Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America
Finally, on Sunday the 29th January I was able to rent another Tornado with Angelo again as my guide. It was my first time back on a bike since my accident. There was a last minute hitch as I realized my brand new Drift Innovation battery, the one that came standard with the HD170 camera, would not charge. I tried several chargers, including the in-camera USB charger and a stand-alone universal charger, to no avail. Luckily I had purchased a higher capacity battery as a spare, and it was working.
I also brought along a tripod and my three GPS units, with the idea of tracing the route with three different log parameters.
Filling up in Cusco, I felt confident, yet also slightly apprehensive. We didn't completely fill up the tanks, but it still cost 60 Soles (about $20) for both bikes. As you can see, my bike had had no speedometer; I also soon discovered the rear brake pedal was bent inwards and was softer than a sponge cake.
Angelo led me out of town via some back routes to avoid the traffic. We stopped a few miles out of town for a cafe where I told him about my three weeks on crutches and my purchase of Atwakey. He told me he was also a moto mechanic, and offered to come around one day and check every nut and bolt was fastened with Loctite. I accepted his offer gladly.
First stop was a little-known archaeological site called Kanaracay. It was built by the pre-Inca
Wari civilization (sometimes spelt Huari), on the edge of Lake Huarcapay.
I also shot a gigapan of these ruins. We also visited this massive Inca gateway called Pikillacta:
After I told Angelo that I liked 'miradors' - lookouts - he suggested a hill overlooking a church, its graveyard and Lago Urcos. (click on the photo below to open as a gigapan in a separate window)
Incidentally, Lake Urcos, (seen centre-left in the above image) might contain a hitherto undiscovered treasure. According to three separate chronicles dating back to the Spanish Conquest, the Incas hid a huge chain made of gold, known as Huascar's Chain; lakes and caves were the usual - and often permanent - hiding places. Huascar's father, the great Inca king Huayna Capac, had the chain made to celebrate Huascar's birth. The chronicle of Garcilaso de la Vega states the chain to be so heavy it took 200 men to lift it; some historians think it probably was a rope adorned with gold trinkets, as "Huascar" means "rope" in Quechua - the Incas did not use chains before the Spanish arrived. However, Garcilaso says the lake was 15 miles from Cusco - and Urcos is actually 29 miles. So it may lie in one of the many other lakes closer to Cusco, some of which have dried up in the last 500 years. Huascar was the legitimate Inca ruler defeated, imprisoned and eventually executed by his usurpative half-brother Atahualpa, just as the Conquistadors arrived.
We had lunch in a chicken restaurant in the town of Urcos, in a "polleria" just across from this small plaza:
Angelo positioned the bikes in such a way so as we could see a bit of both of them as we ate; otherwise I guess it would have been quite easy for a thief to wheel one or both of them away.
Lunch was a quarter chicken each along with unlimited salad, for less than $3.
The town of Andahuaylillas was interesting; click on the image below to see the same image as a gigapan:
As I was taking the gigapan, a woman appeared and said as the house was owned by her, and said I must pay her for photographing it. I would have given her a few coins, except that I was telling the truth when I said I had spent everything on lunch for Angelo and myself. I don't think she believed me... but I wasn't too sure she really was the owner either. A mural painted on the front of this building was very curious:
Last of all, this abandoned house, which Angelo said was a mecca for superstitious locals, who believe it is haunted, and flock here spend the night of Halloween (click on image to open as gigapan).
The dog in the foreground was so friendly he followed us back to the main road. Angelo was forced to throw stones at him so he wouldn't get hit by a truck: he was running around us as we mounted our bikes, seemingly unaware of the speeding traffic.
That night I eagerly downloaded all my GPS data. Unfortunately, only one of them - the bulky 76CSx - recorded the full journey. I think perhaps the other two, stuffed into my pack and pockets, fell behind my small camera or other such gadget, which prevented them receiving a good enough signal. The WG-1 lost the signal when we went inside for lunch, then never reconnected. Still, I was able to see I had covered 107kms:
The elevation profile showed all the sites we visited were a few hundred meters lower than Cusco:
My Drift camera footage was a bit wonky - I hadn't been able to set the mount to the correct angle due to limited time - but with its ultra wide lens, a bit of cropping, I might be able to salvage something.
Cusco is a photographer's dream:
I decided to make my own waterproof bags for the two backpacks I planned to carry.
