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Published: March 12th 2006
In this episode I leave Cusco and the Inca Business heading for the coast and no more high altitude - yeah, right!…I kill a dog (but in self defence), have first real prang (see prev), finally get somewhere warm, ponder the Nasca Lines ((sorry, nothing to do with NASCAR), lick stamps and end up in front of the hospital.
It was time to leave having achieved both measures of overstay - eating at the same restaurant twice, and being recognised by locals on the street.
It was a cold morning but I knew that before long I would be able to ditch the jacket and thermals, hopefully for the last time. Sure enough, less than 100kms of fabulous boot scraping curves, following the river down and down from the magic mountains, hang on, the river is actually going back the other way, and very rapidly too, looking every bit the serious rafting stuff that my newest best friends are doing today, so how is this river running uphill?
Anyway, it’s hot already and I shed the jacket and liners from the pants.. Another 150 kms of more winding ever twisting, fabulous green valleys, rocky outcrops, steep mountains, the
thrashing, boiling river, sometimes eroding away right up to the road, bitumen lip hanging out over the turmoil.
And it’s starting to go up again, and seriously up. On a few tight corners I’m losing the back coming out, spinning up and sliding, bit freaky, and then feeling the back slip out going in to really tight hairpins, starting to think the rear tyre is going flat and back off. Next pueblo stop for coffee and check the tyres, everything seems ok and over the next few kms it sorts itself out, maybe the type of asphalto changed over the top of the mountains again.
Soon I can see the clouds, and then I’m among them, and then over them, this is getting cooler so I stop and reinstate the jacket and liners, onwards and upwards, it’s back to +4,000 metres, what th’…and there are no towns out here, absolutely nada on the high plains, a monster storm is blowing up the valley from the south, I’m pretty sure our path heads north so we push on, very slow switchbacks, hairpins, potholes, decreasing visibility, giant flashes of lightning off to my left, great streaks of light exploding against the rocks,
I’m desperately trying to remember the physics of lightning, conductivity of motorbikes and fantasising about charred remains hurtling off into the abyss. Convince myself somehow that the rubber tyres will save me and push on.
Now a burst of hail, sharp little bits of ice bouncing off me and richocheting around the dash and windscreen, bwaaaeee, off the helmet, off the screen, off the mirrors, and it hurts when it hits directly, even thru’ the jacket! Then it deteriorates to snow, holy shit, nobody said anything about this! And snow just sticks to the visor, blat, blat, no visibility, scraping my finger across the visor trying to see…then we break clear again, the storm close behind but now dry road again and heading away from the huge dark cloud and, as I can now see, the snow covered mountains.
Cruising around 100 on a rare straight when a bloody dog suddenly darts out and under the front wheel, I go down like a sack of spuds, kicking clear of the bike I slide down the asphalto, watching the bike sliding and sparking away from me, then it digs in and does a couple of 360’s in the air, coming down
hard on the right side. Luckily I’m unscathed, another sprain on the already sprained left thumb, bruise on hip, a few rips to the fabric but saved by the armour, lucky also, the bike and I both went straight down the road and not off the precipice, unlucky for the dog, he’s had it!
Raf helps me right the bike and get it off to the side, it’s about 5,000 here and we’re out of breath. I’m remarkably calm about it all, no signs of shock, and undecided about how I feel about the dog.
One pannier lid has been torn off, the pannier frame locks both filed down to nada, one indicator lens gone and the right side of the handlebar bent down. I fire her up and the only operating problema is the throttle, jamming on something by the bend and taking a lot of strength to turn.
So, no choice but to head on, we’re out in the middle of nowhere on the high plain (so what, you may well ask, was a fcuking dog doing out there?), no shelter, 5,000 metres ASL, freezing cold, the mother of all storms rapidly approaching and 100 kms or so
to the next (and only) town.
I head off slowly, Right hand down by my knee, cranking the throttle as much as I can, luckily a few more straights so able to get up thru’ the gears with a bit of practice, going down thru’ the gears into corners a bit more of a problem, unable to blip so the back end is stepping out with every jolty change. The only good thing, apart from being a bit dangerous, is that the throttle stays wherever it is, like cruise control!
Anyway, finally out of the misty clouds and fog and light rain we get to Puquio and find a good little hotel, knock back a few beers, eat a chook and crash. I’ve got blisters on my right hand from the effort of twisting the throttle.
Next morning I take off the hand guard to try and lever the handlebar but nothing works, it’s all a bit too strong. However, I’m able to free up the throttle, jury-rig the indicators (not functioning as the cut-off was also jammed) and decide to push on to Nazca.
Out on the road I discover that the brakes don’t function so I’m taking it
pretty easy, then after a few kms everything is fine and the red light stops flashing. (It’s always a bit disconcerting when there’s a little red light saying “brake failure” going off in front of your eyes), I look away!
So, turns out that every time I stop and then re-start, it takes a few kms for the brakes to start working, I’m thinking it’s got to do with the angle of the reservoir, now bent down with the handlebar, so tomorrow I’ll have a go at righting it. It’s only 400kms to Lima and I’ll get to the BMW place there in a couple of days.
This morning, coming the 160 kms to Nazca, potholey, twisting asphalto out of the mountains and finally down to less than 1,000 metres for the first time in many weeks and really hot and sweaty! The ride, apart from the brake problem was better than I would have thought, in fact my right shoulder feels better than it has for a while, if I can get the brakes sorted I might leave the bars as they are! One enduro, one clip-on.
So, Nazca, the next iconic traveller mecca, another great unknown, source of more conjecture, alien interface, check out the boring details and facts on your internet. The Skeptics Dictionary has a good coverage.
We charter a light aircraft to take us out tomorrow morning, Doesn’t that sound good? No, a bit pretentious?…actually we just book a tour, and they all use small planes, in fact we book a tour that involves a small plane and a 6am start to check out this weird and wonderful phenomenon. At the airport it’s a constant stream of small aircraft taking off, doing the 30 min lap and returning, busy as Bourke Street. But the only way to see the patterns and they are pretty bizarre!
Then the charter car to check out the Inca cemetery at Chauchilla and the aqueducts, more astounding and unbelievable stuff, our driver, Manuel, turns out to be a font of knowledge on these and every other subject Peruvian, fantastic! I’m starting to feel a bit better about Peru. It is soo hot and dry out here, this is the desert again, and you can feel the moisture being sucked out of everything, dusty wind picking up plastic bags and papers, off in the distance the mountains and among them the bloody great sand dune! At the cemetery site, way out in the desert, it is soo hot and dry, that’s why the cemetery is here, the mummies dry as a chip, and bits of bones all over the place, I guess not everyone got a hole in the ground, many bodies were just dumped out here. I’m starting to dry out a bit too much, shades of the great western desert, and the mummies all done up so cute, it’s all too much.
The town of Nazca has little else to offer except for tours of the Lines, the Inca cemetery, complete with lots of bones, and the fabulous aqueducts. There’s also the world’s highest sand dune, can you believe it? At 2,078 metres, Cerro Blanco is a sand surfer’s dream!
Ah, the aqueducts, the only thing that keeps Nazca alive and fertile in it’s little green valley, a fabulous underground (mostly) rock walled system that brings water from the mountains some 50 kms to Nazca and the spiralling access points, where you can walk right down and get water out. Still functioning after millennia.
Oh well, off to Ica tomorrow and finally to Pisco on the coast at last, the water is cold south of Lima and warm north so you can guess where I’ll be headed. Had a couple of cebiches here and can’t wait for more seafood on the coast. This is slowly running out of steam…more soon…gasp…
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