26 April, 2007

Quito to Bogota

Ecuador to the north of Quito was in a far better state than the southern bit. Clean, green scenery, smooth and well-maintained roads. Clean towns with good signposts. We stopped for a quick photo session at the equator but never left the bikes until much later at lunchtime. Lunch was mediocre but edible. Always much the same at any roadside restaurant here - soup with bits of (well-cooked) dead animal in, followed by more meat, rice and chips with a bit of salad, much the same as in Chilé. Costs about 75p and fills you up very well. Hygiene standards wouldn't pass muster at home so you just have to ignore those.

The excellent road and wonderful scenery accompanied us all the way to the border. Leaving Ecuador posed no problems but the Colombians had a funny thing about getting everything photocopied. No real problem but they didn't have a machine themselves. We nipped back into Ecuador with no trouble to use theirs.

This all took more time than we'd hoped and riding after dark in Colombia is not recommended due to the possibility of bandit or paramilitary activities. Colombia currently has two separate civil wars going on. Two different groups control huge areas of the country and often make incursions into the bits they don't completely control. Fortunately for the Colombian government they don't seem to get on too well with each other, and they control areas at some distance.

We found an expensive but comfortable hotel in the first town we came to after the border. That evening three very hungry motorcyclists, at another pizzeria, discovered 'maros' - this translates as blackberry, but it's nothing like the brambles (or blackberries) we get at home. Colombia has lots of indigenous fruits which they don't export.

Motorcyclists in Colombia are obliged to wear funny looking bibs with the numbers from their number plates on them. You are also supposed to get these stencilled onto your helmet but so many we saw hadn't bothered and no-one insisted, so we ignored this, waiting to be told officially. There were soldiers everywhere. At every bridge and some crossings, standing guarding all sorts of infrastructure. They had big signs with them saying "safe journey, your army is on the road". Very comforting.

We were sitting having lunch in another roadside café when three soldiers emerged from the bushes across the road. We decided that not much could be up because they only had on caps, not helmets. They must have been on patrol. Later that day we saw more with helmets, flak jackets and big machine guns behind them. There were trucks with tank turrets on them - more than just armoured cars. We got concerned, but not too worried. They mainly ignored or smiled and waved at us.

Later, we stopped for fuel near a school where they were letting out. Since I was a bit busy trying to fill up, I emitted some teachery growls meaning "go away" but pretty soon Will and James were surrounded by bairns and giving out autographs! Just as I got off my bike to photograph this daftness, those who hadn't heard my original growls came crowding around me as well! It wasn't easy getting out of the throng and I feared for some toes. Bee-Emania in Colombia! All entirely harmless, but funny and daft!

Cali was much bigger than we thought. It took ages to find our way onto the city map in the Shoestring guide. When we did, the place was in upheaval due to all sorts of roadworks. It was hot - very, very hot, I was in front doing the navigation, while negotiating this mad traffic. We weren't far from where we wanted to go, but couldn't get the turn because of all the roadworks. Then it was time to get a taxi. Getting three motorbikes and riders into a taxi is never easy, so the plan was to follow it. Sadly the taxi driver hadn't seen a map of his town before, but he was very excited and happy to see one. In Cali they get around using directions and landmarks. I hadn't any of those because I was fairly new in town. Eventually, just as what there was left of our good humours were beginning to waver, a lady turned up with perfect English. 'I have a motorbike, I know what it is like to travel and I can take you to a good hotel,' she said. We followed her to the very hostel we'd been looking for. But she had to arrange for our bikes to stay at another hostel, because ours didn't have parking. No riding in to the foyer here, as in Chilé or Argentina, and no central courtyards like in Perú. But the people at the place we weren't staying in seemed very happy. We tried to offer them payment but they replied that it was more than enough for them just to know our bikes were safe!

