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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Peruvian Angels

Let's start this blog with a meal.
As you've understood by now, it's hard to find food.
I always wonder, will I get sick?
It's confusing to people when I say no rice, potatoes or beans and ask for vegetables.

Ingrid recommended a restaurant for dinner. 
Went inside, or what I thought was inside. 
Until it started to rain, hard, and then realized there was no inside.
Photo of open courtyard next to the table. 

The rain here is often forecasted as Thunderstorms.
Between the hours of 3-6, there is a slot where the sky will just dump.
Then it stops as fast as it started. 
I'm in love with all the clouds.

The restaurant had an added attraction. 
A roving German Shepherd who came to check on the table every few minutes.

The menu is the same everywhere. 
This is chicken Milanese. 
If I don't eat chicken for a month, it will be too soon.

Pounded flat as roadkill, and I do mean it sounded like a very large heavy mallet, bang bang bang coming from the kitchen. Breaded and fried. 
And what? A whole plate of sautéed vegetables?!?

There is a funny thing that happens at every meal. 
I take up a lot of time trying to explain what I want and end up ordering two plates of food because they just can't understand that I want meat and veggies.

Then the server walks away, before K.B. can order. 
They think I am ordering for two of us.
No, all that food, it's for me. 

OK now back to riding.

Over dinner in Chavin de Hauntar we discussed the bad combination of rain, at altitude = snow and possibly black ice. There is another road to get to La Union, unpaved, less travelled with more than 1 person saying 'don't go that way'. OK, we won't go that way.

To be honest, I was happy to ride the same road back out if the weather held up.
Then a couple more locals confirmed, no risk of ice on the road. 
They were right.

But watch out for big rocks. 
This was not in the road just the day before.
It's the size of a car. 

Arrived at La Union. 
Took the main paved road and had vistas of the national park with snow capped mountains.
Went around a pretty lake. 
Rode a dirt section, again better than the paved road.
Wish all the roads were wide, dirt roads. 

It's difficult to research accommodations ahead of time. The phone number never works. Rarely is there a website. Bookings/ reservations don't make it through. 
Turns out the hotel I had found online was closed.

Faced with trying to find a place with secure parking for the bikes, I rode to the town square and looked around and based on how confused I looked, an older man came over to the bike to talk. K.B. was hesitant to engage with him but I've come to understand Peruvian people and thought, he's going to help us.

Help us he did, as well as another random stranger who drove his car leading us to a place that could have been good for the bikes but was closed. Then he led us back to the main road and found another place to stay.

 As K.B. struggled with the young kid at the hotel on "secure motorcycle parking", a Peruvian family just sitting on the corner came to our aid and offered locked parking down the alley from the hotel. The bikes were going to be as safe as they could be.

Rooms turned out to be pretty clean and comfortable.
Mattresses are always good quality, it's mind blowing.
People are always cleaning. Mopping the dirt away. 
I've been impressed with how clean things are....lukewarm or outright cold showers though.
With a head of cold wet hair I found a salon where Cristian blowed it dry. 
He also pulled on my hair so hard that I had a mild headache when he was done.
He also curled it outward which I hate.
Oh and he used a fine tooth comb from the top of my head to rip another amazing amount of hair out.
This is a reminder of why I cut, color and dry my own hair now.

Next we went to the 'best restaurant' in town.
It was not what anyone would expect to be the best place.
What is was, is a place for workers to come at the end of the day for a hot meal and a mug of coffee for $3 bucks. That's right, 20 soles for both our meals.
The food was good and she even managed to make me chop suey with my pounded flat chicken.
The service so attentive that when we understood they did not have beer, the owner found someone on the street to come to our table and sell a couple cans.

OK so now the real drama begins.

Construction in a way that I have never seen before in my life.
Road conditions that are hard to even describe. 
It was 90KM of the slickest, rockiest, rutted, hell on earth I have ever seen.
It took 3 hours to go 45km.
I broke into sobs on 3 occasions facing terrain ahead and losing my nerve.
Skipped breakfast, always a bad idea for me but it's difficult to get an early start and eat.

K.B. asked what I thought of the road. 
This is what I think of this road of hell muck.

These pictures just don't do it justice. 
The really tricky stuff was too dangerous to stop on for a photo.
Sections of road so narrow that barely a car could pass and we have to navigate large trucks full of mud.

