
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Last day in Paucartambo
Slept warm last night under multiple blankets. Clothes almost dry.

Our humble hotel

Jugos Jugos Jugos. Camisero,” was the cry. Papaya & orange juice - 2½ soles each. (Can anyone tell me what "camisero" implies?)

Today we finally left Paucartambo. We were on our own. Headed for Quillabamba.
Dances were still going on.

Some dancers were getting dressed in the courtyard of our hotel.

Before we left we ran into Quispe Cos on the street.
“I need my pants” I told him flatly.
No he visto” (I haven’t seen them) he replied.
I wanted to slap him. I felt like going to the police just across the street but didn’t want the hassle.

Many different potatoes

John’s little “get-off”
We made Pisaq in 3 ½ hrs including stops. Juan Carlos and Chris had assured us it would take five.
I told John to lead.
“Just go at your own pace, I’ll be along but way back, I don’t want to eat your dust.”

13,000′ Abra Wachoq pass, with moto. Between Paucartambo and Pisac.

Everyone, expecially school kids, wave and cheer us on as we go by. Arid pass at Abra Wachoq. Houses made of raw adobe. Wheat farming down in the valleys and hillsides. Agriculture on a personal level.

A small town on the way to Pisaq

John crashed the 600 cc Honda XR about 3 hrs into the trip, near Quisquicucho. Got a little cocky, going too fast, not paying attention, (you know the drill), got too close to the edge of a cliff and freaked, hit the front brake, dropped it hard. Was stuck under the bike for a few moments, banged himself up pretty good. At least he didn’t go over the cliff. Had a little squirter, a busted arteriole that caused a little excitement. Skinned one knee and punctured the other shin with the toothed foot peg.

View from John’s crash site

John’s injuries put a new slant on the trip. Now we would head for Quillabamba for sure, instead of the Lares pass. It was after 4, late in the day, too late to make Amparaes. Plus, the weather is cold. We’ll stay down in Pisaq (9,000 feet). We are one day behind schedule, due mainly to the cloud forest trek.

Arrived in Pisaq, took a hotel on the plaza, found a pharmacy, bandaged John up.

The Hostal Pisaq is a nice German owned 1-star hostal, $10 per person with a shared bath. With San Pedro cactus growing in the courtyard. And best of all, hot showers!!! My first bath since Cuzco. (!)

The Pisaq ruins on the mountain to the right, and the asphalt road linking the town to the ruins entrance

A very blurry photo of John shortly after arriving at Pisaq's main plaza. Surrounded by vendors and the curious, he gets his boots shined.

Pisaq Party
Did I mention that it was Party Time in Pisaq as well? Oh yeah.

We are on the Festival Trail now.

Here in Pisaq the same Festival of the Virgin Carmen is going on, lagging about a day behind Paucartambo. Masked dancers parading all over and around town. Music everywhere. There must’ve been 4-5 parades down the narrow street outside the internet shop while I was there. They’re not really parades because the streets are too narrow for anyone to stand and watch. The dancers just walk around you.

It’s the same festival only a little different and slightly more civilized. Since the festival dates fell on weekdays when everyone worked, Pisaq postponed their party night until Friday night. We saw a lot of the same dancing group-themes that we’d seen in Paucartambo, with the same costumes and masks, and then some different ones.

And here, the danzas hold their parties on the streets, not in private homes, each doing their best to be as ostentatious as possible, trying to outdo one another. I counted a 17-piece horn band at one party, a band in the square is playing electric samba with shimmying go-go girls in white satin loin cloths and bikini tops. Pretty cool.

The plaza is filled with people and occasionally a danza will come down a street and parade thru the crowd in the plaza. In front of our hotel on the main square is a long table extending half the length of one side of the square, full of drink and dinner. In the old style outdoor bakery across the street, where I stored the bikes, I saw about 100 roasted guinea pigs coming out of the oven.

Four different groups had their party in the main plaza that night. Each with its own electric sound stage so you had 4 bands playing at the same time, an incredible cacophony. All this right outside our hotel so we had an earful of the music. It was booming. ‘Cept you couldn’t make out an actual tune cause you were hearing 4 bands at once. The last band quit at 5am, and when it did, the abrupt silence woke us up.

Well, signing off for now. Who knows what the future will bring. Either I leave John in a suitable spot or duct tape him up, feed him pain meds and put him on the bike. Possibly he could bus it. Open wounds are a no-no in the jungle. Next stop? Quillabamba.

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Old 02-14-2010, 11:46 PM   #30
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Well, we made it to Quilla. Pretty tough trip. Plan on heading “mas adentro” (further in) tomorrow, God willing.

A pause in Ollanta
Pisaq. Early Saturday morning, out on the hotel balcony, the sweet smell of urine and beer wafted up from the battle ground plaza below. The cleanup crew was at it, armed with bush branches, sweeping the scene.

Pisaq's main plaza from the hotel balcony

Pack our things.
Make some minor adjustments to one of the bikes; the passenger peg was bent back into the chain.

The wind was up, sky cloudy, intermittent sprinkle, up above, the mountain tops seemed to spawn dark clouds. The weather has been deteriorating for the last three days.

Down the Sacred Valley, on asphalt, past Calca. In Urubamba we stopped at a pharmacy and got John all fixed up for the “jungle”. Hydrogen peroxide (that hadn’t lost it’s potency), pain meds, penicillin capsules, and a tetanus shot, all right there at the same pharmacy. Redressed the wounds, not too bad. He does have a stiff knee however. The toothed foot peg was the culprit of the cut on the shin, which seemed the least of our worries.

