|The final photo of the bike|
For a long time our blog anticipated we would ride from Santiago, Chile to Tijuana, Mexico. We had even discussed the possibility of continuing all the way to Canada. During our travels we met many with the bold aim of crossing the Americas in their entirety, from Alaska to Ushuaia. This is entirely possible, just not at our pace, or not in a reasonable time period at least while still giving each country the time it deserved. Ushuaia had taken us 2 months. We left Buenos Aires more than a month later. So though we may not have admitted it to one another until 6 months into the ride, for much of our trip the end goal had been to reach Colombia.
So I've come to realise I'm all about milestones. It started with travelling a certain amount of kilometres, then it was about getting to Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world, though once we were there we weren't sure quite what to do. However, on heading north we started running out of milestones. I mean passing from one country to the next is cool, but until you get to the top of South America no one really cares. However, we would soon be passing another pretty special milestone. High up in Northern Ecuador, we would eventually pass from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. The middle of the earth, or middle earth for short. (I've also come to realise that New Zealand is famous for two things, little people with large feet, and one giant rugby player with a mean fend).
Back inland toward Baños, we had a repeat of the ride to Cuenca, only this time the cause was a very badly potholled road. We did at least manage to find accomodation before nightfall stopping in a small town where Saturday night meant continuing festival celebrations were at their most rowdy. In the past we would have viewed stumbling on such an occasion as good fortune but now we felt only frustration knowing the difficulties it would mean finding accommodation, and the knowledge our sleep would be interrupted by Ecuadorian 'music' (which sounds a lot like Japanese karaoke) on repeat throughout the night. We were starting to have an appreciation for how many varied and amazing things we have had the opportunity to experience. Festivals, thermal pools, and waterfalls just don't cut it any more. Well one thing we hadn't tried was bungee jumping. More on that to come.
Ecuador began a little as Peru had when two police officers stopped us and tried to elicit a bribe. Only we didn't know that is what they were trying to do at the time. Reece had blatantly contravened the road rules by passing a truck on a speed bump when we heard the sirens. A man in uniform told old us it was going to be a $120US fine! Ouch. Well under my breath I was muttering to Reece we would simply leave the country without paying it. The policeman hadn't counted on our blatant disregard for the Ecuadorian justice system. It was only later as we discussed the incident did we realise they had assumed we would offer them a little something to make the whole thing go away. Unfortunately they struck the two most naive tourists in history. We left baffled, ticketless, and in posession of all our money. Where did we go so right?
With the border into Ecuador fast approaching we passed the 25,000km mark. Our journey began on a concrete parking lot outside the airport at 0km; passing cotton floating through the air like snow at 1,000km; passing fields of sunflowers all staring at us at 10,000km. And now, some might say against odds, on a Peruvian highway cruising along, we passed 25,000km.
Almost more exiting than Machu Picchu and the Nasca lines was the knowledge we would get our first glance of the sea in the many months since leaving the Atlantic coast in Uruguay. After three months in Bolivia, the plan was to pass through Peru with haste, admiring the scenery from the back of the bike. That meant long days on the pan-American highway: almost 50,000 kilometres of road extending from Alaska all the way to Ushuaia in southern Argentina. The pan-American cuts through the desert along the coast of Peru. At its most beautiful it follows the wild pacific coast to the west, and winds through waves of sand dunes lining the road. At its worst rubbish lies strewn on either side dropped from passing cars in contravention of the many signs imploring drivers against this.
I remember as a small child blessed with chicken legs and a high pitched voice, watching a documentary on the Nasca Lines. These mysterious lines, sprawled out across the desert, sometimes stretching for kilometres. These mysterious lines, only viewable from the sky - forming triangles, squares, monkeys, condors, astronauts? Like the Bermuda Triangle or the City of Atlantis, these lines were indeed a mystery - why were they made, for whom, and for what purpose? The documentary talked of alien beings, water cults, and mapping of the skies. Who knew I would one day find myself in Peru, boarding a small plane to see these wonders.
|Llamas keep the grass trimmed to perfection|
We overheard a guide telling his group as we arrived at sunrise to one of the seventh 'new' wonders of the world that Machu Picchu means 'Muchos Photos' and it was easy to see why he must make this joke day in day out - it was more magical than we could have expected. As we took in our first glimpse of the Inca palace it was hard to imagine such a grandiose feat of architecture could have been hidden from the invading Spanish and then the world for centuries, buried under a canopy of forest until its western 'discovery' in the early 20th century. We took the guide's word from it and took quite a few pics - a few of the best are included below.
The good fortune we expected from having a Priest bless our bike lasted all of about half an hour. Crossing the border into Peru we were extorted by the Police for not carrying bike insurance. Having only just entered the country and insurance not being available for sale on the border I would have thought some leniency would be in order but he was not letting us leave without a little sweetner, proudly pointing out in the rule book exactly which law we had broken.