March 19, 2006 GMT
16th Mar 2006 - Cuzco Sacred Valley

140 kms

A day of many excitements, of which only half can be told at present......for legal reasons, we kid you not! But more on that one tomorrow.

Jeff had offered to take us out for a spin round his locale with his bike and we and Martin and Alan liked the sound of that. Chris and Liz are currently taking Chris's Mum round the sights with their in depth local knowledge so couldn't join us.

We met up about mid day and Jeff was ready with his virtually immaculate Norton Commando. For once we were we not the oldest in the group, and neither was our bike !


Jeff´s immaculate Norton Commando, jeff, Fritz, Martin, Alan

It was great to be on the road again after our little sojourn and being out with three other 'big' bikes is always a pleasure as you cause a stir wherever you ride. There are some larger bikes here, but the vast majority are small, 250s and the like. The combination of the roar of Jeff's Norton and the blatting of our old classic drawing turns and looks of awe everywhere the 5 of us went. No two ways about it, you get a buzz from riding like this at home, never mind through Cusco and rural Peru.

After taking the 'local' way out of town and calling at several petrol stations to get 90 octane (not a foregone conclusion they'll have some even here) we eventually filled up. I hadn't even noticed previously, but the pumps are in gallons. Sadly hopeless on quoting price too as we just put it in, and that's that. It's more than Bolivia, but cheaper than other countries been in, but then it's crap octane so should be!

The roads out along the valley were all tarmac (barring the 'optional short cut' detailed below) and generally in good condition apart from odd sections with pot holes to steer around. In fact the roads were damn good with some great sweeping curves and verdant countryside all around. The high snow peaks were generally obscured by cloud, but the dark clouds looked possibly threatening rather definitely.


The ride out through valley

Jeff first took us to one of the less often (but hardly secret or hidden as a world heritage sight) visited places here, the salt pans (ponds) nr Urubamba I think.


The salt pans, in use since early Inca times

A few kms down a dusty track, and with the bikes we were able to go all the way down where coaches etc couldn't, you reach a crest and looking over the edge you are greeted by the sight of literally hundreds of terraced ponds that collect and dry salt. The place dates back past Inca times and has been in continual use since.

A warm salty stream feeds in at the top end and channels direct the water to a variety of pools dependant on requirement. As the pools are 'disconnected' the water evaporates and the salt sun-dries and bakes into a cake which is then removed and sold.

It was a medieval scene and though we had about a quid entrance fee there was only one other locally hired 250 and a couple walking the whole time we were there. Jeff took us right down and showed us the pools and the irrigation channels. Fascinating stuff, the main memory is that of looking down on the site from above. Awe inspiring.

There were a few donkeys leading out of the downhill sight and Jeff said that route would make an interesting 'short cut' for us. It was narrow, but we could get the bikes through, the only 'difficulty' being a hairpin, or maybe two, were we might have to drag the bikes round to be able to negotiate the next section. He'd been there before so we all agreed it sounded interesting and 'a bit of fun'


Jeff leads the way on the 'broad' path

Setting off the track soon became a path, and almost straight away we came to a narrowing were there was just about three times as much tyre width as we needed and just enough bike width......the right hand side being very steep drop off...but less than 100m!


Martin still on the 'easy' section

We got past there and things improved.....for 50m....then the first (of about 6) hairpins loomed.

Now the two GS1150's, and our bike, are quite heavy (we still had half our luggage) and have high clearance, were as Jeff's Norton is light small and nimble with low clearance.

The reason I mention this is to demonstrate the advantages of smaller lighter bike on these 'adventure travels'. It's been repeatedly acknowledged that the bigger bikes advantages are ONLY on high mileage road days, otherwise the alternative wins EVERY time.

Jeff had warned of the 'couple' or hairpins on the descent and he wasn't wrong when he said we'd probably have to 'haul' the bikes around them.


