Thursday, January 3, 2013

Peru..landslides, getting lost, Cusco, Machu Picchu

A Very Happy New Year to friends near and far.

I have to confess to awful naivete when it comes to many geographical matters. I'm ashamed to say that I did not know that the Amazon rose in Peru, or even that is where Machu Picchu was there. But I did know that the Andes went down through it and that I was going to have a lot of adventures on   Peru's roads....

 Almost immediately one crosses the border into Peru from Ecuador on the Pan-American Highway, desert is all around you and can monotonously be one's companion for thousands of miles down to Chile if one so wishes.
My initial planned route to Cusco
  I had a vague plan to try and turn off the main road into the mountains as early as possible. There is, according to Mr Google, a route through that I thought would be fabulous to do.  My aim was to reach Cusco for Christmas, where I knew there would be few likely lads to meet up with. Cusco on the map looks relatively straightforward and even going the mountain roads rather than the faster coast route should be more than doable in the 10 days or so that I had.

 So off I set. Preparing oneself for natural beauty is a folly, either it exceeds it or you are disappointed. I suppose the Himalayas had always taken the crown as far as my gauge was concerned but I have to say that what I've seen so far in Peru, the Andes are breathtakingly beautiful as well. Along with the natural beauty, the people you meet high up and along the roads are the same hardy folk that altitudes above 3000 m seem to generate. Generous to a fault and delighted  to share what they and countless  generations before them have had as their home.

  The roads are only partially paved. Batty took hundreds of miles of bashing and bumping  along gravel and mud tracks at speeds between 5 miles an hour and 20 miles an hour. Slow progress but not a moment  of tedium as one was always surrounded by breathtaking views.
 A couple of guys who insisted I joined them for beer after a long day.

  It was just around the corner from this shot, that I came across some road workers who told me that the landslip had blocked the road and there was no way to get around it. It was slightly depressing news as it was going to take me another day to backtrack on to the Pan-American Road. I was fairly philosophical given the beauty of my surroundings, and it was just a way of seeing the same treasures again.
 A local mechanic enjoying sorting out Batty's rear brake lever and the foot peg, both of whom had failed on the rough roads

 Ceviche, lunch doesn't come much better than this.

 I was pretty confident that having spent a day driving on good roads by the coast and then pretty good roads heading inland I was going to make up time. And all was going well until my Spanish seem to confuse the people I was asking clarifications on.  Apparently Huanuco sounds just like a  small village five hours north of it. The GPS was no use on these roads and had no knowledge of them, a Google map I had saved only told me limited information. I eventually ended up in a very humble village and set off at 7 o'clock the next morning to do the first of four days of between 10 and 14 hours to get to Cusco for Christmas.

 The distance weren't all that great, but the roads only allowed a pretty gentle pace, everywhere was fantastically beautiful, and in spite of the rain that had me soaks most days, they were some of the  funnest and most exciting days of the trip.

 I find it rather emotional when I see a mountain being systematically chopped down/mined. Peru is going through the economic expansion, much of which is being fueled by many Chinese companies buying mineral rights. Of course there are many who benefit from the revenues, and I am sure there are many educational and health benefits provided locally. It's just the idea that it will never be seen again and the thousands of years of history that a mountain has, just goes.

 I drove Batty into a flood, thinking that it was not too deep, but this picture doesn't show is the 2 foot gully to the right of her that I drove straight into. I was kindly helped out by a local hero and after two hours the engine eventually started again. Wet boots

Sean Dillon,  riding his C 90 Honda,, from the Arctic Circle in Alaska to possibly Antarctica. He is travelling with his brothers Gavin and various others, such as Ben who I met at the border, Gordon and Taka.  All great fun and have contributed greatly to my enjoyment of Cusco
The day before I arrived in Cusco, I received two emails. One was from Aaron and Serafina saying that they had arrived and where they were staying, also that there was a guy called Glen who was interested in my trip. The second email was from Glen, saying that he had come across the blog and was interested in meeting up. This turned out to be very fortuitous as Glen is grt company and he has a phenomenal knowledge of Cusco and South America in general, having been a regular for the last 20 years.

We met up and he introduced to me or showed me all that I needed. This included the best places to drink and eat in the city and it has really made my 9 days here all the more enjoyable. The other bonus whilst I've been here has been staying at the Wild Rover hostel, which is extremely high octane and a great melting pot for travelers. They had a great Christmas lunch and a wicked New Year's Eve party that will live on in my memory for a long time.
 Richard was recommended to me by Jeff who has a famous bar called Norton Rat. All bikers who are doing long-distance journeys in Cusco meet up there. Batty needed some new front disc pads and adjustments to the gearbox, and a new battery. All of which Richard swiftly dealt with.

 This is Glen taking one of his extraordinary panoramic photographs at a site called Sacsayhuaman which is one of many sites we saw around Cusco on a tour. Although Glen had been to many of these sites before, his appetite for all things Inca has no bounds, so I was the beneficiary of all his extra knowledge that our guide did not cover.


We took a bus and a train to the Aqua Calientes, the small town that services all the tourists (1000 a day plus) that go to Machu Picchu. There was an option to ride but I'm afraid my ass had not yet recovered from the drive to Cusco. There was also the slight disincentive that poor Taka had been knocked off his bike crossing a dangerously flooded ford on his way back from Machu Picchu the day before. Although he was fine, his bike has taken a lot of hassle to put right.

Aqua Calientes

Glen and H

  I guess that the day at Machu Picchu will be one of my most treasured on the trip.  It is an extraordinary place in an extraordinary setting. The idea that 700 people lived on this mountain edge for the dual purpose of providing the King of the Incas a summer palace, and providing a perfect spot to get excited about when the sun is in solstice twice a year.
The walking up option is 1 1/2 hours up these steps...starting at 6am...or you can take the shuttle buses. I really enjoyed walking down them at the end of the day....
Cusco on New Years eve....the central square was still buzzing at 7am the next day
 I am now off on a few days journey to the Amazon. I will leave Batty here and take public transport, before a boat becomes essential. The trip has been organised by John, another South American old-timer and friend of Glen's. Great company the two of them, and Paddy's bar a fine hostelry in the middle of South America, to host us. Today Glen made a short video/interview of me. He is making a documentary of his own journey through South America on a motorcycle and interviewing those he comes across as are doing interesting things (in his opinion). His Blog of all his travels, interviews and book reviews is: