Monday, 8 December 2008

cusco - lago titicaca - into bolivia via panic mechanics & AON La Paz

This was my 2nd time riding into cusco (plaza de armas above). Still as excited as before. Knowing this was the hubb, the capital city for the Incan empire. All that colourful, brutal, intelligent culture radiated from here. Everywhere you walk you are reminded of what was. Stones of all sizes, still stand tall holding up what the spanish brought to build on top of them. Colonial days touch the older than that days in harmony. not forgeting what our generations have slapped on and around all that beauty. Its easy and absorbing to get lost here. A quick stroll down to the water seller can take you to the other side of the valley, as each tiny alley way leads you down uniquely cobbled walk ways, shadowed by bulky square, seemingly throbbing rock,as mentioned. left from the incas. Mysteriously found from the ground, brought there without the use of the wheel and impeccably sqeezed together with other stones of those various sizes, with no gaps at all. Shops selling clothes, art, jewellrey, silver valuable graetly in europe, tasty grub, electrical goods. i bought my 3rd camera of the trip..... dont ask !!....... Norton Rats bar. Great burgers. Fun nights. Jeff the manager, a giant help in information to riders. he has been down there 20 years. after leaving the states. he has ridden all over. even down to Ushuaia on an old norton. Hes owned loads of nortons. his face lights up when someone mentions a norton, or the wind , or a scratch of a chair on the floor in the bar seems to say norton. a passionate man, full of valuable info. for me. 4 days here sorting things, and thats enough. no machu picchu this time. The day i leave, mike leaves also. his camera is broken so i sit around the plaza de armas, waiting, hounded by the street hawkers, its all to much , so im fast as i can out of the city when he gets his broken camera back, still broken. Its a 2 day ride at least to the frontier with Bolivia. I feel like have been in peru to long. i am not sure. Peru is a special place. it has it all. i have seen that this time round. Puno is our next stop if all goes well. .........................

We make great going. the road is still high and winding through the usual spectacular terrain. i could never take this for granted. mind you. i was feeling a tad complacent i think around the lima , cusco time. Even being treated like spacemen in the villages and bombarded by the wonderful kids and inquisitive old boys was starting to seem like the norm at this point. It took mikes clutch braking down completely to shake me out of the complacency. we were half way to puno. through the mountains , high, 4500metres up, the air is very thin. the villages getting scarce now. we pull over in this immaculate setting (photo below). stand there in silence for at least 5 minutes. turning full circle, watching the shocking place. An odd truck roaring past. mikes says , his clutch has gone all limp. i think to myself, alls ok, we`ll just sort it out in puno. He gets on his bike and the ktm hydrolic clutch is completely not working . Oh, this will be time for us to really get know eeach other well. i have a one man tent, thats like a coffin, mike has no tent and its very cold up here, even at full blue sky sun, let alone night time star saturated. Concerned looks all round. He gives the bike a try. Great ! the bike lets him move and doesnt stall. he flies off up the road. i chase him. we are both screaming at each other through the wind, "what do i do now !!?", " i dont know !!" , for the next 100 miles. a game of dont stop mike. stay at 45mph. just run down any llama or pig that wants to dart infront of ya.... my bike is still choking stropppy, at this altitude, like myself, it dont wanna go over 4000rpms. so i try my hardest to get infront and see if the next village has anything to offer. like a mechanic, a truck for hire or anything these ingenious people could offer, with a match stiock and a pic pen, so he can stop... this goes on as day starts to exhaust away. MIkes almost frantic. im starting to get properly worried now...this is still altiplano nothingness. He was given a lucky incan charm off this dodgy oxford type gent in cusco, with a donation to a childrens home for the "lucky incan charm". lucky, yeah !! donation for the children, yeah !!.. i see that charm go flying into a nearby field as the ride gets worse. It is getting dark now. non of my lights are working. the next town comes just in time. i am very relieved. Pucara is the town. i stand there, while the locals offer all sorts of help that i dont understand. i think it was help. seemed friendly as always. Is he gonna show up. hed better coz i cant go back and look for him with no lights. mikes rolls in and stops. his bike isnt going anywhere. A night in this cold small, andean village. everyone is interested. i hand out stickers as always and sheets of FXS explanations... rice and chicken again. washed down with that coke i have come to know so well. The stars are all out tonight. stunning. imagination doing overtime again. I find the orion constallation after ages.

