Peru
May 21, 2007 GMT
La Paz to Lima, con pillion...

This section of the blog is written from another point of view, including a good one of the back of Peter’s helmet. Yep – I was pillion for a month and he’s asked me to update the blog for him to give a fresh perspective. It’s the least I can do following such a great trip.

To introduce myself, I am Harriet Adams and met Pete in London.

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Secretly, last year I hoped to gatecrash his trip, and in February I got invited. Yipee! Just a few weeks later, after buying and borrowing all the gear, on 17th April I arrived in La Paz. There at the airport was Pete looking like a big tomato after 3 weeks by the beach in Iquique. It was great to see him after 6 months.


La Paz stands at 3600m and on the road down from the airport you get breathtaking views of the city. The altitude also takes your breath away, especially walking up the steep streets. Pete should have acclimatised already but I’m sure his panting wasn’t related to smoking and drinking too much.


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La Paz

Impressions of La Paz:
· A city at the bottom of a huge bowl with steep narrow streets full of
one way traffic, mainly taxis
· Police in helmets blowing whistles to control traffic where light not
working, several at each junction
· Buses with a conductor shouting out the destination, no written
indications whatsoever. No idea how passengers know where to wait
for their bus.
· Lots of pollution
· Fried chicken shops, shoe shops, nice pedestrian streets with market
sellers (the fake Duracell batteries don’t power a digital camera)
· Clean streets and good street cleaners
· Women with long plaits in traditional dress carrying children or wares
in the stripy cloth seen everywhere in Bolivia, tied round their
shoulders.


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· Main market a maze of alleyways selling clothes, shoes and stall after
stall of brightly coloured wool – knitter’s paradise.
· Temperature warm in the sun, cool in the shade and at night.
· Phil Collins making a comeback with his “But Seriously” album.


There was a modern shopping centre and that’s where we found Pete a funky pair of blue and orange combat trousers that unzip into shorts, in preparation for the jungle trip we booked to Rurrenebaque.


Bike fans – no bikes yet. The road to Rurenebaque is 20 hours worth of dirt track and Pete decided he’d rather fly, to my relief. The flight was delayed by 1 ½ days due to rain in the jungle. They have a grass runway so the plane would have sunk in a bog on touchdown. Tiny aircraft – only a 12 seater, and we got incredible views.

The humidity was a stark contrast to the crisp air of La Paz. After a night in Rurenebaque, the next day we were driven in a jeep to Pampas, the venue of our wildlife tour. Pete, myself, Julia and Daniel (a kiwi couple) endured a 3 ½ hour bumpy ride along a dusty dirt track. Stopped at one point to observe a sloth which looked like it was moving in slow motion.

Our 3 day stay in the jungle was heaven. Much of it was spent lounging on comfy deck chairs on a boat being motored up and down the Urambamba river spotting wildlife. There was great excitement every time we saw a monkey, camen (alligator type creature) or dolphin. Slightly less excitement reserved for the wonderful birds…snail kite hawkes, grey and black hawkes, turkey vultures, all sorts. Here are a couple of monkeys:


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A Squirel Monkey... yesterday

Back to La Paz, and then my first long distance bike ride, to Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca. We encountered some trouble leaving La Paz, up at the top by the airport. There were no road signs anywhere, just swarms of people selling wares at every junction. Pete cleverly manoeuvred the bike round them all in the chaos and eventually worked out the way by asking a few people who all contradicted each other. Dogs chased us while barking frantically and trying to bite my leg off.


Copacabana wasn’t that interesting, just a small beach with a few cafes selling junk food, and some bad weather. Accomodation wise we took Lonely Planet's splurge option which set a precedent for a whole lot more splurging. Well, we’re not travelling on daddy’s money in our gap year. I got robbed in La Paz so actually I travelled on Pete’s money…thanks Pete ;-)


The next day we headed from Bolivia into Peru. Several offices, one "bribe" (okay, we gave the guy $1 to help "paint the office") and a couple of shoe shines later, we followed Rene, a biker from Ecuador, to Puno. Once there, I couldn’t work out where our hotel was on the map. Rene befriended some cops on our behalf and they lead us through Puno to our hotel, cool! Except it didn't have suitable bike parking. Then Pete was suddenly greeted by an old biker friend he’d met before, who was just walking down the street. It was Steve from South Africa on a 150cc bike he bought out there. Pah, Pete’s is 950cc. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on who you are, Pete’s bike doesn’t run to its full potential in the high altitude because it can’t get enough oxygen with the thin air. We could ‘only’ travel at about 130k per hour.


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Shoe shine boys

We stayed at Steve’s hotel since they were willing to accommodate the bike by allowing Pete to take the front door apart, move all the furniture and drive it up 2 steep steps into the small reception. It made a good showpiece. Felt quite important so when I took my helmet off I tried to shake my hair in sexy biker chick fashion but it didn’t work as my hair was greasy and stuck to my head.


From Puno we did an island tour. Firstly to the floating islands:


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Then 3 hours by boat to Amantani island (population 4000) where we integrated with the native islanders and stayed with a family. Tricky for me with imbecilic Spanish, but Pete’s become pretty fluent now and saved the day. Part of the package involved getting dressed up in traditional costume and going to a ‘disco’. The band comprised 4 ten year old boys playing panpipes, small stringed instruments and drums, and the dance involved holding hands in a circle and spinning round. Three beers were on sale between the 12 of us on tour, so it got pretty wild! Met a great group of tourists, Nina from Germany, a Spanish couple, a Niels from Denmark, Doran from Israel and Cypriano from Lima.


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View from the top of Amantani island


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"Look ma, no utensils!"


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Brenda and Harriet, awww bless...


