After taking a day off motorcycle riding to adventure through the ruins of Machu Picchu, our contributor and his troupe were back in the saddle and heading out of Cusco.
This is the second part of David Reid’s original Fan Report. Read the first part of his story in the Peru Off-Roading Adventure – Fan Report
Wrestling the XR from between the cluster of cars in the crowded parking compound I throw a leg over and began the kick starting ritual. At nearly 12,000 feet of elevation and wearing stiff riding gear, it’s important that things go well. If this beast doesn’t come to life in three kicks or less, it could be trouble. However, the god of combustion was clearly smiling upon me as the gratifying report of my Super Trapp reverberated off the surrounding masonry and triggered a car alarm. Having shattered the predawn stillness in proper form, I proceeded to thread my way the wrong way up a one-way alley in an attempt to find my way back to our hotel.
Shortly afterwards, our entourage was rolling through the streets of early morning Cusco. After a fuel stop and a moment of playful banter that has already become a habit with this group, we quickly settle into what is now a familiar rhythm. After taking a day off from riding motorcycles to travel to Machu Picchu and experience the amazing ancient ruins, we were once again in the saddle. This feels great to me. Riding is what I came to do. For so many years, motorcycling has been mostly a solitary activity for me. It’s a unique experience to now be traveling in the company of others, and terrific company they are.
Neale, our de-facto ring leader, whose irreverent sense of humor was simply not to be constrained by any known norms of common decency, was instigating some sort of mirth at every opportunity. His infectious humor combined with the powerful experience of traveling through this magical place set a tone for the entire trip. We took to calling ourselves “The Laughing Gringos.” It was a name that certainly fit.
The remainder of our troupe was made up of Christie, our lone female. Devoutly religious, yet utterly down to earth, she has quickly proven herself to be not only an intrepid traveler and fine rider, but able to handle anything that we dish out. My son-in-law and good friend, Brad, was making his first such trip. A gifted photographer and solid rider, he seems to be comfortably in his element and having the time of his life. It’s great having him along.
RIding for two days in the Andes had an intoxicating effect and left our fan report contributor pondering while exploring the rural landscapes of Peru.
Accompanying us in the support truck is Neale’s friend, Brandon. While not a motorcyclist himself, he is typically in the middle of, if not the subject of, our frequent kidding. A chef and nutritionist by profession, he’s been good at keeping our hydration packs full and having snacks available during the long distances that we are covering.
Then of course, there is our hapless tour guide, Flavio. I say that because we are putting this poor guy through what may be the toughest trip that he has taken to date. We have asked him to go far and wide from the routes of his usual excursions. His equipment, while aging, seems to be in good repair and has certainly served us well so far. I don’t know what his normal tours are like, but I’m pretty sure that chasing a bunch of nuts across the endless kilometers of the Peruvian Altiplano for countless hours on end is not why he got into this business. He is being more than a good sport about it and I know that it wouldn’t be possible for us to have such a fantastic trip without him.
The sights, smells and movements of early morning Cusco make for a heady experience.This is such a fascinating country. Riding for two days in the Andes before being immersed in the local hubbub of bus, taxi and train travel to Machu Picchu, not to mention the rapturous effects of the ruins is enough to put anyone in an altered state of mind. Flowing through this surreal and beautiful landscape like the water of a mountain stream I can’t help but feel a strong connection with my fellow riders and the surrounding environment . I consider myself very privileged. The people that we pass are going about their ordinary routines. This is their day-to-day life. I have no idea if their lives are difficult or easy, or really no different from my own. Without speaking their language and knowing little about them, I still feel a sense of connection and affection for them as I pass them along the road. I’m particularly impressed by the gentle Quechuans. Even blowing along at speed on a motorcycle, there is so much to observe; their obvious familial connections, their beautiful attire and the utter simplicity of their life style. They appear to be in such harmony with the cycles of life as you see the generations together – the elderly, the young adults and the children. I witness this over and over as we pass through the country.
While passing through remote towns our contributor caught glimpses of locals in their daily routine.
The beautiful llamas and alpacas we encounter are another item of fascination. When they block our progress it’s an amusing treat just to get close to them. There is much time for thought as we make our way toward Arequipa. We are taking this trip ostensibly “to raise awareness of the children of Hogar Belen.” That certainly sounds good. Frankly, I just wanted a chance to come ride in Peru. The fact that it was in some way supposed to help someone else either directly or indirectly was just icing on the cake. I knew that we intended to write articles and tell others of our trip. I also knew that Neale intended to come back the next year and shoot for television. That sounded good. We really couldn’t be certain as to how all of this was going to raise anyone else’s awareness, but I was certain that this experience was raising my awareness.
The Peruvian Altiplano is a strange and other-worldly place. It is the high plane where the Andes are at their widest. I had to continually remind myself that we were at an extraordinarily high altitude. I never really experienced any bad altitude sickness but I have to admit that I was feeling a little out of it later in the afternoon when I found myself getting bad chills and needed to ride for a while in the truck while either Brad or Neale took my bike. Once in the warmth of the cab, I dozed off right away. I remember opening my eyes briefly to discover that we were passing a truck. That was fine, but the fact that we weren’t quite past and were alarmingly close to meeting an oncoming vehicle compelled me to quickly close my eyes again.