The hostel was friendly but some of the occupants were less so. Why do some people think it's perfectly acceptable to shout at their pals and play their music too loud in public areas, whether others like it or not? An Australian (sorry Aussies but the loud, annoying ones tend to get noticed!) had engrossed an Austrian and an Israeli girl into drinking far too much and then being super-irritating - like they were going for some sort of degree or top award in irritation. Shouting utter nonsense all the time at each other and only eventually shutting up after everyone had moved away from them to the telly and turned the volume away up to counter their noise.

James took a bad turn gastric-wise, necessitating a day off for Will and I while he recovered. A bit odd, as we'd all eaten the same. Only takes one microbe though . . . We had a look around town and enjoyed another excellent meal for next to nothing at what appeared to be a top restaurant. We judged this by the price of the menu, the quality of the food and the arrival of three enormous 4WDs. From two of these emerged some huge blokes with badly fitting suits and dark glasses. They looked exactly as you'd imagine bodyguards to look like. Seen too many Hollywood films. Then 'somebody' got out of the middle one, and sat down for food while they spread out all along the street looking tough and nervous all at the same time. Who could live like that?

Cali was interesting and turned out to have an excellent climate once we'd removed the motorbike gear. Some real history and well-preserved old buildings. We wandered aimlessly through the streets and past some of these buildings. Had a very relaxing day in all. Cannae beat an aimless wander!

Bogota was a very big run from Cali and a late(ish) start the next day meant we were about 70 miles away when we eventually gave up. This was by a river, after coming across a range of Andes in the fog. Massive trucks had happily overtaken into thick fog and blind corners. On the blind hairpins, the government had arranged what looked like students to tell other drivers whether they could use the opposing lane or not, to get round the bend. It's amazing how quickly you get used to seeing huge trucks looming toward you out of the fog on the wrong side of the road. How there wasn't major carnage I've no idea, but it all seemed to work. Maybe the wreckage of a thousand trucks was lost somewhere beneath us in the mist! The trucks were doing about 8mph, which meant first gear, for me, up hills. Eventually I decided that if I came up behind one at some speed and didn't see anything coming down the other lane, I'd just overtake, using my momentum to be passed them in 2-3 seconds, rather than slow down, wait till I could see far enough and then try to accelerate much more slowly passed. If I did it the slow way, I'd be out on the wrong side of the road, in the mist for 10-15 seconds The only other option was to sit behind these things for mile after unbelievably slow mile, breathing their reek and choking on the mist and rain! No chance! The fact that I'm writing this tells you that I got away with it. Traffic was, usually, very light. But sometimes you'd come up behind several trucks chugging slowly uphill after a much slower one. Then I had to do it the slow way. Scary!

Bogota was chaos but Will did pretty well, until eventually we got another taxi. It gets very tiring when there are so few roadsigns. Even taxi drivers struggle though. They don't do as much training like they do in the UK, and it seems they may have done very little map reading at school. They drive into a likely area and then ask people for directions, much like any stranger might.

I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that it should really be some sort of international crime not to properly signpost cities. So many think it's fine just to indicate where other bits of their own city are. They don't even bother to signpost you out of their city, the city itself obviously being such an important centre of their universe. No wonder roads outside of cities are so quiet - nobody can find their way to them.

The morning after our arrival, Will had already arranged by telephone that their two bikes would be taken away at the airport. Off they went to sort this out while I was tasked with finding some accommodation for the coming night. When we eventually got back together they had had a very frustrating day trying to arrange flights for the next day. Lots of waiting around for computers to be switched on and searches of everything several times. But their perseverance had paid off and flights were organised for very early the next morning.

We had a final meal in a posh restaurant where you weren't allowed to take photos and we even had to pay just to get in, it was that posh. Or maybe they thought we were so scruffy we might not pay at all! It was on the 30th floor of a building in the middle of town so there was an excellent view over the city. The food was good but the salad arrived just in time for pudding. Bit odd. At 5am the next morning I waved goodbye to a wee yellow taxi, and went back to my bed. We'll hope to meet up again in Central America or Mexico, where James and Will want to lie on a warm beach and relax for a few days, maybe even as much as a fortnight. Any less than that and we'll just have to meet up back in the UK.

