After the punishment from the day before, I decided to skip over the
next 50km or so, in hopes that I would find roads in slightly better
condition. I didn't. I arrived by bus in the town of Andahuelas at
midday, which I figured would leave me plenty of time to ride the "40km"
to Kishuará, the next village. 40km and about five hours later, I was
still battling my way uphill, with no sign of Kishuará. The sun was
setting, and I was treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets of my
trip, as the warm light from the sun lit up the mist surrounding the snow
covered Andes like fire. I stopped pedaling and stood in awe as the peaks
slipped into the darkness, but soon the reality of my predicament
descended upon me - I was in the middle of nowhere, an unknown distance
from the next town, at a freezing cold 13,000 ft., and the last source of
light and heat had just headed west. I decided to continue on, so I
strapped on my headlamp and started to weave my way around the rocks. I
had watched the sunset from the top of the hill, so it was downhill for as
far as I could see (which wasn't very far,) but it was hard going. I had
to slam on my brakes and brace myself to keep from crashing every few
seconds. The hard dirt road from earlier in the day had turned into soft
powder, and I found myself unaware of whether I was moving or not. It
reminded me of snowboarding in a storm in powder.
My rear tire then exploded. With my frozen hands I tried to replace the
tube with a spare and pump it up again. Just as I pulled off the pump,
however, the whole stem came with it, deflating my new tube in a fraction
of a second. I then had to try and repair the pinch-flatted tube. It was
so cold that the patch glue barely came out of its tube, but I eventually
managed a repair. Unfortunately, after pumping for several minutes, I
realized that there was another hole somewhere, so I had to start all over
again. By this point, my whole body was shaking, and I was cursing and
swearing in both English and Spanish. I was nearing the end of my rope.
Finally, my third attempt succeeded, and I continue my surfing down the
narrow, rocky trail. Then the pack of wild dogs arrived. One would come
running at me, and just as I managed to kick my way free from him, the next
dog would arrive. I pulled out my pepper spray and starte to
counter-attack. It was about then when I reached the low point of my trip.
All I wanted was to be warm and dog free. I had given up on the idea of
getting to Kishuará that evening, and even the idea of camping in the
sub-freezing sounded good. Butr I still had toose the dogs. After another
20 minutes of rock-hopping, I was in the clear, and pulled my bike up a
small hillside away from the road. I quickly put on every piece of
clothing I had, slipped into my sleeping bag and bivy sack, and tried to
restore feeling to my toes.
At about 3am, the effects of the Zithromax hit, and I once again heard
the call of nature. The thought of getting out of my warm bivy sack,
however, was too much to bear, and I sat sleepless and suffered until I
could wait no more. Luckily, my bivy sack, originally designed for
climbing, has special zippers on the sides to allow you to put your hands
outside the bag without having to crawl out. They say necessity is the
mother of invention, and nothing is more necessary than having to pee
without freezing to death, so I quickly figured out how to arrange the
zippers so things other than my arms could protrude. I relieved myself
while sleeping in the comfort of my warm bivy.
Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to calculate exactly where I had
left my things the night before, and apparently my stream hit dead onto my
shoes, which were just outside my bivy. I awoke the next morning to find
them iced over in my own frozen urine.
I got back to the road and continued my way to Kishuará. Having
daylight made navigation around ther rocks infinitely easier, and within an
hour I was there. The moment I pulled into the town plaza, the kids
immediately began to swarm around me. Before I could even dismount, there
were dozens of them. This was, to say the least, not a place on the
tourist trail, and my arrival became a major civic event. As I started to
talk with the children, a woman came out of a building on the side of the
plaza. She was the schoolteacher, and she insisted I go with her back to
the classroom. Soon, I found myself at the blackboard, trying to teach
"Row, row, row your boat" to a room full of six year olds. After I sang,
they would come up and sing Peruvian songs for me. Thoughts of frozen,
rocky, dog infested roads were no longer on my mind.
When I left the classroom, I was once again mobbed by the
group of children in the plaza, who apparently were not part of school. I
sat down and started writing English words on a piece of paper, but after
almost inciting a riot over who got to keep the piece of paper, I had them
line up, and, one by one, wrote whatever each child wanted on their own
notebooks. "Numbers," one kid would say. "Animals" asked another. "A map
of the United States." I sat and wrote translations for the next hour,
until everyone was satisfied. Almost everyone also wanted my signature,
making me feel even more like a member of Hansen.