It was noon by the time we left the pharmacy and headed back down to the far end of the Sacred Valley, back to Ollanta, the jumping off place for Quillabamba (as well as Machu Picchu). After gassing up, we left Ollanta’s pavement and headed out onto dirt road. We didn’t get very far.

A short distance down the Urubamba River from Ollanta the road heads up an accessory valley to the pass. The weather up ahead in this valley looked nasty. I made a judgment call and called off the attempt.
“It makes no sense to try it today,” I shouted over the sound of the motos. “We’re not prepared for this. Look at it up ahead and we’re still at low altitude.”
Rain filled the valley sky above us.

Back to Ollanta, suddenly with nothing to do, the weather windy, rainy and cold. We ate surprisingly good cheeseburgers followed by ice cream sundaes. After lunch there were trucks lined up waiting to make for the pass and Quillabamba (the road temporarily closed for construction).

“When do you plan to arrive in Quillabamba,” I asked one of the truck drivers?
“Tomorrow, at 6 in the morning.”
John suggested we put the bikes in one of the trucks and get a ride to Quillabamba.
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that, John.”

We took a room for $4.50 each, and did a really cool trip up another side valley, the Patacancha. We only traveled 15 km up this valley but it was amazing in that the Indians living along the way were the real thing. The women wore little cupcake-shaped hats sideways on their head, the men wore bright orange ponchos with flat little pancake like hats. I saw faces that I’d only seen on postcards. On the road between Pisaq and Paucartambo, everyone had waived at us, the school kids even cheered us on. Here the people just looked at us dumbstruck. Some Indian girls in full dress herded goats silently along the road, around our bikes.

A photo I stole off the 'net: Women of the Patacancha valley

We really wanted to keep on going the rest of the 30 km of the road, but it was late in the day and getting colder. We noticed the mountains above us were dusted with fresh snow. (Good call, Otto). Indeed, it was snowing up in the pass. The trucks that left that afternoon spent the night at the top of the pass, unable to move on.

After the ride up the Patacancha I caught a chill and couldn’t feel warm again for the rest of the evening, even wearing everything I had with me. The electricity for the whole town went out early on and I said to hell with it, I’m going to bed. Under 4 wool blankets I was finally comfortable, if exhausted. Asleep by 8.

Over the pass to Quillabamba
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Sunday, Ollantaytambo.
Today we were going over the pass, raining or not. We were up at 6am, bikes were hard to start this mornng. I have to start both of them now, as John’s right knee is too stiff. We didn’t get out of Ollanta until 8am. The weather was good, but partly cloudy and the highest peaks were covered with snow clouds.

Leaving the Urubamba river, heading for the pass

There was a major effort underway to improve the road to Quillabamba, somewhat on a scale with the American moon project. I'm afraid this road may be paved soon.

EDIT: And indeed it has, as reported by Boyscout at Machu Pichu, the alternate route.

Notice the road switchbacking up the mountainside in the center of the image below.

A place called Peñas, awesome

There was snow at the top of the 14,156′ pass, Abra Málaga, left over from yesterday, we had to ride about a km or so in the snow.

Abra Málaga (14,158′ alt.) over my left sholder, the road below

Top of the pass. Notice the baby on the lady’s back peaking out at the camera.

On the other side of the pass, the jungle side, the view was awesome blues and purples, mountain ranges in the distance, clear skies, the bad weather was all at the highest mountain peaks only. The change on the other side was abrupt. Gone were the highlands and the highland Indians. We passed tundra, then cloud forest (we recognized it right off) and soon started feeling warm air. Our bikes started idling at higher rpm’s. The mountain peak, Veronica, was really close, but obscured by clouds, which disappointed me. That’s the 2nd time I’ve been thru here and still not seen it up close.

Descent to the lowlands

We stopped and watched a crew hauling a flatbed truck up from the abyss, by hand. The truck had plunged off the side of the road and amazingly not gone all the way down. A crew of about 10 had some pretty interesting gear, chains and giant pulleys attached to huge tree trunks they had planted as their brace on the opposite side of the road, against the hillside. They had been at it for 6 days and had pulled the flatbed truck itself up onto the road and were in the process of pulling up the box, the wooden side rails and stuff. It looked as if they were repairing the crashed truck on the spot, and were planning on driving it out of there.

Truck mishap

I had a flat front tire and by another incredible stroke of luck, we were only 3 km from possibly the only tireman we’d seen since the Sacred Valley. He did a primo job, asked for $1.20 for the patch job, I paid him $2.10. Keep the change. The whole episode ate up 2 hrs however.

Tire man

Family at the tire place

The rest of the way was fairly uneventful, but long. The road was rough and there was lots of truck/bus traffic that whipped up immense dust clouds. Just before leaving the valley of our descent from Malagra pass, turning onto the Urubamba Valley for Quillabamba, I glanced back up towards where we’d been and caught a glimpse of pyramidal Veronica in full glory, but very far away. The storm clouds had passed.

10 hrs on the road and we were finally in Quillabamba. Last January Linda and I did the same trip in 5 hours, riding double. I’m still trying to figure out why it took us so long, today.

Quillabamba. At 35,000 people, this is the biggest town we’ve seen since leaving Cuzco. At last I get to remove the long john bottoms I’ve been wearing ever since we arrived. Whew! Down to blue jeans and tee-shirts. No jackets! It’s tropical here, 3520’ elevation. The town is a jumping little place. The Don Carlos Hotel is nice. It’s been a long day. I have no idea what’s ahead but suspect that we are headed into no-Internet territory. We plan on going to Ketini on the Urubamba tomorrow, and try to arrange a boat trip to the Pongo de Manique, then return to Cuzco over another pass.

T-shirt weather. Unloading coffee beans in Quillabamba.

Drying coffee beans in Quillabamba

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