Where are we?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gateway to Machu Pichu

We departed Urabamba for the short ride to Ollantaytambo, dropped baggage at our hotel then with alternating views of road quality, headed into the the adjacent mountains on what evolved into the best motorcyle road 'on the planet'! We climbed from 9,500' to the summit at 14,300' dropping from 64 F to 39 F before reversing course when we encountered heavy mountain fog. We returned to our hotel for an afternoon tour of the mountain town and spectacular adjacent Incan ruins.

Knowing their sensitivity to pictures, I asked a local Quechua woman and daughter if I could take their picture which she politely agreed. Although she did not ask, I gave her 2 US dollars. After snapping the photo, I thanked her and as I left, the little girl ran up to me and pointed out that one of the dollar bills had a tear...she wanted a replacement to which I readily remedied then snapped a picture of just the young girl..a special moment.

We successfully changed out train tickets for Machu Pichu to Wednesday from Thursday. We are hoping for good weather and an eventful day to this historic site.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Chilean friend that wants to help us if we get into trouble. Can't say enough about how helpful people are here. Salt ponds, and high glaciated Andes peaked out.

The Sacred Valley

With Tres Cruces off the list of possible destinations we have a couple of extra days in the Sacred Valley. We migrated from the Royal Inka Hotel to the San Agustin Hotel. Some of you will recognize this as the place we stayed last year and where Steve mastered the construction of a Pisco Sour.

So today I stopped at one of the red plastic flags to buy a bottle of Chicha, the traditional drink here in the SV. Into the dark adobe I went to see a little Indian woman stirring a big pot. In the shadows were a half dozen laughing men, each with their mug of chicha. When I asked for a bottle the place erupted in laughter. But that was okay because what I saw in the big pot was in no way entering my system. I already have enough digestive problems.

We went up to the salt mines and evaporation ponds. Again, those that were here last year will recall it was the combination of too much salt and inbreeding that cause the troglodytes at the bottom of the canyon to turn into a community of goons.

Jim and Rick went out to Moray to see the Inca agricultural experiment station. I headed back for yet another siesta.

Tomorrow we make our last attempt at riding into the high Andes and down into the jungle. We are told we will fail.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No monkeys, but here is our day

Thirty species of monkeys and tres amigoes

We had a slow start out of Cusco this morning. Rick couldn't find his helmet and I needed something other than 84 octane fuel. Rick found his helmet and after riding 4.9 miles through Cusco I found 90 octane. I remain very critical of the so-called BMW engineers for designing a world class motorcycle that will not run on the world standard fuel. My friends at BMW tell me that most BMW owners buy expensive machines with lots of farkles, but never actually take the adventure. Well we're taking the adventure, and there is nothing more frustrating than trying to start a bike in the morning knowing that it will not run on the fuel that is available.

We rode only 85 miles today. We tried to ride to Tres Cruces to camp and awake to a view of the Amazon. We passed one last village where the rock in the road disappeared and it became very slippery. We finally decided to turn around and retreat to Pisaq and stay in a warm hotel. Just think, if we had made it I could have crawled into my tent at 5:00 and listened to the rain come down. Good decision to turn around.

In this area the houses have three dimensional figures on the front of them. I had not seen these before, but this is spectacular folk art. As I was photographing several houses an indian gave me a dirty look. I looked at him and said, Es muy bonito. He smile and I continued taking pictures while he stood there smiling.

We are in another luxury hotel for about 22 dollars apiece. I am continually amazed at how many wonderful hotels there are that have no people. Wet season is everything.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cusco Respite

Yesterday, rode into Cusco from Abancay...125 miles on good road...great twisties leading up to a 14,500' pass before descending to Cusco & our hotel at 11,340'. Pretty exhausted...no riding today-had found stove fuel so started the the day with Dave's excellent coffee then explored the city, Incan ruins & architecture & heaven forbid...shopped. Made my back ache(don't you know) so took a break & had our 1st Starbucks! Met & talked with gringos from UK, Australia, Taiwan, Denmark & U.S.. This city is a Mecca for worldly tourists.

Cusco was the heart of the Incan empire which stretched 2,000 miles north to south with over 9MM people before the Spanish conquest. The accuracy & detail of their stone & metal work is difficult to fathom. Equally difficult to fathom is how the Spaniards penetrated 400 miles inland, wiped out the existing culture & built their own on top of these historic structures....during the same era as the Mayflower was landing at Plymouth Rock. Toured the main Incan fortress, several dramatic cathedrals before succumbing to a dinner of Alpaca steak...yum.