After almost three hours, I finally pulled myself away from
the village, and headed on my way. Ten minutes into the ride, my tire
exploded again. A passing flat bed truck offered to carry me along the
road to a ruins site I was heading to, and seeing as I was still repairing
my tire, I accepted. I was hoping to be able to fix my tire on the
journey, but being in the back of a truck on these roads was worse than
biking, and after being launched and having my chainring implant itself in
my kneecap, I gave up on the repair and just held on.
When I arrived at the ruins, I was once again mobbed by kids.
Apparently much of the area's children were on a field trip to the ruins.
The teachers immediately invited me over and handed me a beer. They were
dancing and playing music on guitar and flute, and I soon was dancing with
one of the teachers, the whole crowd surrounding us in a circle. We then
proceeded to lunch in a nearby field, where they fed me until I could eat
no more. They also invited me to stay the night in the next town, but I
decided that I wanted to get moving and catch a 4:00 bus instead.
off I went, pedaling in a frenzy, trying to make it to Juancaráma in time
for the bus. I arrived just in time. Just in time, that is, to find out
that the bus wasn't going to show up that day. One of the locals assured
me that I could make it to Abancay, my destination, by bike before
nightfall, but seeing as I was 70km away and I had two hours of sunlight
left, I ignored the advice. The Peruvians may be some of the nicest people
on earth, but they have absolutely no concept of time and distance. I was
there for the night.
Another crowd formed around me, and I soon had several invitations for
accomodation. My first thoguhts were on dinner, however, and I was out to
find cuy (A.K.A guinea pig,) a delicacy that I had been seeking out since
Ecuador. I figure It's not very often one gets the opportunity to eat an
animal one had as a childhood ped, and I wanted to take advantage of the
opportunity. I asked around, and was eventually directed to a place which
was more a farmhouse than a restaurant. But there were a couple of tables,
so I went in and asked if they had cuy. The owner said no, but ten
minutes later, while I was siping down a beer, he said, "Do you still want
cuy? It will take a while, but we can do it. I need about an hour to kill
it, clean it, and prepare it." "Sure, I said." I figured that having an
animal die as a direct result of your order gets right to the core of being
a carnivore, and if I couldn't stomach that, I should skip meat
hour later, my cuy arrived - it was a full animal, splayed out on a pile of
baby potatoes, its little claws and fuzzy little nose clearly identifiable.
It tasted fantastic. It reminded me of the rich skin from a roasted turkey
or chicken. It was a little unsettling when I got to the head, as memories
of my pets, with their little noses pressed against the cage flashed before
me, but the rich flavor once again overtook my thoughts.
By the time I was done with dinner, it was time too make good on one of
my offers for lodging, but before I could leave, the owner of the farmhouse
offered me a room as well. The room was apparently the crop storage room,
as the floor was buried two feet deep in corn and potatoes, with a small
pathway heading to the bed in the corner. It was heaven compared to
though my original plan was to bus it to Abancay, the thought of "70km of
downhill" was just too tempting to resist. Anyway, I was told that the
road condition woud improve dramatically. Silly me. The "70km downhill"
turned out to start out with 20km of climbing. There was indeed 30km of
steep, steep downhill, which, although a bone-jarring ride, was notetheless
very fun. Fun, at least, until, while navigating a technical turn at
40kph, I felt a sharp pain in my groin. I looked down and saw that a wasp
was stinging me in the inner thigh. I slammed on the brakes and skidded to
a halt, frantically swatting it away. I barely had time to register what
was going on before I started getting attacked by several more wasps. I
kicked it into high gear, hoping that they would have a harder time of
stinging me at 50kph. I rode non-stop until I hit the bottom of the hill,
about 20 minutes and a long way away from the wasps. From there I had
another 15km of climbing in, of all things, baking heat. I was cursing
everyone who told me that it was all downhill. There was no more downhill,
and I arrived in Abancay dripping with sweat. Two ice creams and a shower
at the gas station corrected that problem.
I had had it with riding uphill, so I caught an evening bus to Anta,
just outside of Cusco. It was the best decision I'd made the whole trip.
The road out of Abancay was uphill for two hours *by bus*, all on dirt
switchbacks choked with diesel buses and trucks. I sat in the bus and
munched on chocolate.
My final day's
ride out of Anta was only 26km, but it was over a mountain pass and
everything was at 13,000ft, so what looked like a casual ride turned out to
be quite a challenge. At least it was on pavement, for the first time in
Perú. By lunchtime, I had crested the mountain, and could see down on the
town of Cusco. But even from several kilometers away, I could see trouble
brewing - the main plaza was packed with protesters, and megaphones could
be heard all the way up the hill.