Martin, Alan, Fritz before the tricky bits

It was hard enough riding down a very heavily rock encrusted steep narrow path, but the bends were engineered for foot or donkey and could not be negotiated by a motorcycle without several backwards forwards manoeuvres to gradually take the bike from one direction to another. In fact, for our bikes, it was impossible single handily. You needed extra assistance. As there not enough people to do the job Bev was helping me on the first one then Martin and Alan as they passed them. It was extremely arduous hard word and within seconds our jackets and helmets were running with sweat.

The difficulty was you had to get off and haul the bike back and forward in gear using the clutch as you didn't want the bike rolling forward and over the precipice. The extra ground clearance of our bikes made it even more difficult and very precarious, there were many times that each of felt they'd tip over, but none did.

It wasn't a route we had to take, but what's adventure if it isn't something you can foresee, no regrets for taking the route, and even though it was intense and bloody hard work it's always better looking back. There was absolutely no way on earth you could turn around and return and at least we knew it would get better after getting past these hardships. Any none off road riding folk I guess wouldn't understand why we do these crazy things, but it's what we seek!

By the time I was down I was just about a physical wreck, so hot and exhausted. I collapsed to the ground on my knees and just fought for breath and recovery. Mad...but fun.

All down, we continued over a rickety bridge and through some tight lanes back to the highway.

We rode down to Pisac for our lunch stop. There are impressive ruins here though we didn't have time to visit, and not so easy in the bike gear. There was a great little eatery, Ulrica's that stuffed us for little cost but great food and atmosphere.

Always great turning up at these tourist hot spots on the bikes as so many people (tourists) are amazed to see the English plates (and the Norton of course)

Leaving town we were to encounter the sort of thing you dread on a trip like this.........

A guy and his mate in a car had been blocking us in where we were. But chatting to Martin, and they left the square just ahead of us.

Jeff set off and passed them and we followed them out of town. As we got further out onto more open roads the car was going at a rate were we couldn't really overtake as the altitude doesn't allow for blistering acceleration we simply followed knowing at some point it would get twisty and we'd have the opportunity to pass. Then it all went weird..........

The car started to move more the left and even straddled the centre line even when a bus was oncoming. Blimey, this guy’s a bit of a nutter I thought, but never really considered it more. Then he was cutting the left hand bends on wrong side of road. Again, didn't think too much of it as drivers aren't generally very great here.

Then as we came to some sections were we could perhaps overtake he was completely on the wrong side of the road. I then began to think that this guy (and his passenger) were perhaps a little more than averagely stupid drivers.

What clinched it was when we did go to overtake and he swung hard left in a clear blocking move. This was looking dodgy I thought, only way to pass was to do somewhere we could safely on the bike, but he couldn't, and at that point he also swung onto the wrong side of the road and blocked us. We hung back and I motioned to martin and Alan behind us that this guy was clearly loco, Alan had witnessed the whole side swipe incident anyway.

After a further passing attempt that had the same consequences I just blared the horn on and followed him the next corner he drove on the wrong side again and nearly ran head on into an ambulance.

This was getting beyond a joke now and was obviously becoming dangerous so I had to just keep following the car. Martin and Alan with their fuel injection which has little problem at altitude managed to overtake by one going either side.

I was still unwilling to overtake as we were two up and I wouldn't put more than myself in danger.

At that stage I would have been happy to pull over and hopefully let these idiots continue ahead and hopefully disappear. Jeff had stopped for us to catch up and we all indicated that the car was crackers.

Martin and Alan were gesturing for him to pull over and slowing him in the hope we could nip past but them the passenger opened the window as we were accelerating up to pass and waved an empty litre bottle of beer out the window in a mace style with the threat to throw it.

If he had of stopped before that point I would have been happy to grad his keys and chuck them over the road edge to severely lengthy his journey onwards, but now we were in a whole new ball game. Things had got a lot worse.

The guy was still swerving around the road, we weren't going to overtake, but the other three bikes were in front and Martin and Alan had been witnessing first hand his antics and were not pleased at all.

They, like we, and Jeff, wanted them to pull over and discussions were not the first things on our mind. This guy had clearly been playing around, and his games had turned very dangerous. It's hard to explain how vulnerable you are on a bike in these situations.

