Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 5 Peru

Day 5 Wednesday March 28, 2012

This morning I woke up naturally, the first time I've not set an alarm. I lay in bed for a while, and finally climbed into the shower. As I finished up in the bathroom, Victor flipped the TV on and then jumped into the shower as I began packing. We got the bikes loaded up and hit the road around 9:15.

Surprisingly, the road had changed some in the previous 12 hours, the big muddy patch we hit was even soupier and larger than yesterday, and grading work appeared to have been completed overnight. This had the effect of smoothing out the road in several places, but making it extremely silty in others. I'm not sure that much had improved, but I bet cars were bottoming out less. We made it back to Santa Maria without any problems.

Shortly after Santa Maria, not long after returning to pavement, Victor was in front of me, and he passed a dog that was lying in the road. This is nothing unusual, at all, and he honked to let the dog know we were headed toward him. The dog lifted his head and watched as we passed, not terribly bothered by us. The chicken that was laying, hidden, next to the road was another matter entirely. When Victor honked, the chicken FREAKED OUT. I mean, he went ballistic. I wasn't even sure if Victor saw the bird at all, but afterwards he said it flew out in his field of view briefly. The chicken began running and flapping, trying to get away from the road as quickly as possible. He was never actually in danger, but his determination to escape the non-existent danger led to his demise.

First, the chicken ran away from the road and slammed into the house that was near the road. Upon hitting the house, he turned and began running across the road at a 45 degree angle toward me. He might have been okay had he not decided to turn and run directly across the road just as I passed him. I believe that he actually slammed into the side of my front wheel, and he was full tilt when he did. I don't know if I also nailed him with the engine or rear tire, but when I looked back, he was a goner. One wing sticking straight up in the air, feathers lightly fluttering. I felt really bad for killing the bird, but I felt even more awful at the thought that this was a young, not very meaty bird, and that I had killed an impoverished families future food source.

I had slowed down some to assess the situation, so I pinned the throttle back and caught up to Victor. I honked the horn and he pulled over. I told him what happened and then asked if we should return to the house. I wasn't sure what the protocol for this might be, and I didn't want to piss anyone off. Victor said that while it was indeed unfortunate, he recommended that we continue on. He said that since I was a foreigner, even if I offered a few bucks for their trouble, they could demand more from me than was just, and that I should consider this incident as simply me making someone's dinner decision for tonight. I agreed that he was probably correct and we moved on.

Speaking of dogs and chickens in Peru. Dogs are EVERYWHERE in Peru. The run the streets but seem mostly healthy. Some are obviously strays, and others seem to be cared for regularly. They mostly had healthy weight on them, and most of them also had rabies collars on them. I couldn't understand why so many had collars until I got a close look at one dog. The local authority using plastic packing straps and crimps to make collars when they vaccinate a dog, a cheap and easy way to keep track of street dog health. I was also somewhat confused as to who all of these dogs were so healthy looking. I did see several digging through a huge mound of trash (that looked freshly dumped) in Cusco, but I also saw a restaurant owner throwing discarded meat and bones out to several dogs one morning.

The dogs look both ways before crossing streets, move when a vehicle approaches, and the know what a horn means. The only dogs that chased us where up in the highest points away from villages and people (oddly, still laying on the pavement), and I only saw one dead dog in the entire country. The dogs are smart. Chickens, not so much.

I also saw donkeys, cows, turkeys, pigs, and sheep along the roads. It was sort of funny, but it seemed as if each house in each village had the same animals as all of the rest. I would see a village of pigs, and then a village of cows, followed by a village of turkeys. The donkeys were usually only one or two, often at a solitary house. Each time I saw a donkey, I slowed down and thought of Clay Schwartz.

We rode on, pressing toward Abra Malaga. The weather was slightly more clear today, but as we approached the pass, and were meet by oncoming wacky cyclists, it got really cold. It seemed like it was 10 degrees colder than 2 day before. My fingers were beyond numb, my face shield was useless, and I was ready to be warm again. We crested Abra Malaga without stopping and descended a ways before I stopped to take pictures. I still seemed quite a bit cooler than the previous trip up.

Headed from Abra Malaga to Ollantaytambo

There are primitive homes and huts very close to the top of the pass, but with it being so cold I took pictures of the, relatively, more modern homes down lower. We continued on the awesomely sinuous road into Ollantaytambo and stopped for a brief rest. After resting next to the market in Ollantay, we pressed on to Urubamba, the temperature warming up the entire time. It was starting to feel great again as we passed by the train sheds that were along the route to Machu Picchu.


