Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kindness of others

It seems that I have a deep buried need to take shortcuts across the country. Just like earlier in Peru when four of us found ourselves on the road to nowhere, it seems I found another.

This time it was during my travels from Cusco to Colca Canyon to see the giant Condors. As I hit a town called Yuri I looked at my GPS and it said I had about another five hours to go if I followed the paved highway (boring). But when I look at my paper map there it was a shortcut running across to the next supposed highway. 

Surely this would save me time!

So just to make sure I talked to some locals about my plan. Now here are a few things you need to know about asking directions from most locals.
  1. They have zero sense of time and distance
  2. They will tell you what they think you want to hear (it's there want to be helpful)
  3. If you are driving a motorcycle every road is passible to them
  4. They rarely know the next town over
  5. They are not familiar with using maps
  6. My spanish sucks when it c
What can go wrong!

So off I go and I find myself on this amazing fire road travelling through an area called the three canyons. Unfortunately after about an hour and a half the road transformed from a nice leisurely fire road to numerous river crossings and mud. 

Now if you don't think I learned from the last road to nowhere I did (a little). This time I actually stopped and thought about pushing forward or turning around while the getting was good. The only problem though is I just lost three hours of prime daylight and now I would need to drive at night. 

So off I head back to town and when I arrive I turn on my GPS and it shows the highway to take. But as soon as I get to the edge of town I see grading equipment (my spidey senses are tingling) as I stop for the signal person. 

For my first question I ask what highway number is this ( I believe it is #21 on my map). Of course she does not know, but says don't worry this is a national highway. My second question is how long before pavement again? Her response "Don't worry only a few more miles"

Well two hours into it this is the situation I find myself:
  1. The road is filled with rocks, potholes and muddy sections
  2. The sun has disappeared for the day
  3. I am at 4700 meters (15,000 feet) on the altiplano with nothing around
  4. It is zero degrees and will only be dropping as the night continues 

At least the view of the rising moon is spectacular. 

Now remember I said my spidey senses were tingling. Well as it turns out they were right because when I came a round the next corner WAM! I run into a huge rock in the middle of the road and all I can think of is I hope that didn't damage anything.

 I made it about another quarter mile and then my front tire blows out. Now considering my current situation of it being dark, cold and in the middle of nowhere. I surprise myself with my calmness and all I can say to myself is "shit this is going to suck".

So I decide first things first is to assess damage to the bike. I inspect the front rim and notice it has a dent in it from the impact and obviously a hole in the inner tube.
 (Positive: I was able to maintain control of a blown front tire, which on a bike can be deadly). 

My second thought now goes to shelter as it is too cold, windy and dark to fix the tire. This is the altiplano and I have gone mile after mile without seeing a house, but not less than a 100 feet back in the dark sits a farmhouse. I have no clue if anyone even lives there so I knock on the door with the intention of sleeping on the front landing if need be, out of the wind. No one answers but as I am walking away to move my bike and grab my gear a lady walks out from the dark. This is my first interaction with Martha who after hearing my story offers to bring my bike into the sheep pen and provide a room for the night.

The below video shows my accommodations for the night

This is really what my trip is about and something you will never find on a tourist brochure. It is not about the tourist sites, but about facing personal challenges when they arise and meeting the true people of a country.

I have always believed the majority of the people in the world will help you when the need arises. Martha and her sister are no exception as they offer me a place to stay and storage for my bike. After setting myself up and getting comfy with a book under candlelight, Martha comes by and offers me some coffee and bread to eat. I am humbled as these are people who have very little in life yet they are willing to share what little they have with a complete stranger.

My supper for the night
As I eat Martha and I get a chance to talk. I find out that this is their grandparents original farm, she is one of eight children, and her father has passed away. While her mother and siblings are in Arequipa  for supplies, her and her sister are tending to the sheep and Llamas. I find out they have 90 sheep and 300 llamas, which apparently is not that much. Throughout the conversation she is concerned for my well being and constantly asks if I have enough warm clothing and blankets. She says the night will get bitterly cold outside and there is no heat in the house. She also thinks I am crazy for doing this solo and cannot figure out why I do not have a wife and kids.

The next morning I rise at six, brush the frost off my bike and reassess the damage. I start to disassembly the front wheel assembly to fix the flat, and find that in Triumphs infinite wisdom all the tools to remove the front tire are not supplied.

I need a special tool to remove the front wheel spindle (shit now what). Once again Martha and her sister dig through all there tools and supplies to see if they can help but to no avail.

I decided to take some pictures of my companions while trying to think of my next step.

With no proper tool I decided to flag down a passing motorist to see if he may have what I need. I flag down Tomas in his truck and explain my situation. He comes over to see if he can help, but soon realizes he neither has the tool to help. Without a blink of the eye he says he is going to Arequipa and would be glad to throw my bike in the back.

My generous helpers
Sending the Llamas out to graze
My bike at the shop with the front tire being repaired

Again because of the kindness of others a very trying situation turned into an experience of a lifetime. It could have taken me days to get off the mountain, but I was in my hostel by three the following day. 

All I ask of others is that if you believe you see someone in need of help. Please take a moment to stop and find out as you may change there lives and view of the world with a simple jester.

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