18 April, 2007

Between Two Ancient Capitals. 20,010miles

Gert, Will, James and I bid a sad and quite reluctant farewell to Cusco and headed west towards Abancay, and then to Nazca. Much better this time, with four bikes snaking through the hills. For me, knowing how long the road was, meant the ground seemed to be covered more quickly.

A late start meant we reached our first destination in the dark. Some young boys trying to play football in the street (the main road was quiet and lit up at night) were made very happy when we replaced their flat ball with a shiny new one from the local shop. Grown-ups nearby may have been less pleased as the new ball bounced in and out of their shops and off at least one surprised head. We had a good wee game though, before peching off to find food. The weather was much kinder too. No snow or hail this time. It was still very cold so high up, and we got the chance of a snowball fight. James dodges a snowball lobbed accurately by Gert. My bike struggled again on all the uphill bits. Gert had organised an effective Bolivian fix for his carburettor using some electrical wire and the others had fuel injection. They noticed the altitude as their bikes lost some power, but I either had to rev mine to daft numbers or just plod slowly upwards patiently. Slowly the landscape changed from green to beige and we were back in the coastal desert.

On arrival at Nazca, we immediately booked up for a flight over the famous Lines in the morning and went for food at the place I'd eaten in last time. Flying over the lines in the early morning light was amazing, and even the flight alone - in the smallest aeroplane I'd ever been in - was well worth the fee. This is 'the astronaut', you may need to click on the picture to enlarge it and make him out! Of course, since we were all gents together in the plane, the pilot felt obliged to entertained us with some mild yet stomach-churning aerobatics. Many references to Biggles, Algie and Ginger were inevitable.

We readied the bikes and headed north on the hot, sandy, dusty PanAmericana. When we reached Ica, Gert had some things to investigate before heading back to Bolivia via the south. We had a tasty final meal together, dining at the Plaza. I gave Gert the address of the excellent Hostal Grau in Chala. They'd taken great care of me some weeks ago.

Three 650cc BMWs headed north to Pisco, where we refreshed ourselves with the Peruvian national drink of Pisco Sours, sitting on a balcony overlooking the main square. The heat was a novelty, especially for Will and James who had been living at altitude for three weeks.

Since we were passing through Lima, I had arranged to have a quick evening's meal with Lizzie. Her flat was full of other visitors so we couldn't stay there. Instead, she had booked me into a room in a hostel in Lima. We three had planned to split up and I would have caught them up the next day, but at the very last minute, Will remembered he had ridden over his old MP3 player and had had some trouble finding a new one. I knew the very place in Lima where he could get one. They decided to rest in Lima and luckily, the hostel also had a room for them.

A very pleasant and quite posh pizza was consumed and, for a change, Lizzie even let me pay for it. During the meal she asked if we might like to come into the school in the morning to show the bikes to some children. Will and James thought this would be fun, so in the morning, we had a wee detour. We parked up the fully loaded bikes on the football field and some P2 children quickly surrounded us. They had some excellent questions - "why are you doing this? Why not just look at pictures in books? Why not fly in an aeroplane? Have you seen any llamas/snakes/gorillas/kangaroos/dinosaurs? What's that orange thing?" Very enjoyable. Their English was also very impressive, given it's their second language.

Afterwards, we went north towards the mountains again. Lima stretched forever through streams of fume-belching traffic. Sometimes this traffic seemed to be in cahoots and maybe even in radio contact as they combined to make our continued existence quite a challenge. Eventually we reached more hot, empty desert and began to make some real progress. At last this was new ground for me, I was back on my way.

