Saturday, January 26, 2013

Escape From Machu Picchu

Day 99 (January 22, 2013)
Santa Theressa, Peru to Cusco, Peru
Day's Ride: 145 Miles

We got on the train this morning at 6:30 AM and rode back to Hidrolectrica where we took a "collectiva" (minibus group taxi) back to Santa Theressa and picked up our bikes from the Hostel. Angel, the owner, was a cool guy and he wanted a picture with us before we left, so I obliged.

The road out was significantly more wet and muddy than it had been on the way in, and my tires were sliding all over the place.

The conditions made for great pictures and it was a treat to get to ride that amazing road again.

Coming back up towards the pass, the weather remained relatively overcast; however, there was little to no rain and fog was significantly less intense than it had been on the way in.

The run off from the previous night's storm was raging in the creeks and rivers. In several spots it appeared that the engineers who had constructed the road had decided to forgo culverts or bridges and just make small concrete fordsl adding a little bit of extra fun to an already amazing road.

As the road neared the top of the pass, the clouds began to part enough to allow visions of the glacier clad mountains surrounding the pass.

I stopped to get some close ups of the glaciers.....

A little bit below the top of the pass I came across a minibus full of tourists on mountain bikes who were preparing to descend the pass with a guide.

I stopped and chatted with the minibus driver. He asked me a bunch of questions about my bike and told me that he had an XR400. We conversed for a while and he asked me if I was from Argentina. I laughed and told him that I was a gringo from the states. This is actually the third time this has happened. Apparently my Spanish is either so good or my accent so strange, that I'm being mistaken for an Argentinian. I've also been mistaken for a Brazilian once, go figure. While we were talking, I got a good picture of the bike with the mountains in the background

Mike showed up a few minutes later and we got some more pictures.

We continued on up to the top of the pass and were in for a real treat: snow!

As I approached the top, I noticed two girls who had stationed themselves alongside the road. As I approached they began hurling snowballs at me; I made a quick U-turn and went back to stand beneath their withering hale of fire for the sake of photography. As I was snapping pictures, one of their projectiles hit me right in the head. I suppose it was a good thing I was wearing a helmet!

I soon left the snow and decended down some amazing switchbacks. Just look at all of these turns:

After descending a few thousand feet through cloud forest and past Incan ruins on a beautiful road, I arrived in Ollantaytambo and stopped for lunch in the town square.

I ate a couple of ham sandwichs and had a few cups of coffee before Mike showed up and we got ready to leave. Before I got on my bike I considered all of the rough riding that I had done over the past few days and decided to give it a quick look-over to make sure nothing had broken. Unfortunately my instincts proved correct and I found that the bolt that holds the muffler to the frame had loosened up and fell out. It seems like I can't go more than a few days without some minor bike problem popping up. I guess that's what I get for pushing the bike to the limit every day.

I busted out my tools and found that I didn't have any extra bolts that were long enough to replace the missing one. I resorted to the MacGyver solution and just bound it back together with a few zip ties and some bailing wire.

I flew down the Sacred Valley and covered the remaining miles to Cusco quickly. I parked my bike at the hostel and immediately took a taxi to the hardware store and found a new bolt to hold the exhaust together. With that minor emergency taken care of, I stripped off the side panels and luggage and gave the bike a thorough examination for any other problems that may have developed while I was riding like a hooligan in the dirt.

Fortunately, everything else seemed to be okay. I'm very surprised that the subframe hasn't cracked yet. With the amount of weight I'm carrying and the way I ride on dirt roads and trails, I should have broken that thing a long time ago.

For dinner, I went out and had a plate of "La Causa" (The Cause). A Peruvian told me that this dish originates from back in the day when Chile and Peru were at war. The Peruvian government was too poor to buy bullets for it's soldiers, so the women of Lima would make this dish and then go out in the streets and sell it to help raise money to buy bullets for their men. This was "The Cause" that the dish takes it's name for. It's quite tasty and only costs 3 Soles ($1.50) a plate.

That's it for today. It was a solid, if somewhat muddy, day of riding. Tomorrow I'm going to start heading towards Lake Titicaca and then on to Bolivia. The Death Road and the Salar de Uny aren't far off now...

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