The next day Dan, also on a klr like mine... a mate who mike rode with in belize shows up. masterfully, he knows whats going on with the clutch. It needs more, special mineral fluid for the hydrolics. The only mineral fluid we can get is baby bum cleaning johnsons oil. can you believe it ?! it works. until the next city. juliaca. a hideous place. even to a hardy worldy, lental loving traveller. too many people , too many cars, taxis, tuktuks, dogs, donkeys, buses, coaches, tin cans, thin sreets, all trying to get down the same gap at the same time ruthlessly. His clutch brakes again. a leak in the resevoir. Dan and mike sort it out in this kaos.

Puno is a relief. We find a hostel with a garage. the next day can be mechanic day. my bike needs some tlc also. The chaps sort the clutch out. a new seal is whats needed and some new fluid. the baby bum stuff was good for temporary service. still got some bottles left over though. might come in handy for something. I clean my air filter for the first time. get a new spark plug for the first time and re connect the electric connector stuff infront of the front lights, that has rattled loose. alls rosy with both bikes now. ....... sitting on the garage floor, beer in hands. all 3 of us full of self service mechanic satisafction, laugh and chat feeling good . very happy. 3 USA girls turn up , backpacks on backs. they ask for hostel info. our place is good. we all go for a drink that night. Great girls, searching peru for themselves. Lauren, vanessa & katherine, from new york city. We are all sitting round a table in a dark atmospheric puno bar, pearl jam on the speakers when i start rambling on why i am riding. turns out vanessa has 2 cousins with fragile x syndrome. At Last i have met someone who not only has heard of the syndrome but has relatives affected. Alex, a boy whos 9 years old and julie whos 12. Alex has the full mutation and has to be supervised constantly more or less. just like my Sian back home. Julie is less affected , but still needs alot of help. She can speak words. They live in Ohio, USA. Vanessa cant get to see them as much as she would like. I send my best wishes to Alex and Julie and their family. We had some fun with the 3 girls, including lording it up in the wigs they brought with them on their trip. It was satisfying for me especialy to have hair again, its been years since i have gone to scratch my head and got my fingers wrapped up in that wonderful stringy mess. even better was to feel a mullett slapping around my neck. i havent had a mullett since 1984 !... we said out goodbyes, i know i wasnt the only one wishing i could dump my luggage and take the girls pillion away to ushuaia !

from left to right : lauren, vanessa, moi, katherine. we sit round the hostel garden talking fragile x syndrome. a real constructive pleasure with laughs !

at last i have hair !! i didnt wanna give the syrup back ! was already wondering how the blond locks would look in the wind along the road, under my lid. .. any suggestions for look a likes ? cant help seeing a stressed brian may in mike (middle bloke) and ricky jervais, post head banging concert in dan (far right bloke). i miss mullets !

Out of Puno, it didnt take long to reach the border with bolivia. i was excited. what do you know of bolivia ? i only know what i hear and that isnt alot. they say it is south americas poorest country. some say civil wars looms. an indigenious president. that can not be a bad thing for the majority of its residents surely, can it ?.. the highest capital city on earth. a salt desert, surrounded by multi coloured luna landscapes. thats about it for what i have heard. riding along side lake titicaca, i see a vast mountain range on the other side from this peruvian side, looking more fierce and white than any other i have seen. my excitement grows into me laughing like a baboon inside my private life of a crash helmet. lake titcaca the highest navigable lake on earth is shared by peru and bolivia. we have to cross where the countries almost join with a pennisular coming from either side. copacobana is the town just on the bolvian side. the crossing is easy for me, but not that great for dan and mike , coz they are from the states. bolivia has set a $130 charge for states people to enter. joined with heavy forms to fill. im left sitting on the steps of the aduana, wonderng what this place will bring whilst the chaps boil their blood trying to cross. Its all down to mr bush not being happy with evo morales, the bolvian president. i wont go into that though. The faces have changed this side. a more mongolian eastern asian look appears to me. the ladies hats are even more extreme here. the dress, still as colourful as peru and the other andian countries. i am still working on the history of the boler and other hats here. i have asked but get blank stares of distress.

sitting on the bolvian frontier aduana steps, watching like a baby the new syles , faces and wonders.

bienviendos a bolvia

As soon as we hit copocabana, a small beach resort on the edges of bolivian titcaca i found what i have been looking for since the dalton highway. a seat cover ! i have no rear end now. the 16000ish miles have given me a flat back side. the standard kawasaki seat is no way good for a long haul. this llama hide (above) is a gift from the universe to me ! ahhhhhhhh, mmmmmmm, blissssssssss. now the miles go on with no arghhhhhhhhhhhhssss every 50 miles.

copocabana market day

the big high blue of lago titcaca

my first sight of bolivia from the peruvian side of the lake. " how am i gonna ride this ? " crosses my excited mind.

