The revenge of Atawallpa

The situation in Peru was getting dire. There was no way I could get to Lima in time.

Or at least that’s what I though, when I was wrestling my bike through the forest, around the umpteenth landslide. Even just 200kms seemed impossible on some days. Of course the rain didn’t stopped, it only got worse from time to time and deep in the jungle it made me feel like I’m on a real adventure. Racing against time, fighting the elements, defying the bald tyre. What a ride! Between the moments of desperation I was feeling so alive. Not even a minute of my life ahead of me could be predicted. Well, it never can be accurately predicted but you know. Hope of paved roads, dread of yet another landslide, the reality could be both. That was scaring me most. What if I get taken off by a landslide? Luckily it never happened. Got close to it a couple of times and really close once, when a football sized rock rolled right in front of my wheel. To make things even better, because a landslide ahead of me, I was stuck in Moyobamba for a couple of hours. There I learned from a local shop keeper, that if you mix mango, pineapple and passion fruit juice, you pretty much get love into a beverage. Never tasted anything better.
Back on the road and all it’s misery. I mean mistery… Once done with the mud in the jungle, it was time to try it at altitude. I was on the eastern side of Peru, behind the cordillera, behind the very high Andes. In order to get to Lima, I had to cross that. That meant more rain, with a hint of freezing temperatures. To my very surprise, it wasn’t snowing, with the exception of perhaps 5 minutes in total, but that was more hail than snow. Sure the landslides didn’t stop and after 2 days riding through mountains at 4000 meters above sea level, it was time to cope with the great one.

Just before Lima, about 100 kilometers to my destination, literally half a mountain came down. I’ve never seen such destruction in my life. Imagine Mordor, but worse. And with icy grey water instead of lava. And rain of course. To make everything worse, traffic. Lots of it. And in pure Peruvian fashion, complete chaos. There were people trying to keep other people safe, there were people trying to follow the few directions they got and there was a good bunch of assholes who thought they can just pass the endless line of cars and magically swoop down on that fallen mountain. I was in the last group to be clear. However, my bike didn’t stop the oncoming traffic and created a potentially fatal stall. They cleared part of the way and there was a line of cars coming up. The landslide was extending for say 2 kilometers all of which was a precarious one way road, that was now blocked. I rode past it as fast as I could.
A few kilometers down we repeat the exercise. Now with more cars, more assholes, people getting seriously angry, more rain and what was a fine day so far turned into something that could be compared to a war zone. Pass the line of cars, police road block. After talking to them, explaining my situation and my rush, to much surprise they let me pass.

Ahead of me there was exactly what they told me there would be. Nothing. There was supposed to be a road, and there was nothing. Well, a river. Thinking back, that was probably by far the most stupid, reckless act I performed in my life, and my list is huge. What I did was I rode straight into that river, tv crews filming me, I’m pretty sure there was a helicopter flying around waiting for me to die. And as I always hope to believe, fortune favours the brave. Or the stupid, but what’s the difference. Somehow I made it! Nobody was clapping, but everyone was visibly amazed. Including me. I never doubted myself, till I made it to the other side. Then I was amazed I actually made it.

Following was still a healthy 70 kilometers and luckily the worse was through, but it didn’t get much better. Rain has stopped, only to be replaced by dust. Loads and loads of dust. Mud was replaced by sand. Half if not all of the sand that was used to fill the sandbags was now on the street, effectively covering the entire pavement. Throw in a couple of ambulances, and other vehicles with colorful lights, people rushing, cars rushing…

At last, like I was cast from a spell, everything changed in a matter of few kilometers. Nice, clean streets, AIR and even a hint of sun. Life was good. Or at least normal again.

Only later I learned that Lima has the worst, most reckless traffic I ever experienced.

I was done with riding in South America for the next 8 months. Took me 3 days to fix the paperwork to legally leave my motorcycle in the country for that period, met some new friends, and got food poisoning right before my 20 hour flight. But I made it. It felt good. It felt good to have done it so far, to return to Europe, to see family and friends, to get to ride rich people bikes again and more. Life is good.

Leave a Reply