On the 2nd Feb I picked up my new number plate from Cusco's Camera de Comercio
Around the corner from this same office is this ominous banner, which threatens delinquents who rob and assault with being "burned alive":
Fitting the plate
Next I purchased compulsory third-party insurance, called SOAT in Peru.
All set to legally ride!
Newpapers in Peru: one daily rag reads "Devil appears on Facebook":
I often went to Norton Rats tavern to read the newspaper and eat their chilli con carne. The walls have some unusual exhibits:
If you zoom into the centre, there's even a bit of cricket memorabilia - I'm not sure if this statuette is depicting Max Walker or Merv Hughes.
On Saturday night I went with some friends to Matt Furlong's "Two Nations" restaurant. It was closing night, as Matt was closing for a month during the low season. Matt is an Australian married to a Peruvian, hence the unusual logo:
The man on my right is Andrew "Bear" Dare, a professional around-the-world yachtsman who recently delivered a specially designed yacht to Lake Titicaca; he has captained Fastnet racing yachts, featured on NatGeo Adventure TV, sailed to Antarctica, even worked alongside the illustrious mariner Sir Peter Blake ("Bear" himself has recently become Lord Bear).
The man on my left is John Tremayne, an Englishman man who once ran a successful concert equipment rental business; he regaled me all night names of famous musicians he worked with, including Ringo Starr. Both men now live in Cusco.
John, who is a former restaurant manager and bit of a gourmet - he devised the Chill dish at Nortons when he worked there - ordered underdone alpaca with quinua; a roll of Alpaca fillet that is so rare on the inside it looks blue.
Alpaca meat is supposed to be very healthy for you - it has one of the lowest levels of cholesterol of any red meat. Not that many Peruvians seem to care, as indicated by this shop's name :
On Sunday the 5th I popped into Jack's Cafe for a final breakfast - as they too were closing for a week's renovations during the low season. I met here my old friend Paolo Greer, an Alaskan researcher, explorer, and author of many intriguing articles about Machu Picchu. Paolo told me that his great-uncle used to go fishing with Harry S Truman.
I thought about fitting a guard for the side of the bike. If my rented Tornado had had one, I doubt my hip would have been injured, as these guards absorb the hit if you fall sideways; police bikes and delivery bikes sometimes have them. However, in a forward crash, some people say they do more harm than good, as they might trap your legs. They are known as "mata-perros" in Spanish - "dog-killers". You can ft plastic to them to divert splash water from your calves, and also distribute some weight forward of the engine. I decided to fit one, as they seemed a good idea to me overall. As the Ronco shop did not have any, I had to buy one for a different bike and adapt it with some scrap iron. My first attempt was woefull:
My next attempt was better, but still not the best.
I realized that the support bracket at the bottom was of soft flat steel, I think the idea being that it should not be too strong or rigid, or a bent chassis could result after a minor fall.
On Tuesday the 7th Feb, Angelo came to give Atwakey a thorough check over. I had already found a couple of problems - the rubber fuel pipe was loose and the handle-bar bolts loose. Angelo, who checked every nut and bolt, undid them, greased them and re-tightened them, and in the process found a lot more.
The most serious problem was the nuts fastening the solenoid cables were loose.
There were missing cotter-pins, the choke cable had come loose, there were loose or missing nuts; even the engine was only half full of oil. Angelo pulled the carburetor apart and showed me how simple it was.
He noticed the petrol was a rusty colour; he suggested we ditch the factory installed, internal in-tank silk-screen gauze filter for an external cartridge type.
Angelo also advised we change the original Chinese spark plug for an NKG.
When I tried to start the bike at the end of the day, it started first go without any choke, and idled smoothly, almost certainly due to Angelo's modifications. Hiring his expertise paid off.
Next I went back to the Ronco dealership in Huayna Capac. For several days they had promised me a custom-made front rack. I found the office to be closed, the dreaded SUNAT had closed them - red SUNAT posters are a frequent sight in Cusco - they close businesses for a few days if they don't keep their accounting and tax records up to date.
While the agency was closed, work still went on in the street. Charlie was able to cobble together one for me from two different racks.
On the way to buy some bolts I saw this unusual car/trailer combo:
Finally my bike was ready for a road trial. I arranged for Angelo to come the next day, Wednesday the 8th Feb; we planned a day's ride on dirt and sealed roads.
Atwakey was about be awakened! .
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