When we reached Urubamba, Victor and I consulted briefly, and he helped me locate a nice hostal in town. I will have to update this later with the name, but I think it was called Hospedaje Burganvilla or something like that. Anyway, the owner was nice, the price was right, and the place was very nice with a security fence and very pretty gardens. The room I had was nice and big, huge bathroom, large bed with 2 pillows and wifi. The wifi was not very strong in my room, but the family that ran it invited me into the living room of their house where the router was mounted. It was nice to relax with them while they played Playstation, and I also got to speak with some volunteers that were visiting from Canada. The volunteers were helping with an animal sanctuary and some other program that was run by relatives of the hostal, and had built a nice relationship with the family. It was great to have a nice long conversation in English with all of them.

After checking my email, I went into town to look around and try to find some lunch. I found The Green House, a pasta and pizza place that had good reviews on vegetarian websites, and they were still open. I was not disappointed. Eduardo, the owner and chef, was just wrapping down from lunch, but took the time to make sure I had a great meal, good bread and oil, fresh handmade gnocchi and probably the best pomodoro sauce I've had in years. I scarfed down my first meal of the day, forgetting to take pictures of the goodness. The staff all spoke excellent English and were very nice. They obviously enjoyed what they did and loved to make a positive impression on visitors. As I ate, I spoke with a woman from San Diego about riding motos, Peru, and traveling. She owned a GS500 and was saving for a Triumph Bonneville. She said that I had to check out the central market.

I strolled to the Plaza and hung out here for a while, watching kids play in the fountain and parents eating ice cream while relaxing. I soon realized that Urubamba had the kind of vibe that I like, and I hung out for about 45 minutes just taking it all in. I wasn't sure what time the market closed, so I made my way toward it. Not only was it still open, it was hopping. The market seemed to occupy two multiple floor buildings, but various vendors also had fruit and vegetables spread on tarps along the sides of the building and out into the streets. It was a palette of colors and smells for two blocks. I loved it! Rows of dry beans and grain, a large fruit section, and 2 large rows of vegetables, and a several stalls with butchers occupied the main level of the primary building. The second and third floors were lofts above the main floor, partial floors that wrapped around the central section of the main floor. The second floor contained several "restaurants" with 2-4 seats at a counter and a few clothing stalls as well. The third floor was a big juice area, probably 5 or 6 vendors that all had similar pricing. Next to the juicing area was Comida Vegetarino. I would have liked to try it out, but it was closed each time I returned.

Urubamba Market

As I left the market, I found some sort of a bank and was able to have 2 S100 bills changed into more manageable amounts, and then went to see about getting my hair cut. I found a barber shop and was glad to pay my S5 for a hair cut..... I paid $1.87 for a haircut! Insane! Even with an 80% tip, it still cost me less than $4. Crazy! Turned out nice too!

My S5 haircut, $1.87

I made one my loop of the market, stopping to buy a bag of freshly popped popcorn for S1 ($0.35), and then stopping to buy a bottle of Inca Kola. I had been putting off drinking carbonated drinks as I'd been taking Diamox for altitude and one of the side effects of this is that it makes carbonated drinks taste flat. I ended up back at the plaza, snacking on my popcorn and Inka Cola. The soda is good, sort of bubblegum flavored, but not in a bad way. Not sure I'd drink it often, but it was a nice treat.

Afternoon snack, about $1 for this

I also saw this guy on an XT300, the older bigger brother to my bike back home:


I made it back to hostal a few hours after I left, and the Canadian kids told me that some sort of festival was happening in the Plaza that evening around 7:30. Around 8, I went to the Plaza and found a small group of people standing around two guys doing some sort of rehearsed show. It looked like street acrobatics, but was apparently quite funny to those watching. This was the "festival" but unfortunately, I couldn't understand so it was lost on me. I decided to go grab some dinner. I had a great pizza at The Green House, and an excellent conversation with Eduardo, finding out how he ended up here and where he had cooked in Central America, were he got his produce, and his commitment to getting the high quality ingredients he could. Very nice evening. I pulled my fleece pullover on and walked around the streets of Urubamba. Eduardo told me that Wednesday night was a big party night in Urubamba, apparently many people couldn't wait until the weekend and there was a number of bars and clubs hopping as I walked around. Many restaurants were open later, and there were woman running small grills on various street corners, grilling meat and potatoes.

Vegan pizza from The Green House in Urubamba

I watched various cars and mototaxis, really noticing the various logos, stickers, and decals on them. The funniest one of the night had to be a Mototaxi that had custom mudflaps on it. The had a big Nike swish in the middle of the mudflap, and said "Titanic Motors" on them. So many things wrong with that! Unfortunately, I did not get a picture as it was driving past. I did get this one earlier in the day though:

Plaza de Armas in Urubamba

As I reached my room, I realized how much I liked Urubamba. It was not overly touristy, I didn't feel like people were trying to pull something over on me, and the market was incredible. I really wished I had more time to check this place out. I got back to the room and discovered another treat. The TV at the hostal had several English channels, including Food Network. Awesome.

The rest of my pictures from the day are here: March 2012/5 Wednesday March 28th

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