Monday, May 21, 2012

To the Finish Line!

We arrived in Cusco triumphant, for we were alive and had made it in just enough time for Hoge to catch his flight.  Exhausted from the epic 18 day sidecar push from Huarez, we relaxed into a nice hotel for the first time and enjoyed Hoge's last day.  Hoge's leaving seemed as sudden and normal as his arriving.  We were then left with an assortment of problems to fix.  The main one being an attempted hack on Mike's bank account.  His bank blocked his card then refused to send him a replacement.  So we were stuck for almost 2 weeks and came to the realization that our funds were like rain in the desert. We picked a date and bought tickets home, one of the strangest days on the trip.  We left ourselves about a month, and our goal was to reach the Uyuni Salt Flats.
We got ourselves and things together and left the comforts of a warm room and took to the streets full of Peruvian highland rain and high altitude turns.  We carried the Pope Mobile, yet had no pope.  Mike took a right hand turn and the car flew into the air almost flipping him without the weight of the waving Hoge.  The fun of the Death Trap seemed to have diminished, and especially so when the side hack broke another weld.    

We pulled to the side of the road, unbolted our somewhat trusty metal friend, said goodbye, and left it in the ditch without looking back.  Its funny to think that its possible that no one may ever know what that thing is.

 With the sidecar off the bike, Mike's 350 took off into the turns it had been denied for so long.  It held on to the black cough however.  Through the cold rain we rode onto the Bolivian Altiplano, a high plateau that stands taller than any other in the world outside of Tibet.
Lake Titicaca 

 The altiplano gave us a run with its ominous overcast chill, heavy rains, and pelting hail storms that riddled our exposed faces.  This is a rare photo of a 5 minute break from the freezing onslaught.  At one point, amidst a strong hail storm, we passed a van that had spun into a rock wall.  Tractor trailers passed as we tried to push the broken car off the road.  Minutes after that vain attempt, we found ourselves literally sliding sideways and fishtailing down a road covered in ice.  
 Fueled by coca leaves and a strong desire to get somewhere warm and dry, we push on.  The kicker of traveling in Bolivia is that as an outsider, you are not allowed to buy gasoline at gas stations, period!  All the way through the country we had to scour the villages following leads to find the random person in town that stored gas cans inside their house to illegally sell to our thirsty scoots for triple the price.  One instance left us denied at a gas station.  In asking about the next closest one, we were told it was 100km away.

What exactly do you say about this when you have 18 layers of clothes on under a rain suit, and all of them are wet?

Closer and closer we rolled, determined to make it to the fantasy land of Uyuni.  Our bikes were paying a dear price for our curiosities.  Our chains were stretched, our engines were coughing up black smoke, our rear tires were completely bald, and Mike's rear sprocket was merely moments from having no traction for the chain at all -- not bent, not broken, but worn almost completely off, the chain was holding on to smoothed-over nubbs.