Rick arrived from Arequipe after an 11 hour ride, so the 3 Amigos are off to the Amazon tomorrow. Likely no wifi for a few days, but keep an eye on the Spot map for where we are at!

A Few More Photos

Finally gas for my stove and real coffee. Also there is a Starbucks in Cusco, too bad

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Day in Heaven

This was our first easy day on the entire trip. We awoke at our beautiful hotel in Abancay. Had lousy coffee and complimentary breakfast, then we hit the road.

From 8500 feet in Abancay we climbed up a beautiful paved road to over 13000 feet. We hit the neblena head on at the summit, but then we dropped to near 6000 feet and warm weather. Then it was back up to 13000 feet before dropping into Cusco.

We had a lousy entrance through the slums and road construction before arriving on the plaza where many of us were just a year ago. Just up the street we found a beautiful hotel for $50 US for both of us. Not bad for a tourist mecca. I think we are the only people here.

I teared up a bit as Jim and I walked toward the plaza. This is where Nick and I had our first conversation about the things that are really important in our lives. It was in Cusco that I discovered the Nick I loved.

I had cuea (spelling, but I can't spell gueanea pig either) for dinner. Not quite what I remember from a year ago.

Manana we will see the Inca ruins and then the next day we head to the jungle for a couple of days. Curious if the malaria medicine works.

Buenos noches.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Too Big to Describe

No wifi for the past three days.

We thought three days ago that we were within reach of Ollantaytambo, but the interior of Peru has been nothing but surprises. If you look at a map of the country there is a paved north-south road along the coast. There is no other paved north-south route. Jim and I decided to find out why.

We turned on to dirt roads that just in the last three days have led us over four or five 13-14000 plus passes, some in the clouds, with virtually every usable acre in use. Village after village we have seen so many native people subsisting, nothing more. The bright colored clothing is deceptive, up close you can tell that everyone of these women is working hard. Their faces, their clothes and the almost total absence of a smile all tell the same story. Jim and I have had the feeling that we are probably the first gringoes that most of these people have seen.

We were stopped by a road construction project at 13500 feet. One of the workers had been on a ship and learned some English, so we managed to get more information than we usually do. I asked why they had two security guys in uniform way out in the mountains. He explained that they have to have 24 hour security to avoid having everything stolen. We could tell that he viewed with disdain the colorful natives for which Peru is so famous.

We got off our route for a period of time yesterday and so ended up spending the night in a very small village in the middle of nowhere. I noticed that the proprietor of our hostal locked her office before she showed us our room that had a padlock on the front door. Everything is locked. One advantage may have been that the room cost 32 soles.

Politics are everywhere. From my last visit to Peru a year ago, I understand that the rural population is quite discontent over neglect by the government. This may be part of the reason that we have seen several significant road projects where one would wonder why they are spending the money. As voters, many of the natives don't read. Instead they go to the ballot booth and know that their candidate is number 1 or number 3. Beats trying to make out a name. Signs abound telling people which number to vote.

The other interesting signs relate to curbing corruption. Very freshly painted sign are everywhere with the same message--no corruption. Seeing these signs primarily in the highlands leaves one wondering who is taking advantage.

Today we had an interesting example of how hard the natives work. Stacked along the road were huge bags of potatoes, all sorted by size. I stopped to ask the kid sorting them where they had been dug. He pointed straight down the hill about 300 yards. He stood there in bare feet at the top of a well worn path. I assume to avoid theft that all of his potatoes had to be picked up today. And I am sure that this means loading them manually into a truck.

We've enjoyed the trucha, in fact again for dinner tonight. Along one road we saw one spectacular trout rearing facility with thousands of fish circling in the tanks waiting patently to be eaten.

The last comment I will make in this catchup blog has to do with road hazards. The reason our travel has been so slow is that the roads are full of cows, sheep, pigs, people, buses, trucks and fast cars. Jim made the comment that too many people rely on their horns and then race around corners. We are fortunate that we are skinny and can pass everything with reasonable comfort. I would not consider driving a car or bus on the roads we've been on.

Manana is Cuzco and the Incas we have been pursuing.