crossin the 2 pennisulas was a nut case boat ride on these boats (above) the hulls are just wrotten loose planks. the waves came and went, rocking us into screams of "amigo pleaseeeeee help me im going down " non of us did drop luckily though. the boys on the boats know exactly what they are doing. from then on its a small climb up into the andian plateau, which is bolvia. a desert comes again , so i must be on this plateau. la paz is 2 hours away. we need gas. no stations have any. we see a bunch of motorcycle police in a small town, we stop and ask for gas . there is some in a sweet shop. the lady stiches mike right up in charging him a tenner for half a gallon. lapaz comes. the usual wave of koas, i still dont know if i love or hate this wave. i am left exilerated after though, everytime and that afterwards beer is always the best beer. we turn a corner. my pannier falls off again. i stick it back on and look up to see la paz. i have honestly never seen anything like it. nothing. this sight is up there with seeing my first grizzzly close up in alaska. with my first wolf in the grass, watching me in canada. finding thomas cavendishs plundering bay, in mexico. my first smile off a latin lady. having the brooks range to myself. incredible. 3500 metres in the sky. if you live at sea level, go outside now and look up 2 and half miles. thats where la paz is. the city is neatly spread like summer butter on morning fat toast, around the bottom of a steep canyon ringed by more snow capped jagged peaks. again the photos go nowhere to capturing this shocking place. Im here to meet Aon. i am still carrying a disapointment with not meeting aon lima. it was a mixture of a busy aon, who where still very responsive to me, and a knackered me that led to that disapointment. I deeply appologise to Jorge at AON lima. Time not helping either. so i am determined not to feel that disapointment again. I email senor Jose Luis Contreras at AON La Paz. Straight away i get a response of please do come see us and let us help..........................

Bolivian biker police. Smiles , well wishes and loads of sarcasm and then they are away. dust everywhere like a heard of cowboys in days of old. i wouldnt wanna be on a bike and on the run from this lot. would stand a chance.
La Paz at first view. shocking, breath taking, taking the small breath i have left at this altitude........... i didnt move for ages staring at this sight. the clouds leave dark shadows as they are always so close.

The ride from the peru - bolvia border is through a high plateau , the altiplano... its a straight line at 4500 metres up . on the right , nothing, just a vast orange marshan landscape touching the horizon. on the left, those fierce mountains. ... you ride into the cities suburbs, taxis, vehicle repair shops everywhere. dust, llamas on leads. half built buildings. and half kaos, knowing the real madness of the wave is to come...... turn a corner and then this (above 2 photos). this deep canyon, where the spanish built a city hiding from the high winds of the plateau. la paz is magnificant. i wasnt expecting this. i will stop bleeting on about it now. even though it deserves it.............. we find a hotel. a grand place, in a grand place. a great price for an englishman on a dodgy budget.......

I get a taxi to AON La Paz. Its a long away from where i am sleeping. Above is Torre Ketal, the building Aon are at. Im greated by senor Contreras, in that brilliant latin american way. Big smiles and hand shakes. we sit in his grand office surrounded by beautiful works of art he has collected. i bleet on again for an hour. Jose is very interested and perseptive, regarding Fragile X Syndrome. He knows an editor of a large bolivian newspaper. we are in the motions of arranging some publicity as i type. fingers crossed.... I am given free roaming of the office again. Jose names names of Aon london employees he deals with . i know the names, from handing out envelopes. He names other Latin American employees, who i have met on the journey, that puts a big grin on my face and feelings of missing new friends..... Aon la paz is growng fast. they are ARS, the new Benfields (didnt know that happened) and consulting. 2001 it started to grow. they are the only international broker in Bolivia. they have 2 offices. one in la paz and one in santa cruz. 19 people work in la paz. another great bunch of friendly hospitable people. thank you again AON !

View from floor 4. aons floor in the Torre Ketal building. La Paz. red mountains that glow in the direct sunlight.
Myself and Senor Jose Luis Contreras. A real pleasure to meet him. All welcoming, with smiles, friendliness and interest. Thank you !

The Aon bunch, La Paz. all great fun and welcoming, again. i go in there like an alien disrupting the day, they dont mind whatsoever.

Reception. Aon. La Paz. Bolivia
the road out of la paz has taken me to a once sparkling silver mountain that created an empire, taking millions of lives. now a raped shell of a mound, sparkling nothing. Potosi and a euro beast. this landscape should be more at home beyond pluto ! Bolivia the strange !! bolvia a shocking original to this unseasoned me ! fantastic !

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon, you're blog is amazing. Glad you are enjoying Bolivia. Where will you be for Christmas? Take care and keep having a good time. Love Hannah & Tareq x