After 3 hours, I pressed that we had to stop and get towed out.
The information that we had was that at least another 50+KM was like this.
We would never make it. It was already past noon and we can't get caught in this at night.

Took refuge under this structure and contacted our local friend for help. Toby.
It was clear to me that based on the distance, time of day and other factors, we would be there well into the night and maybe overnight. I was grateful for bringing my tent but that only fits 1.

I started to flag down every pick up truck that was empty and on my 4th try, found these two.
These are the Peruvian angels. David and Victor.
They happened to know Toby, whom I bought my bike from in Huanuco.
In fact, David the driver lives blocks from Toby.
They are both in the same motorcycle club.
What incredible luck, I think this was more than luck, we had something watching out for us.

Victor is an engineer and helped him back up to a place where the bike might be able to be loaded. This photo, does show the deep ruts we had to ride through and some places were so crisscrossed that we had to walk through. My boots were so heavy from muck and mud, it felt like I had 15lb weights on each foot. Peru crossfit.

K.B. getting in position.

First the three of them tried to lift the front wheel. 
After three unsuccessful tries, I stopped them and problem solved by showing them a wood ramp I had discovered while checking our surroundings for the night.

Wood ramp buttressed with rocks and other things. 
We needed one more person to help.

Another rider came by and all 4 of them were able to get the bike on the short truck bed.
I only prayed the bike didn't tip either way and crush anyone as I photographed the whole scary event.

This is the point that I stopped holding my breath.

After about 15 mins of tie down strapping and unloading my bike of gear and luggage I got in the back of the pick up and Bob got on my bike to ride ahead. Remember, tired, no food, very little water and burning daylight. 50KM more of this.

View of bike from back seat.

You can see K.B. ahead.
I'll take a moment here to describe the drive.
David is an exceptional driver.  Later he shared with me that his dad taught him to drive at 8.
That's not to say that I didn't shut my eyes often as we came right along the edge of the road more times than I wish to remember with the knowledge that roads just cave out from underneath, frequently.
The truck bounced and jostled with the weight of the bike and I just hoped the bike didn't flip out and drag us all screaming down the hill with it to eventually drown in the fast raging river below.

I can't say I felt safe, at least on a bike, you choose how close you get to the edge with but two way traffic there is no choice but to pull over and let others pass and we seemed to always be on the outside of the mountain road edge. I almost put my helmet on twice. 

We passed the Crown of the Inka's and came into a town called Punto Union.

The workers were blasting the road ahead and there was a barricade manned by the toughest, take no prisoners, woman I have ever seen in action, holding mobs of angry, yelling, male drivers at bay.

Problem is, they let K.B. go ahead. 
So without cell signal, we only had our satellite trackers to communicate through and because I had more information than him on when the road would open, when it would get dark, how much longer of this road from hell would be, I insisted he come back. To his credit he went along with it. 
We have built trust over the rides we've done and know each other well. I don't push the panic button lightly. 

 I reasoned I would rather leave my bike here and come back for it another day than risk his life getting it back. We parked my bike in front of the iron lady's dirt hut and set off. We really needed to have it indoors and as we left, hoped it would still be there the next day.

Fortunately no one stole my Michelin Man but they did steal (cut off) the pouch from my handlebars with generally useless stuff to them. Enjoy the headlamp, extendable magnet, hand wipes, and the reset bolt and allen key for my airbag vest. Very important stuff for me that will end up in the garbage.  It was a good reminder that all our efforts to have secured parking for bikes and sleep in terrible places was worth it.

I'll leave out the strange decision by David to take a long short cut around the lake, as it got dark, with little to no visibility in the fog, no other vehicles, and the vague idea of what turns to take. Yeah I'll leave that out. 

Finally made it to Huanuco by 9pm. 
The next day I went to a clinic to get the X ray to confirm the breaks.

I'm sitting in my room, resting and sleeping a lot and trying to weigh all options of what to do. 
This is adventure riding. 
This is not vacation.
I know the risks when I set out.
I have been injured before and continued on.
I was not in any significant pain, at least when I was on the bike. 
In bed at night, that is another matter.

The next day, took David and Victor to dinner to the same steakhouse.
4th time eating here. Had a great time laughing and sharing stories. 
I started to understand a lot more of what they were saying even though each word was not always clear. Turns out Victor speaks a little French too!
We shared photos of families and other things. 

Peruvian angels.