At one sad point we were stopped and accused by some roadside policemen of speeding, which we weren't. They demanded our licences and said we would need to return to Lima and pay lots of money to get them back. We were some hundreds of miles from there now, and this didn't seem such a great idea. I had given just a photocopy of my licence but the others had surrendered the real things. Then, all of a sudden, we could pay the fine directly to them, and it wouldn't be quite so much, just 100Solés. This 'fine' was, in fact, a bribe and would be going straight in their pockets. With a very nasty taste in our mouths we were allowed to continue. We decided not to stop again, but to wave back at future policemen and hope they wouldn't chase us. Not recommended at home! Policemen were everywhere, at the outskirts of every village and often in between. Not hiding, but just lounging around in the sun, waiting to pounce. Often we complain about the police at home but at least they aren't corrupt and they rarely stop you unless they have some very good and entirely legal reason to do so.

Later that day, the road deteriorated quickly as we left the PanAmericana and rose high up into the mountains between the unbelievably spectacular Cordolleiras Blanca and Negra. I had thought this would be a lovely run through a valley at the foot of these mountains but we rose again to well over 4000m. It got very cold and the bike began its usual nonsense again. The road was covered in rocks and gravel and at one point Will took a bit of tumble, taking a gravelly bend too enthusiastically while trying to keep ahead of a truck he'd just overtaken. The truck scraped to a halt on the gravel behind his bike, James and I went in various directions but we all stopped safely, the trucker happily jumping out to help right the bike. Scrapes and damaged pride were dusted off, a bit of a giggle at the close call and we went on our way.

Huaraz seemed a bit more shabby on arrival than most Peruvian towns. We were told that the season hadn't started yet and that the place was being cleaned up in readiness. However, the food was fantastic and we even found an excellent curry house run by an Englishman, Simon, (with a bike - KTM) who was able to advise us well about our dirt-track route to the north.

There was lots to do around Huaraz which we didn't have any time to take advantage of. Trekking, climbing, mountain biking, horse riding and all would have been fantastic in such excellent scenery. We visited the buried town of Yuangay. Some may recall this place being covered without warning in 1970 by a giant landslide. 25,000 people died in the town itself and another 55,000 in the surrounding valleys. Some building still protrude above the earth - all very spooky and strange.

Leaving Huaraz, we (I later found out I) had a very challenging day in the Canyon del Pato coming back down to the PanAmericana. This road was along the side of a very steep canyon, a roaring river flowing faster than we could ride sometimes hundreds of metres to our right. There were roughly-hewn tunnels of varying lengths in which we prayed not to meet any oncoming trucks. But there was only very little traffic on this road. Deep mud in places added interest, especially when it was inside a dark tunnel, and we'd been blinded by just coming out of the bright sunshine. At one point a small traffic jam had accumulated. This wasn't going forward for some time to come because the road had fallen away. Luckily (?) there was just enough room for a person - or a motorbike - to pass with cracks in the roadway and the roaring torrent below. I didn't want to prolong this any more than was completely necessary so I made a go at it, leaning to the left and looking nowhere but straight in front of me. Will stopped after he'd crossed and took a photo, I wondered what might happen if the entire road was gone further on. Then we would need to return this way! Mud, gravel, thin roads with sheer cliffs to one side, rocks, tiny villages. The road surface never achieved any kind of consistency so I bounced and bumped around like a mad thing concentrating on; missing jaggy things, finding bits of grip for the tyres, not slipping on/in the mud, avoiding boulders, staying on the bike, keeping both bike and self on the so-called 'road' part of the landscape.
At one point James offered me a go on his bike. We were each equally nervous of doing any damage to the other's bike but we had a go. What a revelation for me! This thing didn't notice bumps, gravel, mud, nothing at all. I began to understand some of the reasons for the advancements in motorcycling. My short suspension might as well not have been there at times, even though it's the best I could afford to fit to this bike. James' bike's longer suspension and easy motor just plodded along. After only three or four miles I realised I couldn't subject him to any more of this, although I could have sat on his bike all day! We swapped back. He kindly said he hadn't been too scared!

