Day 113, 18,500km
The guys have got their mojo back. That’s what Jim told me as we joined the Pan American Highway this morning. So what had brought about this change in Jim and Bertie. Since 11th January we had been travelling at an altitude of between 2,400 meters and 4,800 meters and this has continued through Bolivia and our entry into Peru. Our first major stop in Peru was Cusco, 2 days ride from the border and our first night was spent in a little town called Lampa where we were treated to the most basic of accommodation at $11 for the night but the friendliest of welcomes from the local people.
Cusco has a beautiful historical centre which was not marred by the almost constant rain over the 2 days we were there. Whilst we regard ourselves as travellers the ticket touts and restaurants see us as tourists and it is quite wearing but our fixed smiles and ‘no gracias’ got us through the most persistent of them. Treats came in the form of a group of youngsters performing traditional dances in the cold and rain on the cathedral steps Video here http://youtu.be/YQXIjzl-Ahs and the discovery of the famous ‘Norton Rats’ bar, popular with visiting bikers. Oh, and a bag from a chap making them on a Singer treadle sewing machine. Well a girl can never have too many bags.
At this point we needed to make a decision, to continue at altitude or to take the road to Nazca and drop down to the coast. Given that it is the rainy season here, and Jim had been feeling unwell for almost 4 weeks, we opted for the road to Nazca which would take 2 days. It was a good call. The following 2 days provided some of the most spectacular riding with rivers to follow, rising to 4,500 meters, across desolate plateau, dodging landslips and riding through the water run offs from the mountains, above the clouds and through the clouds. In the case of Cusco to Abancay on the first day the cloud was a wet one and it was a slow descent in poor visibility and little in the way of road markings. By contrast on day 2 the descent to Nazca was a ‘dry cloud’ and we followed a lorry down very slowly. As the mist cleared we were able to fully appreciate (or not, in my case) the sheer drops to the side of us as the desert landscape began to unfold and the temperatures and humidity rose.
A days rest in Nazca was welcome after such a long and tiring day of riding and was where we bumped into Rhys who was aiming at 23 to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the world by moto and to set a record the greatest number of consecutive capital cities. So check out the Guinness Book of Records next year.
Now down closer to sea level, Jim’s health immediately improved as did Bertie’s performance as we headed for Lima on the PanAm. We also met up with more traffic than we had seen in a while, together with the heat and desert landscape. A stopover in Pisco, Peru’s claim to the famous Pisco sour and tasting of said beverage fortified us for the push to Lima.
Having met 3 bikers in 3 days who all declared we should take care in Lima, I for one was not relishing the prospect, but we wanted to visit the British Cemetery where Jim’s grandfather was buried so Lima it was. The hostal arranged a taxi for us as the cemetery is located in Callao where we were advised it was a no go area on our own. It was a good call not just from a safety aspect but without Miguel our driver we would not have found it. When the correct cemetery had been located they declared he was not buried there. Turned out to be a transcribing error and when the custodian of the cemetery saw the picture we had from the internet he knew exactly the right grave. It was a very poignant moment for us and I think Miguel was quite choked up too. The guide book says that you don’t tip taxi drivers and he could so easily have sat in his taxi and waited but his kindness and perseverance with both officials and the mob of flower sellers on our behalf helped to reinforce for us what this journey is about……people.