The Ten

The Ten

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The ride to Cusco.

From Nazca, I knew it was going to be a long day towards Cusco. It was 290 ish miles to Abancay, a town still a few hours short of Cusco, but I reckoned this was far enough with the altitude and tight twisty mountain roads. Filling the tank with 97 octane, and with some un-accountable trepidation, I set off.
The climb out of the desert and into the Pampa started almost immediately after leaving Nazca. Gaining altitude rapidly through impossibly beautiful scenery, the road twisted and turned its snake like way through the dry valleys until it hit the first high pass, complete with wild Lamas (Alpacas?). I first realised this when one shot across the road in front of me; the road had straightened out here and my speed was "healthy". My heart leapt into my mouth as I hit the brakes; "OK, maybe a little slower here!". The road soon started the descent into a valley; more twisties!
Time was marching on, and I was settling into the ride, the Zen like state of riding long days was beginning to descend. Unlike the altitude, which again started to rise and rise. Another high pass, this one much longer and colder. Bleak but beautiful terrain stretched to the horizons; the clouds closing in and even some light hail to complete the dramatic scene. Eventually, the descent started once more, feeding the road into a long gorge, it must have been 70 or 80 miles long.
I saw two bikers stopped by the side of the road; so following the bikers code, I stopped to see if I could help (like I'd be any use!). They were a Russian and a Chilean; punctured tyre, but well in hand. So I pushed on; soon passing two more bikers going in the opposite direction. A month of seeing virtually no other bikers; then 4 in the space of a few miles.

A couple of hours later (after more than 8 hours on the road), I pulled into Abancay. A quick pizza and no beer and time to sleep. Unfortunately, it was a Friday night and I was awoken at 4 am by the sounds of a fight in the street outside. The screeching sound of a drunk woman screaming at her equally drunk boyfriend whatever the Spanish is for "leave it Terry, he's not worth it" (I guess) as she tried to pull him off the poor guy sprawled on the pavement. Every town, in every country, on every Friday night, it's the same.

The next morning brought rain, and lots of it. But, I was on a mission. At 2 pm (Peru time), England were due to play Australia in a crucial world cup game. So, I had to be in Cusco by 1 pm to give me time to check in to a hotel and find a bar showing the game.
On with the rain gear and off by 9am. 4 hours to do 120 miles, averaging 30 mph. Should be easy, right? The first hour was a steep climb through the rain and mist around tight twisty roads. Not quite making the necessary average speed; especially as near the top, the mist was so thick, the only thing visible was the yellow lines in the middle of the road. I had to hug these lines, not so close that an oncoming vehicle would wipe me out, but not so far that I would drift off the edge into the oblivion waiting just a few feet to my right. This dilemma didn't last too long as the climb became a descent, the mist clearing, the rain dissipating and the road drying.

More great scenery as I continued through the valley, the road occasionally littered with rockfalls from the steep cliffs above. With the improving conditions, I was back on schedule. Then the last climb before Cusco itself, the rain briefly returned but I was soon at the fabled city. Quickly dumping my gear, I raced out to find a bar showing the game. "Norton Rats" was my first attempt; but the bar was virtually empty and they seemed to be oblivious to the rugby. OK, "Paddy's Irish Bar" just around the corner. The place was heaving (mostly with Aussies) and the game was on. I squeezed into a spot at the bar and ordered a beer. So, here I was in Cusco, at an Irish bar, eating an all-day breakfast watching England vs Australia. How Peruvian and cultural is that?? (Well, it was the local Peruvian beer - Cusquena).

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