Peace Pedalin' Peru
By Cristina Morales, Part Time Peace Pedaler from Barcelona, Spain
Greetings from warm and balmy Machala, Ecuador! We rolled in two nights ago and are rolling out tomorrow with our host and brother Juan Angel towards Guayaquil. My riding partner Cristina wrote a journal in Spanish on our recent adventure in Peru for the Latin readers. As it’s 9PM and we’re off tomorrow early I decided to use the latest translation technology to bring you her journal with a few comments of my own mixed in. For a full on Spanish journal head to www.peacepedalers.com/peru-es.html. The translation is a bit robotic and you won’t find the English perfect but between the colorful photos and what’s here you can have a heck of an adventure. Thanks for understanding my need for efficiency with all that's going on :)
Peace Pedaling Peru
Photos at: http://bit.ly/3LjUKO
After nearly two weeks in Iquique, Chile feeling at home with our new family and seeing no news from our potential airline partner LAN we decided to begin moving toward the north. We said goodbye to Robert and Christian, who were like brothers during our time there, and, somewhat sadly typical of any departure, we prepared to begin our adventure in Peru.
It took almost 24 hours of travel and changing three buses to get to the city of Cuzco where we would start our Inca Expedition. We arrived just as the sun came up and woke up simultaneously with it. We got to ride in the center, at the same time the bars and restaurants opened their doors. We take a well deserved breakfast from the first floor of a room overlooking the square and cathedral. Delicious with a view to die for!
We went in search of Hermogenes, a contact from Couchsurfing.org. He works giving tourist information within a hotel where he finally decided to host us for a reasonable price since his house was full. After resting a bit we went out to explore the city.
It is curious, coming from Spain, some of these people go on believing and feeling that I come from the "motherland". The funny thing is that people young and not so young, are changing "the motherland" by Real Madrid, Barca and any other thing or person connected with the world of football, so now, after announcing that I am Spanish they tell me: Oh !!.... Real Madrid, Barcelona, dammit!, Okay man!, Dammit! (At the moment I can hear my grandmother saying ... how times have changed! ... And yes, they have changed, but some things remain where they were as you breathe machismo in Latin America and even in the motherland ).
Hermogenes agreed to join on the tandem the next day to his village of Chinchero where he was born and where his mother and much of his family still live. The first hour and a half of the journey was really tough. Rise and rise and more, top it off, almost 3400 meters above sea level (11,000-12,000 feet). The legs felt heavy, lungs and the sun waned lazy forces between each sigh, at least in my case. Jamie always seems to be 100% and he and Hermogenes took my panniers up the final climb to help me through.
There was Ricardina, the mother of Hermes, Paul Ricardina's new teammate, and three younger sisters of our fellow cyclist waiting for dinner. It's funny how the less you have the more you have to offer. Two days we spent sharing this rustic space with them and with dogs, cats, chickens, donkeys, pigs and "guinea pigs". All in perfect harmony with nature.
Despite not having lived in the countryside and having grown up with all the amenities, you adapt quickly to the simplicity. We slept in the room with the girls along with Wagner, a boy who appeared from Natal, Brazil and there we spent a couple of days, in a limited space with piles of clothes and rags, books and drawings on the walls, and pencils and lots of funky trinkets in every direction. Our bathroom was what our eyes could see; a tree, grass or in the field. Although being a girl, things are not so easy with a hole in the ground and three stone walls and thatched roof with foul odors to do my duties in addition to urinating! The stench was terrible ... I had to cover my nose and mouth with clothing because my stomach was threatening to escape through the mouth. But still, I felt I was normal ... you quickly install rural life, but in my case, the nose has a process and different adaptation time. Luckily we have clean water coming from a spring.
Yessica, the youngest in the family at 9 years old, joined us on the tandem to town to buy food. She was somewhat amazed that as foreigners we had different prices than her and her mom. She was very funny and kept saying between her teeth and behind her hand to conceal that that price they were give us were wrong. But who are we kidding, that's part of the trip. And it is also something she learned that day.
Two and half days were filled with intense emotions of all kinds. The most beautiful thing was to share those moments with Ricardina helping in the kitchen peeling potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, eat those meals consisting of soup prepared for those who work hard in the field, sharing talks and laughs with the girls and women, singing songs in Quechua while she made dinner, scaring the chickens continuously so as not to eat the corn kernels that would be our breakfast, breathe the pure mountain air, eyes filled with beautiful scenery and feel the pure energy pure people.
Our Brazilian friend Wagner rode with us to Urubamba. The road was filled with spectacular scenery and most of it was downhill from over 12,000 feet to 8500 feet. YUPI! We ate in the market, said goodbye to our guest Brazilian and continued to Ollantaytambo, a village very rustic, old, with cobbles and stones right and left, ruins in the foothills of the mountains and prying eyes by new bike gringos.
We took a train to Aguas Calientes, mega resort city they call. We spent a short night and very early, at about 5 am, we rose to stand in line and climb to Machu Picchu !!!!!
That ecstasy was broken at the very moment they begin to appear out of nowhere, tiny blood sucking bugs, apparently harmless; ready to begin feasting on our blood. Just minutes before our first bite we witnessed the terrible wounds on the legs of other tourists not knowing that ours would be next.
Sleep deprivation and the attack of mosquitoes made us lose the urge to spend the whole day at Machu Picchu. Besides what we had already seen and felt during those four hours being there was enough to fill our memories for the rest of our lives.
