A Notes from Cuzco and La Paz
I think I have seen more other motorcycle riders here in Cuzco, than the rest of this trip combined.When I first got to town, in the rain, I was riding around the plaza when a guy waved me over to the side walk. At first I thought it was somebody trying to hustle up business for a hotel, but then I noticed he was wearing a motorcycle jacket. It turned out that Leo was a Thai, who has ben living in Switzerland for several years. He was staying in a hostal with 2 other riders, and invited me to stay with them. The place turned out to be a dump, really, but it had good courtyard parking for the bikes, and was in a good location. Good location being stumbling distance from Norton Rat's Pub. Norton Rats is owned by an American who came down here in the late 80's on a bike, liked it, and found a way to stay here. As you might expect, Jeffrey, the owner, is into Nortons, but his daily rider is a Triumph Speed Triple. First honest to God biker bar I have been in since the US of A. Everyone who comes to Peru ends up in Cuzco at some point, and if you are on a bike, you end up at Norton Rats. There were Brits, Germans, a South African, a Swiss, and me the lone American, except for the owner.
Machu Picchu lived up to it's hype. It really was as stunning as the pictures make it look to be. But first I had to get there. This place must be a gold mine for the Peruvian government. First off, there is a $36 fee to enter the grounds. Then, the town where you have access to Machu Picchu from, Aguas Calientes, is not served by road, only train, and there are two classes of passenger, "local" and "tourist". A tourist ticket is $22 each way from the town at the end of the road, Ollantytambo. I don't know what a local ticket costs, but probably $2, but you have to show ID proving you are Peruano to get one. Then, you really need to spend 2 nights in Aguas Calientes if you want to have a reasonable amount of time at the ruins. Anyway, I ended up paying $130 for a package deal for all this stuff, including bus transport to Ollantytambo, hotel, and a guide at the ruins, partly because I went through my hotel in Cuzco, and they let me keep my bike and luggage there while I was gone.
Machu Picchu itself was just phenomenal. The mountaintop setting where it is, is the most spectacular of any ancient city I have ever seen. The amount of work that went into fitting some of the stones in incredible. I'll let the pictures in the previous post do the talking on Machu Picchu.
After leaving Cuzco, my next major stop would be La Paz, Bolivia. I knew it would be more than a one day trip, if I took the scenic route, so I stopped for the night in Puno. I only picked it because it was a convenient distance, but it is on the shore of Lake Titicaca, and had a nice waterfront area, with a good sized boat that was built in England in 1860 something, disassembled, shipped to Lima, then packed by mule train over the Andes, and reassembled here.
The next day it was only 100 miles to the Bolivian border, and then maybe another 100 to La Paz. Bolivia is an hour later thean Peru, so that caused me to get to the border at lunch time, so I had to wait around. After lunch, I got processed through in hardly any time, and at no cost. My passport has enough stamps in it now that the border guards get some entertainment looking through it. This guy made a show of wiping his forehead with the back of his hand and said, Whew! Just 5 miles into Bolivia, there is the town of Copacabana. I stoped and ate lunch, and the town was so nice I decided to call it a day here. Really, just a way of delaying the plunge into another big city. I found a place to stay for $2.50, a low for this trip, to make up for spending the princley sum of $13 in Puno the night before. You get what you pay for though. Anyway , I walked up the hill in town to get a view of the lake, and it is spectacular. Titicaca is at 3800 meters, and is at least a couple hundred miles long. I could just see a couple of mountain peaks on the far horizon, other than that, you couldn't see the other shore. Later, I had lasagna, bread, salad, and a glass of wine, all for $3. I'm getting to like Copacabana. The only thing is, you can't stay here and not have that stupid song running through your head. (the hottest spot north of Havana....) Who was that, Barry Manilow? Consider his initials.
To get to La Paz, you have to take a ferry across a strait in the lake, which looked a little scary, till I saw a bus loaded on one of the ferry boats. It floated, so I figured they could handle my bike. They did, and I made it to La Paz by noon. Spent a little time finding a place to stay, and with my bike secure in the lobby of a smal hotel, went out to see the city. One of the things I wanted to do here was ride "The World's Most Dangerous Road". This is a road that goes from La Paz to the town of Coroico, and from the summit at 4780 meters it goes down to 1180 meters in 65 km. The decision was whether to do it on my motorcycle, or ride a mountain bike down it. Back in Banos Ecuador, I met 2 Irish women that had done the road with Gravity Bolivia, a bike tour company in La Paz, and they couldn't say enough about the ride. If you can't take a drunken Irish girl's recommendation, what is the world coming to? So, I went to their office and signed up for the ride the next day.
We met at a restaurant in the morning, and had a van ride up to the summit, where we unloaded the bikes and got ready to ride. My bike was a Kona hardtail, very similar to the Cannondale I have at home. Those wacky Brits have the front brake on the right, and that's the way most of the bikes were, so the main reason I picked this one was to have the brakes in my normal position. You start out with 20km of downhill on pavement, and we seperated into the people who rode the brakes, and those who tucked in and tried to go the fastest. You guess which group I was in. After going through a checkpoint, where I'm told they are most interested in supplies going to the coca labs in the Amazon region, where we were headed, but which we were obviously not carrying on our bikes, we stopped where the road turned to gravel for some instruction on rules of the road. For instance, downhill traffic uses the left side of the road, which has the drop off next to it, and yields to uphill traffic, as the road is only one lane wide, with turnouts for passing. This is the main road between La Paz and the Amazon region, so there is quite a bit of truck and bus traffic. The turns are way to tight for a semi, but you see lots of 20 foot box trucks and 35 passenger buses. They average about 2 buses a year going over the side, which is how the road gets its' name. The road itself is in a lot better shape than some of the gravel roads I have ridden on this trip, but the sheer drops of 3-400 meters are intimidating in places. We started in rain at the top, and it was dusty by the time we got to the bottom. Out of the 8 riders, plus 2 guides, we had one spill by a guy who banged up his knee and elbow bad enough that he rode in the chase van the rest of the day. The best part was that we got the wall side of the road on the way up, since my biggest fear was trusting someone else's driving on the way up. I'm told the record for riding a bicycle up, is 5-1/2 hours, by some New Zealand adventure racer. I'm not going to try and beat it.
So today, Friday, was an errand day, when I got laundry done, mailed some stuff I wasn't using back to Texas, and just got caught up on a few things. Tomorrow, I will head towards Sucre, but I doubt I will do that in one day.
Hot dogging it on the ¨World´s Most Dangerous Road¨
Yeah, I know, hot dogging again.
In my opinion, the scariest place on the WMDR. At least one cyclist has gone over the side here and died.
Lake Titicac, with snow covered mountains in the back ground.
Ferry across Lake Titicaca.
Posted by Andy Tiegs at November 18, 2006 12:10 AM GMT