As you’d likely be aware is customary for us now, we yet again had false starts attempting to leave a city. Thunder Kitty was in a worse state than when we left on the big trek and now no longer even started. After days spent in limbo, doing it tough and surviving off falafel and avo wraps, passion fruit Kombucha and Nutella crepes, we decided to throw Scott on a bus to Huaraz. He would have to come back for his bike in a few months once the parts we needed had arrived from the US.
The plan was to meet Scott in Huaraz in three days, which didn’t leave us with a lot of time to cover the 1,300km of winding mountain roads which lay before us. Pulling out of Cusco after more than a month off the bikes, we started the theme of setting off at dawn and continuing often into the night which would become our lives for the foreseeable future. In the ensuing days, we rode through alpine tussock grasses in the mountains, and sand and scrub in the desert. Hundreds of kms were passed through a long canyon. The single lane dirt road was wedged between sheer rock walls and 200m drops to the raging river below. All the while, trucks, cars and motos passed us at terrifying speeds and at times pushed us closer to the edge than we would have liked.
We took shelter from thunderstorms, outran others and slept anywhere we could. Sometimes that was a bed in a hostel that we’d collapse into at 8.30pm after thirteen hours on the road. Sometimes it was a circus tent we’d crawl under after everyone had gone home for the evening. As long as it was cheap and (relatively) safe, it was good enough for us. The long days hugging the saddle of a juddering bike quickly took their toll and we soon ached in parts of our bodies we didn’t even know we had.
Most villages we passed through hadn’t seen long-haired, moto-riding gringos in the flesh. It was customary that the whole village would come out and meet or stare at us. We would get quizzed about why we were there and where we were going. Questions would generally then progress to the colour of our eyes and whether we wanted to stay there forever and marry a girl.
Each time we ordered a meal, we said we didn’t eat meat and so were offered chicken and then fish. After clearing up that we didn’t eat those either and confirming that rice with veggies and an egg would be just fine, we’d get a meal with chicken and fish anyway.
What we thought would be our final and shortest day of riding to Llamac turned out to be the most eventful. After a few days of hard riding, we were treated to beautiful twisting roads through the mountains and alongside ancient Inca trails. The day started by passing through tiny towns where the whole village would stop what they were doing as we rode through, or come out to meet us if we stopped for a break. It was later in the afternoon where things got more interesting.
Only a small handful of km's from where we were going to start a trek, I took a fairly big stack on the bike. And by fairly big stack, I mean I hit a big rock on a dirt road which sent me into the ditch and after a few hundred metres of trying to regain control, I did the exact opposite.
Luckily, after coming off at 80km/h and the bike landing on top of me, all I had was a very bruised hip, leg, shoulder and chest. Unluckily, after getting the bike working again and continuing towards Llamac, the sketchy road we were on promptly became a walking track. In 30 minutes, we only gained 100m and dropped the bike a bunch of times.
Sitting dejectedly on the side of the track with both bikes on their side, we reluctantly made the call to turn back. This resulted in a 170km detour which continued well into the night. In total, we rode for more than 10 hours that day, the last few with both a broken bike and human. Finally arriving in a town, we got another ‘vegetarian’ chicken soup and crashed into bed. That night, we slept for 12 hours.
Ask anyone, I dare you, and their top memory isn’t sitting in the comfort of their home watching TV. It may not be crashing a motorbike deep in the Andes miles from anywhere and having to ride for hours to get out, but nevertheless, it sure isn’t sitting in the comfort of their home watching TV. It’s the memories of overcoming challenges and the fighting that we hold on to. It had been one of the harder days of the year, both physically and emotionally. But it’s a day that I’m unlikely to forget. Ever.
Adventure isn’t polished. It’s not clean and it definitely doesn’t always go as planned. It’s getting caught in a storm. It’s being up shit creek and realising your paddle is also a piece of shit. It’s reluctantly calling it and turning back. It’s being prepared to be unprepared. And if the other day is anything to go by, sometimes it’s just sitting on the side of the road, broken and in the middle of nowhere, and shamelessly crying.
Five days after leaving Cusco, we finally made it to Llamac. As of the time of writing this at 7.30pm and two days after we’d arranged to meet Scott, he was nowhere to be seen. - Pat