Stuck in Cusco, Peru

Stuck in Cusco, Peru

Apologies for the delay in updates. We are both well. Phil is in Peru and I am in Chile. Will try to get caught up ASAP and some posts will be a little out of order.

You can always see where we are NOW on the map on our website. (We both have Spot trackers attached to our bikes now) – Jayne

 

Four weeks after Phil’s crash, he had another x-ray. His collarbone showed no signs of healing. My hopes of leaving in the next few days were dashed to smithereens.

Sunday November 24, 2013,  after Phil was released from the five days he spent in hospital, Kelly flew back to Canada as planned, and Tom and Jeremy continued on towards Bolivia and beyond.  It was incredibly sad to say goodbye to those three wonderful people who had been such a huge part of our trip.

The fearless five on the day Kelly, Tom and Jeremy left Cusco.

That afternoon we were picked up by Sandy and Sandra, parents of a college friend of Phil’s who live in the Sacred Valley, about an hour from Cusco.

We stayed with them for a few days. Phil pulled Jugs apart and made a worrying discovery – the frame was slightly bent. Well that would need to be fixed before we could continue on our journey. I’ll let Phil post about how he resolved all that.

Sitting in the garden with Sandy, Sandra and Niall. (Tarn was at karate practice.)

After a few days with Sandy and Sandra and their kids Niall and Tarn, they had had enough of visitors (they’d had another guest for 2 months before we arrived) and so we reluctantly moved to a hostel in a town called Pisaq. El Parche Rutero was a dirty, rundown hostel filled with hippies, but it was cheap (something like $2 a night each for a dorm bed) and had parking for Cricket.

Our room at the Parche Rutero Hostel

One of the residents in the kitchen

Our Aussie friend Ollie with a plate full of cacao beans

Phil being whipped by a statue in the Sacred Valley

The ducks take the bridge instead of swimming.

I thought this cactus looked like hands… But maybe actually more like feet??

 

Phil catches some of the local wildlife

This one’s for you Michelle.

Phil and Ollie on a walk in the Sacred Valley

When leaving Sandy and Sandra’s house, I was in the middle of sending some emails from my iPhone. I set it down on one of my panniers to tighten some straps, and forgot to pick it up and put it in my pocket before hopping on the bike and following Sandy’s truck.

I realised before we reached Pisac what I had done, and asked Sandy to call home so that they could pick my phone up out of the grass.

Unfortunately my phone hadn’t fallen off my bike until I had ridden out of their yard, and when they called it someone else answered and then hung up. That person chose not to return my phone to me, instead immediately taking it to Cusco. (I know this from the “Find my iPhone app” that I had installed on my phone.)

Watching the thieves on the run with my iPhone. The police wouldn’t help us, and we didn’t think trying to chase after it ourselves was a good idea.

That iPhone was our only solid link to the internet at a time when we really needed the distraction and access. It also had all my notes from other travelers about places to see on our way down to Ushuaia.

Words cannot express the frustration I felt at that moment. It seemed to me that the entire universe was conspiring against us. Somehow our great adventure was falling to pieces around us. Phil was broken, his bike broken, my phone stolen, we had to leave the nice house we were staying in, my mojo was gone. I was incredibly depressed.

A day or two later Phil went into Cusco to find a mechanic to fix his bike. While on a bus someone pick pocketed him and stole his cell phone.

Phil’s phone was old, and not smart, and pretty broken, but it was our last piece of technology other then my small netbook. I felt like we were cursed.

It was the support I received from around the world that kept me going. Thank you so much to all you friends and family, new and old, who helped me keep things together.

We had to go back to Cusco because of Phil’s bike needing a mechanic, so I put in some couchrequests.

Once again, we had been incredibly lucky to find a wonderful family through couchsurfing, who agreed to host us for two nights. Three weeks later I left their Cusco home to their assurances that they would look after Phil until he could ride again, and that I shouldn’t worry about him at all.

Tania, Phil and Philippe on the bus into town

The first Saturday night that we were staying with Tania and Philippe (we seem to be attracted to staying with other “Phil’s” – this one is originally from France) Tania took me out on a girl’s night with her friends. After three weeks of chilling out and barely touching even a beer, the two-for-one cocktails hit me hard. We met Tania’s friends, Anita and Vanessa, in a hidden English pub near Cusco’s main Plaza de Armas. We befriended the bartender Frank, and he made our Pisco Sours very strong.

