Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America 

At 10am I started the bike and followed Angelo, first to the petrol station to fill up. Then up to Christo Blanco, the White Christ statue that overlooks Cusco. A nice view was on offer, despite the drizzling weather.

This photo of the main plaza didn't turn out too bad, considering it was shot hand-held in drizzle with my little Pentax point-and-shoot. 

By the time we got to a second lookout, the weather was improving.

At one lookout, these young girls tried to sell me some trinkets, I gave them a sticker each. They liked them, their faces here however show how they don't like being photographed. Angelo stuck two stickers on his Honda 250.

We stopped in Pisac, on the banks of the Vilcanota, for lunch. I was last here many years ago, in 1990, it was June and freezing.

Click on the image below to see Pisac as a gigapan

In Pisac town, this was my meal 

An other view of the Vilcanota, from further along the valley.

Sign at back of a church says "Prohibited to rip the flowers"

This might be your punishment:

Angelo told me this church is famous for a rock with a miraculous painting on it. He also said I could get my bike blessed by a priest here; but only for a few minutes directly after midday mass, so we had missed today's benediction.

After a bit of backtracking and asking people, we found my friend Kevin's place. Kevin comes from Chicago but married a Peruvian woman; he is building a house about 40kms from Cusco. Kevin used to work in Hollywood, making sets and props, and doing special effects. This valley is a long way from LA! Especially when you consider he has no electricity nor running water. I got to know him at Nortons Tavern; he is about a foot taller than me and exactly two days older than me.

Kevin once trekked from Puerto del Inca, on the Pacific coast, to Cusco, re-enacting the "chasqui" relay-runner route that supplied fresh fish to the highland Incas. He used Victor von Hagen's 1955 book "Highway of the Sun" as a guide; the solo trek took him 25 days, much of it looking for a mysterious stone with directions inscribed on it, which unfortunately he was unable to locate...

For the time being he and his wife sleep in the tent on the right:

The reeds grow locally and will used for roofing; the eucalyptus bark has been stripped from posts and is sold to the locals for cooking and heating fires. He bought this old shipping container, and is in the process of roofing it and turning it into a workshop.

The only part of the house that is finished is the toilet - which has a very nice varnished door:

Inca-style trapezoid windows

Kevin loves his Kawasaki 650; he told me he has ridden all over Africa and the Americas, covering nearly 100,000 miles on three different bikes.

Kevin points to the marks on his metal panniers where a wild bear attacked them in the Alaska, looking for food.

When I got back to Cusco I was pleased to see I had put about 117kms on the speedo on its first day.

Map below shows the route we took

Elevation profile indicates we rode almost to 3800m

I booked Angelo for another ride a few days later, timing it so we could get the bike blessed. Angelo also got his bike blessed. But first we went in for Midday Mass. The miraculous stone is in the center of the altar:

There was a donation box with a sign that read: "Prohibited to put lottery tickets in the urn of the Virgin":

Here we are waiting for the priest. I caught him on video but not with a still camera. He used a rose dipped in a bucket of Holy Water to sprinkle the benediction.

Panoramic view from the Igelsia Senor de Huanca church looking down the Vilcanota valley towards the town of Pisac was worth a gigapan:

click on the image below to open as a gigapan:

 During this trip I had my Holux GPS mounted on the handlebar and noticed something strange: the GPS indicated a speed 10kms/hr slower than the speedometer! My guess is the GPS would be much more accurate than the speedo. And the accuracy will get slightly worse as the knobby tyres wear down. 

 On the way back we visited Kevin and Raquel again. We found Raquel hard at work

And Kevin, who has been having what I would describe as a culture clash with his neighbours, invested in some of these signs:


We had lunch at a place that specialized in pork. As always, we parked the bikes where we could keep an eye on them, while a friendly dog kept an eye on us inside the restaurant as we ate:

The meal tasted better than it looked. The salad consisted of raw onion and 'yerba buena', - the 'good herb' - which we call mint.

My final test ride was on Sunday 12th February. I loaded up the bike with two side bags to see Atwakey would handle the extra weight. She seemed to handle it ok. Here I am on a hill overlooking Cusco taking a gigagpan.

At the end of the day, my bike had a cumulative total of more than 250kms of test runs on the (not so accurate) odometer.

Finally, I felt I was properly prepared and ready to begin my transcontinental journey...

But there was a last minute hitch... on my last test ride I called it quits with Angelo at 2pm, partly because it was raining heavily, but also partly because my stomach was feeling queasy. As the afternoon wore on, I developed a headache, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and something I have never before experienced in my entire life - an attack of shivers. For two or three hours I felt cold, and despite being wrapped up, shivered uncontrollably. I had to cancel a meeting with my friend Paolo, and went to bed hoping I would be better in the morning...

I did feel much better the next day. But the following morning, 1 day before my planned departure, I woke to discover I had a 1-inch blister on my back. 

I assume I was bitten by a spider or insect, though I don't recall feeling being  bitten. 

Did it have something to do with my malaise? I guess I will never know.. and in any case, I had a lot of things to do today... apart from last minute packing for my moto-trip, I was also official quizmaster for the SAE club's Valentines Day Trivia night, held at Cusco's famous Cross Keys Pub.

The Cross Keys is owned by a friend of mine, Cusco's British Consul, Barry Walker, Member of the British Empire:

There is a photo of a jaguar above a naked man ... who happens to be Max Milligan

Max is author of a great book, "the Realm of the Incas"... Kevin told me he shared a tent with Max for several days trying to film one of the ritual "tinku" battles still held in the Andean highlands - when both of them were attacked by a stone-throwing mob... but that is a story best recounted by them.

...then an unidentified woman, dripping wet, bearing laptop and speakers arrives...

...wait a  minute... closer inspection revealed the mystery woman as Elizabeth, Cusco SAE club manager...

here we are at the judges table 

The bottle of red wine on the table was the prize!  The competition was close, with the three teams only separated by 4 points. Here are the winners, Team "GBG":

This was my last night in Cusco for a while... tomorrow at 8am I was to begin my moto journey, the first few days guided by my friend Angelo...