Jay and I had intended to make a beeline for the tip of South America, but David and Leanne had told us that many people went to Cusco, Peru for Christmas and invited us to join them. We decided that it would be a good time and that we would still be able to finish our journey to the tip on time. Cusco, aside from being an absolutely gorgeous city, is the base location from which everyone makes the trip to the famous Incan Ruins of Macchu Pichu.
And since the road from Nazca (where the famous Nazca lines are) to Cusco is one of the highest (and roughest and scariest), Jay was really hot to make the trip. I would love to write an extensive description of the trip but at U.S. $10/hour here in the Cyber Cafe, I will have to cut things short.
Let me say that when the Peruvians pave a road, they do a terrific job. BUT, when the pavement ends you are in trouble. After 70 miles of beautifully paved road out of Nasca, it was rocks, mud, and sand and within 5 miles yours truly planted his motorcycle into the side of a giant rock. I used by left leg to protect the motorcycle. The bruise persists, but everything is fine.
Jay made the trek at twice the speed Dave and I were riding–remember Jay races motorcross. And Jay was riding on a bald rear tire–and he still is, we have yet to locate a tire for him (you can see the cord of the steel belts now).
Persued by the Peruvian Police
We arrived in Cusco after two days on the road from hell only to discover that both Jay and Dave had cracked portions of their motorcycle frames and would need to have them welded.
At 4:00pm Christmas Eve, I located a welder who could do the job. He closed at 6pm and would be closed Christmas day. Jay and I intended to leave early on the 26th, so it was important to get the bikes fixed right away. I called Jay at the hotel and told him where to meet me.
The streets of Cusco at this time were positively packed with cars, busses, taxes, vendors, you name it. So in my haste to meet with Jay and David, I did a stupid thing by trying to climb a curb that was a little to big and too wet. My bike slid forward and I broke a guy«s tail light. Not a major accident, but he went balistic.
It would have been easy for me to take off, but I did the right thing, took responsibility and offered to pay. He was unimpressed. While I waited, first he ran to get his wife, then, while I waited, THEY ran off to find a policeman.
Long story short — they insisted that I go with them to buy a replacement light which they estimated would cost $200! I agreed to go with them if we could first meet Jay and David and show them where the welding shop was (time was running out). They agreed, I thought. But after we met with Jay and David, they starting taking me in the opposite direction, with Jay and David behind. I was essentially being kidnapped to the parts store.
At the first opportunity, I hopped out of the rolling car. I told them which hotel I was staying at and that I would pay for their light, but that I had to show my friends where the welder was. Everybody was upset.
When I returned to the hotel, guess who was awaiting me — no, not the couple, but rather a pair of Peruvian policemen. One of them ordered me to immediately ride my motorcycle with him on the back to the Police station — this at 6:30 pm Christmas Eve. Needless to say, I was a little nervous.
The police station intensified my angst, as I witnessed someone getting his head submerged in water in a fountain in the courtyard. I was hoping his offense was something more than a fender-bender.
Briefly, the police called the couple, they came to the station with an estimate of the cost of the tail light, $150! (I have a picture of it — it was just a tail light). My options were either to pay them the $150 right away or leave the bike (and key) at the station with all the salivating Peruvian motorcycle cops until I could go with the couple to buy a part — which would not be until at least the morning of the 26th.
So, not wanting to leave my bike at the station, nor to make Jay wait any longer than necessary, I swallowed hard and agreed to pay the $150. This required riding with the policeman back to the hotel, before we left he warned me that if I didn«t have the money I would spend the night in jail! Merry Chrismas.
At the hotel, yet another crisis. The owners, a very nice family who had taken a liking to me, saw me going to my room with a policeman to get money. They exploded — thinking he was demanding a bribe. After I explained the situation, they were still upset because, like me, they knew $150 was too much. Nothing about this day was easy.
When I finally returned to the station with the money, I paid the couple and the man with a wide grin said,¬ “Feliz Navidad”.
After dinner with my friends I returned to my hotel exhausted. It was midnight and the TV in the lobby was showing images of people outside the Japanese embassy in Lima exchanging hugs. I went to bed.
About 10 minutes later I heard a knock on my door. Now what? It was Wilber, the nephew of the owners of the hotel, with a plate of food and hot chocolate. I was overwhelmed with joy, exhaustion, and loneliness, and began to cry. After a minute I composed myself and went downstairs to join the entire family for Christmas dinner, which is traditionally eaten at midnight, where I recounted the day’s events.