Tania, Anita, Me and Vanessa with our first Pisco Sours

We moved on to several other venues throughout the evening. I have hazy memories of giant fresh passionfruit daquiris and plates of fries and cut up hotdog… It was getting light by the time we stumbled out of the taxi in front of the Red House.

Tania and Philippe live in a big red house on top of a hill with Tania’s 18 year old son Luis-Angel. We didn’t see much of Luis-Angel because he works from 6am every day, 6 days a week. He works in Anita’s restaurant, and I’ve never seen a teenager work so hard.

 

That’s the Red House, on top of the hill, to the left of the stairs

Phil and I lived in the room on the top left corner. It was amazing to have our own space, and yet be made to feel part of the family. Tania insisted on feeding us along with the rest of her family.

Tania and Philippe built their house on the corner of the land Tania’s parents own. Tania’s mother runs a small tienda (shop) and Tania’s sister Marilu lives there with her husband Joadan and their three children, Ammi (12), Madai (2) and Jatnien (1). There are also several chickens, and a street dog, Cara Sucio (Dirty Face) who are always around.

Jose (Anita’s grandson), Ammi and Jatniel

Three little darlings – Jose, Maddai and Jatniel

Phil became “Tio Jesus” (Uncle Jesus) and I was “Tia Jenny” (Aunt Jayne with a Spanish accent). None of the large family spoke English. Becoming part of their family was very good for improving our Spanish. When Madai first met Phil, she would cry whenever he looked at her or tried to play. By the time I left she was running to him and calling him Tio Jesus all the time.

 

For the first few weeks we were living with Tania and Philippe, I was trying to replace my iPhone. I had no desire to pay the huge amount of money a brand new one would cost, so I was drawn into the web of the Peruvian used phone markets. I had grave misgivings about buying a stolen iPhone. I did not want to reward the people who had stolen both my, and Phil’s phones. However, Apple have done very well to make it incredibly easy to recover all of your information if you buy another Apple product.

The other problem in Peru is the huge amount of counterfeit phones available. It is almost impossible to know if the phone you are buying is the real thing, or a clever Chinese knock-off.

One day while walking through a second hand market, I spotted a man selling a used iPhone and took his number. The next day Phil and I met up with Frank, the bartender from the girl’s night out (Frank had a thing for me, despite me making up an imaginary boyfriend to put him off, so bringing Phil was my way of reiterating that we were just friends). Frank went with us to meet the iPhone man. The iPhone man never showed up.

Philippe had an expression which summed up my time in Cusco perfectly. “Todo es posible, nadi es seguro” which means “everything is possible, nothing is for sure”. You can get anything done in Peru – just not quickly, or when you want to, or where you want to.

Just before Christmas, after a couple more aborted attempts at buying various used (probably stolen) iPhones, I decided the world was telling me that I should stop my Apple allegiance, and I bought a brand new Android Motorola RAZR D3. My friend Teri had generously given me an early Christmas present to help pay for it, and it was actually much easier to transfer my contacts and grow used to the Android world than I expected.

All I needed to do was buy an unlock code from the internet, and then my phone would be free and able to accept any SIM card from any network in the world. (Turns out not to be that easy unfortunately, but that’s life.)

One evening after Phil and I had spent the day Christmas shopping for our new family, we went for dinner in a small roast chicken joint. Just as we were finishing, a guy walked in and was struggling to place his order with the waitress. We helped translate and got talking. Turns out that Arun was also a motorcycle traveller!

He was staying at the Estrellita hostel, where I had stayed while Phil was in hospital, and he took us back there to meet all the other motorcyclists who were in town. We only met Ryan, another KLR rider from Massachusetts, that evening, who told us the saga of his electrical problems. However we came back the next night and met about ten other motorcycle travellers from around the world.

There were two Alaskan guys on KLRs, Joshua and Jordon who were travelling with a man called Alan from Australia. They were all heading to Macchu Picchu the next day, but we arranged to meet again over Christmas.

When I first met the Alaskans, Josh and Jordon, with their friend Bill.

Christmas in Peru is very similar to the rest of the world. It is a time for family, presents and paneton. Except that Peruvians each eat about a kilogram of the fruit filled Italian bread, and presents are opened at midnight on Christmas Eve, after fireworks are let off in a most alarming “health and safety” free way.

Thousands of these Panetons were for sale everywhere! Delicious!

