Very early Tuesday morning, waking up to the smell of anticipation, and dirty laundry, we were greeted by a man, whose name, till this day, I do not know. Yet this guy has been by our side for 4 days, greeted us with the news that we’d be going on a trek through the Peruvian jungle with a group of beautiful women. He wanted to emphasize this point.
As the van filled up with passengers, we realized it was more like Sausage-Fest 2009.
We made many random stops, to what seemed like people’s homes and other random spots, to pick up bikes for our trek. The van would stop, someone would emerge from a building with one or two bikes, and then up on the roof they went. We continued on, up and down the slopes of the Cusqueñan streets, we all made it and we were on our way.
They say you never forget how to ride a bike, that much is true. The last time I got on a bicycle was in 1988, and I was 10 years old. When the opportunity came to bike around Peru, I took it. What better way to kick-start one of my favorite hobbies at the time, than by motivation.
Looking back, maybe I should have done a bit more research, but in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t, because had I done my research, it would have been clear that I would not have been prepared for such a bike trail, and I would have missed the opportunity to throw myself into it and just be in the moment.
So the moment came, and myself, I threw!
The van was pretty silent on the way to the starting point. The silence was broken however with a voice from the front of the bus:
“You know, I heard a girl died on our trek 4 days ago on her bike?”
“Got hit by a truck.”
Denial set in. I decided to keep my ear on the humming of the motor and my eyes glued to the slopes around me. Eventually I turned to Joe and asked him, did you just hear that? He did and a look of concern emerged on our not-yet-caffeinated faces.
The trip had been pitched to us as a casual bike-ride through the forest, on dirt trails. Curiosity was burning, why on God’s green earth was there a truck driving on our trek through the forest. I asked the lady who shared the news, and she said “through the forest? No. Our bike ride is going to be on the main highway circling these mountains.”
Concern quickly became regret.
When we tested out our bikes, my confidence came back, cuz it all came back to me, you really don’t forget! Started riding in circles, a bit shaky at first, but I remembered.
As soon as we started, my bike chain fell off. So I was already behind as I stopped to fix it. The road turned downhill, and I was pretty much riding the brakes. As the road turned and turned, we rode past some incredible vistas, in the rain, with my poncho draped over my body and wheels, i continued on, jumping over rocks, splashing in potholes, riding through mini-creeks made from falling water off the side of the mountain, dodging trucks coming behind me and in front of me. And every once in a while, a minivan with a family inside, would drive by with a camcorder and just videotape and cheer. I wasn’t as amused though. I was excited and terrified all at the same time.
After about 30 minutes of this, I started picking up some speed, as I felt more comfortable on the road. A truck came from behind and passed me, forcing me to the right side of the road (as the left side was overlooking a 1/2 mile drop), as the van passed and i tried to get back on the road i hit a rock, and the bike slipped from underneath me, skidding under me as i flew off hitting rocky pavement, square with my head, knee, and shoulder at the same time. thank goodness for helmets eh?
The shoulder felt sore, the knee was definitely not in good order as i started peddling again, i felt the cracking and creaking of something gone awry in that lower joint of mine but i kept on goin. The rest of the group (as I later found out) thought that I had either plummeted to my death, or was kidnapped by a family of monkeys.
Joe stayed behind to see if I was still alive, and I did have good news for him.
That night we enjoyed a great meal and settled into a hostel, in a small town in the middle of the rain forest called Santa Maria. This was a family-run / operated hostel / car service / petrol station, and the entire town had only a few shops, in between vast expanses of dirt roads, forests, and hills.
Rambo, the family Rottweiler, seemed to have a harem of mates, one of whom the family called “The Queen”. Rambo, often dropped a saliva drenched lemon in my crotch to let me know he wanted to play. but he was waiting for the thing to move so he could grab it. i had to be so careful, or else i would have probably lost something that I would definitely miss.
However, I was in so much pain from the fall earlier, and my knee had swollen double the size of the other. One of our hosts saw me limping and when she saw my knee she was very concerned, asked me to follow her, and she pulled out a tube of some unknown ointment but had a horse’s image on it. She rubbed it on my knee, which became quickly numb, and felt a lot better!
We settled in, had some coca tea, while some of us chewed on the leaves directly. We shared our bathroom with the largest cockroach south of the equator, and I’m sure he went home with one of us.