In Puno I got robbed again, but after much wine and full strength Peruvian vodka at high altitude, I had my wits about me and chased the mugger up the road. I grabbed him and he gave my bag back – what a nice chap. Let this be a lesson to all travellers – do not carry a handbag.

I’m going to let Pete finish the second half of our travels together, which included the amazing Machu Picchu and ride of the lifetime in the sand dunes of Huacachina.


Thanks Pete for an amazing trip, and here’s a song I wrote about being a pillion on the back of your bike.


Sing along in the tune of “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor...


First I was afraid, I was petrified
100ks around a corner thinking off I’d slide
I’m clinging onto Peter Baird
Thinking how I am so scared
But I clung on
Because I am the pillion


I’m on the back, I know my place
I’m looking over Peter’s shoulder with a helmet on my face
The speedo reads one sixty three, and Pete shows off with a wheelie
If I let go for just one second will that be the end of me?


Oh on we go, to Equador
No turning round now, and god my arse is bloody sore
After a night out on the raz, Pete got us lost leaving La Paz
D’you think I helped him?
Oh no I didn’t even try


Oh no not I, I will survive,
As long as I stay on the back I hope I’ll stay alive
I’ve got no money to give ya
Got mugged sightseeing in Bolivia
But I’ll survive, I will survive


It took all the brains Pete had when the bike fell apart
Kept trying hard to fix the pieces of the broken part
And when we felt like pulling up expecting somewhere we could pee
If we’d have known for miles around that there was not a single tree


And you see me, in deep Peru
I am a biker chick heading for Machu Picchu
I have no products for my hair
My stuff’s all in one pannier
D’you think I’d grumble,
D’you think I need a small side car


Oh no not I, I will survive,
As long as I stay on the back I hope I’ll stay alive
I’ve got no money to give ya
Got mugged sightseeing in Bolivia
But I’ll survive, I will survive


Okay, cheers for that Harriet, glad you enjoyed the view from the back.

Cuzco is a place I’ve had in mind to visit for many years and have heard a lot about from fellow travellers and friends. Often when you hear about a place for so long then finally get there you can be dissapointed when your expectations aren’t realised. This was far from the case with Cuzco. Its a lovely, if touristy, place steeped in history and we had a great time checking out Inca ruins and generally getting right into the tourist thing.


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Cuzco

The ride to Cuzco from Puno was great fun too and, for someone so new to motorcycling, Harriet was coping really well on the back of the bike. From Cuzco we had a lovely ride through the sacred valley to Olantaytambo where we stopped for the night before getting the train to Aguas Calientes (aka, Machu Pichu village). We’d heard about a walk you could do which takes you a peak opposite Machu Pichu affording great views of the place. It was a tough walk, and steep, and the several near vertical ladders en route were quite daunting – not recomended for vertigo sufferers! After 2 hours of huffing and puffing we made it to the top and there it was in all its glory – Machu Pichu.


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Whatever you do, don't look down...


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Machu Pichu from another peak.


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Aguas Calientes

We resolved to get the first morning bus to see the sunrise over Machu Pichu. The early morning clouds conspired against us seeing the sunrise but it was great to be some of the first people up there and get some pics in sans tourists. Machu Pichu is one of those places you can tell someone about until you’re blue in the face but until you actually get up there and, dare I say it, “feel its aura” you’ll never know what its like – and as usual the pics don’t do it much justice. Resolve to go there yourself...


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I managed, finally, to buy a road map of Peru in Aguas Calientes which made the road from Cuzco to Nazca on the coast look quite straight forward. Instead what we got was a fantastic 2 day ride through the Cordillera, twisty, well sealed, rising and falling all the time. The views of the towns nestled in the bottom of valley’s from 1000-2000 meters below you were fantastic and really fun riding too. I reckon these roads rival anything the Alps have to offer. My favorite part was from Abancay 120k’s west to... (damn, I can’t remember the name of the place!) You’re riding up a valley starting at 2000 meters going up to 3000, really long lovely corners, a fast flowing river to your side and a great view of the valley, spectacular.


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4600 meters high in the Altiplano

The next day was more of the same as we again climed up onto the Andean Altiplano to 4600 meters before dropping down to Nazca. Okay so the main reason for coming to Nazca is to “do the Nazca lines” which involves a 30 minute flight in a 4 seater plane checking out these historic and important... um... lines and pictures. While they were impressive in their own way the conspiracy theorist in me couldn’t help thinking some smart Peruvian had decided they needed to spice up Nazca’s tourist industry and had gone out to the desert one day with some mates and a couple of beers and made them themselves!


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The Spider

Huacachina (150k’s north of Nazca) turned out to be one of the finds of the trip. Harriet and I had been quite active over the previous weeks so decided to chill out at this tiny desert oasis for a few days. There’s not a lot to do here except sit by the pool and ride dune buggies in the sand. The dune buggy ride we took was fantastic. There are loads of specially designed multi-seat dune buggies in town and the ride is like nothing else I’ve done before – kinda like a rollercoaster with no tracks and a bloody crazy man behind the wheel! It was myself and 6 girls on our drive which was fortunate for me as their screams drowned out my own.


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Get ready for the ride of your life!


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We were also lucky enough to meet up with a great bunch of gals in Jo, Cath and Clair whom we spent several nights over indulging with. Cheers chica’s, great to meet you all.


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As we got closer to Lima we both knew Harriet’s departure was drawing near. It really was great to see her again, check out some great sights together and share some great moments. So arriving in Lima we both felt a bit blue. Miraflores is a lovely part of Lima though so it was nice to wander around the parks and check out the coastline for a day before I rode Harriet to the airport (boy, that was a mad dash!) and a teary farewell. See you again soon...

Posted by Peter Baird at 10:25 PM GMT
 



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