After lunch (these two have healthy appetites!) we had to find a gated bridge which, if we could get the gates open and cross it, would save us about 60miles. We found it, and spoke to the guard, a man in a track suit with a clipboard and a gun belt. "Do you have a ticket?" he asked, as he checked his clipboard for any mention of three motorbikes.
"No, sorry. Where can we get one?"
"You can only get them from the government so that you can pass this way."
"We didn't know, is it possible to pass?"
"You cannot pass this way without a ticket from the government," the man said as he began to unlock the padlock and swing the gates open. He waved us through.

This was the dirt road of my adventure motorcycling dreams - dry, hard, thin dust - just enough to create a small plume of dust off the back tyre. We roared along this empty track, making excellent progress back to the big, wide, flat, smooth, well-surfaced PanAmericana del Norte. Very soon after that, we were checking into a four star hotel. Too expensive for us, the Belgian proprietor soon lowered his prices when he saw the bikes and James had charmed him a bit with some French and mention of his Belgian ancestry. We felt quite justified as we relaxed in the pool, some cool drinks lining the edge. Adventure motorcycling is really hard going, we agreed!

The ride further north was just hot. Hot and, the further north in Peru we got, more smelly. Authorities seemed to have decided simply to dump their decomposing rubbish next to the road. Then there were some fish factories who had decided to dump all their waste outside their factories. Then some of the driving got worse, until we were very glad to see our last Peruvian town.

Along the road, crying by his bike and in a bit of a state, we came across a lad of about ten years old, all tears and snotters. It turned out that Cleiber was 60km (37miles) from home and was too tired to cycle any further. He had no idea how he was going to get home. We gave him water and took his dad's phone number, telling him we'd phone his dad and get him to come for him. His dad didn't own a car, but maybe he could get a friend. Then just as we were about to leave, a bus roared by. "How much for the bus?" James asked Cleiber. "Three Solés, but I haven't any money . . ." he bubbled again. We quickly fished around our pockets and came up with 10 Solés. His face barely brightened, but he forced a quick smile. Couldn't leave a fellow cyclist by the side of the road. Job done.

The accommodation at Tambo Grande was basic but clean. The town itself had little to attract and most people appeared to be unemployed. The north of Peru seemed much like a post-industrial waste land. I slept very little in the baking heat, with lots of noise going on all around. In the morning I was up early and eager to get on. Will and James appeared, sleepy but willing. They had slept like logs!

As we left Peru, the land suddenly became more lush and jungle-like. We had opted for the inland border crossing at Tulcan, since we had heard bad things about things being too busy at Tumbes. Also we hoped the altitude would mean the road was cooler. Crossing the border was not a problem in the least. As I checked through my documents I saw that my MoT had ran out that very day. Everything having gone smoothly, we went to the bank for some money. The Ecuadorians use US dollars as their currency, but there are still some old coins around. Quite confusing.

During our second day in Ecuador, things took on something of a surreal tone. Stopping in Cuenca to look for a hotel, we first encountered a BMW shop - bikes aplenty. The proprietor was most pleased to see us and offered all manner of assistance, including driving us to the local Pizza Hut! I wouldn't normally eat in a chain store I could eat in at home, but Will was so excited at the prospect, he'd parked up and was in there before the options could be mentioned. We were very hungry and the pizza was very good. When we went to look for the hotel a man came up and just began interviewing us for his newspaper. He asked all sorts of questions and took photos. While this was going on up popped Michael on his R1150GS, a Swiss-German who had no English and as much Spanish as us. We had no German but that didn't stop us finding a hostel together and all having a top night out making lots of sign language about bikes. He was heading south, so we swapped information about the roads ahead.

During that evening things became a bit more bizarre as James was hand-picked by a birthday girl at a nearby table to dance with. As a reward, he had his head covered with a sombrero and was encouraged to drink tequila in this most Mexican of bars. After the drink a man in a funny mask shook his head violently. All very odd, we were amused but baffled. When we went somewhere we thought might be quieter, the waitress soon started passing notes to James about whether he liked her friend, the manager of the bar. Breaking hearts all over!