The consequences of these mysterious insects that attacked us left my leg swelled up like veteran footballer’s calf. The itching was more unbearable than the pain from the swelling and edema. I could not bend my leg! Good memories of Machu Picchu! ... That day still appreciated.
After that something happened and I began vomiting, so I went on the road towards Cuzco from Ollantaytambo with a terrible upset stomach which forced me to stop several times along the way to vomit. I was exhausted and wanting to stop. Jamie’s tandem managed to attract a 12 year old boy Victor. The most interesting thing I heard in their conversation on the bike was the fact that Victor shared no curiosity to travel or see other countries. He was totally content being with his friends and family in his small village.
Finally we decided to take a bus from Urubamba to Cuzco. I was not able to ride any longer. Back in Cuzco, after plenty sleep and rest and felt better in my digestive system. We decided to ride bicycles around with the hope of finding someone to invite into the tandem and show us around. And there he was: Cristian. He wore dress shirt and tie and had just left at 8 in the morning after working all night in a downtown hotel. It appeared as a Godsend, by chance, like so many things and persons appearing to fill our book of anecdotes. To the question: do you want leave what you are doing and come play with us? Answer: YES. It was quick, honest and forthright, and after that came an innate predisposition to show the city and share with us tons of interesting information. It was clear that the boy was passionately devoted to sharing his country and town.
We took several turns to and finally reached the market, with smells, fruits, colors, flavors, meats, foul odors, people and more people, juices, food, music, noise, children, women, herbs, clothes, hats, tools, necklaces—it was great! From there we took to eat pork rinds and hot pepper stuffed meat dishes ... mmmmmm, beer accompanied, live music, girls smiles stirring the air, dogs wandering around our legs, tears of emotion, memories of people long distant and music not heard. It was the perfect end to our Cuzco adventure. Next stop—the beach!
We arrived in Punta Hermosa, near Lima, where the waves are some of the most impressive in Peru. Jamie was super keen to hit the waves. The bus left us, his eyes still glued in the middle of a highway at 6 am. The sea breeze we were clearing. We went to sea with the intention of enjoying the silence and the wilderness of those hours. We met up with Ramon and Ingrid, the parents of a high school friend of Jamie. Ramon is a well known and famous footballer who played with Pele, who worked with Maradona at Barca, who was national coach of Peru .... Ramon is a great guy and quite a character! We spent a few days with them and Jamie surfed the strong waves before we headed to Lima to meet up with Karina, a good friend in Barcelona who returned to live in Lima after spending some years in Europe, and Susana, her flatmate.
In Lima we enjoyed the company of girls and walks through the city. Lima is pure noise. Taxis, buses and vans that serve as taxis, buses and Muuuucho traffic noise and horns. It's terrible, deafening. Despite the desire with which I was to spend more time with them we both had more of a desire to find some peace and quiet. We took a bus to Trujillo. Jamie continued north as he was dying to surf the point break at Mancora and we decided to spend a few days apart that we both needed, him more than me.
In Trujillo I went to search the house of Luigi who agreed to host us. What I did not know was that he would sleep on a mattress on the floor of a room where musical instruments are stored in a cocktail bar where they make music concerts every night. Funny?.... No I was looking for calm, I finished my first night sleeping with a group version to Rollin, Red hot chili peppers, Queen ....
In Trujillo I walked around, looked at the colonial architecture with many Spanish influences and, after waking I left by bike to Huanchaco hoping to catch some sun on the beach. The day was cloudy since I "came out" until the sun went down. What a fate is mine .. I was looking for beach and relaxation.
Jamie finally emailed me announcing Mancora beach had plenty sun, waves, and relaxation. That was it, the next day we were together, walking through the night a small tourist town ready to permeate the sun and sea for several days.
We finally rode out of Mancora after several days of relaxation, hours by the swimming pool, beach, calamari, beer, Jamie surfing twice a day, sunsets, yoga and cat bite on foot. The foot was mine, again the left ... the leg that swelled in Machu Picchu ... and the cat ..., a traitor bastard bit me after apparently being abandoned to the pleasure of my affection. It still hurts!
We reached a point on the highway between Acapulco and Zorritos way to the border with Ecuador. It was approaching sunset and we needed to find a place to sleep. Jamie had the idea to ask a couple who lived across from the sea. Between the house and the sea was the busy Pan American with plenty of buses and trucks. They gave us dinner and let us set up the tent in the ground. As Jamie says: Life is good! And, as the other ... what a wonderful world!
Juan, our 65 year old host, accepted the invitation to ride about 20 kilometers to the next town where he shared his passion for Church, working hard and providing for his family. He was a simple man of few words and it was a pleasure to ride with him.
We arrived at Puerto Pizarro in an attempt to have the same fate the previous day: sleep with local family. But here we had many curious eyes and distrust. We tried many houses but we had no luck and finally had to find a hotel room. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were searching for a place that had a bed for me since I barely slept the night before in the tent and wanted to get a good night sleep.
The next day we made our way to the most dangerous border crossing in Latin America, according to many guide books. I confess that we were ready for anything but ... as it has showed in the history of Peace Pedalers ...., Angels exist and the world is as wonderful as you imagine. Just be sure that only you will meet wonderful things and experiences. The entry was smooth, quiet and fun. The people we are waiting on the other side
We remain confident in the warmth of people and we remain open to what is good and nothing but good. AMEN.
Jamie y Cristina :)
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