Crash, bank, wallop!
Those three words pretty much summed up my day of biking. Although I technically didn’t fall off, I did have one or three mishaps.
First I had what seemed like a run of the mill corner, on tarmac too. Somehow I couldn’t seem to get my bike to go left however and before I knew it I had gone straight into the steel railing that ran along the edge of the road, right knuckle first! That was the worst one, even as I sit here typing about this embarrassingly easy corner I failed to navigate, I can still feel the throb from the wounds on my hand, yet to fully heal. And we’re talking four weeks ago now! Second, was a slight miscalculation of where the road ends and the dirt off the side begins. To work this out all you need is the ability to steer and the ability to see where you are going. Apparently I lack in both and it was perhaps lucky I didn’t fly off the side and down what would have been a very, very long drop to the bottom.
Thirdly (and most disappointingly) I had another miscalculation where I got too close to some parked bikes. With a gentle squeeze of my breaks nothing seemed to be going on. I was sure this would slow me down but I didn’t feel as if I was actually achieving my primary goal. So I squeezed harder, and with a slight skid decided it was time to lift my left foot off the pedal and place it on the ground. Unfortunately with the bike still moving a fraction too fast all I managed to do was catch the dirt beneath me, pulling my foot behind me and thus launching me forwards (and downwards). With my bike coming down with me I maintain that at no point did I fall off my bike, it doesn’t count if it comes down with you right?
So with a lack of finger skin, a near heart attack and what felt like a sprained wrist, I made it to the finish. A well deserved beer and a short ride later, the tour, which consisted of me, an American couple, and another American couple, who had brought their son along, were brought to an eco-lodge for the night. The short ride in itself was pretty interesting. A narrow dust road etched into the side of a mountain, high up and with no barrier. Think the Death Road in Bolivia but perhaps more dangerous, only less busy and definitely less famous. Some people grimaced, some were even terrified at points, I only wished I had the window seat looking down at what was probably our unscheduled destination if this road got any narrower!
The lodge was nothing short of surreal. The reception was basically outdoors, the lounge was outdoors, even the shower was partly exposed to the outdoors. Only in the jungle could you do this, and that’s where we were! As it later transpired, an opportunity to go visit a natural hot spring was afoot, the only thing that it meant was another trip on that perilous dirt road. Another thing was that I would have to ride on the back of a motorbike with our yet unmentioned tour guide, Salvatore. A half Peruvian, half Italian. As it was just me and him biking to the springs (the Americans weren’t interested in the springs) we were in luck that we were able to borrow this bike. Taxis weren’t cheap in these parts apparently. To reach the spring I had to endure a bumpy ride on a dangerous road on the rear of a motorbike, and as if that weren’t enough, the sun was almost gone for the night. Now where did I put that travel insurance again?
The spring itself was pretty glorious. Although the pools were man made, because this was not just a spring now, it was some sort of resort, the water was fresh from the deepest innards of the Earth. Pretty cool place to swim in my opinion. Better yet the stars were out in full force. In Part 1 of this mini series, I banged on about my love affair with the stars, and as I swam around aimlessly in small circles, the odd glance upwards was more than enough to satisfy my continuing lust. I really ought to buy a telescope one day.
As a new day dawned, day two of our tour was to be a day of hiking. Before then, another mortality endangering trip in a small bus was ahead, followed by a stop off at South America’s highest zip-line. Having done one already over the Zambezi River just a stone throw from Victoria Falls, I wasn’t really in any urgent need to shell out more money. I opted instead, to do some exploring in the nearby jungle, first, was to be a rather open ended experience, literally!
Ah, el bano. Excellent! This translates into ‘the bathroom’ by the way. Not a big deal, but as I entered a rather extraordinary thing became instantly apparent. For this little cubicle, didn’t have the usual four walls one would expect, it only had three, and how glad I was that it did. As far as views go from a seat, this was one of the best I had encountered. A fast flowing river, lush, green plants sprawling all over the rocky ground, the full on sound of wildlife, and a towering mountain across from me which seemed to completely surround everything. I just hoped there wasn’t any canoes making their way down the river.
After being at one with nature, I decided to go look for some more. Armed with my camera and my Indiana Jones hat, I made my way through the bushes that surrounded the camp site that the zip-line centre was located at. Spiderwebs hung from bush to bush, branch to branch, but I powered on. There had to be something worth seeing behind this unwelcoming mass. And as it turned out, not really. I did see two things that I will mention however. One was a very colourful butterfly, that more than anything else, showed my camera up as completely inept when trying to photograph wildlife.
The other thing I saw was actually pretty impressive to be fair. A fly had just recently managed to get itself stuck in one of the many webs that surrounded me. Within seconds, this webs architect was scurrying over to investigate, and there it was, for the first time ever I had managed to witness a spider devour it’s prey. In just a matter of minutes it had completely emptied it’s lunch of all it’s innards like a milkshake, you know, the way that spiders do. Gruesome, horrible animals, and I will continue to hate them, but I somehow can’t help to be completely fascinated by them. Just keep out my room at night, that’s all I ask!
Next was a quick lunch nearby our starting point for our hike. The world cup final was now five or six hours away and already the pre-match coverage had begun. Pre-meal, a rooster decided to wander on to the table. “Normally they’re cooked first” I quipped. What a delight it must be to spend the day with me. After another fantastic meal, the trek began. An 8km stroll around Machu Picchu along Urubamba River. Not bad. Every step of the way was beautiful, occasionally we were afforded glances up to the sacred ruins that peaked out over the mountain top. A railway ran along our route too, with the odd train passing us by. There is just nowhere in the UK that I know of where you can casually stroll along a railway track that’s actually in use, oh how I do love South America!
Now it was getting hot. As we neared the small town of Aguas Caliente, it turned out we had missed the first half of the cup final. Drat! The town itself, although not the prettiest, couldn’t have been set in a more stunning part of Peru. The usual surrounded us, Urubamba River, trees, plants and bushes, not a cloud was to be seen, and mountains that stretched as high as the sky would allow, OK but enough of that, where’s the nearest TV!