I guess you could say this is our first full day on the road...and what a day it’s been. When you’re in a foreign land some things become apparent quite quickly. We had arrived in Cuzco, a UNESCO World Heritage site, so had been removed somewhat from a clear picture. When there are protocols in place to protect an area of historical interest a skewed view can sometimes be had. When you leave town however a different picture emerges.
Two things have really begun to stand out. The inhospitable landscape and the kindness of the Peruvian people. We had spent a day and a half at Alejandro’s mother’s country house. A mechanical problem had prevented us from proceeding so instead of putting us up in a hotel we were given the keys to a gorgeous house in the country for not just one night but two. Alejandro, Ada and the crew at Peru Motor Tours had burned the midnight oil to make sure the Honda Transalp was ready for our trip. They had said they would bring the bike from Cuzco to the country house at 7:30am, and at 7:30am they arrived. Within a short period of time they had us sorted with new paperwork to cross into Bolivia and had brought spare inner tubes, tools and a hearty send-off. I know we are customers and it’s expected that services paid for are services rendered. But what happens when perhaps there is a problem with the service. Through no fault of Peru Moto Tours a mechanical mishap had stopped our journey. It is what took place during the time between the mechanical failure and our re-departure that tells the story. In our opinion the after sales service shined. A house in the country, a phone to use for updates, dinner sent out to the house and a general sense of commraderie were a very nice touch so shortly after arriving in Peru.
There were other acts of kindness during the day, but first we had to get there. We passed the toll booth where we had had a flat tire two days earlier, passed the breakdown site and then were on to virgin roads. As the morning rolled on we whipped through more villages that struck us as bleak. At a glance it appears that Peruvians live in a constant state of construction, destruction or abandonment. Many of the towns we passed through seemed like nothing more than ideas. Maybe we should build a town here? Then they half build it and move on. Nothing is complete, just construction, destruction and abandonment.
We rolled on and up in altitude. The villages became scarcer though the herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and watchdogs were ever present....and the Alpacas...they were everywhere. The mountains were beautiful in a desolate way. It was perhaps that desolation combined with the state of many of the villages that pounded the point home. Everywhere we looked, looked tough. The buildings were built by hand, stone walls built by hand, fields plowed and hoed by hand. Elder woman tended sheep alongside the road, others were carrying loads on their backs to an unknown destination. Skin was weathered and cloths well warn. Life looked hard, everything we were seeing looked hard, including the landscape. Yes, it was beautiful, but it was an austere beauty, a beauty removed from what we know as Western Canada. We came upon a lonely red roofed church in a valley with Alpacas in a pen close by. Beyond the valley the mountains rose and a glacier shone in the distance. We stopped to take a closer look. While Dominik took pictures I wandered over to a collection of men being doled out Alpaca soup from a huge cauldron next to the Alpaca pen. I approached and they soon welcomed me into their circle. As one ladled out the soup another took his knife and cut off a large piece of Alpaca meat and handed it to me on his knife. He was missing a couple of teeth and his skin was dark from the sun, a working man with a friendly smile. He and the others watched me take it and encouraged me to try it. I did, it was fantastic. A short while later I took my leave and Dominik and I were back on the road.
We rolled through more open landscape and settled on a small village for lunch. There was a group of Argentinian motorcyclists just finishing up. We had a quick natter, took some photos and they were off, but not before recommending the mutton. We ordered the said dish from a woman working out of her roadside shop. It came in a basket with a variety of potato that I had never tasted before. As we ate we nattered with the woman and her friend. At first they were a little shy and withdrawn but they loosened up during our meal. Soon they were asking where we were from, were we married, did we have kids. The friend offered us coca leaves, we offered chocolate covered almonds in return. Soon we were all laughing and one of the best lunches we had had since arriving in Peru was finished. The mutton was fantastic. Before we left we took some photos and they pulled out cell phones and took pictures of us. They were a lovely couple of women that really made the day shine.
That evening we rolled into Puno, a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. At first glance we thought it was like many of the other towns we’d passed through, seemingly on life support, but we were hugely mistaken. Puno is a town shaped like an amphitheatre with all roads leading to the lake. The hotel that Dominik punched into his GPS was a no-show so we headed down to the water. If ever in doubt head for the water and you’ll usually find someone with an answer. We rolled to a halt on the promenade and before we’d finished taking pictures a man, Juan Del Puerto, was trying to book us a ride on his boat to the Uros, the floating islands out in the lake. He was a Captain, and a travel agent, and a Tuki Tuki driver, and a...he was many things and before we knew it we followed him in a three wheel Tuki Tuki to a new hotel. It was so new that word hadn’t gotten out and no one had checked in so the staff had gone home. No staff! No problem, Juan was on the phone and five minutes later a taxi pulled up and two woman debarked. They opened up the doors, hit the lights and the hotel was in business. Last issue was what to do with the motorbikes. Just so happened the newly tiled lobby floor was the perfect size for two full grown bikes. They whipped the double doors open and problem solved. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. These Peruvians sure know how to make a couple foreigners feel at home.
Thank you Alejandro, Ada, Victor, Wilbur and Juan Del Puerto!