LA to BA
UPDATE 9, Cusco, Peru, April 7, 2001.
This is the story of how we ate our way out of Huaraz, gave a dog a huge headache, made a pit stop in Lima, met a blue-eyed angel in the Nazca desert, how we froze on our way to Cusco, how Gonzalo spent his birthday on the toilet shitting and vomiting (sometimes simultaneously), how we helped two Norwegian tourists who were strangled unconscious and robbed and how we finally made it to the Sacred Valley.
If this is something for you, read on.
Well, most people go to the Callejon the Huaylas in Central Peru for the hiking. We must shamefully admit that we had none of that. Instead we ate.
And ate some more. When we found out that this Swiss guy had a restaurant serving Argentine meat, we left behind all our dreams of ever being vegetarians, forgot about the high price and just ate like we had not done in months. After two days of constant nourishment we never felt so athletic. We looked up at the mountains in the distance (clouds permitting) and had some fantastic dreams of hiking them as we slept. I think Gonzalo conquered several impressive peaks during the night.
But, as the rain would not cease, we decided to once again head towards the desert. We where so anxious for a little warmth that this time Gonzalo had problems out-manouvering the usual packs of dogs that attack motorcycles from the side of the road. This time two hounds came simultaneously, one from each side, at right angles to the motorcycle. It was either us or them. We missed one, but their was no chance in hell that Gonzalo could flex our African tank into a living spaghetti and avoid the other beast. BANG! it went. The poor animal got a Touratech side box right on its head.
When Gonzalo heard the squealing he just accelerated, none of us were really in the mood to assess the damage. We just prefer to think he got a bad headache, at the worst a migraine.
Having read of how many get stuck in Lima's horrendous downtown traffic, we manoeuvred stealthily through some sideways and byways, all courtesy of the Lima police department. By asking all the patrol cars we saw standing on the side of the road, we got to the residential neighbourhood of Miraflores in one quick move. The next 36 hrs. were spent looking for new tires which of course were not available. By driving everybody crazy and taking taxis from one place to the other, Gonzalo finally found something that would do the job. We then resorted to an old trick we learned in Bolivia. When new brake pads are not available and/or the replacements cost 50 US dollars, have new ones made for just 5. What these guys do is scrape off what's left of the old ones, cut a piece of new metal compound and bake-it back on in a ceramic oven. Popular ingenuity never ceases. That's how all these countries get around a perpetual absence of spare parts.
But Lima was taking a serious toll on our budget, so we decided to run again into the desert. In the Nazca desert the trip regained a lot of its magic.
We were standing on a watchtower looking out into the desert sunset and some of the Nazca-lines. Up come a pair of incredibly kind blue-green eyes.
A fisherman driving a 30 year-old small Honda motorcycle. To this day we believe he is one of those souls who for some reason or another is sent to you. He had no other reason to climb the tower than to talk to us. Maybe to teach us something. Probably a lesson in humility. This man was part Nazca Indian, part Spanish. Listen to the story: his great grand father was a Royalist fighting against the Peruvian separatists who wanted freedom from the crown. He was slain in battle near Nazca. It was the Nazca Indians, particularly the women, who had to bury the dead. As this little Nazca woman was dragging a dead soldier by his boots, the dead guy starts moaning.
He was alive. The kind hearted woman kept quiet and hid the man in her house. A love story followed, the woman got pregnant and before giving birth the soldier was once again called to defend the crown never to be seen again. Our friend with the green-eyes and the very dark skin, whose nickname was Capacha, had been run down by a car on his motorcycle by a car and left to die in the desert. Not even the doctors had much hope for him.
But he made it, and here he was telling us what he considered to be important in life. And you know what? I think he was right. The lesson sank in.
Crossing from the desert to Cuzco was tough. We got bombarded with hail and Nina turned blue. We were rescued by a poor woman who gave us shelter in her adobe home. We slept like small piglets, surrounded by smelly sheep skins, onions, potatoes, horse saddles and many posters of former President and big-time crook Alberto Fujimori.
Gonzalo woke up the next morning with an intense need to move his bowels. He asked for the toilet. "Over there," said Ana, our host. He went in. He looked down at the hole. It was about 12 cm in diameter and although Gonzalo has gotten very good at going to the toilet in the wild, there was no way he could possibly not miss. There was no water because of a landslide which had cut the entire supply of the village. This would have made matters even more embarrassing. Gonzalo tightened his buttocks, walked out, and jumped on the motorcycle.
When we finally arrived in Cusco, Gonzalo did make it to the toilet. And he spent the next 48 hrs. on it. Including his birthday. It was a simultaneous cascade from every orifice. The perils of eating bad meat.
Nina tried to cheer things up by showing up with an ice cold bottle of champagne, a luxury on this trip. Gonzalo returned the nice gesture by running into the bathroom and throwing up on the wall. Sooorry.
But things lightened up. Despite the hoards of sellers, beggars, scoundrels and thieves, Cuzco is Peru! That's what a Quechua Indian told us and she was right. The Incas considered Cusco the navel of the world and they could not have chosen a better place to build their capital. The Sacred Valley surrounding the capital is one of the most beautiful and most mystical places on earth we have visited. We have been taking our time going in an out, up and down, visiting every ruin we could come to and let us say: if we where already fascinated by the Incas before we came, we are now absolutely awed by them. These people clearly had a way of thinking which we should have preserved instead of so brutishly destroying. We would have had a lot to gain. They seem to have been at one with their environment and the cosmos. Instead, we seem only to be able to create conflict with it.
The next adventure commenced when we returned to our hotel and found two crying, shaking, hysterical Norwegian nurses. They had been fooled, strangled, left unconscious and sacked on a Cusco side street on a beautiful sunny day, only 4 blocks from the police station. After helping them cancel their multiple credit cards, we accompanied them to the police station to file the event.
Gonzalo started by pissing off all the policemen present by bluntly telling them they were a bunch of wankers. Not exactly in those terms but that's exactly what it boiled down to. Gonzalo's love of policemen is evident. We were told to come back later. Gonzalo officiated as translator and the police typed up a report which, after reading through it, seemed like the FBI, the CIA, Interpol, and the KGB all in one fantastic sweep would find the culprits and give them due punishment.
Gonzalo reassured the panic-stricken girls by telling them not to expect a single police initiative. As usual the cops would not do jack shit. Nevertheless, Gonzalo suggested the two girls take a couple of ours off the next day to look at mug shots and if necessary have a sketch made of the the 3 violent assailants. Gonzalo finally had to put his own fingerprint on all the documents as if that would make things more official. Thank god it was not a check because it would surely bounce.
The next day we made into the Sacred Valley. And after seeing the ruins of Pisac we were more than convinced that this was the correct place to spend our time. Since then we have hiked up and down the hills, wondering at all that the Incas hid from profane eyes. Yes, we visited Machu Picchu by taking the "short" Inca trail, a beautiful 2 day hike from the Vilcanota river and the valley below. Yesterday we went to the town of Maras and saw the pre-Inca salt evaporation pools and spent the most fantastic sunset hanging out with very young sheep shepherds as we saw the Sacred valley shine in an afternoon glow that was almost religious.
Hope you all survived this update.
Rikunashish Kama (until we meet again in Quechua)
Gonzalo and Nina
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