July 29, 2005 GMT
Still haven´t found Paddington, although Algernon and Winnie-the-Pooh have been trying awfully hard.
Peru is, otherwise, stuffed to the gills with RTWers and other long-distancers, both on bikes and in 4x4s. I met a German couple on Africa Twins a couple of days ago on my way from Cuzco to Abancay, and three German cyclists yesterday as we Wowed at the sunset on the drop 12,000 feet down from the Andes to Nazca.
Peruvian driving is an endearing mixture of Iranian and Chilean - like the Iranians, they have two speeds (stop and flat out) but this is tempered by a Chilean-like courtesy. And the roads can be a little odd, as the paved surface will suddenly give way to dusty, bumpy dirt at the entrance to a town (like Puquio yesterday) and just as suddenly resume at the end of town (tends to be the opposite way round in other places). This coupled with the vague or non-existent road signs makes life pretty interesting at times.
The road from Cuzco to Nazca has to be one of the World´s Great Biking Roads, both from the point of view of the riding itself and of the scenery.
The day from Cuzco to Abancay was only 120 miles (it´s 60 crow miles - very winding) but took most of the day due to big rockfalls and a bridge which they´re in the middle of building.
From Abancay to Nazca was 300 miles (160 crow) and I didn´t arrive till after sunset. Thank heavens for the auxiliary lights I fitted. But if I´d been earlier I´d have missed the stunning sunset. The two big passes rise to 15,000 feet and necessitate numerous photo stops.
I was doing a bit of essential maintenance this morning in the hotel car park and was interrupted by an American on a Harley with his Peruvian wife. They live in Lima and have insisted I use their workshop for the bike if I need to when I get there (may be a chance to do the timing chain). And then there was a Peruvian family whose papa was very complimentary about my Spanish. It´s improving - I can even understand taxi drivers now and have sensible conversations with people.
Unfortunately the shoulder isn´t improving that much. It had a bit of a battering in the last couple of days´ riding, and if you look carefully at the pix you can see it´s sagging lower than my left shoulder (I´ve checked in the mirror as well). But I´m here for a couple of days so it´ll get a rest. I´ll just have to see how it goes.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:19 PM
July 18, 2005 GMT
You Don't Half Get Fed Up With Simon and Garfunkel
I´ve had to recalibrate the Wow Scale a few times, and am running out of superlatives, and so to make everything easier I´ll use asterisks and you can insert your own.
The road from Puno to Cuzco started quite ordinarily and then became more and more * as it rose to 13,000 feet before dropping down to Cuzco at 11,500 feet. A couple of bikes coming the other way screeched to a halt. It was Ed (US) and his Spanish wife Elisa, both riding, I think, Hondas; they´re doing S America before returning to Arizona. So we hunkered down beside the road to shelter from the wind and had a brew-up, watching a cow lady trying to keep her charges from investigating the bikes too closely. They told me about a great Dutch-run campsite at Cuzco and gave me the GPS reference.
Further on the roadblocks started (Ed forgot to warn me about these). The natives are protesting about the high price of road tax and petrol (it´s about 50p a litre here, which is pretty expensive in relation to the average income). The roadblocks consist of larges rocks and broken glass spread across the road, usually in villages but sometimes in between. I encountered around a dozen of these altogether; they were all quite friendly, because as a foreigner they know it´s not my problem, and the longest I had to wait before being let through was half an hour. At one of them I thought there was a riot going on, but it turned out to be a rather enthusiastic football game, and when someone scored a goal (I think) they moved a couple of rocks and let me through.
So I arrived in Cuzco towards sunset, having ridden through the most *, * scenery along the valley. I managed to navigate through the town, the only hiccup being when attempting to enter Suecia from Plaza de Armas: a police car got in the way and I had both wheels locked slithering backwards downhill on the incredibly slippery cobbles.
I managed to get to the top of the hill on a road no wider than an alleyway and back on to tarmac again. I´d managed to pass the track to the campsite (there´s no sign) when a KTM coming the other way stopped. It was Stuart, who led me to the campsite, and whose first question was "Are you the woman who crashed in Argentina?" Turns out he´d met the Dutch bikers the day after the crash, and had been trying to find out where I was so he could bring me some grapes.
Cuzco is obviously the place to be. Camping on the site are Stuart and Sharon, both on Yamaha XT500s; Dereck (with a broken wrist) on a (now-unbent) KTM 640; Nick and Jill on a BMW R100GS; and me. Quite a Brit gethering. And we all go together for post-prandials at the Norton Rats Pub on Plaza de Armas, run by Jeff who´s a great chap and, unsurprisingly, a Norton owner. They´re all very impressed by the repaired bike.
Five British-registered bikes at Cuzco
As most of you are British I´ll just mention the weather. It´s a bit like the Sahara in winter - well below freezing overnight, so there´s heavy frost on the tents and bikes in the mornings, then after sunrise the temperature quickly climbs to somewhere in the 80s. The only snag is that as the air´s so thin even I´m in danger of burning so I have to cover up by midday.
