Sunday, January 27, 2013

Flat Tires and Stealth Camping

Day 100 (January 24, 2013)
Cusco, Peru to
Day's Ride: 173 Miles

Returning to Cusco, we met up with Kurt and Corey (the two Canadians) and their friend John. John had done this trip about eight years ago and left his bike, totally disassembled, in Venezuela. On a whim, he decided to fly down to Venezuela, put his bike back together, and ride with Kurt and Corey to Chile. He's riding a 1970's BMW R90GS that constantly leaks oil and gasoline and needs to be push started every morning to get running. The needle on one of his carburetors is messed up for some reason, and he has to regulate the flow of gasoline to his engine by slowly adjusting the fuel petcocks as he rides. He's got some crazy stories.

Along with Mike, the three Canadians, and myself, we also managed to pick up an Argentinian named Alfonso on a BMW 650GS. So, now we were all leaving Cusco in a massive ADV MC with six riders.

Our plan was to reach Puno on Lake Titicaca and spend the night there. Unfortunately, a scant eight miles outside of town, disaster struck!

Riding over a patch of dirt in the road, I felt my rear tire lose traction. I assumed I was just sliding on the dirt and gravel; however, after it kept sliding around, I looked down and realized that I had a flat.

I pulled into a school parking lot and took off the wheel. Once again, the enduro stand that I made in Huaraz saved the day.

A quick examination revealed the culprit:

It appeared to be just a random shard of metal that I had picked up in the middle of the road. What are the chances? I got down to business and had the tube changed out in twenty minutes. I then went to air it back up and realized that I had pinched the new tube!

So I then had to pull the new tube out, patch it, and re-install it. What should have only taken 20 minutes ended up taking about an hour and a half. Luckily, the whole gang of riders pitched in and helped out. Mike and John even went down the street, bought bread and canned tuna, and came back and made sandwiches for everyone. Meanwhile, Alfonso helped entertain some of the kids who had come out to watch.

Finally, with the new patched tube installed and inflated, we got back on the road. I had already ridden this stretch of road on the way into Cusco from Arequipa, but it was nice to ride it at a more leisurely pace without getting rained on constantly.

Riding in a group of six people over long distances is actually pretty challenging. Everyone has their own pace and their own riding style. Still, we managed to make it work. I enjoyed letting someone else take lead for a change. I was also able to sit back and enjoy some of the sights that I had missed on the way in.

Due to the late start and the flat, by 4:00 PM we were still 100 miles short of Puno. We made the decision to eat a good dinner at a restaurant and then hunt down a place to camp.

The owner of the resteraunt told us of some Incan ruins near a small village down the road where we might be able to camp. After dinner, we rode down to the ruins and found that they were actually in the village and would probably not afford a suitable camp site. On the way in I had noticed a dirt road leading up into the hills away from the village; with the ruins out of the question, I decided to do a short recon and see if there wasn't a good spot to hide out and camp in the hills.

The road ended up being mostly eroded, overgrown with grass, and struin with baseball sized rocks. Still, about a half mile outside of the village, I found a small grassy field surrounded by a low rockwall and nestled between two small hills. It was the perfect campsite, hidden, quiet, and free!

I rode back down and told the others and we all headed back up into the hills. I was a little worried that John's bike wouldn't make it, but he managed to plough up the hill and through a gap in the rock wall with ease. Those old BMW's run forever.

We set up camp in the dark, and then got out the stoves and made Yerba Matte and hot Chocolate.

This was the first time I had practiced stealth camping on this trip. Usually, I have set up my tent in developed campgrounds or in the backyard at a Hostel. It was a nice change of pace and even nicer with five other riders to hang out with. Without any ride report to write, it was an early night: in the sleeping bag by eight!

1 comment:

  1. It was a good thing that you weren't that far from town when you got the flat. Imagine if you experienced that the middle of nowhere and it was already dark. But talk about being unlucky that such a small piece of metal managed to lodge itself in your tire.

    -Rita McCall