To get to Arequipa meant backtracking on the dirt road from a couple of days before. In daylight it was fun to ride. Heaving with tourist buses kicking up the dust; but there were no demons in this road, just the condors soaring on the morning thermals overhead.
Then, just as the dirt became tarmac, I felt the back end squirming uncomfortably. I didn't need two passing Peruvian bikers to tell me what I already knew: the back tyre was flat. I hate punctures; there are demons in this road after all. The Peruvians suggested that I could get it fixed in Chivay, still several miles away. The tyre wouldn't take any air; but I decided to ride, very, very slowly to Chivay rather than trying to fix it myself.
From experience, it really helps to have another bike in these situations to use its side stand as a bead breaker. As I was alone, I thought I'd try for Chivay. Miles and miles I crawled along and no sign of the town. Fearing I was doing irreparable damage to my back wheel, I eventually stopped at some sort of truck depot/police checkpoint to reassess. A guy from the depot appeared and using limited Spanish and copious sign language, he suggested the tyre fixing place was just a few minutes away. I stripped the luggage off the bike, which the guy kindly stored for me in the depot. With all the weight off, I found the nearby repairers; A dirty, run down, dusty, dingy building, but it'd do for me. We set to work immediately: wheel removed, tyre irons out and try to break the bead. This proved predictably difficult; even the professional resorted to using a vice as he couldn't do it with just tools. Out with the punctured tube, two small holes like a snake bite, but nothing to show on the wheel itself (those damn road demons!). He put in my new spare tube and fixed the holes in the old one. Re-inflated, wheel back on and then half an hour of me trying to get the right chain tension. But it was fixed, cost me about £5, gringo price, no doubt, but worth it to me.
Somewhat gingerly, after picking up my gear, I set off again to head over the 3 mile high pass towards Arequipa. Now paranoid about the rear tire, I became hyper sensitive to any change in the bikes feel. The road rose and rose to the high plateau, the top marked by a gaggle of tour buses and camera toting day trippers shooting the magnificent panorama of volcanoes, at least one of which was still smoking. Soon, the descent started and the road joined the main Arequipa/Juliaca route. The descent continued to Perus' second largest city. The usual traffic chaos, but I found my way to the historic centre and my bed for the next couple of days.
3 nights and 2 days in Arequipa; maybe a bit too long. Played tourist again, watched some rugby, drank some beer, turned 46.