The next evening we were in Quito, late, cold and wet. But we found a decent room, parked up the bikes safely and went to find the Sarahs who were on holiday from Cusco. And there they were, in a 'Scottish' pub which was a bit odd and over-priced. We'd been recommended to go there by Jeff back in Cusco, as the place was owned by a Scots motorcyclist who brewed his own beer! His beer was very tasty, and the food was delicious, but the place wasn't really very Scottish. Alan, the owner, was away working in Peru, according to the staff, so we never met him.

The Sarahs were in fine fettle, talking lots of very welcome nonsense - dreaming about pies in tin-foil lined drawers, as well as much other silliness. I don't think I've laughed so much since I left home! I nearly burst. We had an excellent lunch in a quite fancy restaurant overlooking the city, watching the rain clouds come and go. Later, Will and I took the ladies for quick spin around the city which they seemed to enjoy, vowing to get bikes on their return to Scotland. Great, the 'fraternity' needs more sisters.

Meanwhile, the lads found cheap air flights from Bogota and were going for those, after the weekend in Quito. I decided to go along for the ride, but that I would regret not sailing from Cartagena while I had the chance. My boat isn't until the 9th, and I don't need to be there until the 6th. Plenty of time to dawdle through the hills in a vague northerly direction.

Quito and Cusco were the two ancient capitals of the one Inca Empire. I was impressed to find they were 2200miles apart. At least they were the way we'd come.

06 April, 2007

Curiosities in Cusco

I took a day to acclimatise to the altitude so I explored the town and what there was to do. Lots!! I hadn't seen quite so many tourists for some time. I organised a city tour for the next day and investigated the possibilities of visiting Machu Picchu. Very expensive and I wondered how I could justify the cash.

The walking trek along the Inca Trail was booked up until May, so that was out. The least expensive train trip I could find was almost US$200! I was beginning to get disappointed and question the wisdom of coming at all when I went back to the hostel to see three more bikes parked up next to mine! Two surprisingly had British number plates. They were BMW 650s too, but the more modern, single-cylinder 'F' versions.

I went along to Norton Rat's and Jeff introduced me to Will and James, two 22 year old English lads on their way to Alaska from Buenos Aires via Tierra del Fuego in the far south. They must be the youngest overlanders in history, or at least at the present time! They had been on the road for two months and have another four to go. They were in company with Gert, a Dutchman who owns another motorbike bar in Sucre, Bolivia - the Joy Ride Café. He was riding a well-worn Honda Dominator, also of 650cc.

I enjoyed my trip around the city and learned a lot about Inca culture as well as how things became the way they are presently. That trip wasn't overly expensive and I was in very good company all day, as I got to know Canadians David and Daniella. David stands straight as the walls slant inwards for strength against earthquakes. The Inca foundations support much of the more modern Spanish architecture. During earthquakes the older foundations won't move while the Spanish buildings wobble and sometimes fall. One other interesting fact was that the figure of Christ with his arms outstretched over the town (a smaller version of the one over Rio) was gifted to Cuzco by the Palestinian Community of Peru. We don't hear about things like that often enough.

That Saturday evening was one of the Sarahs' birthdays and so we all went out on the town. It was the Sarah on the left's birthday. I left my camera in their flat (thankfully) but met several other Scots, attracted by my kilt (any excuse!) during a wilder than usual night out which didn't end until 6am with the sun coming up over the hills. I slept well into the day. I found out how to listen to Radio 4 online. This and the internet took the place of what, at home, would have been a quiet Sunday in front of the fire with some marking and the newspapers.