Jeff had the local knowledge to race ahead to a couple of points were he knew police would be parked up, and his hunch was correct. He's desperately got them to realise what was happening and as they came round the corner one of the policemen was in the road indicating them to stop, they hared past with the passenger still waiving a bottle out the window.

Now at least the police were involved and we pulled over to let them take up the chase. A couple of kilometres on the car was pulled in at a lay-by overlooking the city were various locals were also stopped. The guys were out of the car as the police car screeched in and we all pulled up almost immediately.

Now however some people might think, I actually have a very long fuse when it comes to anger, and violence is not something I'm ever prone too without being pushed a very long way.

The only time I would let go would be when family are involved. As this guy had had not only attempted to kill me, but also Bev I was not in the mood for reflection. Neither as Alan or Jeff after our ordeal. I strode up to the passenger and ranted at him about how he's attempted to kill us and swung out with as hard a kick as I could muster oblivious to the police presence. I then immediately strode over in a red mist to the car where the driver was and ranted the same at him as the policemen stepped back and planted him too, before Bev pulled me back. I was absolutely livid. Alan and Jeff had basically done the same too and the two of them were looking pretty startled and a crowd had gathered and were on our side as I guess it was pretty obvious we were not just laying into these guy for nothing.

The police in all this time had effectively steeped back and let us have our brief bit of justice as of course they had not exactly been respected by these two either. We definitely got the feeling that they were far from concerned about us giving them a restrained beating before they took over.

Obviously Jeff’s fluent Spanish was extremely helpful and they were then effectively arrested. We had to follow the police to the station in town to see what would happen as we were not in the slightest bit happy, and both the driver and passenger absolutely reeked of beer.

To cut a very long story down to the bare minimum it was obvious the police wanted to nail these guys too, and they were taken in for statements. Amazingly the passenger now had blood all over his face, that we knew hadn't been inflicted by any of us and we could see perhaps the threat of assault being brought against us. The wound had either been self inflicted as a measure of guilt transferral, or perhaps the policeman that had been ignored.

Anyway, we didn't like the look of it. Jeff called on his local contacts and got a Lawyer who teaches law to drop what he was doing and attend as Jeff was determined the matter should not just be dropped. The four of us were all planning leaving in the morning and feared this might likely delay departure.

We weren't approached for statements at first, they were happy from what the police witnesses of the driving had seen that that was evidence enough. Still we had to wait around a couple of hours before the authorities had to pass it over to the "tourist police' as foreigners were involved. As it turned out the tourist Police were on holiday and it was decided we all had to go to the downtown police station for statements etc.

We were concerned about the fact we had wreaked a little of our own justice on the two of them, and the snippets we heard back sounded like there was the possibility of assault charges against us.

We had to all trail down to the other station, at least getting the chance to park the bikes at the hostel and change. It all got very disorganised and the previous statements of the defendants were apparently not correct and had to be redone, we were concerned that perhaps things may get re-written, and in fact that money might be exchanging hands. Not good.

As it was, Jeff managed to get a statement for all of us based on our agreed experiences which was easy and the whole was due to be put before a JP there and then. Bev had videoed some of the antics so at least we had that.

The two idiots were somehow still looking a bit smug with the driver being a particularly smarmy person and it was extremely difficult to be in the same small space as them

The JP listened to all the evidence, it was clear that they were definitely drunk, and Jeff's lawyer was putting the case for them basically endangering our lives and potentially attempted manslaughter.

Their argument was based on the 'assault' and that there were eight bikes driving aggressively (seeing double then). We thought it would be a forgone conclusion with the police evidence, but they weren't present now bizarrely.

It was just gone 11pm and the JP should have finished. Basically it came to the point of we'll have to continue this tomorrow, between 15.30 and 23.00.

Exactly what we didn't want to happen, we'd have to stay another day, and the possibility of their incredibly dangerous driving being countered by an assault charge. It was all looking farcical…

Posted by Simon McCarthy at March 19, 2006 02:10 PM GMT

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