Fluffy pancakes stacked high, dripping with maple syrup, greased with a double espresso at Heart’s Cafe in Ollantaytambo is, I can confirm, the perfect way to start a days ride. Two fellow riders from Argentina were staying at the same hotel and heading in the same direction, so we all decided to ride together. In true Peruvian style, we experienced 4 seasons in one day, and a new one where one freezes and gets pelted with hail. Not my favourite season.
It finally occurred to me today after many weeks, that Peruvians hate potholes. They will do anything to avoid them. It is a common occurrence to be happily riding in my lane, only to find an 18 wheeler suddenly veering into my lane, putting my life at risk, in order to attempt to avoid a pothole, clearly not seeing the 3 that are in my lane. I have pulled out to pass a slow moving vehicle, only to find my footpeg providing them with a new pin-strip down the side of their vehicle, as they swerve to avoid what they thought was a pot hole, but was in fact someone’s skid marks. I have seen new lanes created in the gravel on the side of the road, as cars swerve to avoid inconsistencies in the road, which I for some reason am able to fly over with no problem.
Our route had the misfortune of passing through Juliaca, a town which makes me glad I am on a bike and can escape. Piles of scrap metal line one side of the road, heaps of garbage on the other. A truly horrible place. Not thirty minutes later we came to the outskirts of Puno, a town which I had been warned of the police and their tactics to supplement their income with what most people consider bribes. The officer stopping me decided that I needed insurance and that my document wasn’t sufficient due to an expiry date being in the past tense. After much waving of hands and indignation from myself, my riding companions interviewed, themselves being policeman in Argentina. With promised to rectify the situation at the next possible instance, my documents were back in hand, and we quickly departed.
We arrive in Puno at the same time as a monsoon which turned the streets into rivers. A day of proof that my Rev’it gear is definitely waterproof. My newly unstitched SIDI boots, are not. Morning found us having a uncharacteristically large brunch on the top floor of the hotel, overlooking a city of unfinished buildings. A tax law in Peru stipulates that a homeowner doesn’t have to pay tax until a house is complete. Rebar sticking out the top floor of every house is testament to the stupidity of this law. Bellies full of food, my riding partners heading on to Bolivia, while I tried to source printing and laminating of a Loren designed set of license plates, the originals of which are on a dirt road somewhere in Peru. An hour and a half later, the laminated plate is afixed to my bike, and I am ready for a border crossing, the first one in six weeks. Riding next to Lake Titicaca, snow capped mountains in the distance, I couldn’t help but thinks this sure beats sitting in a meeting in Sydney discussing database design.
For the second time in two days, insurance papers came to haunt me. My newly laminated insurance document with a revised expiry date, was the center of the Peruvian border police officer’s concern. If you ever need to make anything look official, print it on color paper and laminate it. A trick learnt from the many fixers at the borders throughout Central America. The insurance document was in English, which he clearly couldn’t read, but was looking for the words “South America”. As my document doesn’t cover South America, he was searching for quite awhile. I was asking why he wanted insurance documents when I was leaving the country in three minutes. No matter. Discussions of money followed, to which I was admit that I wasn’t paying anything. He then called in a co-worker, who must have convinced everyone that he spoke and read English, which he didn’t. Upon inspection of my laminated piece of green paper, he announced that it was indeed international as I had been arguing, pointed at the word “insurance” as proof. I nodded in agreement, everyone ummm and uwwed, shoke hands, and I left, continuing not to pay a single bribe. Entry to Bolivia was a breeze, as I continue to wonder what was up with all those Central American countries that make entry feel like a prison sentence.
Copacabana is a splendid town, resting between two hills and overlooking Lake Titicaca. The Lonely Planet calls Las Olas a “splurge” and a “once-in-a-lifetime experience”, showing poetic license on the later, but still, certainly nice. Th fireplace crackled as I drifted off to sleep, stars glistening over the harbour, viewed from my front window.
Pulling my bike away from it’s best parking view thus far, another day of phenomenal riding followed. If this is Bolivia, I love it! Today I have another love – my GPS. It routed my perfectly around La Paz, a huge, sprawling, dirty, exhaust spewing city. My route had me on the newly constructed road avoiding the “World’s Most Deadliest Road”, a moniker few would want to achieve. These days it is less a road and more of a route for mountain bike riders. The new road goes through the same environment in the Cordilleras, where the high altitude mountains of the Andes meet the steamy sub-tropical jungle, but without the possibilities of death around every corner, just every second one.
In Corioco, I stayed at Hostal Sol y Luna which had jungle camping for $3, including outdoor hot shower. The mosquitos where an additional free bonus. Could this be the best camp yet? No, that still falls firmly with Green Tortoise camp on the beach in Mexico.