Today I´m at Machu Picchu. It´s totally * * * * * * * * and *.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:16 PM
July 13, 2005 GMT
I don´t know how depleted the oxygen is at 16,000 feet (that´s 4850 metres to you youngsters) but it´s certainly a bit of a struggle to ingest enough.
Although I´m in winter riding kit (+ heated grips) I´m still in open-face and goggles, and I´ve found that keeping my mouth open as I ride effectively supercharges the breathing. I´m fine while I´m riding, but as soon as I stop . . .
The ride from Moquegua at 5,000 ft to the Altiplano at 16,000 was a spectacular winding road through amazing landscapes. Once up there the road straightens and allows the top speed of 60mph. The rejetting has worked well, but at that height the power redustion is more than 50% according to the figures I have.
I´m now in Puno, on Lake Titicaca, down at 12,500 (3830m) and although the bike´s running rich that´s probably just as well as there´s only 84-octane fuel available in this neck of the woods.
I met a Swiss couple at the top in a Landy LWB TD5, and they were having trouble as well. They´re doing RTW in the opposite direction - shipped to NY and drove down through N America to here.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:14 PM
July 11, 2005 GMT
The President Threw Me Out of My Hotel Room
It was like this, you see.
On Friday the border situation was still not entirely clear, so I decided to stay an extra day (and this is a very nice place). I went to tell Reception and they asked if I minded changing to a different room, offering one of the rather nice bungalows on the beach instead, so I accepted.
Turns out that it was because the President and All His Men were booked in, which would explain the thousands of soldiers rehearsing ceremonial stuff on the main road along the shore on Thursday afternoon. And the presence of quite a lot of largish chaps in reasonable suits with bulges under their left armpits.
Anyway, I went and parked the bike outside the bungalow, upon which I heard the unmistakable sound of a boxer engine. José and Maria arrived on a pretty yellow 1200GS and parked beside the bungalow next door.
Of course, we started chatting. They´re from Viña del Mar, which is on the coast just north of Valparaiso, and are having a biking holiday (as you do). They were going to Putre yesterday and invited me to join them, so I did.
Putre is a small village about halfway along the road to Bolivia, at about 12,000 feet in the High Andes. I rejetted so the bike wouldn´t run out of breath, but unfortunately I couldn´t do the same for myself. Even with the smaller jets the reduction in power was significant. Interestingly, the 1200 suffered despite the electronics, and this morning when we left neither bike was very happy to start.
On the way along the road lives a middle-aged hippy in what can only be described as a dwelling. It´s constructed out of the dead trunks of candelabra cacti and an old railway carriage. He serves excellent coca tea (and yes, that is what you think it is). He also provides all his own power - the stove is solar powered, the computer runs off a wind generator, and he´s had backing from the local German consulate for constructing all his renewable energy resources (superb setup involving solar cells, inverters, huge batteries and so on). He used to live in London in the early 70s so we had quite a long chat about that, and other things.
So I´m back in Arica, as are José and Maria. I´m trying for Peru again tomorrow morning, and they´re going to Tacna (in Peru) by train instead of on the bike, as the latest info is that anything Chilean-registered will be a problem but I´ll be OK so long as I cover up the Chilean flag sticker on my topbox.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:12 PM
July 07, 2005 GMT
Rode the 10 miles from Arica to the border yesterday morning. On the way I passed one of those "must have" road signs - "Bolivia: turn right, Peru: straight on".
I thought things were looking rather deserted, and there was no queue at the border; it's the only one between Chile and Peru and is on the PanAmericana, so one would expect there to be at least some traffic.
I parked up and approached the Immigration Control window.
"Ah, you are English. There is a problem."
"The border is closed today"
"There is trouble on the Peruvian side - rioting, rock-throwing, that sort of thing, and the border is closed"
"Why? Political or what?"
"OK, so what do I do now?"
"Just go back to Arica and wait"
"Er, I know my entry permit is OK but there is a problem with my motorcycle papers and I need to extend them if I'm to stay as they expire tomorrow"
"OK, no problem, come with me"
So we went to see the nice Customs man and explained the situation. The solution was pretty simple, really. Customs and Immigration signed and stamped me out of Chile; I then did a U-turn from the "Out" side to the "In" side through the indicated narrow gap in the barrier while the nice young man telephoned to the other side, where it took all of 10 minutes for me to be signed and stamped in again for a further 90 days, and new temporary import documents issued for the bike. Job done. It then took another half hour to get out of the border because I was surrounded by officials wanting to know all about my trip. Well, they had nothing else to do.
They reckoned the border might be open again tomorrow, and have given me their phone number so I can ring and check.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting on a beach beside a pool, under palm and rubber trees, sipping pisco sour and wondering whether there's a conspiracy to stop me from leaving Chile. Fabiola says the temperature is -17 in Coyhaique (worst winter they've had in five years, and my plane was more or less the last out for a week), so I won't be going there again for a while, but I've suggested she come up here instead.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:09 PM