There was an enormous parade on the Monday when the people of Cusco paraded a statue of the Lord of the Earthquakes (Señor de los Trembladores) around the town. This took hours but the main square was packed for some time before the statue arrived back at the Cathedral. This practice comes from an old Inca tradition when the Inca himself was paraded around to remind his people who was in charge. The people themselves weren't called Incas, they were the Quechuan people and they still survive today, their language, Quechuan, being spoken by as many as 25million people. We had a prime view of the procession and its finalé in the square from the balcony of the Rats.

Gert had arranged for us to take some scrambling bikes into the hills around Cusco. This was a fantastic day enjoyed by all. He had arranged a very trick competition 250cc bike for himself. At the Norton Rats we had found a temporarily dismounted Australian biker called Glen who decided to hire a huge 650cc Honda and tag along. It matched his size, which would come in very useful later. We three Brits were given XR400 Hondas that were well up to the job. First we rode up a rutted road to a scrambling track. Of course, I managed to very lightly crash mine on the way up this road as I wasn't yet used to the controls of this strange machine (and other excuses). Nothing serious, it just rode itself up a wee embankment and left me to step off the back. We weren't going very fast and there was no damage. Glen was playing the good shepherd at the back behind me and soon gave all the advice I needed to get on my way again.

The scrambling track was great fun and Gert gave us lots of useful advice about how best to get round it. He races round such tracks in Bolivia. We slowly improved at this before going further on our way, into the mountains. I couldn't believe some of the tracks Chris, our guide for the day, led us up. Precipitous and very scary were the easy ones. We looked back to see James being picked up and put back onto his bike by Glen. He'd only momentarily looked up to see where the rest of us were! Eventually I jumped a wee hillock which just happened to have a front-wheel-sized ditch on the other side. Slipping my thumbs out of the way, I executed a perfect forward roll as the bike stopped dead, its front wheel catching in the rut. It sat there upright above me laughing in that snidey 'I'm-better-than-you' way bikes can. I wish I'd got a photie but Glen was too quick, dragging me to my feet before pulling the bike out. The views at over 5km above sea level were breath-taking in more ways than one. At some stages even Gert and Chris struggled as we all worked together to overcome obstacles.

Will and James had met up with some of their friends from University (L-R Sally, Will, Pauline, Emma and James) and we took them on wee runs around Cusco between bigger adventures. Dave from Cumbria, bravely backpacking the world alone, appeared from nowhere with tickets for the big game. The locals Ciencuero (the Red Furies) were to play Argentina's famous Boca Juniors in the Liberators' Cup - the equivalent of Europe's Champions' League. Since the once great Maradonna had played for Boca, they are probably the most famous team in South America. Had to see this. More tickets were found and off we went. Cusco's emblem is a rainbow and two of these appeared to supervise the kick-off.The first half was fairly lacklustre but things began to move after the break. In the end Ciencuero won 3-0 and Dave got an excellent video on his camera of the last goal. He's promised I can upload it here, I'll try and see if I can whenever he sends it to me.Another big party in the main square with us at our usual vantage point.

On Thursday we went to Machu Picchu on the train and bus. More people had made bargaining so much easier and the price reduced with numbers. Getting there took forever but was well worth the effort. In fact, we felt as if we had cheated a little when we thought about those who had taken the four days to walk there. It seemed that the more effort put into reaching a place, the more you might appreciate getting there. It's difficult to get a proper idea of just how high in the Andes this ancient city is. Incredible place, of course, and fantastic to see for real, but you can find better writers to describe its wonder.

It was getting towards time to leave but we still needed just one more day to get the bikes, laundry and postcards ready. I had originally planned to go around by Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, but was assured by my new chums that this would not be worth the effort unless I crossed over into Bolivia. I was also getting tired of the cold and the struggle with everyday life at this altitude. The bike struggled on every upward incline and I could have some valuable and useful company if I went north with these guys.

We found an excellent café to flop around in. All the profits go to children's projects in the area and the place is like a huge play area, without the children! Cushions and games and stuff everywhere with strawberry pancakes and ice cream drizzled in chocolate sauce, hot chocolate and cakes. Top!

Next day, we were ready to go.