While stuck in Cusco waiting for Phil to heal, cooking became somewhat of a therapy for me. At the house in Calca I helped with dinner a few nights, and in the hostel in Pisaq I started experimenting with quinoa, making a sweet pudding somewhat like rice pudding with apples in it, properly cooked fries (seemingly impossible to find in Peru where they love their potatoes hard and anemic) and a savoury quinoa frittata. I continued this trend in the Red House in Cusco. Apple crumble, vegetarian chili (with quinoa of course), pumpkin pie, lemon meringue cheesecake, gravy for the turkey, pasta… I was distracting myself by cooking, and by going to the market to buy ingredients.

Selling fruit and veggies beside the tracks

Multi coloured peppers for sale

Dried beans and spices

Choclo (corn on the cob)

How Turkeys are displayed for sale in Peru.

Guinea Pigs prepared for cooking!!! (Peruvian specialty)

Properly cooked chips!

My sweet creations for Christmas Day, Pumpkin pie, Lemon meringue cheescake and Apple crumble

Apple Crumble being cooked in the pizza oven in Tipon

There were a few quirks one had to get used to living in the Red House. Almost every day, the water would turn off. Usually in the afternoons, but you never knew when or if it would happen each day.

Lunch was cooked by the ladies in a local restaurant and was always soup and then segundo (a main meal), often rice, meat and some type of vegetable. Tania or Philippe would bring them big pots to fill in the morning, and then pick them up at lunch time. Tania’s dad would come over to eat, and Tania would bring food over to her mum in the shop.

The kids were always in and out, one or all of them would be around most of the time. Tania is one of six siblings, and so there are a lot of nieces and nephews. They all love visiting their Aunt and Uncle in the Red House.

 

The view from the house in Tipon

One weekend we went to Anita and her husband Angel’s house in Tipon (a village just outside of town). They are in the process of building a few cabins on the grounds. The main house where we stayed is built and despite me suffering from a head cold, we had a wonderful time playing cards and playing with the kids.

Philippe ready for the ride to Tipon. This is how you fit 8 people in a 5 seat vehicle.

All the guys hanging out on the steps at the house in Tipon

Phil and Anita start the fire in the oven

They have these little pigs on top of all the houses

There were even llamas and alpacas wandering around the neighbour’s garden!

Local llamas and alpacas (alpacas have furry heads, llamas don’t)

 

Just before Christmas we helped some of Tania’s friends give out meals to the children who come into town for Christmas Eve from the countryside.

The food was supposed to be for children, but we saw plenty of mothers eating it.

It was heart breaking when the food ran out and there were still loads of people wanting some.

The reason they come into Cusco is the giant Christmas market that takes over the city on Christmas Eve.

It seemed like the whole of Peru was in central Cusco for the market!

Always easy to find Phil in Peru, although he did have to do a lot of umbrella dodging.

A goblin children are warned about

Every Peruvian house has a nativity scene, and the market mostly was selling items to put in them

After Christmas lunch, Phil and I went into town to meet the motorcyclists, who were having their own Christmas dinner at the hostel. We were told the hilarious story of how 65 year old Alan punched an insolent Englishman in the bus home from Matchu Picchu, and how their trip to the famous ruins was okay, but not really value for money.

By this point Phil and I had discussed several times the option of me continuing on my way, leaving him in Cusco to finish recovering. I didn’t like the idea of leaving him, or of him travelling on his own with a weakened collarbone, but it had been six weeks, and I was more than ready to leave Cusco.

When Josh and Jordon again invited me to join them, this time I said yes. They were planning on leaving with Alan and Ryan on the 27th or 28th of December.

On the 26th I spent the day packing all my things, which over three weeks had managed to jump out of my bags and spread out around our room. I kept having to ask Phil about what things I would be taking and/or leaving, and every time I did I felt a deep pang of unhappiness.

The Ultimate Ride is OUR trip, we’d set out together 17 months earlier. I shouldn’t be leaving him, it’s not going to be the same travelling without him, this was never supposed to happen. But on the other hand, I had spent six weeks waiting for him to heal. If I’m going to go sailing in February I can’t wait any longer, and there really was no point in both of us hanging around Cusco for an unknown amount of time. The latest x-rays showed no further healing, and we both agreed that Phil should not ride without his collarbone being 100%.

I exchanged facebook messages with the boys. Ryan and Arun would be setting out for Puno the next day, the Alaskans and Alan would follow on the 28th. As I was packed and ready to go, and was suffering greatly from the uncertainty about leaving Phil behind, I decided not to extend the torture, and to go with Ryan and Arun.

The plan was to meet them the next day at 10am at the Estrellita hostel.